Build own PC -Installing The Hard Drive & Floppy

About Hard Drives

The technology that determines the amount of data a hard drive can store is growing by leaps and bounds.  Literally every month, each dollar you spend on a drive will get you more and more space and with that space comes a place to store more pictures, video files, documents, games and application software.  But that’s not the only benefit a new hard drive brings to the table.  New drives are faster then ever, and this speed translates into a much more responsive PC and better overall performance

Things to Know
When choosing a new hard drive, there are two main determining factors: size and speed. By size, we mean the amount of data the drive can store.  An acceptable hard drive is 80 Gigabytes (or 80GB), but more is better, so a 120 GB would be an even better purchase.  As mentioned above, the technology is changing extremely fast, so it’s a good idea to get the largest drive you can afford; don’t worry, you can always use the extra space! The next factor in choosing a hard drive is speed.  Speed is determined by transfer rate, a specification noted on the hard drive’s packaging.  One simple way to compare drives is to look at the RPM’s the drive is rated at.  Usually, the higher the RPM’s the faster the hard drive can find and transfer data.  Again, you should get the fastest you can afford but don’t be afraid to compromise a little on speed for more space if the price is right; most drives today are plenty fast as it is for most applications. 7200 RPM is the recommended standard, don’t bother with 5400 RPM.

The next thing to keep in mind when choosing a drive is the drive’s interface.  Most home PC’s, like the one we’re building, are based on the IDE/EIDE interface standard - alternatives to IDE/EIDE includes SCSI or FireWire interfaces.  If you decide to purchase a SCSI drive, you will need to make sure you have a SCSI interface card already installed, or buy one with the drive. 

Armed with this knowledge we suggest an EIDE ATA/100 or ATA/133 hard drive if your motherboard supports ATA/100 or ATA/133.  The “ATA/100” or “ATA/133” is also known as Ultra DMA or UDMA/100/133 respectively - this basically refers to transfer rate.  Older motherboards will probably not support ATA/100 or ATA/133 transfer modes, but that’s OK.  You can still get one of these drives and use it on your system.

We recommend checking reviews in major PC magazines for an idea of what’s available and which drive is right for you.

ATA/100 and ATA/133 Drive Cables
Chances are you have decided to install an ATA/100 or ATA/133 Ultra DMA drive for your hard drive.  If your motherboard supports UDMA drives, you want to make sure to use the special UDMA cable that came with your new drive or with your motherboard.  These cables are 40-pin, 80-conductor cables, as opposed to a standard IDE cable which has 40-pins but only 40-conductors.  This 80-conductor UDMA cable will allow you to take full advantage of your new drive’s speed. 

If your UDMA cable has 3 connectors and they are usually different colors: blue, black, and gray.  The blue connector MUST be plugged into the motherboard’s UDMA IDE port. The black connector will plug into the Master drive and the gray connector will plug into the Slave drive.  If your UDMA cable has only two connectors, the gray connector (or Slave connector) will be missing.  If you need an extra connector for your slave drive, you will need to purchase a 3-connector cable.  In the event that your UDMA cable is not color coded, it will be labeled with stickers that say “System” or “Main Board” and then “Master” and “Slave”.  Keep in mind, this color-coding only makes a difference if your motherboard can handle an UDMA drive, you are using a UDMA drive, and you have this UDMA cable.  If you have installed a UDMA drive onto a motherboard that only supports plain IDE, you can use your regular IDE cable; the drive will be perfectly happy - it just won’t run as fast as it can. 

SATA Drive Cables
Serial ATA (SATA) is another way to go, especially if you want more than your IDE capacity in drives. Maybe you just want room for more CD burners or readers, who knows. Most Serial ATA drives come with the standard 4 pin power port and a SATA cable port. They also have the ATA jumper settings available. SATA is much like ATA, simply with a different cable.

Simply plug in the SATA cable to the back of the drive and into the motherboard slot and all should be well. You might have to set some setting in the BIOS to get the motherboard to recognize it.

Setting Jumpers
Correctly setting jumpers is critical for your new drive to function properly.  Most of the time there will be a label on the top of the drive that has a diagram for jumper settings.  If you look at the back end of the drive, the jumper positions corresponding to the diagram are usually labeled here as well (if they are not, check your drive’s manual).  The three possible jumper positions will be: Master, Slave and Cable Select. These are sometimes abbreviated as “MS”, “SL”, and “CS” respectively.  Sometimes you will also have a setting called “Single”. 

To determine the correct setting for your new drive, we have to examine how it will be attached.  Each IDE connector on your motherboard represents an IDE “channel” and can be attached to up to two drives via a ribbon cable.  If there is just one drive attached to an IDE channel, that drive should be set to “Master” (or “Single” if your drive has this option).  If you attach a second drive to the same channel (meaning, it is attached to another connector on the SAME data cable), you would set this drive to “Slave”.

It is perfectly OK to have just one “Master” drive on each IDE channel; it is also fine to have both a “Master” & “Slave” on one channel and nothing on the other.  The important thing to keep in mind is to always maintain the “Master-Slave” relationship.  Another thing to keep in mind is when both a hard drive and a CD/DVD drive are on the same channel, the hard drive should be set to be the Master and the CD/DVD drive the slave.  It is also advisable, but not mandatory, that if you have just one hard drive and just one CD/DVD drive in your system, you put them on separate channels for better performance.  For more information on setting jumpers, check your motherboard manual and your drive’s installation manual.

BIOS Configuration
Configuring the BIOS is usually very simple.  Almost all modern motherboards have BIOS that will auto-detect the drives on your system.  To bring up the BIOS screen, you will need to boot your computer and watch for a message that says something like “hold down DELETE to enter setup”.  Hold down the key and the BIOS will come up.  Once you see the screen, select the “auto-detect hard drive” function.  Your BIOS should detect all the drives on your PC; don’t worry if it does not mention the CD-ROM drive - some older BIOS’s won’t.  Once this is done, choose to save new settings and exit.  As always, check your motherboard manual as you do this step for more details about your particular PC’s BIOS.  After you reboot your PC, watch the screen.  Most PC’s will display a list of the drives attached to the system before Windows starts; you should see your new drive listed here. 

It is worth noting, that some older BIOS’s are limited to what size hard drive they will be able to handle.  If your BIOS was made prior to August 1994, it might not accept a hard drive larger than 528MB.  Prior to February 1995, it might not accept anything greater than 2.1GB.  Prior to January 1998, it might be limited to drives 8.4GB and smaller.  If this is the case, check the installation disk that came with your hard drive for special software that can overcome this limitation.  Read your motherboard manual and your new drive’s installation manual for more information.

Software Configuration

Windows should find your new drive automatically; after Windows starts, double-click on “My Computer” and you should see your new drive.  If you don’t, shut down your PC, check your jumper settings and run through the BIOS auto-detect process again.

Partitioning & Formatting
Before you can use your new drive to store any data, you will have to partition and format it.  Partitioning and formatting is not for the faint of heart and requires some skill.  A mistake during this process can be disastrous to the data on your other drives.  If you are at all unfamiliar with partitioning and formatting your new drive, we urge you to take advantage of one of the many third-party partitioning utilities on the market.  Two excellent products that are very reasonably priced are Partition Magic and Drive Copy.  Both titles are published by Power Quest and are widely available.  If you want to copy your existing data over to your new drive, use Drive Copy.  If you are adding a second, third or fourth hard drive you can use Partition Magic.  These products are inexpensive (under $30), safe and will save you lots of time.

Windows 95
With the original version of window’s 95 you’re really locked into a FAT16 file system.  This means that your hard drive must by partitioned into partitions no larger than 2 GB each.  For this reason, if you have purchased a large hard drive, now is also a good time to upgrade your Window’s version.

Windows 95SE/98/98SE/ME
All of these versions of Windows use the FAT32 file system.  You can partition your new hard drive into one large drive or multiple drives - whatever schema works best for your particular needs. 

Windows 2000/XP
If you have upgraded to Windows 2000 or Windows XP, you’ll have a choice of using the NTFS (New Technology File System) a superior replacement for the old FAT32 schemas.  NTFS offers far more security and reliability than FAT32, especially if you are networking computers.  If you decide to use FAT32 you can always convert your volumes to NTFS - but be aware that the conversion is a one-way process.

Take a little time to plan your partitions.  Do you want one large partition for the entire drive? Or do you want to separate it into different drive volumes? If you have FAT32, it is very popular to create one partition for the entire drive.  Using NTFS, it’s often better to create multiple drives or volumes, especially if you will be connected to a home or office network.  By creating multiple volumes you can more readily control access to shared files and hardware on your own computer.  In addition, NTFS allows you to selectively compress volumes to gain more storage space.  This allows you to compress a directory of graphics files for example, which you may rarely access.

A good rule of thumb to follow is if your hard drive is smaller than 32 GB, you should only use FAT32.  This is because of the overhead space NTFS needs to work effectively.  On smaller drives, NTFS tends to lose its “robustness” and besides, FAT32 is more than adequate for smaller drives.

As an added note, when you purchase a hard drive in a full retail box, many of the large manufactures include a small installation floppy disk; this disk usually has some sort of partitioning software and instructions on it to help you along.  It is also a good idea to check the manufacturer’s website for online installation and partitioning guides.

Important Tips

The most common problem area of installing a hard drive is incorrect jumper settings.  Incorrect settings will cause the drive to not be recognized and may even cause some of your other drives to “disappear”.  Always double-check your jumper settings.  Also make sure, if you are installing an ATA/100 or ATA/133 drive and you’re using the special UDMA cable, the right connectors are plugged into your motherboard, master drive and slave drive.

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