Add a new hard drive for elbow room

by Alan Zisman (c) 1997. First published in Computer Player, June 1997

If you're like most of us, you never have enough storage space on your computer. No matter how big a hard drive you get, it only seems spacious for about six months after you get it... then it suddenly, it's full.

No wonder adding a second hard drive or replacing your current drive with a bigger unit is a popular upgrade. Especially since it's not hard to do, if you're comfortable cracking open your computer's case.

Most PC-style computers (and even some Macs) use so-called EIDE hard drives (also known as ATA devices). You can run up to four EIDE drives on most computers, with two connected to each of two adapters. More common in newer computers is to have one or two hard drives connected to one adapter, with an IDE CD-ROM connected to the second adapter. (On newer computers, these adapters are right on the motherboards-older models connect the drives to a card plugged into an expansion slot (and may only permit a pair of drives).

To add a second drive, check inside your case, and make sure your hard drive cable has connectors for two drives-some only let you plug in a single drive. If that's the case, don't despair... just buy a replacement cable (about $10). Now you're ready to plug the drive into the cable, and plug in the power cable and turn on your machine.

But wait-if it was that easy, I wouldn't have to write a column about it! There are a couple of things to be aware of.

<subtitle>Slave or Master (Computer S & M) <subtitle>

Before you plug in your cables, you need to know about IDE dominance relationships. These drives typically have a couple of jumpers on the back, which need to be set to indicate whether they're the only drive in your system, or the 'master' or 'slave' of a two-drive system. Unfortunately, there is no set standard for the jumper settings... make sure you have the documentation for both of your drives.

Often, however, a single drive will have a single jumper, often marked DM for Drive Master. If it's the C: drive on a two drive system, it will often have a second jumper (often labelled DS for Drive Slave or SP) set as well. The second, or slave drive typically won't have any jumpers set. If these settings don't work, and you don't have any documentation, check on your drive manufacturers' Web sites.

The broad, flat IDE cable must be plugged in correctly, with the red stripe along one edge lined up with pins 1 & 2 on the drives, as well as on the adapter. In some cases, the cables and plugs are nicely keyed so that they can only be plugged in one way-but in other cases, you'll have to look closely, perhaps turning the drive over, to find the microscopic numbers... '1' or '2' for the coloured edge of the cable, '49' or '50' for the other edge. While you're inspecting your drive, check on the label for some indication of the hard drive's specifications... the number of cylinders, heads, and sectors. Write these down.

Luckily, the power cable can only be plugged in the right way.

<subtitle> Bye, bye, BIOS <subtitle>

You're ready to turn on your computer... but your computer isn't ready to deal with your new drive. At the start of the boot process, you probably see an indication to press DEL (or Ctrl + Alt + Esc or some other key combination) to run the system setup. You need this to let the computer know about the new drive.

On more recent computers, this is a simple process. You may find an Autodetect option which will try to check for the drive and its proper setup parameters. If not, you'll have to enter those numbers you wrote down earlier, into the setup screen, for drive D: (even if your new drive will end up with a different drive letter).

As well, recent computers support so-called LBA-large block access, which allows them to recognize hard drives larger than 528 megs. If you're adding a large drive to an older computer, you have two options. You can purchase an EIDE adapter, which has LBA support built-into its hardware, or you can use 3rd-party software such as OnTrack's Disk Manager, which tricks your BIOS into accepting a larger drive. Disk Manager is included with many hard drive installation kits-but only use it if you're sure you need it.

But you're still not ready... after letting your computer boot, run the DOS (or OS/2) program, FDISK to partition your new drive. Be aware that while large partitions are convenient, the standard DOS way of storing files, so-called FAT wastes a lot of space on large partitions-typically 30-40% on partitions that are over 1 gig. OS/2 and NT users have more modern, less wasteful alternatives, HPFS and NTFS that they can choose, while owners of the most recent Windows 95 version, Win95B can choose a more economical FAT32 for large partitions. If you are using the standard FAT, think of making multiple partitions of 511 meg or less, to minimize wasted space. (Make very sure that you're setting partitions on your second drive... if you make changes to the partitions on your original drive, you'll find all your data has vanished!)

After running FDISK, you'll need to restart. When you're rebooted, run FORMAT to format each partition. Finally, you're ready to use your new drive. Note that your CD-ROM will no longer be drive D: Your hard drive(s) get all the letters starting with C:, your CD-ROM gets the next available letter... you may need to reinstall CD-based programs.

If you want, you can copy everything from your old drive onto the new one, remove the old drive, reset the jumpers on the slave-no-longer. Then, boot to a floppy, run FDISK, and set the new drive as the Active (bootable) partition (this won't destroy your data). Run the SYS command to add bootable operating system files, and you're ready to go.

Enjoy the feeling of having a lot of space. For at least a couple of months or so!

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan