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.