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Installing a New Hard Drive

Caution/Caveat: The information in this article is for entertainment purposes only. Though this article is probably not entertaining to anyone who isn?t interested in installing a large hard drive (> 137 gigabytes) in a Windows 2000 Professional system. Since it is kind of techy, I assume you know what I am talking about. My apologies to those who came here today looking for something kwacky or New Age; I'm in a techy hardware mode today.


I?ve owned and operated a personal computer of one variety or another since 1981. I?ve installed, uninstalled, reinstalled, configured, and reconfigured software and hardware of just about every description. (Well, perhaps I exaggerate some there—but not much!) In more recent years, I have come to rely on ?the experts? to do things with my computers, but when I recently needed to add a hard drive to my system (my older drive is close to full, and I also want a second drive for backups), I thought, ?Piece of cake.?

I had temporarily lost sight of Rule 1 in computing: Nothing is ever as quick or as easy as you anticipate.

Things might not have been quite so bad had I been installing a smallish hard drive. But my primary drive is 100 gigabytes, and I wanted at least that much capacity.

Rule 2 in computing states: Always buy the best, latest, most capacious technology your budget can afford, for whatever you buy today will seem too little far too soon.

So I researched prices (overall and per gigabyte) and decided on a Western Digital Caviar Special Edition 200 gigabyte 7200 RPM drive with an 8 megabyte cache. My first drive is also a Western Digital Caviar, and although you can mix brands in hard drives, it can sometimes be tricky, so I decided not to introduce another possible way for things to go wrong. (In case you are interested, I used NextTag.com to research prices, though I also double-checked prices at PriceWatch.com. I found the best price for this drive at NewEgg.com. The drive came bare-bones with no screws or anything, but anyone who has had computers as long as I have has a few loose screws anyway.)

Uh-Oh: Drives Larger than 137 GB Not Supported

The drive arrived in due time and was easily installed. (If you are looking for the nitty-gritty of installing a hard drive, as in putting it in its rack and attaching cables and the like, you won?t find it here. There are many excellent Web sites that can tell you how to accomplish those tasks.) And I thought I was being really clever in planning to use Windows 2000's Disk Management console. I wasn't. See Rule 1...

For one thing, my shiny new drive is too large to be recognized by the Windows Disk Management Console, and it turns out that FDISK isn't too savvy about large drives either. Nor does there seem to be a fix for FDISK or Disk Management that works with drives this large. Tut tut, Microsoft. Keep up with the times, for heaven's sake.

A Solution is Found

Many frustrating hours later, after researching the possibilities on the Internet, I decided to purchase a Promise Ultra100 TX2 Ultra ATA/100 controller card that promised to manage my larger-than-137-gigabyte hard drive. (It also promises to take full advantage of my drive's speed. I hope so.) I also downloaded the (free!) Data LifeGuard Tools software (version 10) from the Western Digital site that, so they claimed, would work well with the Promise controller, and would make formatting said drive a breeze. In fact, I ordered the Promise controller from the Western Digital site, though of course you can purchase it directly from Promise Technology or from a retailer.

Of course, I had to wait a few days for the controller card to arrive, during which I continued to try to debug the problem, with no success.

I am quite happy to say that both companies were true to their word. The Promise documentation could be made a little clearer, but otherwise the installation and drive formatting went very, very well indeed. (Later, I found better instructions on the Western Digital site, but that was after I had already figured it out myself.) I am now the proud owner of a fully formatted, fully usable large hard drive.

Installing the Promise Controller and Formatting the Drive

Caution! This is just a general outline of what I did to install my hard drive. There are a lot of things you need to be aware ofI did that I don't mention, such as powering down my computer, unplugging everything, grounding myself, and so on, that I don't mention. THESE ARE NOT INSTRUCTIONS. If you want to perform these tasks, follow the manufacturers' instructions TO A "T."

Basically, the procedure I followed for installing the Promise card under Windows 2000 with an existing hard drive and controller was this:

  1. I installed the controller card, but didn't connect the hard drive(s) to the card yet; I left the drive(s) attached to my old controller.
  2. I installed the Promise controller drivers.
  3. I rebooted so that Windows could detect the new hardware.
  4. I shut down my computer again. I then installed the cable that comes with the Promise card. With one old and one new hard drive, I attached both drives to the Promise card, with my old hard drive as the master and the newer one as the slave. I used explicit jumpering to accomplish this, as well as the controller cable locations (the end connector is the master, the middle connector is the slave.)
  5. I started up mycomputer again so that Windows could detect the new hardware (again).

Next, I ran the Data LifeGuard software.

CAUTION! Again, this is just a general outline of what I did. There was a lot more to it, and I cannot emphasize enough how very important it is that you KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. It is possible to lose all the data on your hard drive if you mess up. THESE ARE NOT INSTRUCTIONS. If you want to perform these tasks, follow the manufacturers' instructions TO A "T."

  1. I created a self-booting floppy per the software's instructions. (Basically, I ran an executable; it created the floppy for me.)
  2. I shut down my computer.
  3. I inserted the self-booting Data LifeGuard floppy that I had just created into my A: drive.
  4. I started up my computer and chose Install, then (carefully!#$151;and you can be sure that I checked the drive identity many times before proceeding) followed the prompts to partition and format my drive. It literally took just a few minutes to do this. I created a bootable partition because I plan to later switch over to using the new hard drive as my boot drive, though I will wait a while until the pain of this installation fades (and I start to forget Rule 1 again) before I attempt that task.

Back-up Software

My next task is to install and use Retrospect Backup Professional (from Dantz). Retrospect promises to be the backup software I have been vainly trying to find for two years now. I have tried a lot of software that promises to make it easy to back up your system, but so far, none has fulfilled its promise. I have high hopes for Retrospect. It comes highly recommended. I'll keep you posted.


Hello there,
good for you getting that all sorted out, it must have been a pain for you, I still have the pain here, ha, but my problem is slightly different, trying to install a 40 gb drive in a Pentium 2. Hours of trying (Old Pensioner) to use Seagate's support stuff!...None of it worked as yet, still trying!...Even replaced the BIOS with a Flash, with no avail. Using a 586 would you believe to send this message (Turbo 486) slow but methodical. Spare computer thank God.
Take care my friend, Graeme, South Australia.

PS, neat web site you have, very clever...G.

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