BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 2004

  

 

BOOT CAMP 352 (16/11/04)

 

Cloning for beginners, part 1

 

Most hard disc drive manufacturers now quote MTBF (mean time between failure) figures of between 500,000 and 1 million hours, which suggests that your PC could run 24 hours a day for around 60 years before the disc drive pops it’s clogs. In reality they can and do go wrong and most PC users can expect to suffer at least one catastrophic hard disc drive (HDD) failure.

 

Providing that you have backed up all of your important data you can be up and running again with a replacement drive in a few hours, a day or so at the worst, but with a relatively small outlay it is possible to reduce down-time due to disc failure to just a few minutes.

 

Over the next two editions of Boot Camp we’ll show you how to ‘clone’ your hard drive, so that if the worst happens there will be no need to reinstall your operating system, drivers, patches, service packs, and applications and waste time reconfiguring Windows and your PC.

 

Disc cloning has become a viable option, even for novices, thanks to the dramatic reduction in the price of hard drives, Windows XP -- which greatly simplifies drive installation -- and the latest disc copying software; but more about that in part 2.

 

Most PCs use standard ATA/IDE hard drives and you can buy an 200 gigabyte model for under £20 from online retailers. However, I suggest that you splash out and purchase a drive with significantly greater capacity than your present one, particularly if it is now more than half full. The sky’s the limit, though and terabyte drives (1000Gb) now sell for less than £50.

 

A bigger drive also gives you a wider range of options. You could start using the clone drive straight away as the ‘Master’ HDD and avoid future storage problems, keeping the old drive in reserve for emergencies. Alternatively use the extra capacity on the clone, working as a ‘slave’ drive, for storage and backup, though I still recommend backing up critical data on removable media, like CD-Rs and storing discs ‘off site’, in case of fire or theft.  

 

We’ll begin with the installation of the new drive; this is something we looked at earlier this year but it’s worth running through the procedure again. If you are using an older, pre XP version of Windows (98, SE or ME) refer to Boot Camp 316.

 

Installing a second hard drive is very straightforward but if you’ve never done this sort of thing before it’s worth paying a little more for a ‘Retail’ package, like the Hitachi Deskstar models. These come with easy to follow fitting instructions, screws data cable and utility discs.

 

Since you will be delving around inside your PC you need to observe a few simple precautions. Always disconnect the computer from the mains (see also Tip of the Week) before you remove the lid and remember to touch the case metalwork before handling any components to help dissipate any static charge that may have built up on your clothes or body. Also take great care not to disturb cables and connectors on the motherboard and in the vicinity of the disc drives.

 

Before you purchase your new HDD check that your PC has a vacant drive bay and spare data and power connectors. The data connector should be on the end or halfway down the ribbon cable that goes between the existing HDD and the motherboard, a spare 4-pin power plug should also be dangling close by. Make sure that both of them comfortably reach the rear of the empty drive bay that you will be using.

 

Assuming all is well and you have your new drive in front of you the first job is to set it to slave mode by changing the position of the small ‘jumpers’ on the back, using a pair of tweezers. The slave setting will be shown on a label attached to the drive. While you are at check the multi-pin data connector on the back of the drive and note the position of the notch midway along one side of the connector shroud. This prevents the data cable plug being inserted the wrong way around; the power plug is also ‘keyed’ so if either plug doesn’t seat easily check the orientation and never force them as you may damage the connecting pins. It’s usually easier to slip the drive into the end of the bay so you can see the connectors to fit the cables, before sliding it home and fitting the fixing screws. A torch or desk light will help you to see what you are doing.

  

When you are satisfied everything is in place replace the lid, plug in and switch on. In order to use the new drive it has to be partitioned and formatted and in Windows XP this couldn’t be easier. After Windows has finished booting go to Start > Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management and double-click Disk Management. Right click on the new drive (it should be labelled Drive 1), then on the drop-down menu select Partition and follow the prompts. When it has finished -- and this may take a while on a very large drive -- check that it is ready and working in Windows Explorer by copying and pasting a couple of files or folders.

 

Next week – Drive cloning, part 2

 

JARGON FILTER

 

ATA/IDE

Advanced Technology Attachment/Integrated Drive Electronics; circuitry built into a hard disc drive that controls the flow of data and communicates with the PC motherboard

 

MASTER/SLAVE

Disc drive designation; a master drive contains boot up information and the PC’s operating system whilst slave drives are mostly used to store programs and data

 

PARTITIONING

Preparing a new HDD for use by dividing the space up into one or more ‘drives’ and creating a filing structure

 

 

TIP OF THE WEEK

There are two schools of thought about whether or not you should unplug a PC from the mains when working inside. Leaving the PC plugged in, but switched off at the socket will ensure that the case remains connected to earth and therefore better able to disperse a static discharge but if the wall socket has been wrongly wired -- and this is more common that you might suppose -- there is a chance that the mains switch and the power supply could still be live. Modern electronic devices are now very well protected against static discharge so I recommend that you play safe and unplug your computer (and monitor) whenever you remove the lid.

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