Adding a Second Hard Drive

That old hard drive is getting crowded. But replacing it can be a long, boring chore, and that’s before you have to re-download all your favorite programs and files. Installing an additional hard drive is much easier than replacing the older one, and it keeps the first disk’s storage, operating system, and programs in service.

The first step, of course, is buying the hard drive. Even for a family of users, an inexpensive 40 GB drive is ample storage. TigerDirect.com, NewEgg.com and eBay are good places to look online, and they’re usually cheaper than computer stores.

Once you’ve purchased your disk, turn it to the side where its connectors are. There will be a small group of pins, arranged in pairs, usually labeled “Slave,” “Master,” or “SL” and “MA,” with a few other labels. A small plastic cap, called a jumper, is often placed over the Master pins. Remove the jumper and put it over the Slave pins if it’s not already there.

Moving a plastic cap over a few pins may seem odd, but it’s a very important step. A hard drive set to Master, as the name might suggest, is “in charge” of the other disk it shares a data cable with, and slave-jumpered disks only worry about their own instructions. Crippling, though easily solved, problems come from two disks trying to control each other, or neither trying to control the other at all.

With your disk set to Slave, it’s time for the actual installation. Open your PC and find your hard drive. A flat, grey cable and a four-wired power cable will be connected to it. Put the second drive in the drive bay where the original disk is and secure it with a few screws. Attach a spare power connector to the hard drive, and follow the grey cable (called an IDE or ATA cable) from the
disk until you find the second black connector. Plug it into the back of your drive, making sure any blocked holes in the connector match up with missing pins on the disk. I’ve messed up a few pins on hard drives by forgetting that last part.

Windows XP makes formatting new hard drives easy. Go to the Control Panel, click Administrative Tools and then Computer Management. Click Disk Management and you’ll see a graphical representation of your hard drives, including the new one. Right-click this new disk and select “New Partition,” which will run the New Partition Wizard. You’ll only need to enter “Primary Partition” and a drive letter; Windows handles the rest.

To use your second disk, go into My Computer and drop files into the new drive.

The only bad part of this setup is remembering which disk a file is on. One way to solve this is to keep only certain types of files, such as music, video, or games on the second disk, since they tend to take up more space than other file types. That frees up the first hard drive for more important software and documents.

If you need more space, don’t throw out your old hard drive; save time and effort by installing a second one.

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