BOOT CAMP 316 (09/03/04)




Back in the mid 1990s running out of hard disc space was a common problem for PC owners then along came affordable multi-gigabyte hard drives. The relief was only short lived. Computers, like nature, abhor a vacuum and it didn’t take long for all that empty space to fill up. Once again many PC users are finding that what once seemed like limitless volumes of storage capacity are being swallowed up by digital photographs, MP3 music collections and video files and that 20, 40 and even 80 gigabyte hard discs are no longer sufficient.


If you sense that your drive is rapidly filling up then there are basically four things you can do. You can buy a new computer, delete files to fee up space, replace your existing hard drive or add a second drive. Buying a new PC is obviously a last resort and only worth considering if your computer is hopelessly outdated. Deleting files brings only temporary relief and replacing your hard drive will involve a lot of hard work, re-installing Windows and all of your applications, which brings us to the fourth and preferred option, adding a second drive.


The advantages are simple: you preserve Windows all of your applications, data files and preferences plus it is relatively cheap and easy to do. The only downside is that you are going to have to take the lid off you PC, and if that’s something you’ve never done before, or do not relish, then as always seek expert help, but I have to say that it is not difficult, you won’t need any special tools, just an ordinary crosshead screwdriver, and it only takes a few minutes.


But first you have to make sure that your PC has the room and connecting cables for a second drive, so unplug the mains sockets from the system unit and monitor and remove the lid. In most desktop and ‘tower’ type PCs there will be at least one empty ‘bay’ for a second hard drive, usually next to or above or below the existing drive.


Once you have established that you have an empty bay you can check that there’s a spare 4-pin power plug within reach (it may be tied back to stop it dangling), and a second connector on the ribbon cable that goes into the back of your original disc drive; manufacturers often fold the cable to keep things tidy. Don’t worry if neither are present, power cable adaptors and replacement ribbon cables are readily available.


Now you are ready to buy your drive, and for the purposes of this article we’re looking at a second drive as a place to store programs and data files. Fancy applications, like high-end video editing work best with specialist high performance drives and that’s another subject for another day. Assuming that your PC is no more than three or four years old then it will almost certainly use a standard ATA/IDE type drive but it’s worth checking your motherboard manual first, just in case.


Decide on the capacity you think you need then double it, if you are into multimedia applications then an 80 or 120Gb drive would be a sensible starting point but the sky’s the limit these days with 300Gb drives now selling for less than £200. Most replacement drives are come with little or nothing in the way of instructions so if you are a first-timer the Hitachi Deskstar kits (more details from: and available from most resellers)

is a very good place to start as they come with a full set of instructions, cables and a fitting kit. (See also tip of the week). For a selection of competitively priced hard drives check online retailers like Ebuyer ( and Aria (


Fitting a drive is very easy but before you start you must set your new drive as a ‘slave’, otherwise the computer may not recognise it and will not boot up properly. To do that look for a set of small ‘jumpers’ on the back panel. There should be a set of configuration diagrams on a label stuck to the drive, showing where the jumpers go – use a set of tweezers to move them to the correct position. This step is important as most drives are shipped in the ‘Master’ or ‘Cable Select’ position.


Slot the drive into the bay, line up the holes, fit and tighten the four retaining screws and connect the cables. Be very careful with the ribbon connector and make sure it is the right way around – there should be a lug to guide it into the socket, if you force it in the wrong way around you could bend the delicate pins on the connector, so be careful!


Replace the lid, plug it in and switch on. Most PCs automatically register the presence of a new drive but on some older models you may need to enter the BIOS program and run the disc drive setup utility. Your PC’s motherboard manual will explain this procedure.


Windows probably won’t recognise the drive, however, until it has been partitioned and formatted. Partitioning prepares the disc for storing data and formatting creates a filing system. In Windows 9x (95/98/SE/ME) the simplest method is to whip the lid off again, disconnect your main C: drive by removing the power and ribbon cables then boot the PC from your Emergency Startup floppy disc. At the A: prompt type ‘fdisk’ (without the quotes) to partition the disc – unless you have any special requirements just follow the prompts and accept the default settings.


When it has finished reboot using the Startup disc again and type ‘format c:’ at the A: prompt. When it has finished switch off, reconnect the cables to the C: drive, replace the lid, reboot and Windows will automatically assign the drive a new drive letter. In Windows XP you can partition a new disk by going to Start > Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management. Double-click Disk Management, right-click on the new drive (it will probably be called Disk 1), select Partition from the drop-down menu and follow the prompts. When it has finished reboot and if all’s well Windows will assign the new drive letter and you can start filling it up.


Next week – Power Perils





Advanced Technology Attachment/Integrated Drive Electronics; the circuitry -- built into the disc drive – that acts as an interface between the drive and the PC motherboard



Preparing a disc drive for use by creating a filing structure and deleting any previously stored data



Tiny connector or shorting link, used to configure setup parameters on disc drives and motherboards




When you buy a hard disc drive that’s usually all you get and you’re left to your own devices to figure out what to do with it. Fortunately most hard disc manufacturers have decent web support sites with a wealth of tutorials, FAQs and downloadable utilities, designed to help both expert and novice users install and use their products. Here’s a selection of addresses for the main players. (Western Digital)

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