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Troubleshooting PC Storage Devices

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This chapter is from the book
Avoid the pitfalls and solve many of the problems you may encounter as you prepare a new (or even existing) drive for use. The following covers a hard disk drive, a ZIP Drive, a CD-RW or DVD drive and more.

Overview of Drive Installation and Preparation Tasks

Troubleshooting Drive Detection Problems

Preparing a Hard Disk for Use

Troubleshooting Booting Problems

Solving UDMA Mode Problems with ATA/IDE Drives

Solving Problems with Writeable CD and DVD Media

Overview of Drive Installation and Preparation Tasks

When you install a new storage device into your computer, you can't just use it until you "prepare" it for use. A storage device in this case could be anything from a hard disk drive, to a ZIP Drive, to a CD-RW or DVD drive. The process varies based on the specific type of device, but the first step always involves the physical installation and cabling of the drive. For an internal device, this means you must open your PC and mount it in an available drive bay. Whereas an external device is usually a simple matter of connecting a cable or two and ensuring the device has power.

When the physical installation is complete, the next step is to ensure that your PC and Windows can properly identify it. If your computer can't "see" the device, you can't use it. In the case of a hard, floppy, or optical drive, this means you must ensure that your PC's BIOS can properly identify it. Some removable media devices, such as a ZIP drive, might require only a driver installation in Windows to make it usable.

After the drive is configured, it's time to make sure the same is true of the media it uses. How complicated this process is depends greatly on the type of media for which your device is designed. A hard disk requires much more preparation than a CD-ROM drive, which outside of inserting a disc, requires no media preparation at all. Generally, the process involves some combination of

  • Inserting any necessary media (like a recordable CD in a CD-RW drive; not applicable for hard drives)

  • Partitioning the drive (hard disk only)

  • Formatting the drive's media (this process varies depending on the media type)

Partitioning, Formatting, and File Systems, Oh My!

Partitioning is the process of identifying which portions of a physical hard disk you want to use. You can partition a hard disk as a single drive letter or as two or more drive letters. You can also partition some large (1GB and larger) removable-media drives, but optical drives and small removable-media drives don't require partitioning.

Formatting is the process of dividing up the disk surface into sectors; both hard disks and removable-media disks of any size need to be formatted. The standard Windows format command is used with hard disks and standard floppy disks, while Zip, Superdisk, and other types of removable and optical media are usually formatted with a proprietary program provided by the drive vendor. Rewriteable optical media that will be used for drag-and-drop file copying with programs such as Roxio DirectCD must also be formatted before it can be used. Formatting is not necessary for optical media that will be used with a CD mastering program such as Easy CD Creator or Nero Burning ROM.

During the format process, the file system is created on the media. The file system determines how efficiently a drive stores information, how large a drive letter can be, and whether special Windows 2000 and Windows XP features such as encryption, enhanced file security, and real-time data compression can be used on the drive.

With Windows 9x/Me, the partitioning and formatting process used separate programs (FDISK and FORMAT), but Windows 2000 and Windows XP use a single Disk Management tool to perform these tasks.

Depending on your level of experience, all this might seem a little basic. However, as simple as the process might seem, there's a whole lot that can go wrong. Cables can be installed incorrectly, the system BIOS might not recognize the drive, the drive's media could be incorrectly formatted or even defective. It's a landscape full of pitfalls! This section helps you solve many of the problems you may encounter as you prepare a new (or even existing) drive for use.

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