Partition your hard drive now; there is no better time or space








Drive a hard bargain when you upgrade a hard drive. Prices are low these days, and
value and capacity are high.


This leads to the issue of partitioning a large drive into smaller logical


drives. Some users do it to simplify filing or speed up searches, but most people do it
when their operating system either can’t access the entire drive or can’t do so
efficiently.


Given a specific way of storing locations of different files and directories, such as
8-, 16- or 32-bit-long designations, an OS is limited in the number of files it can
uniquely specify on a drive. That in turn sets the minimum size of each addressable
cluster on the drive. If the cluster size is 8K, even a tiny 1K file will consume 8K of
storage. On some systems the cluster size can be as large as 32K. If your PC stores
thousands of 100-byte files—and many Microsoft Windows applications generate lots of
them—you might be wasting 10 percent or more of your hard drive.


Many agencies’ year 2000 teams are currently at work upgrading the BIOS chips in
PCs made earlier than 1997. Older BIOSes set maximum drive size at 504M or 2G. If a hard
drive was built about two years ago, the BIOS may have an 8G limit.


Although it’s relatively easy to change the BIOS, it may lead to other
incompatibilities. But users whose offices are updating all the BIOSes for year 2000
readiness will eventually wind up with better hard drive management as a bonus.


In shopping for new drives, remember that SCSI models cost about twice as much as older
ATA and IDE models, which will do fine for most Windows users. Enhanced IDE, Fast ATA and
Fast ATA-2 drives are all very similar. Ultra ATA and Ultra Direct Memory Access have
faster burst transfer rates.


A 5,400-revolution-per-minute Ultra DMA drive with a 33-megabyte/sec transfer rate is
likely all that most users need and more than the average office worker will ever use.


All modern hard drives are relatively fast, especially if you have at least 32M of RAM
for Windows file swaps and cache. Don’t pay extra to get SCSI unless you have to. The
cheapest drive per gigabyte is probably the best buy. Expect to pay about $200 for an 8G
drive for a newer PC.


Earlier Windows OSes used 8- or 16-bit File Allocation Table designations. Windows 98
and Windows 95 OSR2 give you the option of a 32-bit FAT, which can make a big difference
for users who upgrade to get more drive space.


Under the FAT16 scheme, any hard drive partition larger than 1G has a 32K cluster size.
FAT32 not only supports 32G and larger drives, it also keeps cluster size down to 4K in
drives as large as 8G. From 8G to 16G, the cluster size is 8K, and it’s only 16K up
to 32G.


So far as I know, you cannot dual-boot Windows NT on a FAT32 Win98 system, however.


For more information about older hard drives and partitioning, visit http://www.concentric.net/~Brownsta/hd-partn.htm
or http://www.computercraft.com/docs/evsterms.html.


Look up computer jargon at http://www.pcwebopaedia.com/. Key in a term and you will
probably find useful information. SCSI, or Small Computer System Interface, is the
most-looked-up abbreviation. 


John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with
computers since the early 1960s. E-mail him at powerusr@penn.com.

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