Spare Hard Drive / Capacity a Mystery

By oldmobie
Jun 9, 2006
  1. I'm trying to build a computer for a friend from spare parts.(Computer A) The Hard Drive was too small, (about 2 Gigs, w/ Win ME) so I added a bigger drive as a slave. The slave drive came from a newer computer and was clearly marked 20GB. (It was corrupted, had to be formatted. The computer I took it from, (Computer B) wouldn't boot, no OS.)
    Computer A says this is a 2GB drive.​
    I assumed old BIOS/ can't recognize over 2GB. I removed both drives and put them into Computer B, where the 20GB drive came from. (Same config: 2GB master, 20GB slave.) Computer B calls it 2GB too!​
    What's going on? Damaged hard drive? Need to reformat under Computer B BIOS? Will it still hold 20GB despite the smaller label?​
    I'd really appreciate some good advice here.​
  2. Liquidlen

    Liquidlen TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,094

    Since you have not listed the Harware you are working with ,I will just give a couple of things to check on .
    If the bios is identifying each drive is correctly , check the settings for cylinders etc. some older bios needed the HDD's characteristic's set manually.
    Also you can download Drive Diagnostic programs for all major HDD's and run them from Floppys. These will check the drives for errors and format the drives for use.
  3. Vigilante

    Vigilante TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,666

    You didn't mention partitioning. Have you done that? Just formatting only will not get your extra space back, it will only format the size of the partition.

    On PCA, boot from a 98se boot disk and run FDISK to delete all the partitions and then create a new one at full size.
    Be sure, in Fdisk, to remove ALL partitions, including "non-dos" if there is one. On the first screen I think the option is "4" to view partitions, it should say "no partitions defined". Now you are ready to create the primary partition.

    You need to know what you're doing though, this will erase all data, but also be sure you are working on the correct drive! Because Fdisk will default to the primary drive first, you have to use the option to change disks to get to your slave drive.

    Anyway, in a nutshell, did you partition? Or just format?
  4. oldmobie

    oldmobie TS Rookie Topic Starter

    No, I'm new to formatting hard drives, and didn't realize some of the differences between them and smaller media.​
    I'm gonna do a little research on Fdisk and on some of the pros & cons of single verses multiple partitions. (Always heard of this, never experimented.)​
    I appreciate the help! I'll try to let you know soon how this turns out.​
  5. Vigilante

    Vigilante TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,666

    Sure, in a nutshell, again, it's kinda like a house. Picture a house as your hard drive. Partitioning is just as it sounds, say, partitioning into bedrooms and living room and kitchen. There are your partitions. Formating is just like preparing them for use. Paint and carpet, etc...
    So if your drive already had a partition of 2gb and all you do is format, you are simply RE-preparing that "room" for use. But the room doesn't grow any larger, if you follow.

    FDisk can erase all the "rooms" to make one large space again, letting you partition however you like. Once you create a partition, it HAS to be formatted before using. And you can't format until you have a partition first. And don't forget that you can partition and format some space, but not ALL of it. So any leftover space on the drive that is not partitioned will just be lost and unusable until partitioned and formatted. You can't see this empty space with Windows 98 (unless you open Fdisk), but XP you can see it in Disk Management.

    As for benefits of partitioning, they are few in my eyes. Some people like to partition one area for just Windows, and another for programs, and another for data. Or just one for Windows and programs, another for data.
    The benefit there is if Windows is corrupted and you HAVE to format and start over, your data partition is safe.
    The downside is, if your hard drive just dies, partitions won't save you anyway, so it's not really for data recovery, just convenience for reinstalling Windows.

    In any case, I just use one partition on any system I build, it's easiest that way. Less problems in recovery dealing with partition tables and junk. And if you partition one for windows and one for data, you're just guessing how big those would be. Cause maybe later windows will need more space? And you can't change that later on unless you use a program like Partition Magic. If you don't have that kind of program, you can't change your partition size without deleting everything.

    Hope that helps any. Good luck.
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