Upgrade Cheers and Jeers

Posted by Phil Weber on August 11, 2003

My aging desktop system (333 MHz Celeron, circa 1999) is ripe for replacement. I would have purchased a new computer months ago, but I promised my wife I won't buy a new machine until I've filed our overdue tax returns (we're due refunds on all of them, so it's not as dire a situation as it sounds. Still, they are quite late, and I needed some motivation to move the task higher on my list of priorities, so this is what we came up with.) In preparation for converting my existing system into a home media server, I purchased a 120GB hard drive and installed it this weekend.

Trouble is, the ancient BIOS on this machine doesn't recognize anything over 32GB! So, after futzing with master/slave settings and figuring out that I had to disconnect my internal Zip drive (I now have five IDE devices -- the Zip drive, DVD-ROM, CD-RW, and two hard disks -- which is one too many; I'll transplant the Zip drive into my new machine, if I ever get our taxes done), I discovered that I'm now the proud owner of a new 32GB drive.

Next stop: the ABIT Web site, to download the most recent BIOS update. Thankfully, flashing the BIOS was easy (I had never attempted it before) and came off without a hitch. Unfortunately, however, it didn't solve my capacity problem.

Finally, I decided to try running the hard disk setup utility from DOS rather than from within Windows. Success! The utility recognized the full capacity of the drive, and installed a dynamic drive overlay to work around the BIOS limitation. So now I have oodles and oodles of disk space; this must be how owners of the original IBM XT felt when they contemplated the seemingly limitless potential of their new 10MB hard drives! Only took me five hours to install...

I also bought a 128MB Secure Digital card for my Palm Tungsten T. No drama there: I popped it in, and It Just Worked™. But when I tried to use HotSync Manager to copy some music files to the card, it crawled along at a glacial 1MB per minute. That's when I discovered this amazing utility: It allows you to treat the storage card as a removable disk on your Windows PC! I used Windows Explorer to drag-and-drop files to the card in a matter of minutes. Well worth the $20 registration fee.

Update: Turns out updating my BIOS had solved the capacity problem, I just didn't see it because I had installed the capacity limitation jumper in order to get the original BIOS to recognize the new drive. I removed the jumper and had the updated BIOS autodetect the drive: Primary Slave: 122GB! Next, I re-ran the hard disk setup utility to remove the dynamic drive overlay, and held my breath while I rebooted: Everything works!

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