Replacing a Hard Drive

“Local Disk C: is running low on disk space. Run Disk Cleanup?”

Its an error most of us are all too familiar with. That 500MB hard drive we got with our 486 66FX is almost out of free space. What can be done to help this?

Windows has a built-in wizard called “Disk Cleanup” which will automatically run once your free space gets below a certain threshold. This is a useful one, but will usually only free up a few hundred megabytes at the most. You can also go to the Add/Remove Programs applet in “Control Panel” to delete some old programs you don’t use anymore. But what is there for people like me, people who like to keep all their old programs? A new hard drive.

Before we get into the guts of the computer, its important to know how to pick out a hard drive. When you go out shopping, make sure to look for a hard drive which boasts atleast 7200RPMs, though these days, 10,000 RPMs is nice. It is very important to decide what contoller your current hard drive supports too. Most of us won’t have a problem with a 40 pin PATA/EIDE hard drive, which happens to be the standard for now. If you have a very new motherboard, you may have SATA, which has a 7 pin connector and a very thin round cable. It is easy to distinguish between PATA and SATA.

Once we have picked up our new hard drive, let’s get into the case. On most cases, it’s simply two bolts on the back side. On some proprietary systems, this may not be the case. If the side of the case does not slide off with ease, there is likely another bolt or a plastic clip.

Inside the system can be pretty messy with wires and ribbon cables all over. Most cases will have the hard drive in the front of the system, just beneath the floppy drive. It will be in a bay the same size as the floppy, but it won’t have any access from the front.

With the computer turned off, gently remove the 4-pin power connector and the ribbon cable. They may be stubborn; if that’s the case, gently rocking them side to side should loosen them without damaging any connectors. Once the cables are removed, unscrew the 2-4 bolts which will be holding the hard drive in place.

Turn the old hard drive so that you can see all of its connectors. Look for a small set of six to ten pins, generally located between the power connector and the 40-pin connector. Look around on the hard drive to find a small table which will tell you how to set the jumper. A jumper is a small piece of plastic with metal inside of it that goes over two pins.

You’ll want tweezers or a very small flat head screw driver to slide the jumper out. Note that these pins are durable, but not invulnerable. They will bend back into their place, but be cautious to not break any off, as this will turn your hard drive into a very expensive paper weight. On your existing hard drive, move the jumper to reflect the “master” setting. That is, put it across the two pins that the table says is for a master drive. Change the jumpers to the “slave” setting on the new hard drive.

When you reattach your hard drives to the case, make sure they are not touching one another. A small gap will be fine for them. Attach the top connector on the ribbon cable to your master drive, and the middle connector to your slave drive. If your ribbon cable does not come with two connectors, you will need a new cable. Attach one power connector to each hard drive.

Now, when you start your system you will not see your new drive. If you have Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 or Windows XP you need to open “Administrative Tools” from the Control Panel. Once Administrative Tools is opened, open the “Computer Management” applet. Look for the folder that says “Disk Management”. Find “Disk 1;” this should say however many thousands of megabytes your new hard drive is, and “unpartitioned space”. Right click this area and look for the “create a new partition” option. Once your new parition is created, make sure you don’t have anything to do on your system for an hour or so, and format the partition. It is very important to ensure you are formatting and partitioning your new, blank hard drive, and not your existing drive.

With Windows 95, 98 or ME you will have to boot to the “boot disk” that you created when you installed your operating system. At the command prompt, type FDISK and press enter. It may ask a few questions when beginning; answer them carefully, though usually your answer will be yes. Press “5” at the first menu. This will show your two hard drives. Press 2 at the second menu.

Doing this will cause FDISK to look at your new hard drive. This is important, because you don’t get second chances. from the main menu, choose “Create a New DOS Partition or Logical Drive.” In that menu, choose “Create an Extended DOS Partition.”

Once the extended partition has been created, you have to go to “Create a New DOS partition or logical drive” menu again. This time, choose “Create a New Logical Drive”. With a new logical drive created to make use of your new hard drive. Ensure you remember what letter has been assigned to your new logical drive.

If you are unsure of the letter of your new drive, at the main menu select “View All Partition and Logical Drive Information”. That will show your two partitions, then press Enter; the drive letter will be present, most likely E or F.

Exit FDISK and restart your system, but make sure you boot to the startup disk again; we aren’t done with the command prompt. Once at the command line again, remember that letter from earlier. Type FORMAT E: and press Enter, replacing E with the letter of your new drive. When prompted, press Y to begin formatting. From here you’ll want to go watch a movie; this process can take a very long time.

After formatting your new logical drive, restart your system, remove the floppy and you will be set to use your newly aquired hard drive.

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