You've probably noticed that as well as "Work expanding
to fill the time available", also:" Data expands to
fill the space available". Unless you've got a hard drive
of 20Gbytes or more, whatever you have is always getting full.
If you've partitioned the disk into two partitions or more the
boot drive is always nearly full and you keep getting messages
saying there's soon going to be a dire problem.
Well, despite all you read it's never a simple matter, to upgrade
to a large hard drive, unless you have a nearly new computer.
Of course if you have a nearly new computer you probably already
have a big drive or you haven't had time to fill up the one you've
got anyway; so this advice is really aimed at people who have
a machine that's in the category of: "potentially going
to you a headache when you try and fit that new acquisition;
a really big "IDE" hard drive".
Let's make a list of sample possibilities, starting at the top
(1) You have a 1999 Pentium II computer with an 8Gbyte drive
and you now want to fit a 30Gbyte. With a fair wind
(2) You have a 1997 Pentium II computer with a 6Gbyte drive and
you want to fit a new 20Gbyte. 8Gbyte limitation in BIOS. A pain
in the neck.
(3) You have a Pentium 120 computer with an 850Mbyte drive and
you want to fit a 10Gbyte. 8Gbyte limitation in BIOS. Possibly
some wasted space.
(4) You have a 486DX266 computer with a 420Mbyte and you want
to fit a 6.4Mbyte. BIOS may not handle large drives. See an expert
or buy a new computer.
(5) You have a 486SX33 computer with an 80Mbyte drive and you
want to fit an 850Mbyte. BIOS probably won't handle large drives.
This was a problem 5 years ago.
These summarise the most likely possibilities. You can to some
extent mix and match the options.
There are a number of potential problems with most of the above
which I'll attempt to cover in the paragraphs below:-
(A) Physically installing the new drive.
It's imperative with newer computers using the ATX power
supply to unplug the mains cable before removing the outer covers.
The ATX supply is the one without a latching power switch that
goes off by itself when shutting down. The AT version is the
one with a power switch that stays put when you press it and
which has to be pressed when you see the final message when shutting
down. Most ATX power supplies supply 5 volts to the motherboard
even when they are off i.e. with the fan not running. You can
destroy a motherboard by fiddling with it when the mains lead
is connected. If there's a mains switch on the rear of the power
supply, turning this to OFF will be equivalent to removing the
cable. If you are not 100% sure, pull out the mains cable. Incidentally,
plugging or unplugging a keyboard or mouse, fitted with a small
circular PS2 connector, can also wreck a motherboard if the power
cable is plugged in when you do it!
Before you can tell whether the hard drive upgrade is going to
be 100% successful you will need to go through a series of tests.
These include fitting the drive into the computer box, cabling
it up, setting the BIOS, setting partitions and formatting, then
finally, writing data to the drive. You may have to go through
the entire process from beginning to end before you know you've
been totally successful, and at some point in the proceedings,
you may have to start all over again, and possibly make some
sort of compromise or give up and sell the new drive to someone
(B) Fitting the drive.
Unless you have an oddball size drive such as are fitted
to laptops, the new drive should be 3.5" wide and should
simply bolt into a free space in the brackets inside your box,
usually above or below the floppy drive. If you intend to eventually
discard your old drive it can fit in its place. Before you do
this however you may wish to copy some or all the old data across.
If so you may well find a temporary position in which to bolt
the new drive. Don't just balance it on the metalwork until after
the copying process...it may fall off and wreck itself, or the
motherboard, in a shower of sparks. Note that the required screws
for fitting the drive are the coarse threaded type not the fine
threaded type; this being one of the old IBM conventions. Use
short screws, and if you're not sure, try them before you attempt
to fit the drive. The screws must not press against the edge
of internal circuit board inside the drive because some circuit
boards are multi-layer and you'll short out the power supply
connected to an internal layer if you do this. Fit the drive
so that the power supply connector is in the same relative position
as that on the old drive as this will avoid your having to twist
the IDE cable later. If you have a desktop style case you may
have to bolt the new drive into a special cubby-hole or on a
special tray in a 5.25" bay.
(C) Setting jumpers
Before you fix the drive into position read the instructions
on its label about Master/Slave jumper details and also note
the drive parameters such as capacity, number of cylinders, heads
etc. See also what it says about DOS limitations and check that
any jumpers associated with this are in their correct places.
Once bolted in, Sod's Law dictates that information written on
the drive isn't visible. Initially you may want to fit the drive
as a slave to the old one. You'll do this if your CDROM is fitted
to the Secondary IDE bus. If the CDROM is already a slave on
the Primary bus, put the new drive on the Secondary bus and set
it up as "Master". Of course, to do this, you will
need a second IDE cable. If you don't have a second IDE cable
and you intend to discard your old drive later, temporarily detach
the IDE cable from the CDROM and plug it into the new drive.
You can run without a CDROM during the hardware upgrade process.
If you do this, and have the two drives on the primary IDE bus,
set the jumper on the new drive to the Slave position.
Sometimes you also have to fiddle with the jumper on the old
drive. Don't bother for the moment, if things work OK all well
and good; if things don't work this is something to investigate
first. You'll have to unbolt the old drive and read what it says
on the case. Hopefully it will say something about its jumpers
and altering this will allow both drives to work! Sometimes jumpers
are present and there's no way of telling how they are fitted.
Use a magnifying glass to look for information printed on the
circuit board before you give up!
(D) Fitting the IDE cable
IDE cables are tricky things. They are often just too short
to reach new sockets. If this is so unplug the end from the motherboard
and turn the cable round so the short stretch is nearest the
board and the long bit is available for the new drive. If the
two drives are close together you'll not have to bother doing
this, although you may have to change the plugs around. It doesn't
matter which socket fits to which drive as the wires all run
parallel (unlike floppy cables). Some cables are dreadfully flimsy
and can unfortunately come apart when unplugging them so take
great care to ease a cable out gently. If it comes apart throw
it away and get a new one.
If your new drive is a new UDMA66 type it can be run from a special
cable but your motherboard has to be compatible with this development.
In most upgrades the new drive will be connected to an older
cable and won't work as fast as it might have done in a brand
Drives are pretty clever and will work at the right speed for
the computer; "Mode 3" or what have you. Be warned
though that not all drives will work on the same IDE bus as all
others. This includes CDROM drives as well. You may have to pick
a combination of say, hard drive and CDROM, that works by trial
and error e.g. Hard drive on the Primary IDE and the old CDROM
refitted to the Secondary IDE. You may also have to discard an
old drive, rather than keeping it for spare space, if it won't
work on the same bus as the new one. The Master/Slave jumper,
if an option, on the CDROM must be present and set correctly
if a hard drive is present on the same bus.
Some cables have a polarising pip and can't be connected back-to-front
on the motherboard or the drive. Most don't have this feature,
and then you'll have to make sure you connect it the right way
round. All new drives have IDE pin1 nearest the power connector.
Pin 1 on the cable is marked with a red stripe (which may have
faded somewhat). Some cables have a plastic insert stuck in one
of the pin holes. unless your hard drive has a gap in it's pinning,
the cable won't plug in. You can extract the plastic insert using
a sewing machine needle or a fine pin if you're reasonably dextrous
and have good eyesight.
Fit a spare power cable. Usually the yellow wire goes to
the outside, but the plug is polarised so fit it the way the
designer intended. If there isn't a spare power cable either
borrow the one from the CDROM or get a "Y" power-splitter.
(F) Setting the BIOS
Viewing the BIOS table is often straightforward but not always
so. Most machines let you enter the BIOS SETUP by pressing the
"DELETE" key during the boot-up phase (the message
will appear at the bottom of the screen). Some machines, such
as Compaq types have a different key or key combination which
must be used to see and change the BIOS. If you don't know but
have the handbook all well and good. If you haven't, try and
get a copy from the manufacturer's website, or E-Mail them for
help, via the Internet.
Some BIOS types are "woolly" and not very communicative,
probably these were designed to more clever and easier to use.
Unfortunately they are difficult to use if what you want to do
is not covered by their repertoire.
When you get into the BIOS you'll probably find that your computer
has a built-in list of hard drive types the motherboard can accommodate
but it's likely that even your old 486 BIOS has got a "User
Definable" option, normally "Type 46" in its table,
however it's possible that this feature isn't present.
with the new and old drives fitted and cabled up and
after a final visual inspection of cable markings and positions,
cross your fingers and power up the computer. As boot-up is taking
place and you hear the hard drive diagnostic routines rattling
away in both drives, press the appropriate key and wait for the
BIOS screen to appear. Assuming you can get into the BIOS, and
see the hard drive settings, you may find an option to automatically
detect and configure them. This will sort out majority of the
task ahead. If the AUTO feature is available the old drive will
appear first. You may be given a choice of options. If there
is more than one option for the old drive, choose the top option
as this is the one the computer can best handle. Then you will
be given a choice of options for the new drive. Note the details
and check that they are consistent with the details copied from
the new drive label, the leaflet supplied with it (if there is
one) or the packaging. In particular confirm that the size of
the drive is OK. If the new drive is 20Gbytes, or whatever, and
the AUTO details confirm this (or approximately so) all is OK
and you can proceed with confidence. If all is not OK you may
be stuffed but read on.
If you have to enter the parameters from your new drive, manually
in "Type 46" at the end of the hard drive table, these
should be copied from the notes you made from the label on the
drive. Make sure you interpret this information correctly and,
depending on the type of BIOS, key in the parameters for the
new drive. If you didn't have the AUTO option the computer is
likely to be pretty old and it's likely, that if your drive is
bigger than 8Gbytes, you'll have some difficulty keying in the
Even if you had an AUTO option and your computer is older than
1997, the likely result is a set of details recording the fact
that the new drive has been detected as an 8Gbyte. You could
have saved a lot of money and just bought an 8Gbyte drive! Seriously
though, in any case where the computer will not recognise a drive
bigger than 8Gbytes, you now have two main choices: if a suitable
BIOS upgrade is available for your motherboard you can fit this
(with the complications that this involves) or secondly you can
use a proprietary piece of magic software to modify the hard
drive operating system. If you bought a Seagate drive there might
have been a floppy disk supplied with it or there may have been
a special piece of code written onto the drive in a special way
so as to be interpretable by your computer. In this case follow
the instructions. If you bought a Maxtor drive, again there may
have been a floppy disk that had the requisite piece of software
enabling the computer to see the whole of the new hard drive.
If you bought neither of these makes there may still be a floppy
disk, or if there wasn't, or in any case, you may still get the
software to do the job...for free. On the website of the manufacturer
look for downloads and/or read what they have to say about their
products. If this fails to provide a solution, or suggests a
way ahead, go to Maxtor's or Seagate's site and get the download
If the computer seems to hang for an inordinate time it probably
means there's a problem with the cables or jumpers or you forgot
to plug in the hard drive power cable or something more obscure.
(G) Special installation software
Most hard drive installation software seems to originate
from Micro-House. This is then customised by the particular hard
drive manufacturer and used to fix installation problems by inserting
a sort of trap in the BIOS. This trap opens up the hard drive
capability of the motherboard to accept, via a backdoor, much
larger drives than were envisaged when the board was developed.
If you can get a copy of virtually any of these customised versions
they can be fooled into working for any make of hard drive. Unfortunately
the only way I know how is to put a dummy hard drive into your
system having the same make as the customiser i.e. if you got
hold of a Seagate "Disk Wizard" adding a Seagate slave
drive will make it work. If your old drive is already a Seagate
or a Maxtor then you can use their special software for your
new drive no matter what make it is. If your new drive is one
of those for which free software was supplied, you just use the
customised software anyway.
(H) Limitations of special software and FAT
Although the special software is supposed to work with any
number of partitions I'm not sure that this feature really works
with all operating systems. If you have Windows 98 or the latest
Windows 95 with FAT32, to be safe, follow the instructions for
partitioning as one large drive. This will definitely work.
What's this business about FAT32? Well, unfortunately, you cannot
use a drive greater than 2Gbytes, with MSDOS or early Windows
95, and use all of its space without breaking the space into
separate areas called "partitions". The older operating
systems use what's called FAT16 and this does not have the addressing
capability to actually see more than 2Gbytes of storage at any
one time. To address more than 2Gbyte you have to either upgrade
to Windows 95 Release 2 or Windows 98 or newer, when you can
then use FAT32. If you don't want to or can't do this you can
however break the storage space into partitions of no more than
2Gbyte using FDISK. The newest versions of FDISK come up with
a special message when you run it. This asks whether you wish
to use the large drive option, FAT32, which essentially, within
reasonable bounds, lets you address any size of hard drive. Even
if your hard drive isn't enormous, using FAT32 will still be
beneficial as it allows you to address much smaller minimum bits
of the drive. In this way tiny pieces of data use tiny bits of
the hard drive. Previously FAT16 may have given you a huge bit
of drive space even when your requirement for data storage is
minimal. FAT16 for drives of anything greater than around 950Mbytes
up to the limit of 2Gbyte is therefore wasteful.
As I said though, you must have Windows 95 Release 2 or Windows
98 or newer to be able to use FAT32.
(I) Partitioning the drive
If you want to use an older version of Windows 95 or earlier
Windows 3.1 or MSDOS you need to partition drives of greater
than 2Gbyte into chunks. For example a 6Gbyte drive will end
up with three 2Gbyte partitions, and maybe a tiny fourth one
if it's a 6.4Gbyte drive. A 30Gbyte drive will end up with 15
partitions....C: D: E: F: G: H: I: J: K: L: M: N: O: P: and Q:
with the CDROM ending up as R: ....The alternative is to upgrade
the operating system and use FAT32 and make a single partition
When I recently tried to install a 30Gbyte drive in a machine
good for no more than 8Gbyte I decided on two 15Gbyte partitions.
Maxtor's software did the trick and MSDOS saw two 15Gbyte chunks.
I ran Windows 98 set-up which saw a problem. It decided to reformat
the first partition, which it did correctly after an age. It
then installed itself, but try as I might I just couldn't see
the second partition. Running Maxtor's software didn't help:
this saw both partitions but wouldn't let me revert to a single
partition. FDISK was confused. It saw both partitions, but although
noting there were two with 15Gbytes for each, said the total
was only 8Gbytes. One plus one did not equal two! Using FDISK,
I deleted the Maxtor partitions. Then, running Windows 98 Set-Up
resulted in another problem and it decided to reformat once again.
This time when it had finished it claimed, an hour later to have
found 50Gbytes. I wasn't inclined to believe it so I ran Maxtor's
software again. This time it gave me the option of a single 30Gbyte
partition, which I gladly accepted. It formatted it in a trice
but Windows 98 Set-Up disagreed. After another long wait it had
reformatted the drive correctly as 30Gbytes and installed itself
All OK? Not quite, although "Properties" saw, and displayed,
the amount of used and free space correctly, the coloured pie
chart was up the pole. It had wrapped-round showing an all blue
circle (used) except for a tiny hairline amount of pink (unused)
space. This sorted itself out later when more software had been
loaded, and at something like 27Gbytes of free space, the wrap-around
bug had not been triggered and the circle was predominantly pink.
Suffice it to say that once you've partitioned the drive
you need to format it otherwise when you try and access it you'll
get the dreaded "ABORT, RETRY, FAIL" message. Windows
98 Set-Up sometimes ploughs on and then comes to an abrupt halt
and flags up one of those nefarious useless messages whose instructions
are rubbish and advice that doesn't convey anything meaningful,
but which I've found by experience means that the hard drive
isn't formatted. Other times it will detect an unformatted drive
and then carry out a format operation very much faster than a
DOS version before proceeding to install itself without a word
of complaint. Window's formatting is not as fast as Maxtor's
but Windows', for some reason known only to itself, didn't understand
Maxtor's attempt anyway.
(K) Data transfer
Now at this point, if you've actually been trying to install
a new hard drive and strangely needed my advice, I assume that
eventually you've got your drives up and running and Windows
can see the new one in all its glory. You have two options. Carry
out a brand new Windows installation, for which you will need
an OEM CD, or copy the contents of your old drive to the new
one, together with any bugs, viruses and problems. The choice
is yours. If you choose to copy the lot, use Explorer. Not that
straightforward though, because part way through the operation
it will come to a grinding halt when it tries to copy the SWAP
file, leaving you all up in the air when it comes to what's actually
been copied and what hasn't. The best way to proceed is to copy
everything except the Windows directory, then copy that directory
but exclude the Swap File, Win386.SWP. To do this, use the clever
"Invert Selection" feature: Highlight the unwanted
Swap File and select Edit
Invert Selection.. then drag and
drop with the right mouse button to the new drive. By the way,
to see all the files, including the Swap File you need to have
the "VIEW/FOLDER OPTIONS/VIEW ALL FILES" option turned
on in the menu. If you don't do this you won't copy any hidden
files and nothing will work when you've finished!
(L) Booting from the new drive
When you're happy that the contents of the old drive are
resident on the new drive (use "Properties" on the
drives to count files but don't forget in the calculations the
missing Win386.SWP and maybe an odd recycle file), close down
and switch off. Unplug the power lead and disconnect the old
drive. Reconnect the CDROM, if that was temporarily disconnected,
and set the new drive as MASTER on the Primary IDE bus.
When a visual check confirms all is well, plug in and switch
on. Divert to the BIOS set-up and re-recognise the hard drive.
The new one will be first to be detected and the old one will
have gone away. Choose the top option from the set offered and
exit, saving settings as you leave. Boot-up should now proceed,
but before starting Windows, intercept the start-up options menu
by pressing the CONTROL key if you have Windows 98, or F8 if
Windows 95. Select MSDOS, or the C prompt, and when it comes
up, type FDISK. Select the option for setting the drive as bootable,
i.e. make the partition ACTIVE, exit, and allow the system to
restart whilst crossing fingers. If all is well Windows should
start normally and you now have, at least temporarily, a bottomless
new hard drive.
All the initial sample options 1 to 5 should be covered by
the descriptions above.
It is vital that you understand the limitations of the various
combinations of hardware and software BEFORE you spend your money
otherwise you may be the chap with the 15 partitions on his 30Gbyte
drive. Two are manageable, three are a nuisance, four needs a
good memory otherwise you're always losing stuff. Fifteen would
be a nightmare. To only get 8Gbytes from your 30Gbyte drive is
a waste of money so if possible choose a drive with the magic
software supplied or check it's available free on the manufacturer's
website. If you want to start a fresh Windows Set-up get an OEM
CD. You can't use an upgrade CD because in the path to set up
the required parameters for the upgrade to work you can't use
FAT32 so you'll end up with 15 partitions unless you think up
a clever wheeze to get round it.
If you're running a non-FAT32 version of Windows you'll have
to upgrade first before you install the new large drive unless
you'd like lots of partitions and finally, if you have the FAT32
option, you should invoke it if you want to use a partition greater
You think that's complicated? Wait till you try
give up and live near Thorney Hill you can always bring me the
bits to sort out.