Hard drive upgrade: size matters

In yesterday’s article I alluded to a PC hard drive installation nightmare and I’ll expound on that further today.  Hopefully I can spare someone hours of aggravation in the process.

Thanks mainly to my love of online First Person Shooter (FPS) gaming and music composition, my 250 gigabyte SATA 1 Maxtor drive recently filled up, making the PC very unstable (I was down to 2 gigabytes free space at one point!).  I tried cleaning the disk off, uninstalling and deleting unnecessary stuff, but could only free up another gig.  Reluctantly but needfully, I purchased another hard drive.

My choice was a Seagate SATA 2 drive with twice the data access speed, twice the storage capacity and twice the buffer memory (32 megabytes vs 16 on the Maxtor).  The new drive came with a handy disk cloning tool so I thought I would be spared the usual disk setup ordeal.


The cloning went fine, or seemed to, but the new drive would not boot (“error loading operating system”).  With a heavy sigh, I began going through the usual litany of troubleshooting: check BIOS settings, remove other drives, test cables and connections, etc.  Nothing helped.  I even tried reinstalling the operating system (Windows XP 64) to the new drive fresh from a CD– no joy.

Of course, as I noted yesterday, all of this occurred while my internet was down.  I knew that a few minutes of searching and I would encounter some Einstein of the PC upgrade universe who had solved this for the rest of us.  I was half-tempted to run down to the local library and hunt from there but I really wanted to be closer to the troubled PC so I opted to wait for restoration of our internet service the next day.

Sure enough, once we were back online I found the solution quickly.  It turns out that some Asus motherboards have trouble automatically detecting drives over 250 gigabytes in size.  On mine (K8N-DL), there are two drive recognition settings in the BIOS: Auto and Large.  In order for setup to work properly on the Seagate, the setting had to be on Large before I even started (it had been on the default, Auto).

So, with faint optimism burning in my brain, I performed the proper configuration, rebooted and re-ran the disk cloning process.  This time the new drive booted as hoped, operating as if it were the old drive just with additional capacity.

So now I’m back up and ready to use up some of that beautiful new free room.  However, I need to keep in mind that hard drives need some of that unused space in order to function effectively, especially when defragmenting to improve performance.  Something I’ve known for a long time but disregarded as I worked.  Mea culpa.  Do as I say, not as I do!


5 responses to “Hard drive upgrade: size matters

  1. allnameswereout

    You chose Seagate.. well, in any case, be sure your harddrive runs the correct firmware http://ata.wiki.kernel.org/index.php/Known_issues

    Sometimes these BIOS issues are solved with new BIOS firmware too. I don’t know about this specific case though.

  2. Seagate has been the 2nd best performing and stable drive brand for me. IBM (now Hitachi) has been a steady first. Some swear by Western Digital, but I have had consistent disasters with that brand and will not deliberately use them in any system I build.

    In my case the single problem was the Asus BIOS issue I described. The hard drive is now performing flawlessly; indeed, it’s much more responsive than its Maxtor predecessor (although the Sata 2 vs Sata 1 difference is what’s key there, not so much the brand).

    Oh, and the motherboard in question (Asus K8N-DL) has not had a BIOS update in over a year. Looks like this bug is there to stay. 😉

  3. allnameswereout

    Its difficult, it just depends. Some drives have known issues. Like the good ol’ IBM Deskstar (Deathstar). Recent Seagate drives have issues which firmware upgrade solves.

    The page above is informative even for non-Linux users. If I read it correct your Seagate is OK because its a 500 GB model which is not listed. Its best to check the SNs though.

    Lately, Samsung I have good experience with; a good performance on all 4 of: silent, quick, green, cheap. And I care for all 4 of these. 🙂

  4. It’s so interesting: I have a 4.3 gig IBM Deskstar that has been the most reliable drive I’ve ever used. For years it was my workhorse for troubleshooting PCs– I abused the hell out of it and it still keeps going.

    Fujitsu was the worst I ever installed (once), mainly because it required special drivers and was very fussy. But Western Digital has cost me on too many occasions, and for me they make great boat anchors. 😉

  5. allnameswereout

    The issue with the Deathstar was that putting the computer quickly on and off has a high chance to make the head crash. Because it gets stuck then, getting off command while it is spinning on.

    Tell you what. On a home computer, back in the days of PATA and SCSI, not long after a RedHat install I had a IBM Deathstar breaking on me due to bad sectors after 2 years of usage. The computer, running Windows 95, would constantly freeze when playing a certain set of MP3s. The list which would freeze kept growing. Linux however ran great. Possibly it had no side effect from the bad sectors. Then issued RMA. Week later got a new one, this time 10 GB instead of 8 GB. It must be 10 years old now, and has been heavily used. Even travelled quite a bit. It still works great! It just makes quite some noise not when powering it up but during usage. The Samsungs I use only make noise when spinning up. For the rest they are virtually silent.

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