General discussion

Replacing a Hard Drive

I have a PC from ABS and my hard drive is on the fritz. I'm getting a S.M.A.R.T. error everytime I boot up, so it's only a matter of time before I can't use my main hard drive. So, I'm now looking for a replacement.

Some background: I'm running XPsp2, I have two internal hard drives currently, and it's the master drive that is giving the errors.

I'm at an intermediate stage of computer knowledge--somewhere between complete newby and master programmer. Happy But I've never had to do this kind of major surgery on my machine. So, if you have any experience please share.

Specifically, I'm wondering if there are any compatability issues I should watch out for, or if there are any features that are "must haves" or "don't needs" in my replacement drive.

Also, if you can point me to a website that will walk you through the replacement process, that would be great.

Thanks in advance for your help.

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Replace harddrive
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parts of this you will be able to ignore because you have XP and it can do some of the steps for you as you use your recovery/master cd for the system or the separate XP cd if you have one. But some of the information you will HAVE to have and do while you still have the chance to do it. Once you take care of these things and then hook up your new Master harddrive, you will change the bios to boot from the cdrom as the first boot device, and then put in your master/recovery cd from your vendor or your XP cd and go through the steps on screen to get the drive ready for data and do the installation.


Have your older version windows installation disks handy if your Windows is an upgrade because you will need proof during the installation that you are eligible for the upgrade and have your product key code (ID) # handy so you can enter that information also during the installation. If you still have your old harddrive installed at this point, and need the ID number, go to RUN type REGEDIT and click the plus mark in front of HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE then SOFTWARE then MICROSOFT then WINDOWS and now click Current Version...scroll until you find the Product ID number (you will need this for W95) and the Product Code Key (you will need this number for ALL later versions of windows except XP). Use a magic marker and write the number you need either on the cd itself or on the boot disk so that it will always be available.

Again, if your old harddrive is still available, save to disk (floppy, zip drive, or cd if you have a cdrw) all files that you want to be able to restore later on. The CONTENTS of your Favorites folder (not the folder itself), email messages, address book (only the .wab and .wa~ files), data you have personally created, zip downloads so you don't have to hunt for them again, mp3 files you may have downloaded, etc. Go through your C: drive folder by folder in Explorer to make sure you don't forget anything. Any programs you have installation disks don't worry about because you will have to reinstall them again anyhow. Make sure you have the correct info in Dial Up Networking for your ISP icon written down somewhere so you can get back on the net, too.

Now... The instructions below include the FDISK instructions to do that before you can format the drive or drives....if you only have your C: drive and you want to keep it that way, you'll be fine and you can skip the FDISK part. If you wish to change to having more than one partition C: then use the FDISK instructions to do that. Formatting the drive and how long it takes to do it will depend on the size of your harddrive itself. Installation of Windows will take about 30-40 minutes.

Have your hardware installation disks handy for anything that windows doesn't have drivers for and can't install for go into Device Manager and click the plus mark in front of your hardware to get the manufacturer and model numbers of what you have. Then go to or or or and log in using 'drivers' as the username and 'all' as the password...look alphabetically for your manufacturers or your part/model numbers and then download the newest drivers for your hardware ahead of time. Burn these to cd or save to other media or harddrives also.

NOTE: If you don't feel you have gotten enough information from Device Mgr, try these free programs NOW BEFORE YOU ERASE THE DRIVE as they can identify the hardware and motherboard for you, as well as give you the software installed product codes in case you can't find those installation numbers.

Get Your Hardware Info For Free

Everything you ever wanted to know about what hardware you have installed by manufacturer and model number, you can get here for free.

It will not only identify your hardware for you, but it will also identify your software programs and give you product ID's, licensing and registration info, and version numbers of everything.

You can print it out and always have it handy for downloading newest drivers ahead of time prior to a format, and also keep track of your updates for Windows and other programs.

BELARC Hardware ID:

This one is FREE. Run it on line, D/L or copy to a floppy (500K+). Anyone who is wondering what is in their machine should find this useful.

The "Belarc Advisor" is useful, and free for personal use. It "builds a detailed profile of your installed software and hardware." It runs on Windows 95/98/Me, NT 4, Windows 2000 and XP, and in just a minute or so, creates a local web page (one that resides on your PC--- nothing is sent back to Belarc). The page contains a rundown of all the hardware in and attached to your system, plus information on all the installed software including license and version numbers. Makes a handy reference.


Everest Home edition is available on this website\ There is a new V1.51 recently released.

AIDA32 - System Information Tool 3.93 4-25-04 (read about it here)
The site describes the program, but they have stopped offering it or updating can be still be downloaded from here or HERE though and works for all windows versions:

The first thing you have to do is to change the jumper for the harddrive to Master with Slave if your cdrom or another harddrive is attached to the same cable....otherwise jumper it for Master or Single (WD drives are pre-jumpered to be a Master already...meaning NO jumpers are required so they have them offset on the pins; they only give you the jumpers in case you need them). Once all connectors and cables are securely attached (the large gray cable has to have the red/black line down the side attach to the number 1 pin on both the motherboard and on the back of the harddrive and the newer 80-wire cables are color coded and must be connected properly....the blue end goes on the motherboard, the black end goes to the Master device, and the gray middle connector goes to the Slave device if there is one).

Then boot up the computer and press whatever key you need to in order to get into your Bios SETUP (usually the DEL key). Once there, use the keyboard arrow keys to get to the auto hdd detection program and press Enter and it will run Y for yes if the size of the drive is seen correctly and then press Y for all other drive information for the other IDE controllers even though they will say zeros (you may not get that particular window for choices on newer bioses so if the harddrive and cdrom are showing on those motherboard bioses, you're fine). Once that is finished, use the ESC key to leave there and then go to Save and Exit.

Have your boot disk in the drive because when you press Y to Save, the computer will reboot by itself. If your bios can't see the whole harddrive, you will have to use the ezdrive/ezbios program that comes with the DataLifeguard download to install the bootmanager program and it will walk you through all of the following steps to setup the drive and install windows on it....but only use this disk if your bios can't see the whole drive.
Use the boot disk for the operating system you want to put on the harddrive (if you need one that gives you cdrom support go to or and download one now and make sure you get the right version for the windows that you will be putting on the harddrive and then extract that file to a temporary folder on your harddrive somewhere, read the readme file to know how to create the disk, then put a floppy disk into the drive and follow the instructions from the readme file to get your disk made. If you downloaded the bootdisk and it's an .exe file, you can just click it and it will start to create the bootdisk for you automatically. Also, when you use the bootdisk you downloaded, it will default to being the R: drive for the cdrom, but this is only temporary until you reach the windows desktop.

To check for your version windows, go to Control Panel\System and under your Registered Owner name, you will see some numbers. If the number is 4-00-950 with no letter or the letter "A" after it, you have W95A. If the number is 4-00-950 with a letter "B" or "C" after it, you have version W95B or W95C and will get the W95B bootdisk. If you have Win98 or WinME or Win2K or WinXP, this is an obvious choice for you from the site.

One last piece of advice regarding bootdisks before you format the drive.....go NOW to Add\Remove Programs\Startup Disk and create two more bootdisks (have your windows cd handy because it will ask for it). I've seen bootdisks go bad for no apparent reason when you least expect it, so make sure you have a couple of them handy just in case. Don't try to make a copy of the one you have using the A: drive copy command because the copy won't work at all since there are hidden and system files on it and they don't copy have to make the new bootdisks from the Startup Disk tab. However, this will NOT work with W95 because the StartupDisk tab won't give you cdrom support so you will have to download a bootdisk for it instead.

Also, for W98, if you create the bootdisk from within windows, you will need to go here to download the newest version of FDISK.EXE then copy it to the bootdisk, allowing it to overwrite the older version. This way you will have support for larger harddrives.

Why does FDISK not recognize my disk (or RAID array) which is larger than 64GB?

There is a bug in Microsoft's FDISK under Windows 95B, 98 and 98SE that can be corrected by downloading a newer version. See Knowledge Base Article Q263044 for more information.;EN-US;q263044

When you use Fdisk.exe to partition a hard disk that is larger than 64 GB (64 gigabytes, or 68,719,476,736 bytes) in size, Fdisk does not report the correct size of the hard disk.

The size that Fdisk reports is the full size of the hard disk minus 64 GB. For example, if the physical drive is 70.3 GB (75,484,122,112 bytes) in size, Fdisk reports the drive as being 6.3 GB (6,764,579,840 bytes) in size.

NOTE: This hotfix is not designed for 48-bit logical block addressing (LBA) hard disks, and it is not supported on hard disks larger than 137 GB. However, even if the drive is physically larger than 137 GB, if you create partitions smaller than 137 GB, this FDISK.EXE version will work correctly. (THE FORMAT COMMAND WILL SHOW THE DRIVE AMOUNT IN DOS TO BE OFF THE MARK, BUT WILL BE CORRECT WHEN YOU GET INTO WINDOWS ITSELF)

Direct English Version download:

This package installs the updated Fdisk.exe to the Windows\Command and Windows\Options\Cabs folders, on a computer running Windows 98 or Windows 98 Second Edition. If you are starting a computer from a Windows 98 Startup Disk in order to partition and format the hard disk, you should copy the updated Fdisk.exe from the Windows\Command folder to the Startup Disk, replacing the original Windows 98 or Windows 98 Second Edition version of Fdisk.exe on the Startup Disk.

You can also get around the 64GB limitation of the Windows9x FDISK utility by specifying the desired partition size as a percentage of the total disk size rather than as an absolute size. Alternatively use a freeware FDISK replacement such as FreeDOS FDISK that supports up to 128GB.

One person wrote in a forum: ... as an update on disks greater than 64gb, the FreeDOS FDISK utility does work. First of all, the operating system must be specified in FDISK.INI for it to recognize FAT32. Secondly, reporting of partition size is somewhat peculiar. For a partition between 64 and 90 GB, I have one listed as 39,184GB under Option #4 (Display Partition Info) and -26,402GB under Option #5 (Change Current Drive). I have a 3rd IDE drive connected to IDE1 which is set up as an extended partition. Its letter is changed while in Windows than it is with the FreeDOS FDISK. Finally, the FDISK only works if it is on a bootable floppy. Trying to run it in a DOS window under WIN98 causes the system to freeze. This is a suitable workaround for the 64gb limit, but does take some experimenting. The IBM utility doesn't allow repartitioning from the same physical drive from which the system boots (although not the same partition). A workaround would be to temporarily install a drive on IDE1 or 2 and boot with it, then partition the RAID setup as drive D and beyond...


Once you have booted to the A:, then type FDISK and enable large disk support,

and you will get a menu.

First choose to Delete Partitions. If you have existing partitions and want to have just one partition or if you want to change the sizes of those partitions, choose first to Delete the Logical Drives within the Extended partition. Then Delete the Extended Partition. Then Delete the Primary Dos Partition. DO NOT REBOOT...

just go back to the Main Menu of Fdisk and do the following now. (If the steps in this paragraph don't work for you, it's usually because the drive is brand new from the factory and no partitioning has been done to it yet, so don't worry about this and go to the next steps instead.)
Create a Primary Dos Partition (if you only want one partition then use the entire drive when asked...

if you want more partitions, then type in a certain amount...figure on at least 10000MB (1GB) for windows and the internet and then make the partition Active by either saying yes when asked or press the ESC key to the main menu and choose #2 to make the partition active.

(Less room is needed for this partition in reality; however, I usually use this amount as a safeguard for any programs that still will not install to anywhere except the C: drive and also for the extra files that programs will throw into the C:\Windows and C:\Windows\System folder by default without your knowing about it even if the actual install folder is located on another partition.)

Now, if you want partitions, choose #1 again to create Logical Drives, and then choose #2 to create an Extended Partition and when asked use the balance of the drive to do this. Press the ESC key and you will be asked about creating Logical Drives within that Extended Partition...say yes and create the Logical Drives using parts of the balance of the drive for each partition you want to create. Make note of the drive letters being assigned.

As you press ESC you will be given a screen:

Use the ESC key to get out of Fdisk and back to the A: prompt and reboot with the same floppy disk to make the changes take effect...and this time Enable CDROM support when asked. If you have a restore/recovery disk and Master cd from your vendor for your type of computer and if you haven't changed any of the hardware since you bought it new, you should use those disks to do what you want at this point.

However, if you have separate installation disks for Windows and your hardware and no master restore/recovery disks, then, again, at the A: prompt, now type FORMAT C: /S (NOTE: the /S switch doesn't work with WinME so leave it off) to get the boot drive ready to receive data. When you are finished with the C: drive, now type FORMAT D: then FORMAT E: etc. for the logical drives you created.

Now if you have enabled the cdrom support, you can change to the cdrom drive (the W98 boot disk will make the drive letter two letters higher than your last partition drive letter but the downloaded bootdisk will be R:), and put your Windows installation cd into the drive and type SETUP....the installation will begin.


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Re: Replacement Helps

Thanks for your help on this. It looks like I need to set aside a good block of time on an upcoming weekend to tackle this.

On the topic of the actual replacement, do you all have any suggestions on what to look for? Obviously size is the first consideration, but what are the standards speed wise? Are there any other important characteristics? Also, should I be watching for any compatability issues or special settings to change between my old drive and the new one?

As another option, would it be easier to just get an external hard drive of some kind and somehow make my secondary internal drive the primary drive? This might keep me from having to do all of the internal switching around.

I really appreciate your advice on this.

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Not that difficult

Assuming you're not trying to move your current OS install to another drive, which is often way more trouble than it's worth with Windows, it's a pretty simple and straightforward operation.

The hardest part is if your case uses a special drive cage. Sometimes those can be interesting to figure out how to get out. Otherwise, it's a matter of removing a few screws, unhooking a few cables, and setting the jumpers on your secondary drive to master instead of slave, or just putting in a new drive where the old one was. If your case uses mounting rails, make note of where the screw positions are, and you could save yourself 5-10 minutes.

People often make out hardware replacement to be a bigger deal than it really is. For the most part, there's really only so many places the cables will fit. That really narrows things down quite a bit, and makes it pretty close to fool proof. I just replaced a motherboard on a friend's system, and the hardest part is hooking up the little connectors for things like the power and reset switch. That's mostly because there these tiny little things that have to be put over even smaller little pegs. Compared to that, hard drives are nothing.

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