Adding a hard drive to an old PC
January 14, 2004 5:03 PM   Subscribe

I have a old PC. I want to buy a big new (non-boot, second) hard drive. Will I have problems? [more inside]

My good old workhorse of a PC, a PII 400 Gateway I bought back in January '99, is still serving me well, after numerous upgrades and additions. My upgrade triggers for the whole system will probably be the release of Doom3 and Half Life 2 in the coming months, if the wife lets me (by no means guaranteed). In the meantime, though, and just in case, I'd like to buy one of these big-ass cheapo hard drives out there at the moment. Even a 40 Gb one, which is nothing special these days, would be good for my media needs. My plan would be to replace a 4 Gb secondary drive I installed a few years back. The question is, with an oldish PC running Windows XP, is a new hard drive going to play nice? Is it just a matter, as it was last time, of settting the jumpers to 'slave' and plugging it in?

A secondary question would be if anyone has any recommendations for good, cheap hard drives, or any gotchas I should look out for in the installation process. I've installed heaps of hardware in the past, on many different machines, but I usually pretty much fly by the seat of my pants, and have just been lucky so far, I think.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Best answer: Anything under 130 gigs should work ok, I believe. After 137 gigs (+/-) you need to enable something called 48 bit LBA (Logical Block Addressing, I believe) on your motherboard. 1999 is probably too old to have it onboard unless you've reflashed the bios in the last few years. Most larger drives come with a new LBA capable IDE card these days, so you can either try that or try enabling LBA on the Bios. Personally, I went the MoBo reflash route and have been doing fine since then.

My advice: stick to a 120gig drive.
posted by daver at 5:17 PM on January 14, 2004

I second daver's answer. I thought the threshold was 128 Gb, but yes, anything under 120 should be ok.

You might have to tell Windows to add the drive -- at least, I did with Win2k. Was a little perplexed why it wasn't showing up at first, until I found that, if I recall correctly. Otherwise, no big deal.
posted by pmurray63 at 9:54 PM on January 14, 2004

Apart from having to (probably) add the drive in the BIOS set-up, you should not have problems - I have added drives up to 120GB to older systems with XP and had no problems.
posted by dg at 10:16 PM on January 14, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, all. It's going to be sweet to have all my music in one place.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:13 PM on January 14, 2004

If you want a drive larger than 120 GB, you'll need to invest in a new IDE controller card.

Probably cheaper to junk the old PC and upgrade. Heh.
posted by shepd at 12:37 AM on January 15, 2004

but! if you buy a larger maxtor drive, they sometimes come with an IDE controller card, to help defeat any hardware incompatabilities. My 160gb drive did.

Oh, and of you are upgrading for gaming, you pretty much have to get Battlfield 1942 and the Desert Combat mod. You are incomplete until you do.
posted by Hackworth at 11:07 AM on January 15, 2004

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