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Low on Free Space!

By Sake ยท 90 replies
Jul 19, 2006
  1. Well, basically, I'm using a Dell Dimension 4550 on Windows XP Home(Yeah, I know, old as hell) and I'm a huge computer n00b. Someone told me that I should get a new Hard Disk Drive? I've been searching forums, but I don't know what hard drive I should get and if it's compatible with my computer or not. Help would be extremely appreciated, since I literally have less than 500MB left out of 74.4GB.

    Thanks in advanced!
  2. i_am_a_newbie

    i_am_a_newbie TS Rookie Posts: 168

    More info! Basically all that's needed is either the Dell model number, or the motherboard model(doubted since dell is known for non standard boards).

    Or, if you know, does it support SATA drives or strictly IDE?

    Regardless; Seagate is an extremely good brand to buy HDD's from, Maxtor is one I'd stay away from.
  3. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 4,512   +65

    If you're into download movies, music and you have a lot of 'big title' games like F.E.A.R, Unreal Tournament, World of Warcraft, Doom III etc.. Then you might need a larger drive.

    If you do any of the above to an extreme extent, you may need a larger drive.

    But if you do just a little bit of each, then you might just need to clean stuff up. Go to somewhere like www.google.com and search for 'freeware windows cleanup utility' and you'll get some useful results... like this http://www.ccleaner.com/
  4. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    Er.. like I said before, I'm a huge computer n00b, so I don't know if my computer can support SATA drives or IDE. The Dell Model # is 4550.
  5. i_am_a_newbie

    i_am_a_newbie TS Rookie Posts: 168

  6. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    Thanks a bunch, but do you know any with less GB? I don't need that much. Something like ~250 or so should be perfect! By the way, how do I install a HDD?

    Yeah, I do cleanups on my computer constantly. I'm definently a download-addict, so I guess I'll need a bigger hard drive.
  7. i_am_a_newbie

    i_am_a_newbie TS Rookie Posts: 168

    The cost difference between a 250 GB and a 320GB HDD is near negligable. I'd suggest you go with the 320, the bang for the buck is exceptionally greater than anything smaller(short of the 15000RPM Raptors, of course).

    Installation of an HDD is simple. All you have to do is open 'er up, mount it in the brackets(might be hard with your HDD still in there as Dell's use weird cases, but try anyways), then plug in the power and the SATA cable.

    Please do note, however, that the power is probably different than your current HDD as that one is probably on an IDE connection and uses a 4 pin connector. This one will use a differen't one that your PSU most likely will not have a connector for, therefore you might want to look into buying a SATA cable and a SATA power cable(cheap). Also make sure you plug the SATA cord from the HDD into the SATA connector(it'll be the only two ports that fit the plug) that says SATA 1.
  8. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    Thanks, I guess I'll go for the 320GB one, then. I remember visiting some sites that said something about installing Windows XP on the HDD or something?
  9. i_am_a_newbie

    i_am_a_newbie TS Rookie Posts: 168

    If you're using it purely for storage, there is absolutely no need for installing XP on it.
  10. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    Awesome, so if I'm just doing it to increase my Free Space/Total Size, I won't have to go through re-installing Windows XP, but if I'm going to use it to play disks, I should install Windows XP? Also, do I keep my old HDD in? Or do I take it out after transferring my data? Lastly, do you have any links with SATA cable and SATA power cables (compatible with that 320GB HDD you showed me earlier) or are they all compatible?

    Also, I heard some things about Master and Slave, what's this all about, anything to do with me?

    Thanks for all the help!
  11. i_am_a_newbie

    i_am_a_newbie TS Rookie Posts: 168

    I don't know what you mean by play disks.

    Primary and slave only apply to IDE drives, which your current HDD probably is. You CAN leave it in, but after you plug the second one in, if your computer does not boot, go into bios and set your old HDD as first boot priority(over the second one at least).

    Any local shop should sell those cables pretty cheap, and yes all of them are compatible, I'm not sure about brands or anything of the like, apparently some are of very poor quality. Maybe another techspot'er can shed some light on the subject.

    Generic SATA Cable
    Generic 4-pin-SATA Power converter

    As you can see, $10 in shipping alone. You might just want to head down to the local comp shop and pick a couple up.

    A better choice, however, is to see if you have any friends who have put together a computer recently(long shot I know). Motherboards come with oodles of these cables extra, so they may spare you one.
  12. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    Thanks, you don't know how much you're helping me here. :blush:

    In another forum, somebody told me that my computer could only support IDE. Or is that was the cables are for?

    Also, what if like you said, my computer doesn't boot. Then I'll have to take out my old HDD. How would I transfer my files from old to new if that happens? Also, how do I open the BIOS?

    Lastly, I'm still a little bit confused on this, wouldn't it make sense to install Windows XP on my new HDD if I'm removing my old? Or does it stay in?

    Thanks again, you're really a great help!
  13. i_am_a_newbie

    i_am_a_newbie TS Rookie Posts: 168

    If you gave me the correct dell model and I'm not totally stupid and messed up, your computer SHOULD have two SATA ports.

    You don't have to remove your old HDD, that's completely unnecessary. You'll have another 120GB if you leave it in, which is a good idea.

    To get into the BIOS you just hit Delete a lot while it boots up, or F1 on some computers.


    Sorry, they're right, it won't support SATA. I clicked the link to a motherboard that had the same name but it was not a dell(intel 845PE). You'll want this HDD then. Don't worry about buying the extra cables.

    There will be a sticker on the HDD explaining how to shift it to slave mode, and that will be very easy. Sorry about the mixup.

    Plugging it in should be very easy, as it's similar to your current HDD.
  14. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    I see... this should be my last and final questions.

    When I buy the HDD, it should provide all the wires and things needed, right?

    Someone directed my here: http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/systems/dim4550/replace.htm#1154906. At the end, it says "See the documentation that came with the drive for instructions on installing any software required for drive operation." The problem is that I didn't keep the documentation when I bought this computer.

    After #11 it says " HINT: Your computer uses cable-select drive cables. This means that the device connected to the end connector of the drive cable is the master device and the device connected to the middle connector is the slave device. Be sure the jumper setting on the new device is set for "cable select" (see the documentation that came with the drive for information)." Once again, I don't have the documentation, so I don't know how to do all that Slave and Master stuff.

    Thanks again!
  15. N3051M

    N3051M TS Evangelist Posts: 2,094

    Some HDDs you buy from a pc shop will just come with the hdd by itself (OEM), other ones come in a retail box with the manual, cable etc. If you get the retail box, you should be able to be up and running in 15 minutes, as all is needed inside the box. If you get OEM hdd, then a simple purchase of a IDE ribbon cable is needed ($5) while you're at the shop. Actualy, thats only if you don't have a spare connector on the IDE cable inside your pc....

    Before ordering/buying anything, grab a phillips head screwdriver, turn off your pc and open the case up. Look for:
    -Spare IDE slots?
    -your existing HDD, trace the gray ribbon cable and see if the second plug is connected to an optical drive or empty?
    >>if its empty, then you dont need another IDE cable. If its being used by another device, and you do have a spare IDE slot purchase a IDE cable (if you get the OEM).
    -any spare power connectors? (looks like 4 wires with red, yellow, black and has a white plug at the end)
    >>if there is a spare nothing else is needed, Just plug it into it. If there's no available plugs, then purchase a Y splitter ($3) for the power molex
    -you have a spare 3.1/4 inch hdd bay

    After you've determined what is needed, set the correct jumper settings then just plug it all in. To make life easyer if you get an OEM drive, download a utillity from the manufacturer's website that will help you "initialise" the drive. Some will give you options on if you want to move your whole OS and data off your old drive and wipe it, just copy stuff over without deleting anything or prepare it as a storage device.

    EDIT: if you are planning on ditching the old one, or making that a storage drive instead, then choose to transfer everything and wipe. Otherwise, if you got enough time and CD/DVDs or can backup everything you hold important wipe everything and start fresh with windows XP, and set partitions up 20GB for winxp etc.. but only if you realy want to..
  16. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    Well, I'm probably going to get: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16822148139 unless there is any that's better (not GB-wise).

    Sweet, I guess I'm all set now, except for 2 things:

    Jumpers Settings = Master/Slave? And since I'm getting OEM, you said it probably won't have a manual, so how do I figure out which to put on Master and which to put on Slave.

    Lastly, yes, I plan to make my old one a storage device, since I download alot. Does this mean I should download Windows XP onto my new HDD. i_am_a_newbie said that wasn't necessary, so what exactly the point of installing Windows XP on the new drive if you're keeping the old one?\

    Sorry, for all the questions, I just don't want my computer messing up. :stickout:
  17. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 4,512   +65

    Depends on how your drives are configured at the moment. Slave will be used if you share the same cable with an existing drive (Master). Master should be used if you share the same cable with an existing optical drive (cd-rom/dvd roms are Slaves). Master or Single Master will be used if the drive is on its own cable. Slave drives should never be used on their own cable without an accompanying Master. There will also be Cable Select - avoid issues by not using this mode.

    There's always a diagram printed on the drive or at least some sort of labeling so you can tell how the jumpers should be associated. Hard drives usually come preset as master, but that isn't always true.

    Have you installed Windows XP before? It's a whole new bag of troubles. So if you're up to the challenge and you have what you need (A working Windows XP disc and drivers for your computer - or possibly a restore disc - and software install discs for the apps/games you would like to reinstall) then by all means give it a shot.

    Benefits to installing XP on the new drive include increased performance of Windows and installed applications/games. It's really nice to have fresh install of Windows too, especially when you're using one that's been through the ringer. Drawbacks include quite a bit of time preparing (backing up your files, getting drivers etc...), installing and configuring (Settings, installing your drivers, apps and games etc...).

    You could also 'clone' your existing install of XP to the new drive which would be less work, but might be more confusing for you and you'll lose that squeaky-clean feeling you can only get with a new XP install.

    Either way, it's still a good learning XPerience. :)

    Here's a random IDE install guide.
  18. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    Awesome! When I said "Jumper Settings = Master/Slave?" I meant are the Jumper Settings referring to Master and Slave. That's why my second question probably seemed like I was asking the exact same question to you. :stickout: So basically, I have to have one as Slave and one as Master, right? New HDD = Master and old HDD = Slave?

    Last 2 questions, I think I still have my Windows XP disk, but I'll have to do some digging. If I DO have my Windows XP disk and install Windows XP on my new HDD, which folders do I not transfer over to my new HDD that contain the Windows XP files on my old HDD.

    And if I don't have my Windows XP disk, I basically transfer everything over to my new HDD, then what happens to the Windows XP on my old HDD? Or do I "copy" the files, but wouldn't that double my current free space and be a waste of GB? Is there any specific folders that I can just copy over to my new HDD so I don't waste precious GB?

  19. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 4,512   +65

    That's correct. You'll probably want to add the new drive as a slave if you'd like to hang on to your existing Windows install.

    What you would be doing is reinstalling XP. You technically won't HAVE to copy anything but your own personal stuff... Maybe your music, documents etc. The things you'd like to keep. Then you can delete / format everything on your old hard drive since you'll have what you wanted on your new one.

    If you are aiming to keep your current configuration and everything the same, then reinstalling Windows is not what you're looking for. There's not really a good way to reinstall Windows and keep all of your settings, programs and so on short of a tremendous amount of work or 'cloning' one drive to another. The problem with cloning is it requires special software and you won't get that minty fresh feeling from reinstalling Windows.. Because you won't be. It makes and exact copy of your drive and dumps it on the new one with all your existing problems etc.. Cloning may also require some basic knowledge of partitions and formatting.

    If I were to make a decision based on what I know of you and your situation through this thread, I'd probably recommend adding the new drive as slave and keeping your current drive with the Windows install as master. Getting the new drive as master might be more headache than its worth. Any programs/games you decide to install on the new drive will be able to take advantage of the speed increase and its kind of neat to have your OS on a smaller drive and your data on a larger drive for organizational purposes.
  20. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    Wow, thanks for all the information. So, basically, judging from your post, the only benifit of reinstalling windows on the new HDD is the increased speed?

    Just to clarify things: Get the new HDD, set it to slave, install it, voila. Save files to the new HDD from now on, and that's it, right? Will my new HDD be able to do exactly the same things as my old HDD, even though it doesn't have Windows XP?

    Kind of a stupid question, but since I have 74.4GB total now, I should have 394.4GB total after I install the new 320GB HDD, correct?

    Sorry for all the constant questions. I know this is probably annoying to you, since these are n00b questions.:blush:
  21. N3051M

    N3051M TS Evangelist Posts: 2,094


    Ever used a USB flash disk or a floppy? Its kinda like that - you'll see the drive under My Computer and you can do anything you could minus being able to boot from it by itslef, since your main hdd has the OS on it.

    Actualy, you'd get HDD1=74.4GB and then HDD2=320GB on My Computer, so it will act as two seperate hdds, but your total if you add them up would be 394GB

    Keep em coming :D. You start learning things when you ask....

    This utility may help you with setting up your HDD inside Windows..
    Seagate Disc Wizard
  22. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    Thanks! I didn't even notice there was a second page, haha. So sorry for the late reply.

    Last question, what do you mean "being able to boot from it by itself"?
  23. N3051M

    N3051M TS Evangelist Posts: 2,094

    Well, if you try to boot a hdd without any sort of OS (linux, Windows, Mac, DOS etc) you wouldnt get very far.. However, if you put an OS on that drive then you can start using the pc to its full advantage. But if you arleady have an active (already installed) OS then you can just make the secondary hdd purely as a storage device for inputing and retrieving data, just like you would do to a USB flash drive type of thing...
  24. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    Oh... I'm still really confused. How do you boot the HDD without the entire computer? Whenever I turn on my computer, I press the power button on the computer case. Is that what you're talking about? :dead:
  25. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 4,512   +65

    He's talking about with the rest of the computer. :giddy:

    'Booting' refers to Bootstrapping - which simplified - is the process of starting one program to pass control to a more complex program. This can apply to various areas of computing.

    When you first turn on your computer, it is usually referred to as booting the computer. The computer's processor executes a program called BIOS which runs POST. Arguably, it's main function is to discover devices (Hard drives, optical drives etc...) which can load an Operating System (OS) such as Windows. Once your BIOS finds a device capable of loading an OS, it attempts to run another program called an MBR ('Master Boot Record') which is always located at the very beginning of your drive media. The location of this program is usually referred to as the 'boot sector'. The MBR contains a program which executes a 'boot loader'. The MBR also contains your partition information. The MBR then directs the computer to the preferred boot loader, which is the program that will 'boot' your OS.
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