Upgrader - Install a bigger, faster hard drive

Today's drives are bigger than ever and bargain priced, and they offer a performance boost, as well. You'll need that extra space for the increasingly roomy OS installs and gigabyte-eating applications that are the norm these days. And don't forget graphics, audio and video files.

If your budget is limited, you can upgrade to a 20GB drive for as little as $230; a medium-size 40GB drive will set you back $320 or thereabouts. For maximum storage space, you can invest in a 60GB or 75GB behemoth, although prices for these larger drives are in the $700 to $900 range. These prices are for bare bones drives. Upgrade kits may be a little more expensive.

Manufacturers offer most drives in both 5400rpm and 7200rpm versions. Although the 5400rpm drives are slightly less expensive than the 7200rpm models, the latter deliver a genuine performance boost in the form of quicker access times and improved data transfers.

The newest IDE hard drives are backward-compatible with the Ultra DMA/66 interface found on most PCs made in the last few years. Most of today's drives support the Ultra DMA/100 interface (alternatively called ATA/100), which offers burst transfer speeds of up to 100MB per second. In some operations, the new interface can speed data transfers, but the overall performance difference is not dramatic because the bursts involve only tiny amounts of data.

Still, if you want the best performance from your new drive, your PC must have on-board Ultra DMA/100 support. For about $130, you can buy a card that adds Ultra DMA/100 to your PC from a company like Promise (www.promise.com). Or you can just settle for the interface that your PC uses now.

Your new hard disk will be bigger and faster than the one your PC currently uses, so plan on making the new drive your primary drive - the new home for your operating system and applications. You can attach the old drive as a secondary hard disk and use it for archives and less frequently accessed data.

All major drive makers pack software with their upgrade kits that prepares the drive for data (partitioning and formatting) and can also copy exactly what's on your current drive to the new one, helping to make the upgrade a snap. the top downBenefits: Higher capacity, better performanceCosts: $230 (20GB) to $890 (80GB)Expertise level: IntermediateTime required: One to two hoursTools required: Phillips screwdriver, needle-nose pliers, antistatic wrist strap (recommended)Vendor: IBM (www.storage.ibm.com), Maxtor (www.maxtor.com), "Quantum (www.quantum.com), Seagate (www.seagate.com), Western Digital (www.wdc.com)optional: Ultra DMA/100 card $130 (www.promise.com)1 Prepare your PC's existing hard drive. To prevent future problems, make sure the current drive in your PC is trouble-free. Run ScanDisk (Start-Programs-Accessories-System Tools-Scan Disk) and check the Thorough test option. Then run Disk Defragmenter (Start-"Programs-Accessories-System Tools-Disk Defragmenter). These tests sometimes take hours to complete if you haven't run them before, but you'll save time and headaches later in the installation process "by ensuring that you "will be copying error-free data.

Next, make a full back-"up of your hard drive if you're able to, or at least back up your vital data and configuration files from your favourite pro$grams.

Don't forget files like normal.dot from Microsoft Word and Bookmarks or Favorites from your Web browser.2 Run the new drive-installation software. Almost all hard drives ship with installation software that takes care of formatting and partitioning. Some even help you transfer data from your old disk to the new one. You must run most installation software before you physically install the new drive, but check the drive's manual or installation poster. You'll either install and run the software from within Windows, or boot from a floppy disk. Program details vary by drive manufacturer, so read the directions carefully.3 Go under the hood. Turn off your PC and unplug it before you remove the cover. And before you begin working under your PC's hood, put on "an antistatic wrist strap (available from local "electronics supply stores) and clip it to a "grounded metal object.Find a space for the new drive. Most PC cases have an easily accessible space " for your new drive, usually " right next to the existing " drive. Find the drive. Note where" the red wire of the ribbon " cable meets the drive (Pin 1) " so you can connect the new " cable correctly. (Hint: mark the "location with masking tape.) Use the new cable. Current drives require an 80-wire cable for best performance, and most drives "ship with one. Remove the old cable and replace it with "the new one (the connectors are compatible).Find a free power connector. You need power for your new drive. If your power supply has no free connector, get "a Y-adapter that turns one connection into two.4 Set the drive jumpers. Usually, you'll install your new drive as the second drive on the primary IDE channel (the same channel where the current drive is connected). When two IDE drives are connected to a single cable, one must be designated 'Master' and the other 'Slave'.

The jumper settings are printed on the drives. If you'll be using the new disk as your PC's boot drive, set its jumper to Master, and change the jumper settings on your old drive to Slave. (Check the included installation software to make sure that it supports copying of the data over to your new hard disk.)5 Put it all back together. Install the new drive. Attach the two connectors on the new ribbon cable to the old and new hard disks. (It doesn't matter which connector goes where.) Make sure the red wire on the cables goes to Pin 1. Also make sure the other end of the cable is securely connected to the primary IDE connector on the motherboard, and that it's correctly connected so that the red wire on the cable goes to Pin 1 on the motherboard connector. (A secondary IDE connector is used for things like your CD-ROM and CD-RW drives.)Plug in the power connectors to both drives. Double-check all your connections; don't put the cover back on until you're sure that everything's working correctly.6 Check your system's setup program and finish up. Make sure the hard drive installation utility disk is in the floppy drive, then turn on your PC. Enter your PC's setup utility (usually by pressing , , or at startup, although details vary by manufacturer). Then make sure drives 1 and 2 are set to AUTO. If they're not, your PC may not detect your new drive.

Save the setup settings, and reboot from the installation utility floppy disk. Follow the directions to set up your new drive and copy the data from the old drive to the new.

Finally, remove the floppy and reboot your PC. It should start Windows normally. When you're sure everything's working, reformat your old drive to wipe out its superfluous data and to prepare it for new files.

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