SAN FRANCISCO (05/26/2000) - Just when you thought your PC's hard drive was big enough for any data you could throw at it, along come huge new applications that create ever larger data files. Throw in those not-so-economy-sized operating systems like Windows 2000 Professional, and suddenly--if you work with byte-hungry graphics, sound, or video files--you need all the storage space you can get.
As the size of hard drives continues to increase, prices stay surprisingly low.
Today's standard drive is in the 13GB-to-20GB range. Also available are fast yet comparatively inexpensive drives with capacities of 30GB to 40GB. And soon you should find 60GB and 75GB drives available--data capacities that seemed like science fiction only a year or so ago.
If your PC was manufactured in the past three to four years, you should have no problem upgrading to a super-capacity drive. Older systems may not be able to recognize the full capacity of your new drive, but you can usually overcome this limitation by updating the system BIOS. Recent PCs usually have a flash BIOS that you can upgrade by downloading a file from your PC maker's Web site.
Otherwise, you'll need to buy a BIOS upgrade chip (about $40 to $60).
Most new drives support the Ultra DMA/66 interface (also known as Ultra ATA/66), which can transfer data at up to 66 megabytes per second.
Unfortunately, only PCs made in the past six months or so can take advantage of the full speed. PCs made within the past three to four years but not within the past half-year use the UltraDMA/33 interface, and systems older than that have an even slower version. All UltraDMA/66 drives will work with the older interfaces, but they won't work at full speed.
Your new drive will be faster than your current drive, so plan on using the new drive as your C: drive, and the old one as your D: drive. Copying the data from your old hard disk to the new one is a breeze if you use the utilities shipped with virtually all new drive kits. Alternatively, you can buy a separate drive-copy utility, such as PowerQuest Corp.'s DriveCopy. Note that trying to copy files using DOS commands such as DISKCOPY and XCOPY won't work because they will not copy the essential hidden and system files.
Stan Miastkowski is a contributing editor for PC World.
The Top Down
Benefits: Better performance, higher capacityCosts: $125 for 10GB, $140 for 17GB, $180 for 20GB, $200 for 27GB, $250 for 40GBExpertise level: IntermediateTime required: 1-2 hoursTools required: Phillips screwdriver, needle-nosed pliers, antistatic wrist strapVendors: IBM Corp. (www.storage.ibm.com), Maxtor (www.maxtor.com), Quantum Corp. (www.quantum.com), Seagate (www.seagate.com), Western Digital (www.wdc.com)If you need...
A drive-copy utility: DriveCopy 2.0 $30 (www.powerquest.com)A BIOS chip: Unicore (www.unicore.com)Prepare your existing hard drive. It's essential that your existing drive be trouble-free. Run ScanDisk (Start*Programs*Accessories*System Tools*ScanDisk), and then run Disk Defragmenter (Start*Programs*Accessories*System Tools*Disk Defragmenter).
Important: To protect your data in case anything goes wrong, make a full backup of your hard drive before you go any further.
Run the software. Depending on the type of drive-copy or disk-preparation software that accompanied your drive (or that you purchased separately), either install and run it from within Windows or boot the floppy disk. Follow the directions (which vary by maker).
Find your old drive. Turn off your PC, unplug it, remove the cover, and look for the jumpers on your existing drive.
If you find it necessary to remove the drive to get to the jumpers, disconnect the wide ribbon cable and the power connector, noting how the colored wire on the ribbon cable meets the drive connector.
Make sure there's a free power connector...
...as well as a second connector on the wide cable for hooking up the new drive.
If not, buy another ribbon cable and a Y-adapter that makes two power connectors out of one.
The wide-ribbon cable from the hard drive will connect to the primary EIDE connector on the motherboard.
If you do have to remove the old drive to reach the jumpers, you'll either be able to slide it out or will need to remove four screws.
Set the drive jumpers. When two EIDE drives are connected to a single cable, one is designated 'Master', the other 'Slave'.
Most drives have jumper settings printed on them. If yours doesn't, consult the manual that came with it. In a pinch, you can find jumper settings on the drive maker's Web site.
Set the jumper on your new drive to Master, and then adjust the jumper settings identified on your old drive to Slave.
Put it all back together. If you had to remove your old drive in step 3, reinstall it now. Then mount the new drive above or beneath the old drive.
Attach the two connectors on the ribbon cable to the old and new drives. (It doesn't matter which connector goes with which drive.) Make sure the colored wire on the cable goes to pin one. Confirm that the other end of the cable is securely connected to the motherboard.
Plug the power connectors from the power supply into both drives.
Check the BIOS and copy the data. Make sure your disk-preparation floppy is in the drive, and turn your PC on. Enter your PC's setup program and check that the BIOS for drives 1 and 2 is set to Auto so it will automatically detect the two drives and set up the correct parameters.
Save the setup settings and reboot from the floppy disk. Follow the disk's directions to copy all data from the old drive to the new.
After you're done, reboot your PC. It should start Windows normally. When you're sure everything is working properly, reformat your old drive (it no longer needs to be bootable, of course) to prepare it for new data.