ISSUE 587: Zisman - Jan 23 2001
The high-tech office
helps clear up user frustration
I have a computer at home that I use for
work-related tasks and share with other family members. And with a
teenage son, that means that it's being used to store music files.
While raw music files require about 10 MB of space for
each minute of music, popular compression schemes such as MP3 squeeze
it down to a tenth as much. Nevertheless, my son's music obsession
threatened to push me off my own computer. I didn't want to buy another
machine just for his use and I didn't want to simply ban Joey
or his music.
But there were a few other things I could do:
n Get a CD burner. Rewritable CD drives are the format
of choice for anyone needing removable storage. The drives are
increasingly affordable and the blank disks, holding 650 - 700 MB of
computer data or music, now cost $1 or less each. (They cost about $25
each when I first started looking at the technology.) Still, Joey
collects music files faster then he could offload them to CD.
n Partition the hard drive. Partitioning the drive
makes it appear to be more than one drive and limits the amount of
space available on each. With a 10-GB hard drive, I wanted to keep 4 GB
for my own use, give Joey 4 GB to use as he chose and keep the last 2
GB for the inevitable overflow.
Unfortunately, Windows doesn't make partitioning easy.
It includes an old-fashioned DOS-style utility Fdisk. If you use it to
make any changes at all to the way your hard disk is set up -- blotto!
All your data is destroyed.
To the rescue, Powerquest's Partition Magic
utility. Now at version 6, this $100 product keeps getting better.
Partition Magic allows you to create, resize or move
partitions, keeping the data intact. While not for everybody, if you
need it, you really must have it. It's especially useful for people
wanting to work with multiple operating systems on the same computer,
such as experimenting with Linux while keeping Windows up and running.
The new version has an improved interface and a handy
undelete function, while adding password protection to keep little
fingers from making changes to your setup.
But while 4 Gb of space was more than enough for me,
Joey was continually frustrated. A single computer game, such as SimCity
3000, can require 10 per cent of that space. With a few games and a lot
of songs, Joey's space was at a premium.
The ultimate answer was to get a second hard drive.
The 10-GB drive was a high-end, added-cost feature when the computer
was new a couple of years ago. But since then drive sizes have expanded
rapidly while prices have dropped. A new 20-GB drive set me back less
If you are moderately comfortable with a screwdriver,
it's not difficult to install a second hard drive, certainly easier
than most Ikea kits. Modern computers automatically recognize
drives, so there isn't the fussing with setup programs that earlier
quired. (Or you can take your computer into any of the hundreds of
small local computer stores. They should be able to install a new hard
drive for you quickly and affordably.) The new drive is faster then the
old, making the computer feel perkier.
I gave Joey the roomy new drive and copied all his
data over from his old partition. The second drive got drive letter D:,
the same letter that the old partition had used, so there were no
problems running his programs. (On some computers, the CD drive letter
will shift, requiring reinstallation of some programs.)
And then, back to Partition Magic to merge Joey's old
(and now empty) partition with mine, giving me some extra space out of
the deal. We're both happy and, with five times as much space as
it will be a while before he runs out