Adding Large Capacity Hard Drives to an Old Computer

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Senior member C627627 leads us through a step by step process for making sure an old computer can recognize and use the newest large capacity hard drives. Continue reading in the forum for more details.

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  1. There are millions of old computers whose owners would just like to upgrade the small hard drives on them, rather than upgrade anything else. Even if they want to use 2TB drives only for storage - compatibility can still be a problem.
    Quick initial fix is to remember that sometimes you can only use larger, newer hard drives on older motherboards if the transfer speed limit can be limited to 1.5GB/s.
    • Some hard drives have jumpers that allow for this, here's one example:
    • Some hard drives use utilities you can download from manufacturer web site to reprogram the drive to a lower SATA setting using a boot up disc, here's an example of what that looks like:
    • Some hard drives cannot be set to the slower 1.5 GB/s transfer speed limit. However, a significantly slower USB connection using a SATA to USB adapter can be used for storage drives:
    I tested this ↑ to connect a 6GB/s 2TB hard drive to an old Athlon XP nForce2 motherboard chipset and it worked.
    • Last but not least: SATA to PATA adapters.
    How to find out if you bought a reliable hard drive

    Before saving any data on a 2TB drive, remember that *you* may be the first point of Quality Control. It is up to you to test the drive or risk losing 2TB of your data. Option 1: Quick Format - then find out the hard way if the drive is OK as it fills up with data. Option 2: UNCHECK: Perform a quick format and wait several hours for the Long Format to complete. Then start the computer using the manufacturer Diagnostic Utility and select to do the Extended (Advanced) error test.
    When I hit a bad batch of Western Digital 2TB drives, some failed immediately upon being connected. Others failed only after a long format. Still others passed the long format and failed the Extended Test, as you can see:
    The point is: quick format will not detect potential problems. Long format may detect them but not always as the example above has shown.
    Therefore: Several hours of Long Format - followed by an overnight Extended (Advanced) Test is what you can do to find out if you received a bad hard drive or not. If you buy only a few 2TB drives, this option should be strongly considered to save yourself a lot of potential grief.
    (It may be a better idea to actually Perform a quick format first, just to quickly make sure the new drive is initially OK - and then UNCHECK: Perform a quick format and perform a Long Format lasting several hours.)
    Unfortunately, some diagnostic software may be quirky: Hitachi hard drive diagnostics only worked if I switched from AHCI to IDE drive mode in BIOS. (Remember to change the setting back to AHCI when finished.) Diagnostic software for Samsung drives only worked if I booted from a PATA DVD drive and not from a SATA DVD drive.
    -----------------
    Finally, a word on how to install Advanced Format technology hard drives for use on Windows XP. If possible, try to perform all formatting and partitioning under Windows 7 or Windows Vista - and only then use the drives under Windows XP, remembering not to reformat or repartition them under Windows XP. This is because Windows XP cannot align the partitions correctly and unaligned partitions on Advanced Format drives will perform at reduced speeds.
    The rest of the article is about the details.
    Windows 7: Start button > Administrative Tools > Computer Management
    or
    Right click on My Computer > Manage > (under Storage) Disk Managemenet > a window will pop-up: Initialize Disk. You must initialize a disk before Logical Disk Manager can access it.
    Use the following partition style for the selected disks:
    MBR (Master Boot Record)
    GPT (GUID Partition Table)
    Be sure to Select MBR.
    Right click on the empty Disk > New Simple Volume... > Next > Next > Select Drive Letter > Next >
    File System: NTFS
    Allocation unit size: Default
    Volume Label: Type in name of Hard Drive here
    First CHECK: Perform a quick format to quickly format the drive and make sure everything is OK initially. Later perform a long format which will take many hours to complete but will catch any drive errors quick format missed.
    UNCHECK: Enable file and folder compression > Next > Finish
    The following is about Western Digital Advanced Format technology hard drives but some of it applies to other manufacturers as well.
    Advanced Format technology hard drives use sectors with 4,096 bytes of user data. They are not optimized to be formatted under Windows XP or earlier operating systems. If possible, partition and/or format WD Advanced Format drives under Windows 7/Vista before using them under Windows XP. (Remember not to partition or format them under Windows XP after that.)
    If you cannot partition/format them under Windows 7/Vista before using them under Windows XP:
    • For a single partition: you have the option of placing a jumper on pins 7-8 which then allow these drives to be optimally used by Windows XP.
    • For multiple partitions under Windows XP: use WD Advanced Format Hard Drive Utility http://www.wdc.com/global/products/features/?id=7&language=1
    Drives made by other manufacturers using Advanced Format technology (such as Seagate SmartAlign drives) may not use pins or software. If possible, they should also be partitioned and/or formatted under Windows 7/Vista for later use on Windows XP.
    The Actual Format Process

    For single partition Advanced Format WD drives under Windows XP, it is better to format these under Windows 7 or Vista but if you have no option but to place a jumper on pins 7-8 and boot into Windows XP, then Windows XP Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management > Storage > Disk Management >
    A Wizard will pop-up in Windows XP to initialize the disk. CHECK the disk to be initialized but UNCHECK the disk when asked to convert it to a dynamic disk. Then right click on the Disk > New Partition... > Next > Next > Next > Next > UNCHECK: Perform a quick format > Next > Finish
    (It may be a better idea to actually Perform a quick format first, just to quickly make sure the new drive is OK - and then UNCHECK: Perform a quick format and perform a Long Format lasting several hours.)
    If something happens and you lose your Computer Management Window during the Long Format, the format is probably still ding what it's supposed to do. Simply restart Computer Management and even though Formatting progress percentage is not there yet, after 10 minutes or so, you will see it re-appear.
    Make sure the hard drive does not fail the Western Digital Extended Test using Data Lifeguard Diagnostic for Windows:
    http://support.wdc.com/product/download.asp?groupid=608&sid=3&lang=en
    Other manufacturers have their own utilities which also have extended tests. They may call them Advanced Tests. It's usually a good idea to run them overnight, since they take many hours to complete.
    If you have no access to Windows 7/Vista for partitioning/formatting, unfortunately, even modern partition software installed under Windows XP may not be able to correctly partition/format Advanced Format Drives. Rememeber that unaligned partitions on Advanced Format drives will perform at reduced speeds. Your option is to go to http://sourceforge.net/projects/gparted/
    and get the GParted iso. Use it to create a boot CD. Try to only have the Advanced Format Drive connected to the system when you boot with it and do not use Gparted in combination with jumper for pins 7-8 on Western Digital drives.
    You will need to know how to use Gparted, delete any partitions already on the drive, then create a partition table. In the end, if you see that "First Sector" is 2048 (or any number divisible by 8), then the partition is aligned. If the first sector is not divisible by 8 then such unaligned partitions on Advanced Format drives will perform at reduced speeds.
    Another option is to Install a dual boot Windows 7 / Windows XP which would allow the drive to be partitioned and/or formatted under Windows 7 and then you could reboot into Windows XP and use it there.
    • If you have a PCI card with SATA connectors on it and you cannot get your 2TB drive to work with it on an old motherboard:
    1. I tested one PCI card to work in PCI slots closer to the bottom of the case but not in PCI slots closer to the video card. Other tests showed the opposite, PCI slots closer to the video card worked but not the one closest to the bottom of the case. So try different PCI slots.
    2. I tested a 2TB drive connected to a Silicon Image 3512 card to work when the card was installed in a PCI slot of a modern computer but not when the same card was connected to an old nForce2 motherboard. So it was not the PCI card or the hard drive that was the problem - it was the old motherboard that was to blame.
    3. I tested one 2TB drive to work without any modifications on an old nForce2 Athlon XP motherboard using a PCI SATA card but another 2TB drive would not work even when limited to 1.5 GB/s. Hitachi would only work when connected (without any modifications) using a SATA to USB adapter.
    • For Windows 2000 operating system, this link may be of interest:
    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/305098
    It explains how to enable 48-bit LBA large-disk support in Windows 2000 registry:
    Windows 2000 > Start Menu > Run... > Regedt32 >
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\atapi\Parameters
    Edit > Add Value >
    Value name: EnableBigLba
    Data type: REG_DWORD
    > OK
    Value data: 0x1


    • Remember that 2TB drives are the upper limit for Windows XP. Partitioning a 3TB drive (for example) will not help because it is still one physical 3 TB drive.
    Loaders and workarounds exist but you cannot install Windows XP on drives larger than 2TB - you can only use them as storage drives.
    http://www.paragon-software.com/technologies/components/gpt-loader/
    http://www.paragon-software.com/support/early-adopter/
    • Old Drive Image software can cause problems when installing large capacity hard drives on an old system:
    c627627
    So here's the full story:
    This is an old machine on which PowerQuest Drive Image 7 was installed. PowerQuest was bought out by Symantec then promptly killed. Symantec then abandoned their old Norton Ghost and more or less renamed PowerQuest Drive Image 7 to their new Norton Ghost. To this day that's what Norton Ghost is based on.
    Drive Image 7.0 ISO was version 2.0.0.305
    Update to version 2.0.1.309 updates the program to the last version made by PowerQuest before it was purchased by Symantec. This is the version that caused my problems.
    However, Symantec did update the program before renaming it and re-issuing it as Norton Ghost. Version 2.0.3.402 updates Drive Image 7 to the last version made by Symantec.
    So I found the out the hard way that v7.01 is not compatible with large SATA hard drives drives. Update to v7.03 *before* connecting any SATA hard drives is required.
    I've managed to run my server (Celeron 366 with an Intel 810 motherboard) with 4 2TB drives (previously 4 500GB) for a while now using an PCI adapter. I will say though that the adapter was picky about which board I used (didn't like the couple BX chipset based boards I tried).
    You mean PCI card? I'm trying to find out if SATA to PATA adapters work/don't work on the same systems as PCI cards.
    Since we know perfectly good PCI cards and hard drives work on some motherboards and some not.
    Technically, an IDE slot can still access up to 2TB, but I've heard different adapters have different capacity issues. So who knows. I have heard of 2TB on an SATA to IDE adapter working though. In your case, you may be better off getting an external enclosure & either a Firewire or USB 2.0/3.0 card. But if you feel like experimenting, go for it. I probably would.