The hard drive

From throwing our unnecessary files, to defragmenting, from partitions to formats – learn how to keep your hard drive in top shape

The hard drive is the place where all your programs and data are stored. If your hard drive stops working, you may end up losing all your data. What we do here is to take you further. A quick tour of the various things you need to know about it so you can keep it working smoothly.

What is the hard drive?

The hard drive is a magnetic mass storage device installed in special bays in the system unit. The hard drive could do compared to a large cabinet with multiple shelves

With different things arranged nicely and stored on each self. The hard drive stored all the data you need to store on your PC operating system (for example, Windows),

Software program (for example, a contour suit), business or household applications and data, games, email, address books and so on.

An assembly line hard drive is just a lot of magnetic media. The magnetic surface of the hard drive must be structured in specific areas where data can be stored properly, a process known as formatting. When you buy a new computer, the system comes with a formatted hard drive.

A hard drive must be partitioned before it can be used. The hard drive of a newly purchased computer comes configured with a single large partition, the primary partition (C: in My Computer), and an extended partition that can be further divided into logical partitions (D: E: and so on in My computer)) if necessary. Partitioning makes data storage more efficient and reduces access time to retrieve data.

The storage capacity of the hard drive has increased by a large leap since IBM XT’s first 10 MB hard drive. Today, 10 GB is the entry level and 17 GB is common. The hard drive communicates with a PC’s motherboard via an expansion card or a disk interface card.

How did it wok?

The disk is formatted to divide its magnetic surface into concentric circular paths called grooves (these are like the grooves on a phonograph plate) and wedge-shaped disks called sectors. Data is stored in the form of a file or groups of disk sectors called clusters. A disk drive locates data by moving the magnetic read-write head to a specific track within a particular sector.

When a new file is created on a freshly formatted hard drive, it is assigned cluster numbers in order. If the file is expanded, the first available clusters are assigned. When the file is deleted, their cluster numbers are simply marked as available. As the files grow in size to require additional clustering or deletion over time, the perfectly arranged row of clusters is disrupted, a process known as fragmentation.

Hard disk partitioning

Partitioning divides a large hard drive into smaller virtual non-physical hard drives or partitions, leading to efficient space utilization and increasing the performance of your PC. Partitioning can be very useful in the following circumstances:

1-One PC, Multiple Users – If multiple people have to work on the same PC, partitions could be assigned to each, so each person has their own “workspace.” This can also be useful in the home, where you can have separate partitions for your spouse, children’s games, business applications and data and so on.

2 work on multiple operating systems – You may want to work on more than one operating system on your PC, for example. Win98, Linux and Windows95. (Maybe you have applications that work perfectly in Win95 but suddenly crashed in Win98). You can safely store these different operating systems on the same hard drive by installing them in separate partitions.

Partitioning Tools There are several different partitioning tools for your hard drive. Two of the most popular are:

1-PartitionMagic version 4.o for Windows95 and 98-Partition Magic from Power Quest is a useful and powerful partitioning program. It effortlessly creates, moves, converts and resizes partitions on your hard disk without the need to format the disk to delete valuable data.

2-FDISK- is a freely available partitioning tool running in the DOS environment. Its biggest UPS is that it is available for free. It is cumbersome to use and also requires formatting of the hard disk (perhaps its major drawback).

Formatting a hard drive

As with most mechanical devices, prolonged use of the hard drive results in unavoidable wear and malfunction. Repeated addition and deletion of files counts hard on the hard drive and you can get disk errors, including the infamous “fatal error” in Windows. This is an indication that you may need to reformat your hard drive to make it work properly.

However, before deciding to reformat the disk, it may be worth trying other alternatives –

1-Run Disk Defragments

2-Use a downloadable cleanup software such as asregclean.exe.

However, if you continue to receive a fatal error message after trying these alternatives, you will probably need to format your hard drive.

The formatting procedure is simple enough, but must be done carefully. When you format the hard disk, all data on the disk is lost — Windows operating system, software programs, business application data, games, emails. In short, everything.

How to do the formatting

Windows 95

1- Double-click the My Computer icon. Then click the icon of the drive you want to format. (eg C 🙂

2- Click Format on the File menu and follow the instructions.

Remember that you cannot format a disc if there are files open on this disc. If the disk is compressed, use Drivespace or other compression to format the disk.

Windows 98

1- Click Start, click Close, click Restart, and then click OK.

2- Press and hold the CTRL key until Microsoft Windows 98 Startup Menu appears.

3- Select only command prompt and press Enter.

4- Type C: at the C: prompt and press ENTER.

5- Follow the on-screen instructions.

After formatting, you are left with an empty hard drive with more space than before. The next step is to recover the programs you need on your disk.

1- Reinstall Windows first and then the application programs you are using.

2- Restore your backups into appropriate files. If you use a zip drive or a CD burner, these must be installed first.

3- Reinstall all drivers for the printer, modem, or other peripherals.

Defrag

A file on your disk may not all be stored in one place or cluster. For example, if you create a Word document and make changes to it at a later time, the change can be saved in a cluster other than the original file. The more often you make changes to a file, the more disorganized the cluster becomes and the disk becomes fragmented. This makes the magnetic head that reads and writes data to and from the disk work harder to retrieve the entire file. Hard disk fragmentation reduces storage efficiency and then access time for retrieval of information.

The defragmentation process helps to rearrange files and unused space on your hard drive, so programs run faster.

Before defragging, it may be a good idea to check how much of your hard drive is fragmented. You can do this by running ScanDisk. Empty the temp folders and trash before defragmenting.

Windows 95 and Windows 98-: Open the Start menu, select Programs, select Accessories, and select System Tools and click Disk Defragmenter.

Your defragmentation plan will depend on how much you use the PC. A good rule of thumb is to defragment every two weeks.

Make sure all your files are closed and that you also turned on the screen saver.

Spring cleaning

Is there no more hard disk space left? Do you pick up disk errors or illegal actions? It may be time to clean up your hard drive. A few spring cleaning stickers to help you.

1- Release unwanted applications :: View all the software programs you have loaded on your PC. If you have newer versions installed, delete the old applications. Go to Control Panel Add / Remove Program Setting and uninstall any applications you do not need.

2- Run ScanDisk-: The ScanDisk option in Windows is a very useful program that solves problems such as lost clusters, invalid directory entries, and physical disk errors. Run ScanDisk once a month.

Go to Start, select Programs, select Accessories, and select System Tools, and click ScanDisk. Click on the drive that contains the folders and files you want to check.

3 – Defrag frequently, once every two weeks.

4- Empty Recycle Bin-: Right-click the Recycle Bin icon on the desktop and select Empty Recycle Bin from the drop-down menu.

5- Clean your folders-: do you really need all the downloads you made for a previous research project or the games you rarely play? Delete the folders that are not required.

6- Delete .tmp files and create more hard disk space.

Close all programs. Go to Windows Explorer. Press the key to open the Find dialog. Enter * .tmp in the box. Make sure C: Drive is listed in the Look-in box. Include subfolders by checking them. When viewing .tmp files, delete them.

7- Delete temporary web files to create more space.

Go to the Temp Internet Files folder in Windows Explorer. Delete all current files.

8- There are several Windows components on your hard drive that you could do without. You can remove these individual components from the Add / Remove Windows Setup option and create more space on your disk

Some unnecessary window components are accessories such as desktop wallpapers (700kb savings) and games (600kb savings)

Before you format …..

1- Enter the hard drive’s technical specifications (number of cylinders, tracks, sectors, etc.) in the PC’s BIOS setup table so that it is available for the machine’s boot program.

2- Back up all your important data to another hard drive, recordable CDs, zip drives, magnetic tapes or floppy disks. If you have some sort of backup or are in a hurry, copy only important folders. Also back up your email and address books. After taking the backups, check them out to make sure they are in order.

3- Back up any folders that you share with others over a network.

4 – Keep handy with the installation disks or CDs with the application software you are using, e.g. Windows or an office suite. These must be reinstalled after formatting.

5- Ensure that the driver discs for your printer, sound card, CD-ROM driver, modem, or other device are kept handy. These must be reinstalled after formatting.

FED Facts

When a hard disk is formatted, a file assignment table (FAT) is created on the disk. FAT keeps an overview of the location of all the files on disk FAT 16 is the file allocation system used in DOS and Windows 95. The FAT 32 file system is used in Windows 98 or Win 95 OSR 2. FAT 32 is considered more efficient as it saves more disk space.

The performance of the hard drive greatly affects the overall performance of a PC. Hard disk performance factors include storage capacity, data access time (the time it takes for the read printheads to find a required position on the magnetic surface), data transfer time (measure how many millions of bits per second can be transferred from disk to RAM), and reliability.

TIP

Keep your hard drive in tip-top mode and optimize its performance.

1- Create separate folders for each business application, data, or for each family member. This keeps your disk clean and organized.

2- Avoid compression

Although file compression increases the amount of storage space, it also significantly slows down system performance.

3 – Keep 10% free. Always keep at least 10% of your hard drive free by filling it beyond 90% of its capacity will lead to system slowdown and potential loss of information.

4- Run the Windows 95 and 98 Maintenance Guide Utility. This utility will get your programs running faster, check your hard drive for problems, and free hard disk space. You can schedule it to run regularly at a specific time, for example once a week or another interval of your choice.

Start the Maintenance Wizard by clicking Start, selecting Programs, selecting Accessories, selecting System Tools, and clicking the Maintenance Wizard.

5- Use software package to help optimize your hard drive’s performance, e.g. Symantec’s Norton Utilities.