Your first time...

To install a hard drive. Mine seems to be on the verge of conking out on me, so I’d like to know, from those of you who’ve been through this before: just how difficult, on a scale of 1 to 10 (where 10 is brain surgery and 1 is clipping your toenails), is it to put in a new hard drive by yourself???

The machine that apparently needs this operation is a Compaq Deskpro (with a measly 2GB HD) that has been notifying me of “imminent SMART hard drive failure” for the last couple of days. I thought it must be in err, since the machine still seems to be running fine, but when I downloaded diagnostic software from Western Digital (the maker of the drive), it confirmed the bad news. It gave me a “0208” error code – “cannot be restored to defect-free status and should be replaced,” according to the software and WD’s website.

So, what I’m thinking I’d like to do, if I can manage it, is get a new drive, install and format it, and essentially dump Windows and the other software directly from the existing drive onto the new one. I say directly because I don’t have a zip drive or some other external device that I can use for a full backup/restore, and I also don’t know how I would get my hands on Windows95 again. (Another machine of mine has Windows98, but the Japanese version, which isn’t always fun to use.)

I’ve looked through the FAQ’s and message boards at Western Digital and downloaded an installation guide. I think I understand the basics of the operation, but I still can’t really tell how hard/complicated/messy/easy to screw up the whole thing is going to be. Any advice or opinions from you former first-timers out there? Thanks!!

If you have a basic understanding of how hard drives and the CMOS/BIOS on your computer work you should be ok. Here are the steps you will need to do (hopefully I won’t forget any, although I’m sure someone will correct omissions.)

1)Make sure you have a boot disk that includes format and fdisk
2)Install the new drive as the Master and make the old drive the Slave (this will probably require jumper setting changes on the old drive; the new drive will probably already be set to Master.)
3)Make sure your new disk shows up in the CMOS correctly
4) Boot with your boot disk, fdisk the new drive, format the new drive
You should now have both drives available in dos. The tricky part is going to be dumping the stuff off of the old drive to the new drive. I don’t think a straight copy will work for the OS, although someone else may be able to answer that more difinitively. I would recommend getting a copy of Ghost or another program which is specifically designed to clone drives.

When you are done you can format the old drive and use it for non-critical storage. Also, Western Digital is pretty good about replacing bad hardware in my experience, so you may be able to get a replacement out of them.

Difficulty - I’d say a 3.

A couple of provisos - I only know about IDE hard drives, not SCSI, and compaqs use a proprietary case which may be harder (or easier) to work inside than a basic box.

Inside the case, there is a whole mess of power and ribbon cables which WILL get in the way. It’s easy and safe to pull ribbon cables out, but NOTE WHERE THEY WENT and WHAT WAY ROUND they went. Draw diagrams, take polaroids, stick little labels on things. Otherwise you can enter a trial-and-error world of pain making the thing work again.

Power cables are harder to pull out, but they at least are interchangable and cannot be put back in the wrong way.

Since you want to replace your old hard drive with your new one, it’s easiest to connect the thing within an open case and do all the file tranferring before actually bolting things in place. I tend to have the new drive precariously balanced on the case when doing this sort of thing.

If IDE 2 on your motherboard is free, plug your new drive straight into it with an IDE ribbon cable and connect a spare power cable to the drive. Otherwise, configure your new drive as SLAVE (the drive instructions should tell you how) and hook it to one of the current IDE ribbon cables. (Plus a power cable of course.)

Start your computer. See if it autodetects the new drive. If not, you’ll have to enter the BIOS setup and run the detection utility.

Fire up windows, restart in MS-DOS mode and use fdisk to format your new drive. You will have FAT16 vs FAT32 decisions to make - do a bit of reading on FAT and partitions.

Now, restart windows. See if your new drive is there. See what drive letter it has. (If you partitioned it, it may have several.) Try copying a few files to it and back. Satisfy yourself it works okay.Then…

Start the MSDOS prompt within windows and type:

xcopy32 C:\ (new hard drive letter):\ /e /c /f /h /r /k /y

This will clone ALL the C drive files to your new hard drive, even the files which are in use, and preserve long file names, file attributes, and empty folders. It’s your best bet for preserving your old setup, but it isn’t completely guaranteed to work because Windows does funny dynamic things with the registry. (If you have partitioned your new drive into several drives, use the first drive letter of your new drive.)

Restart windows in MSDOS mode and type:

sys C: (new hard drive letter):

This should copy the C drive system files to your new hard drive.
NOTE: I don’t know if this works for copying from a FAT16 formatted drive to a FAT32 formatted drive! Doubtless someone else will know.

If all has gone well, you’re now in a position to bolt your new drive where your old drive was and connect it to the same ribbon cable.
(remember to reset it to MASTER if you’d set it to SLAVE. You may have to reenter BIOS setup and redetect the new hard drive as well.)

Your previous setup should be nicely preserved and functioning as before. The first partition of your new drive should be the new C drive, and the computer shouldn’t know the difference.
Finally, wait a while before starting. Get some other suggestions. See what better informed, professional people have to say!

It may be better to boot from a floppy and transfer the files without windows being active. I don’t know how you preserve long file names in that instance. Does xcopy32 give you full functionality without window running?

Hi mikan,

IMHO, you have a touch of luck for having a WD hard drive. For starters, their website help is extremely good. (Relatively speaking of course. There may be better info out there, but WD’s is still excellent.) There is a lot of good information and very good utilities to be used on their drives.

Next is their customer service / tech support. Read everything you can find on the page about installing a drive, and then call them. They have an eight hundred number and (typically) not too long of a wait. I’ve found their tech support to be friendly, humorous and not condescending. (Again, this is all my own personal experience - as with any organization I am sure there are chuckleheads).

In addition, there is their willingness to stand behind their product. On two separate occasions I had problems with a WD drive. One was on a drive that was a few years old. With little to no badgering on my part (other than reading off serial numbers, etc.) they shipped me a new drive. Even that was pretty painless. After taking a credit card number to guarantee shipments, they sent me a new drive in advance of their receiving my old one. That way I was able to install and copy all of my data from drive to drive - no compressing to floppies / CD ROM. WD supplies the necessary software to do that, too. I had a month to send them back their old drive, I did, and no charges ever appeared on my card. The point of this last paragraph is to let you know that you may have that option. Get the model / SN off the drive and give them a call - can’t hurt.

Lastly, and now I am out of my element - I’d check with Compaq to see what customizations they have on with their machine. I’ve heard that Compaq drives need to be set up differently than a regular Winbox. Something to do with CMOS information or somethingorother actually being stored on a hidden partition of the disk. Like I said, I don’t really know much about Compaq, but enough to mention something worth checking.
Good luck!
PS oh yea… an expensive lesson or two that I learned many years ago - watch the jumpers. Sometimes the little charts they give you can be a bit confusing. Be careful. And red line on the cable = pin one. Muy importante that one. Again, good luck.

My new Western Digital drive came with a step by step guide. It also had software to move the files from the old drive to the new one. The software was easier for me to use than DOS would have been. DOS was my forth or fifth operating system to learn and I haven’t used it for a while, so the commands get a little fuzzy and mixed up with other systems.If you are very familiar with DOS it might not be that much help to you.

One very important thing is that you don’t try to use a FAT16 slave hard drive with a FAT32 master one. You’ll get a truckload of errors, and if you try to scandisk it, you will destroy your data.

While it used to be quite a pain, using fdisk and various other dos commands, as others have described, it’s not too bad now. Most modern drives come with software that walks you through the entire process, with pictures of jumpers, cables, etc., and software that copies the entire old drive onto the new one, so windows won’t even know the difference (NT will, though- that’s a whole 'nother ballgame :))

Hey, thanks for all the feedback, everyone. I definitely appreciate it.

What it sounds like, if I understand y’all correctly, is that the task of physically installing the drive and then setting it up as the master shouldn’t be all that difficult. Great suggestion, by the way, matt, about taking notes on the mess o’ cables inside and how they are all oriented; this is the kind of thing you always wish you’d thought of before getting yourself in the mess!

The hard part, it seems, will be getting Windows to work on the new drive by copying it from the old one. I’m pretty sure the diagnostic software I downloaded from Western Digital also came with a utility for copy files en masse like this, but I’ll also play around with xcopy32 beforehand (after booting from DOS) to see how it deals with the long filenames.

Regarding FAT: at this point I only have a vague idea of what the 16/32 distinction is about, and I’m not even sure which of the two my current drive is. Is there some way I can tell? In the meantime, I’ll try to read up….

This is someting I’ll probably do soon as well. I’ve never done it before but have installed CD/DVD drives and memory. What does it mean when you say “jumpers”. That sounds like something my car mechanic does.

FAT16 and FAT32 are file systems for formatting your hard drive.

Use FDISK from DOS or windows dos prompt and choose “display partition information” to find out what you are using.

FAT16 has a maximum partition size of 2 gigs. It is also wasteful of disk space when used for large partitions, although this isn’t usually a problem with the sizes of today’s drives. I have a 10 gig drive partitioned into 5, 2 gig partitions using FAT16.

FAT32 will allow you to have one big partition on your drive, and is less wasteful of space. Probably a good idea considering how big drives are these days.

Tom’s Hardware Guide has a decent primer on hard drives and FAT16/32 if you want to know more.

xcopy32 only copies the long file names successfully when running within the windows dos prompt. This is a pity, as it would really be preferable to clone the drive with windows not running! So your best bet is probably to use software designed for the purpose, especially if Western Digital supply it for free.

Jumpers are switches. Instead of having a nice little lever or button to flick on/off, a jumper has a pair of metal pins and a removable clip which can be used to bridge the pins. They are very small, and fiddly.

Totally untrue. FAT has nothing whatsover to do with ATA Master/Slave configuration. I have run drives in that particular configuration with no problems whatsoever. I have also run SCSI drives with a FAT16 C: drive (2GB) and FAT32 D:, E:, F:, & G: drives (9GB each) with no problems. The high level format has nothing to do with the hardware address configuration.

Now, if your FAT16 drive contained an operating system incomatible with FAT32 (like NT4 or pre-OSR2 Win95), you would have the problems you describe, but that has nothing do with the formatting, per se.

Symantec’s GHOST is a great solution for transferring the contents of an old drive to a new one. It supports FAT32 just fine. I use it all the time when upgrading hard drives for my customers.

Well, my parents were off on a ski trip, and my girlfriend and I had just come back from the movies…


Getting the software to work will be the hard part… I would strongly suggest getting hold of a Windows installation disc rather than trying to copy the OS across. You won’t necessarily be able to copy every file while Windows is running, at least in a consistent state, and the ones you can’t copy will probably be the important ones.

As mentioned, the stripe on the cable is the side with pin 1 - if your drive doesn’t mark which end of the connector pin 1 is on, put the cable on so that the stripe faces the power connector.

… and so the two of you stayed home and installed a hard drive together?

Better to install a hard drive than try an insert a floppy disk …