Making your PC Work for You – PC Self-Upgrade and Repairs, Part 3

I have provided a list of terms at the end of the article since they are used many times throughout.


In my last article I mentioned that one of the most popular upgrades is a hard drive upgrade. This week I’ll show you how to upgrade your hard drive or add a new one. Before we get into the actual drive addition it is useful to know what operating system you have. Adding a second drive to a computer running Windows ME and earlier requires a boot disk because you will need access to the FDISK utility. Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP drives are formatted through windows. For replacing your current drive you may not need a boot disk if you can boot from your CD drive and your CD is bootable. Some computers, such as Dell’s, have a hidden hard drive partition that acts as a boot disk when the hard drive is formatted. Finally, ( has all types of boot disks that one may need. These all require one to six floppy disks depending on your operating system.

Before we start, you need to decide if you want to replace your current drive or add an additional one. If it is an addition the process is usually easier, but your new drive may be faster and bigger and you may just want one drive. You can also replace your current drive with the new one and still keep your old drive. In any case, it’s my preference to just keep personal files (web book marks, files in My Documents and any other files that you think you might need) and reinstall all your programs fresh. We have a tendency to collect junk on our computers and starting fresh removes the extra clutter.

After we decide what we want to do with our new drive, we need to see the current setup inside the computer. First, shut it off and unplug everything. Then, figure out how to open your computer case. Some are simple, some are not. For example on my computer my front facing pulls off, I need to undo some screws and then my cover slides off. Others, like some DELL computers, have the side come off or it flips open like a door. Consult your computer manual for instructions on how to open your case.

Once inside we need to identify a few items, such as the current hard drive, which, from what I’ve always seen, is usually at the front of your computer and has a wide gray cable plugging into it. This same gray cable may or may not plug into your CD drive. Follow this cable back to your main board or motherboard. Here you will find the second item, a long black slot. You will notice that beside it there is another long black slot that again may or may not have a similar cable plugged into it. Also there will be a smaller slot with another cable plugged into it. The smaller slot is for your floppy drive; the long slot is another hard drive/CD drive slot (the number of hard drive/CD slots may vary). For each slot we can have two items or devices connected to it. The cable is an IDE Ribbon and the slots are IDE Interface slots (Some computers, such as older Macs, use SCSI interfaces for drives. Consult your computer manual for information on SCSI configurations and to determine which drive controller type you use). If you have 2 ribbons with one hard drive and one CD drive, one ribbon is plugged into the CD and one into the hard drive. If only one drive is connected you will notice another spot on the cable to connect another drive.

Before connecting a second drive on a cable you must decide if it is going to be drive “1” or drive “2” on the cable. The drive at the very end is drive 1, or the master drive. The other drive then becomes drive 2 or slave. A drive on a cable all by itself is the master. To tell the drive what type it is, you have to set jumpers. Jumpers are little pins that stick out and are covered with a little plastic and metal “cap” that fits two jumpers at a time. For two drives on one cable BOTH drives must be set. The instructions that come with your drive will tell you how to set the drives. The wide IDE cable must be plugged in correctly. On one side, the cable will have a stripe, usually red. That side of the cable is pin one and must plugged into pin one on both the hard-drive and motherboard. Pin one is marked on both items, though locating it on the motherboard can be difficult. It may be designated by a red mark, by the numeral “1”. If the socket is not marked, it is usually the side furthest from the power connection for the drive.

Once your drives are connected you need to plug everything back in and turn on your computer. As your computer is starting, watch carefully for when it tells you how to enter the computer’s setup. It will say something like “SETUP F8”. Pressing this key during bootup will get you into your system BIOS. Once in your bios, look for a section called “IDE HARD SETUP” or something like it. That area will show you the recognized hard drives. You may have to do an auto detect to see your new drive. If it still does not show up you could have the jumpers set incorrectly or the cables are not plugged in correctly. Shut off your computer and check the connections and jumpers. Once everything is correct you’ll see all connected hard drives. Exit and save.

When in the BIOS look for an area called BIOS FEATURES SETUP or something similar. It will contain a line called BOOT SEQUENCE. I set mine for C, CDROM, A. That means the computer will look for an operating system on drive C then the CDROM then A drive. If scrolling through your options you do not see a CDROM you then need Bootdisks or Setup disks for that drive. You should now be ready to format your new drive.


Insert your boot disk and exit the BIOS. Once you get the A:> prompt type FDISK. To print off an example of using FDISK go to You can now format the new drive by typing format d: or format c: depending if the new drive is C or D. Make certain you select the correct drive, as formatting erases all information on a drive! If the new drive is C you will now need your windows disc to reinstall windows. If your new drive is D then after formatting, just reboot your computer.

When reinstalling windows you will need access to your CD from the boot disk. At the A:> type
D: and hit enter then type “dir”. If the contents look like it’s your hard drive then type E: and hit Enter. Once on your CD drive, type setup and hit enter.


After setting the BIOS if the new drive is C, insert your Windows CD. If you can boot from a CD, just restart, if NOT you’ll need the setup disks. Just follow the prompts and you should be ok.


BIOS – Basic Input/Output System is a collection of routines stored in ROM. It is the connection between the hardware (disc drives, memory, floppy drives etc) and the operating system.
Boot disk – A disk used to boot your computer when no operating system is present.
IDE – Intelligent Drive Electronics or Integrated Drive Electronics is an interface for a hard drive or CD Rom.
IDE Ribbon – The cable used to transfer data between the device it is connected to and the motherboard.
IDE Interface slots – Is where the IDE Ribbon connects to the motherboard.


Is the Windows shutdown sequence a pain? Here’s how to make a one-click shutdown.

Navigate to your Desktop. On the desktop, right-click and go to New, then to Shortcut. You should see a pop-up window instructing you to enter a command line path. Enter one of these as the path:

If your operating system is Windows 95, 98, or Me: C:\windows\rundll.exe user.exe,exitwindows
Use this path if your operating system is XP: SHUTDOWN -s -t 01

If the C: drive is not your local hard drive, then replace “C” with the correct letter of the hard drive. Click the Next button. Name the shortcut and click the Finish button.

Now whenever you want to shut down, just click on this shortcut and you’re done. Also, if you want to make life better and faster, you can right-click the new shortcut you just made, go to Properties, and type in X (or whatever letter) in the Shortcut Key box.


This site has a lot of background on hard drives:

If you have any questions or suggestions for topics you want discussed please email me c/o The Voice.

The Voice accepts no responsibility for loss of data or any other computer related problem you might encounter as a result of following computer advice in this or any other column. The tip of the week is intended to help you personalize your computer system. Novice users should ensure they understand the directions, and make backups of any files changed.

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