Cramped PC, even though you had
hectares of room last year?
Add an extra hard drive
and widen your vistas again... Simon
many of the problems associated with fitting
a second drive are common to all operating
systems, some of the solutions described here
are peculiar to Windows XP
Although several gigabytes of hard drive space may
have been enough even a year ago, it's amazing how quickly
you can use it up with applications like digital photography,
personal video recording and DV editing. Before you start
feeling too penned in, try adding an extra hard drive
to your PC. There are three main ways to do this.
The Easy Way…
By far the easiest way is to add an external hard drive
by plugging one into an available FireWire or USB2 port.
The original USB standard isn't fast enough to run a
hard drive, but the newer USB2 is as quick as FireWire
and will do fine. Firewire 2 and Serial ATA (SATA) external
drives are appearing now, too.
Most external drives need no special software, you
simply connect them to a power supply and plug-in their
FireWire or USB2 cables. You can do this even with your
PC switched on. If you are using Windows XP, the operating
system will recognise the new drive and assign it a letter.
Before you can use the new drive, you’ll probably
need to format it, but this is just a question of right-clicking
on its icon and selecting Format. Some drives come pre-formatted,
so check with your drive’s manual.
From then on, you can use the new drive in exactly
the same way as your internal hard drive, making use
of all the extra space it provides. Simply click on its
icon within My Computer.
Nearly as easy…
If you want to fit a new drive inside your PC and simply
want it to store more data, you can fit a second, internal
IDE hard drive as a ‘slave’ to your main ‘master’ one.
It’s usually just a question of plugging the second
plug on the cable running between your system board and
master hard drive, into the back of your new slave drive.
Once you’ve connected the data cable and plugged
a spare power lead into your new drive, you’ll
need to swap a couple of ‘jumpers’ on the
back of both drives to set them up for the new, two-drive
configuration. This is explained below.
When you re-start your PC, Windows XP should again
recognise your newly added drive, but this time you will
almost certainly need to format it before you can start
to use it. Do this as you would with an external drive,
by right-clicking on its icon and selecting Format.
If your existing hard drive is divided into more than
one partition with, for example, hard drives C: and D:
shown on your PC, even though it has only one physical
drive, then Windows XP fits your new drive in as the
next available letter, E:, moving any subsequent drives,
such as CD-RW or DVD, down the alphabet.
Nearly as easy as ‘Nearly as easy’…
New hard drives are nearly always quicker than old
ones, as the technology advances and improvements are
made. When adding a new hard drive, therefore, you may
want to start-up and run Windows XP from it to see the
full benefits of the extra performance. To do this, you'll
need to move the operating system from your existing
hard drive onto the new one.
While it's possible to do this without software help,
it's only really a job for the terminal geek. It's much
better to invest in specialist software, specifically
designed to transfer your operating system between hard
drives. There are several products which do this, including
AcronisMigrateEasy (also available as part of Acronis
True Image 8).
This program and others like it offer guidance in transferring
the operating system and all files from one drive to
another, taking care of even those which are normally
hidden under Windows XP and form integral parts of its
operation. Upgrade utilities take care of some of the
more intricate parts of the operation, such as when to
change your old drive from master to slave and your new
one from slave to master.
The basic procedure is to connect the new drive as
a slave to the first one, copy all files over to it and
then switch the two drives, so the PC start-ups from
the new one. You can then reformat the old drive and
reuse it for new files.
When fitting a new drive, the BIOS in your PC should
recognise it automatically, but some older BIOSes may
need you to force them to scan and auto-detect your new
internal drive. They should then pick up the exact drive
type and specification of your new device.
HOW TO: Add A Hard Drive In Three
With your PC switched off, remove the side panel and locate your existing
hard drive. Fit the new drive in a nearby drive bay, so that the
second connector on the hard drive data cable can reach it
Set the jumpers - miniature connectors - on the back of both drives,
so one is master and the other slave. The jumper positions vary between
models, but are usually shown in a label on the body of the drive
Connect the data cable to the back of the new drive and take a spare
power lead (there should be several hanging from the power supply)
to the new drive’s power connector. That completes the physical
Adding an external hard drive gives you the widest
choice of different devices. There are portable and desktop
drives available, though the portable ones use 2.5-inch
platters, rather than the 3.5-inch ones in conventional
desktop ones. This limits their size and makes them more
expensive than standard IDE drives.
Both types require extra circuitry inside their cases,
to enable them to connect through Firewire or USB2 ports.
Companies offering directly connected drives like this
include Amacom and
You can take the external hard drive route further though,
using a cartridge-based drive, such as Iomega'sPeerless.
This drive uses removable cartridges in a vertical
holster, so you can swap drives, hot-plugging them even
when your PC's switched on. This is a very good solution
if you want extra storage and a fast back-up medium,
too. The ruggedised cartridges can be bought separately.
Another advantage of external drives is that you can
take your data with you. Moving from work to home and
back with a pocketable hard drive means you can have
access to all your documents, without having to lug a
whole laptop to and fro. You lose little of the speed
of data transfer you're used to on your desktop, either.
Don’t be woolly on jumpers
It is not uncommon after adding a second hard drive
to find that your PC won’t start up again. If this
happens to you, the first thing you should do is: DON’T
PANIC! The second thing you should do is take a look
at the jumpers…
The jumpers are the small metal connectors which slide
over miniature pins on the back of a hard drive. They
are used to select various different functions. The most
likely reason for a PC failing to boot up after installing
a second drive is that the jumpers on the back of one
or both drives are set incorrectly.
There are typically four settings a hard drive can
take. If you have just one drive fitted to your PC, it's
likely to be set to ‘One drive only’, but
when you add a second drive this needs to be changed.
If you’re adding the new drive for extra data,
but leaving Windows XP installed on the original drive,
set the jumper on the old drive to ‘Master’.
This means this drive is the one that will be used to
start up the PC and load the operating system. On your
newly added drive you should set the jumper to ‘Slave’,
meaning that this is a secondary drive which will be
used to store data. If, however, you've moved the operating
system onto the new drive, that should be set to Master
and the old drive to Slave. You can ignore the CSEL,
or Cable Select, setting, which requires a special cable
which very few PCs use.