Custom Search
Click to find updates on our Facebook page

Hard Disk Drive Problems: How to Fix IDE PATA and SATA Hard Disk Drive (HDD) Problems - Page 3

Visit the Disk Drives section of this site for information on internal and external hard disk drives and CD/DVD drives/writers.

Click the relevant link below to go to that Q&A article. Use your browser's Back button to backtrack

1. - Can I use a password to protect an entire second hard drive or at least its folders in a Windows XP Home/Professional system?

2. - Slow file copying/data transfer between internal SATA and external IDE hard disk drives

3. - My PC runs the hard disk drive in UDMA 33 mode instead of UDMA 100 mode AND In Windows XP, how can I change the UDMA mode from the reported mode 5 to the actual mode 6 that my motherboard supports?

4. - Every time I start my PC up the IDE hard disk drive is checked for consistency

5. - Experiencing a system slow-down or a 'thrashing' hard disk drive, the LED light for which flashes showing constant activity?

6. - How can I format a USB flash drive under Windows XP?

7. - NTFS to FAT32 conversion: How can I convert a hard disk drive using the NTFS file system into using the FAT32 file system?

8. - My external USB hard disk drive works with my desktop PC but it won't work with my laptop computer

9. - Will a Hi-Speed USB 2.0 external hard disk drive work with my old USB 1.1 computer?

10. - Installing Linux on a dual-boot system with Windows XP or Vista on an old IDE hard drive when the PC has two SATA hard drives installed

11. - Why do I get a black screen with an "Operating system not found" message at startup?

12. - ScanDisk and the Disk Defragmenter keep restarting in Windows 98

13. - The C: drive on my PC/computer's hard disk drive is nearly full but software doesn't work properly if installed on another partition or drive

14. - System imaging: Are there any problems or issues involved when you restore a backup image of a Windows XP/Vista system to a new hard disk drive or to a new PC?

15. - Why does my PC/computer work so slowly for about 30 seconds after it has come back to life after activating a screensaver and turning off the monitor?

16. - How can I install an SATA hard drive on my computer running Windows 98 SE?

17. - What is the maximum partition size for FAT32 hard drives?

18. - Can I connect more than four IDE ATA hard drives to my PC?

19. - A faulty Fujitsu hard disk drive

20. - The Disk Defragmenter in Windows XP/Vista says that CHKDSK is scheduled to run but I can't make it run

21. - Erase a hard disk drive: How can I wipe personal information from a dead hard disk drive that I have to return to Dell?

22. - Is it possible to run a program (an .exe file) or Windows XP/Vista from an external USB hard disk drive or a flash drive/memory stick?

23. - My computer's BIOS setup program won't recognise a second IDE PATA hard disk drive

24 - Using a disk partitioning program to partition my PC's hard disk drive made my PC reboot constantly

25. - I cannot boot Windows XP on one old hard disk drive or access the data files on another old hard disk drive installed in my PC/computer

26. - Chkdsk in Windows XP is "Unable to read security descriptors"

27. - How can I create my own home-made System Restore Disk?

28. - How to copy/transfer data files from an old to new hard disk drive

29. - A system dual-booting Windows Me and Windows XP loses XP after Me is reinstalled on a blank hard drive - How to restore the boot loader's Boot.ini file

Click here! to go to Page 1 of Hard Disk Drive Problems & Solutions

Click here! to go to the full list of hardware and software problems dealt with on this website

Can I use a password to protect an entire second hard disk drive or at least its folders in a Windows XP Home or Professional system?


I am adding a second hard drive to my Windows XP Professional desktop PC. It will be formatted as a NTFS drive and have no partitions. I intend to use it as a backup drive for data files. Is there is a simple way for Windows (not a third-party program) to password protect the entire second drive so that only I can access it? Even if I can only protect the folders with passwords would be helpful. I don't want to compress the files. I also have another desktop PC running Windows XP Home Edition that I would like to add another hard disk drive to. Are there any differences between those two versions of Windows XP with regard to the availability of password protection?


Windows XP, Home or Professional Editions, does not use passwords to protect anything other than logins; it uses permissions instead. Note that the file system must be NTFS, not FAT32.

Here is information to help you with that:

XP Pro Security Settings For XP Home - "There is a misconception that you can't set advanced permissions in XP Home. There are actually 3 ways you can do it. Before we go on, one note of caution. IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING LEAVE PERMISSIONS ALONE! I have seen more than one person lock themselves out of their computers, folders, and files.* You must be using NTFS for permissions to work." -

Windows Tips: Password-Protect Your Sensitive Files and Folders -

How to set, view, change, or remove special permissions for files and folders in Windows XP [Windows XP Professional only] -

How to Disable Simplified Sharing and Set Permissions on a shared folder in Windows XP [Professional Edition and Windows XP 64-Bit Edition only] -

The use of passwords to protect folders is not supported unless you zip them. You can do that by opening Windows Explorer (right-click Start => Explore). Click on a folder in the left window, such as My Documents, with the right mouse button. Click Send To => Compressed (zipped) Folder. Windows creates a zip file of the entire folder that you can see underneath the folder. Click on the zip file to open it. You will find an option under File =>" Add a password.

Otherwise, use third-party software. To find it, you can start off by entering password protect folders in a search engine.

If you have a third-party zip-file utility installed, such as WinZip, you can use it to password-protect zip files. If you have WinZip installed and you right-click on a zip file and click Open With, you'll have the options to open it with the WinZip Executable or with Compressed (zipped) Folder.

Slow file copying/data transfer between internal SATA and external USB-connected IDE hard disk drives


My desktop PC runs Windows Vista Home Premium and has an Asrock 4CoreDual-SATA2 motherboard [Socket LGA775 for Intel Core 2 Quad / Core 2 Extreme / Core 2 Duo / Pentium XE / Pentium D / Pentium Dual Core / Pentium 4 / Celeron / Celeron D, processors, supporting Quad Core Kentsfield processors - VIA® PT880 Pro/PT880 Ultra Chipsets] and one internal SATA II 300 hard disk drive. I transfer data between the SATA and an external IDE hard disk drive in a disk enclosure over a USB 2.0 connection. The transfer rate from computer to external drive seems to be just over 9 megabytes per second (9MB/s), and about 11 MB/s in the other direction. Is that the maximum transfer speed I can obtain or is there a way to speed it up? Would using an external SATA II 300 hard drive instead of the IDE (PATA) drive be faster?


Your data transfer rates are slow, but not unduly slow for an external hard drive using a USB 2.0 connection. A USB 2.0 connection has a maximum theoretical data transfer rate of 480Mbit/s (megabits per second). There are 8 bits to a byte, so that is 60MB/s (megabytes per second). However, in practice, the maximum is about 40MB/s reading data and 28MB/s writing data, even with the fastest USB 2.0 hard drive. For your information, flash drives (not internal solid state drives (SSDs) that use an SATA interface and flash memory) tend to be even slower, because of the slower reading/writing speeds of flash memory. A USB 1.1 connection would only deliver about 1MB/s, which is why you should not use an external drive on that interface. If you have an old computer with only USB 1.1 ports, you would install and run the external drive from an PCI USB 2.0 adapter card that adds USB 2.0 ports.

That said, the USB standard has design issues that make it inherently unsuitable for extensive data transfers, because USB data transfers tend to use an excessive amount of the processor's time, which reduces the maximum data transfer speeds of both IDE and SATA hard drives, which, incidentally, despite the SATA hype, are much the same. There could also be issues with your PC's hardware or the USB device drivers. NVIDIA motherboard chipsets are well known for causing problems with USB. Your PC's motherboard's VIA chipset is superior to NVIDIA's in this regard, but inferior to Intel motherboard chipsets.

Updating the device drivers for your motherboard's VIA chipset might improve the performance. If Asrock provides a live update service, make use of it. To use a live update service usually requires installing its software on your PC from a driver CD/DVD, which visits the Asrock site and which usually requires to be updated before it can be used. Alternatively, visit and conduct a search for the 4CoreDual-SATA2 model under Downloads => Latest drivers update.

Many users of Windows Vista have made complains about slow file-copying, particularly across a network, but also to external hard drives. Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) has improved matters. However, note that in both Windows XP and Windows Vista, copying files using the xcopy command from the Command Prompt will always be much faster than copying files using Windows Explorer. To open a Command Prompt in Windows XP enter cmd in the Start => Run box. Then just enter xcopy /? beside the flashing underscore to find out what the full range of switches are that can be used with that command. You can then enter xcopy followed by the switch of your choice to run that command. In Windows Vista enter that cmd command in the Start => Start Search box.

To find out how to use the xcopy command in Windows XP, enter xcopy xp, as is, in a search engine.

Note that Windows Vista has replaced xcopy with the superior robocopy, which has powerful backup options as well as copy options. To find out how to use the robocopy command in Windows Vista, enter robocopy vista in a search engine.

Note also that you can add robocopy to Windows XP. It is part of the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools that are free to download from:

You can also run it with a graphical user interface (GUI) instead of from the command line.

Utility Spotlight: Robocopy GUI -

To enjoy maximum data transfers you could install the IDE hard drive in a removable caddy (available from most good high street and online computer stores) that fits a 5.25" drive bay in the PC's case. With the drive connected to the motherboard, data transfers will be much faster.

You could also buy an external SATA (eSATA) drive. eSATA drives plug into the controller directly, allowing them to operate as fast as an internal SATA drive. Your PC's motherboard does not have an eSATA port, so you need to buy and install an eSATA backplate/bracket, which costs around £4, that contains one or more eSATA ports and connects to an SATA connector on the motherboard.

You could also use a PCI eSATA adapter card. Your PC's motherboard does not have a PCI Express x1 slot for a PCI Express eSATA adapter card, so you will have to make use of a PCI eSATA adapter card.

In practice, the data transfer speed is limited mainly by the drive's sustainable data transfer rate and not the interface.

If you make use of a hard-drive caddy, note that IDE (PATA) hard drives (unlike SATA hard drives) are not designed to be hot-swappable/hotpluggable. That is, the computer must be switched off before you can remove the drive.

My PC runs the hard disk drive in UDMA/ATA 33 mode instead of UDMA/ATA 100/133


[Note that with regard to the terms used to describe an IDE hard disk drive, UDMA (Ultra Direct Memory Access) is equivalent to the term ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment).]

I have an ECS K7S5A motherboard fitted with and Athlon XP 2000+ processor. My start-up screen shows that the computer's four IDE drives are operating using Mode 2 UDMA-33, but I know that the motherboard supports UDMA-100. The two hard drives are a 30GB Maxtor 7200 133 drive, set as master, and a 10GB Seagate 5400 100 drive set as slave on the primary IDE channel (IDE0). I have Windows Me installed on the C: drive, and Windows XP Home edition on the E: drive of the Maxtor drive. The Seagate drive has been assigned as the D: drive. I have a CD-ROM drive and a CD-RW (CD rewriter) drive on the secondary IDE channel (IDE1). DMA mode is enabled for all of the drives in the Device Manager of both operating systems. I want to know why the drives aren't working in UDMA 100 mode.


To operate in Ultra Direct Memory Access 66 (UDMA 66) mode, or faster, the hard disk drive that supports that mode must be connected to the motherboard with an 80-conductor IDE cable, not a 40-conductor UDMA 33 cable.

With one of the hard drives capable of using UDMA 133 mode, and the other capable of using UDMA 100 mode, the system should be selecting to use the highest mode that the motherboard supports - UDMA 100 mode - which for all practical purposes is equivalent to the 133 mode.

You should check that the cable is an 80-conductor IDE cable (see here for more information on this subject - and that it is connected correctly. With the most common colour scheme used for these ribbon cables, the blue connector connects to the motherboard, the black connector connects to the primary boot drive, and the grey connector in the middle of the cable connects to another IDE hard disk drive - if the Cable Select option is used. There is a jumper on the drive that sets the drive as a master drive, slave drive, or to use Cable Select that makes the position of the drives on the cable determine the master and slave drive). It is usually the best option to set the drives as master and slave drives instead of using the Cable Select option. If the master/slave settings are used on each of the drives to determine their relationship to each other, you can attach the drives to any of the two connection points on the IDE cable that don't connect to the motherboard.

If those checks are not applicable, try using a different cable, because some cables are of poor quality, or exceed the length-specification for such cables. The specifications require a maximum length of 18 inches, but some IDE Controllers allow cables 24 and even 36 inches long.

You should note that the new round IDE cables can often suffer from cross-talk problems (signals crossing from one cable to the other) that slow the UDMA mode of operation down.

It is preferable to install the two hard drives on separate cables, because this speeds up the transfer of data between the two drives. However, this can be difficult to arrange, because some CD-RW drives (CD writers) will not work unless they are installed as the master drive on a cable, and older CD-ROM drives do not support the UDMA (ATA) modes.

It also looks as if there might be a BIOS or Windows device driver issue involved, because the BIOS reports Mode 2 UDMA-33 instead of the ATA 33 description that a more recent BIOS would use.

As a last resort, reflash the BIOS with the latest file from the motherboard's website. But first check the websites of the manufacturers of the two hard drives for device driver updates, and do likewise from the motherboard's site. The motherboard uses a chipset made by SiS, and there are know problems with older SiS IDE drivers when two drives are being used. You should run the SiSIDE utility that should have come with the SiS IDE driver file. You run it by opening the Device Manager and then You should also make sure that Windows XP is using ACPI power management (look under Help (Windows Me) and Help and Support (Windows XP) if you need more information about it), because ECS BIOSes are know to have problems with UDMA if ACPI is disabled.

Note that Windows XP will disable DMA operations or limit the maximum speed for any hard drives that have six or more successive DMA time-out errors and use only the slower PIO mode on that device. Once disabled or locked down to a lower speed, the drive won't be able to run at its previous higher speed unless you run the SiSIDE utility to rectify the situation. If you have a computer that is using PIO mode and you want to revert to DMA mode, it can be done manually by following the instructions on this page:

There is currently no information on the web that says that Windows Vista reverts to using PIO mode under those circumstances.

In Windows XP, how can I change the UDMA mode from the reported UDMA mode 5 to the actual UDMA mode 6 that my motherboard supports?


In Windows XP, when I check in the Device Manager's Primary Hard Disk Controller, Advanced section, it shows that my hard disk drive - an ATA 133 Samsung SP1614N - is using the lower UDMA mode 5 (ATA 100), which transfers data at 100Mbit/s. But my hard drive and motherboard both support UDMA mode 6 (ATA 133), which has a data-transfer rate of 133Mbit/s. I've installed all of the Windows XP updates, and checked the BIOS settings, but, try as I might, I can't find a way of getting the correct mode reported.


Your Samsung hard disk drive spins at 7,200RPM (revs per minute), and both of those modes can transfer data much faster than a drive spinning at that rate can deliver, so the difference between ATA 133 (UDMA mode 6) and ATA 100 (UDMA mode 5) would hardly be noticeable. The full transfer rate can only be applied when data is read from the hard drive's relatively small internal cache (buffer), and since there is so little difference in the speed of these two modes, it makes very little difference if the higher mode is being used.

It looks as if the system is using the standard Microsoft IDE driver instead of the motherboard chipset's bus mastering IDE driver.

If only the Microsoft driver is installed, you need to download the motherboard's IDE driver from its manufacturer's site and install it, usually just by double-clicking on the downloaded self-installing file.

You can discover which driver is installed by right-clicking (Start =>) My Computer, followed by Properties => Hardware => Device Manager. (You can also enter devmgmt.msc in the Start => Run box.) To open it, click on the + sign beside the IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers section. If the correct motherboard's driver is installed, the controller will have the motherboard's chipset maker's name. For example, if it's a chipset made by VIA, it's called the VIA Bus Mastering Controller. Anyhow, to check the driver details, just double-click on the entry there or right-click and then choose Properties => Driver Details.

If the standard Microsoft IDE driver is installed, it's called Atapi.sys. If there are other drivers installed, then those will be the motherboard's chipset manufacturer's drivers that Windows will be using if the make/model of the chipset manufacturer is provided above the Primary IDE Channel and Secondary IDE Channel entries. If no manufacturer (VIA, Intel, etc.) is mentioned then the standard Windows driver is being used.

You should be able to download the latest motherboard chipset drivers from the motherboard manufacturer's website. If you don't know the make and model of the motherboard installed in your computer, here is a good free utility - Belarc Advisor - that creates an analysis of the hardware and software on a personal computer. Look under FREE DOWNLOAD on Another utility that also provides information on the motherboard is CPU-Z from

You say that you've check in the BIOS to make sure that any setting that enables ATA-133 operation is enabled. But if the installed driver doesn't support that mode, it won't be used, so make sure that it's enabled after you've installed the motherboard driver that does support that mode. Installing a BIOS update might be required for a motherboard that originally only supported ATA-100 mode, because an updated BIOS can allow the motherboard to run the drive in the higher ATA-133 mode.

Note that even when the correct IDE driver file is installed, the system will be working at the full ATA-133 speed of 133MHz, but Windows may still report the interface as being UDMA mode 5 (ATA-100). If so, this is the case because the Windows IDE driver doesn't support ATA-133 operation, so the Windows reporting feature can't report when it's in use. But, rest assured, if the BIOS is set to use it and the the driver supports UDMA mode 6 (ATA-133), that is the mode that's being used regardless of what Windows reports.

If your computer is still running the original version of Windows XP, or just has Service Pack 1 (SP1) installed, installing Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) will probably put that issue right. I have encountered many elderly computers that are still just running the original version of Windows XP that became available in 2001.

Note that SP3 is available from Microsoft's site. You have to have SP2 installed in order to install it. If it causes problems with your system, you can uninstall it from the Control Panel's Add or Remove Programs.

Every time I start my PC up the IDE hard disk drive is checked for consistency


Every time I start my computer, a message comes up before Windows XP starts saying that the 160GB IDE Hitachi hard disk drive needs to be checked for consistency. Windows then checks the files and everything continues normally. This happens every time I start the computer.

Possible solutions

The most likely explanation is that the system is not writing back all of the cached hard-disk-drive information before it turns off the computer. There is a patch for this bug in Service Pack 1 for Windows XP (SP1), so, if you don't already have SP1, SP2 or SP3 installed, you should download and install SP2, which contains SP1, and then install SP3, because SP3 requires SP2 to be installed. They are all large service packs that would take a very long time to download on a dial-up 56K-modem connection. If you have a dial-up connection, you can obtain the CD/DVD containing the service pack that you want from

The problem could also occur on a multi-boot system running Windows XP, Windows 98, or Windows Me. If the Windows 98/Me system is missing a large IDE cache patch for the problem, it would also fail to write back the cached information before shutting the system down.

On some older computers, you may have to reflash the BIOS. If necessary, see the BIOS page on this site.

There could also be a hardware problem with the drive itself, so use the free diagnostic utility provided by the drive's manufacturer, Hitachi, to check it. You can obtain it here:

There could also be a problem with the drive's partition record - especially if the drive was partitioned by using a third-party partitioning utility such as Partition Magic or Partition Manager. For instance, although problems only usually start occurring with drives or partitions over 64GB in size (see IDE1.htm#fdisk on this site), Microsoft does not recommend using the FAT32 file system for partitions over 32GB in size. (NTFS is Windows XP's native file system, but it can use FAT32 if upgraded from Windows 98, or FAT32 is opted for during the installation.) Indeed, Windows XP's own partition-creation utility that is run from the Windows CD, will refuse to create a partition larger than 32GB using FAT32. Other third-party partition utilities can create larger FAT32 partitions than that, and one or more partitions in excess of Microsoft's limit, or the real problematic limit of 64GB, could therefore be the cause of the problem.

My PC/computer is experiencing a system slow-down or a 'thrashing' hard disk drive, the LED light for which flashes showing constant activity?

It is assumed that your desktop or laptop PC worked relatively speedily once upon a time and that it has suddenly slowed down and/or the LED light on the front of the case (which is somewhere on lower half of a laptop) the flashes constantly, indicating incessant activity, which shouldn't be the case.

The most likely reasons for a system slow-down or a 'thrashing' hard disk drive are an outdated, slow hard disk drive that has outdated drivers installed, has become crammed with applications, is overloaded with programs loaded at start-up, as a consequence has a Windows Registry that has grown bloated with redundant entries, and/or a system that has insufficient RAM memory, either on the motherboard as system RAM, or on the video card as graphics RAM, a dying BIOS battery, or a failed processor heatsink and fan unit (processor cooler), the latter two of which can easily be replaced. If the computer is older than five years old, its BIOS battery should be replaced.

Note well that Windows XP/Vista requires a certain amount of free hard-disk space in order to function efficiently. Even the Disk Defragmenter will refuse to work if it doesn't have enough free disk space. You can find out how much free space there is on each drive under My Computer (XP) or Computer (Vista/Win7). A modern computer running those versions of Windows should have a minimum of about 5GB to 10GB of free disk space if System Restore is enabled for each drive, because it uses plenty of disk space for its restore points (backup files). It is enabled by default for each drive, but you can turn it off for each drive. Internet Explorer, the Recycle Bin, and the virtual-memory Paging (swap) File also reserve disk space for themselves.

To find out how you can change the size of the Paging File in Windows XP/Vista, enter paging file in the Search box of Help and Support.

There is plenty of advice on the web on how best to set the virtual memory. Just enter a search query such as virtual memory xp or virtual memory windows 7, etc., in a search engine.

Most of these problems are easy to remedy. First try updating your video card's and hard disk drive's drivers by downloading them from the manufacturer's website ( for nVidia graphics cards, for Seagate drives; for Western Digital, etc.), and then use the Add or Remove Programs in the Control Panel in Windows XP to remove unnecessary programs, applications, utilities, etc., clear the Recycle Bin, and then use the Windows Disk Defragmenter (or your own third party program) to defragment the disk.

In Windows XP, the Disk Defragmenter is located under Start => All programs => Accessories => System Tools.

Windows Vista has an automatic Disk Defragmenter that is enabled by default (to run at 1:00 a.m. every Wednesday). You can disable or modify this by performing the following steps:

Click the Start button => Control Panel => System and Maintenance and choose Defragment your hard drive under Administrative Tools , which is at the bottom of the menu/list.

Note that you can bring up a link to most tools in Windows Vista and Windows 7 just be typing the name of the tool in the Start => Search box. There is no need to press tye Enter key; the link comes up as soon as enough information has been typed in that box. Just entering defrag is enough to bring up a link to the Disk Defragmenter.

The Add or Remove Programs utility, in the Control Panel in Windows XP, can often leave whole folders intact, so open Windows Explorer (right-click the mouse on the Start button and then click Explore), and remove any left-over folders manually. You can download many Windows Registry cleaners.

The same is still true of Windows Vista/Win7.

To add or remove programs in Windows Vista, click Start => Control Panel => double-click on the Programs and Features icon.

In the windows that presents itself, all of the programs and items that are installed in Windows Vista are listed.

To remove any of them, click once on the program you want to uninstall and then click on Uninstall/Change and follow the prompts.

RegSeeker and CCleaner are good free Windows Registry cleaners, or visit,, or for other cleaners and program installers/uninstallers.

Some of them will also be able to find unnecessary files that can be removed, such as the .tmp files that Windows or applications create and leave in the Windows Temp folder - and elsewhere.

You can also make use of the Disk Cleanup utility in Windows XP/Vista/Win7 to remove unnecessary files. The search terms disk cleanup xp and disk cleanup vista should work well to find articles on how to use the utility.

The StartUp Control Panel from allows you to control what applications are loaded at start-up from the Windows XP Control Panel. It is compatible with all versions of Windows up to Windows XP. Unlike the previous version of Windows, Windows Visa has a very good built-in startup manager. Go to Start => Control Panel => Performance Information and Tools, and then click on Manage Startup Programs on the left.

Or you can enter msconfig in the Start => Run box to bring up the System Configuration Utility in Windows XP. (In Windows Vista and Windows 7 enter the same command in the Start => Search... box).

Click on its Startup tab and you'll see the list of start-up programs. You can disable any of them by removing the check mark beside each program with the mouse, but you can't remove the program's entry as you can by using the StartUp Control Panel. Also, disabling programs such as cfmon (cfmon.exe) makes Windows XP start up in Selective Startup mode, which is a setting in the System Configuration Utility's General tab. You'll have to re-enable cfmon in order to be able to start up in Normal Startup mode. So, unless you know what the program is, don't disable it unless you've looked up what the program does by entering its file name in a search engine.

Too many start-up programs will slow the boot down considerably, and will consume system resources that will slow it down during use. One start-up program in particular, is a anti-virus application set to load at start-up, and set to check every file that is opened for viruses. This slows the system down, so you should turn this feature off. Use an anti-virus program to scan downloaded files after that have been downloaded, scan the hard disk drive periodically, scan CDs that will autoload, and scan e-mail attachments. There is no need to have it set to scan the system the whole time it is operating.

If the system is still slow, install a new, faster hard disk drive, add some system RAM (it is currently very cheap), and, if necessary, replace the video card with one with more graphics RAM (minimum 32MB, but check your motherboard's FAQ page for compatibility issues). Such upgrades can speed up a system so considerably that a processor upgrade might not be necessary, depending, of course, what you use the computer for.

If a Windows system has insufficient RAM to make it run smoothly, it makes use of its virtual memory swap (paging) file that is on the hard disk drive to swap data in and out of RAM memory. Using virtual memory is much slower than using RAM memory, so increasing the amount of RAM where an insufficient amount is installed, improves performance by lessening the use of the hard drive.

Visit the RAM pages on this site for information about memory, including how to determine how much memory to install for a particular version of Windows, and the best memory to install.

If the system is still slow, you could consult the system's motherboard manual to find out the fastest processor is that it can run and then try to obtain one. You should be able to obtain a copy of the manual from the motherboard manufacturer's website in the PDF format if you don't have a copy. If you don't know the make and model of the motherboard installed in your computer, here is a good free utility - Belarc Advisor - that creates an analysis of the hardware and software on a personal computer. Look under FREE DOWNLOAD on Another utility that also provides information on the motherboard itself is CPU-Z from

The Ebay online auction sites around the world are good sites to visit for processors that can no longer be purchased from the major vendors. Register with your country's Ebay site or the site that operates in the country nearest to yours, note the deadline for bids on a particular item, and then wait for the last few minutes of an auction to put in the highest bid. You'll be informed of your success or failure by e-mail.

Remember to check a seller's feedback from customers on eBay before you make a purchase, and also check what kind of goods are being sold. You can click on each item of feedback to go to the actual auction page. sellers can obtain good feedback for selling cheap goods and delivering it, and the sell expensive goods which are never delivered after they have been paid for.

How can I format a USB flash drive under Windows XP/Windows Vista?


During a new install of Windows XP Professional, I deleted all partitions seen in the Windows XP partition manager, which unfortunately included my 128MB USB flash drive that was left plugged in. The problem is now I have a flash drive that Windows XP cannot format. FDISK, of course does not work with Windows XP. If I try to format the flash drive using Windows XP, I get the message "Windows was unable to complete the format". Windows XP sees the drive as FAT32 with an unknown capacity. Why Microsoft decided to make the Windows XP partition manager only accessible on a new installation and to do away with FDISK is beyond me.


Who told you that you can only partition and format drive with a new installation? You can partition and format hard drives at any time by using the partitioning and formatting utility that is made available from the Windows XP CD, or you can enter diskmgmt.msc (the quickest way) in the Start => Run box to bring up the Disk Management window and format hard drives and flash drives. USB device drivers are not usually installed until Windows boots fully, and the device has to be running before it can be accessed, so you should use Disk Management to partition and format a flash drive. USB devices can be plugged in while the computer is running. Windows detects the device and installs the drivers.

Here is what XP's Help and Support says about Disk Management:

Using Disk Management

"You might need to have a computer administrator account to perform some tasks. Disk Management is a system utility for managing hard disks and the partitions or volumes they contain. With Disk Management, you can initialize new disks, create volumes, and format volumes with the FAT, FAT32, or NTFS file systems. Disk Management enables you to perform most disk-related tasks without shutting down your computer; most configuration changes take effect immediately. To open Disk Management Open Computer Management (Local). In the console tree, click Disk Management. To open Computer Management, click Start, and then click Control Panel. Double-click Administrative Tools, and then double-click Computer Management. For information about using Disk Management, in Computer Management, click Help on the Action menu."

For those of you who are using Windows Vista or Windows 7, Disk Management still exists in them and has additional features, such as being able to resize partitions on the fly without destroying any data. The quickest way to bring it up is to enter diskmgmt.msc in the Start => Search... box.

In Disk Management, the drives and partitions are represented by rectangles, starting with Disk 0, Disk 1, etc. The CD/DVD/Blu-ray optical disc drives installed are also shown.

Here is what Help and Support says about using it: "Disk Management is easy to use. Menus that are accessible from the right mouse button display the tasks you can perform on the selected object, and wizards guide you through creating partitions or volumes and initializing or converting disks."

That means that you right-click each rectangle that represents a drive or partition on a drive with the mouse to access the available features, such as creating partitions and formatting them. Note that you cannot resize partitions, you can only create them if the disk space is available, or delete them. If you delete a partition all the data will be lost. Unless you are using Windows Vista, you need to use a third-party partitioning utility, such as Symantec's Partition Magic, to resize partitions without destroying the data.

How to use Disk Management to configure basic disks in Windows XP -

How to [use Disk Management] to resize a partition in Windows Vista -

NTFS to FAT32 conversion: How can I convert a hard disk drive using the NTFS file system into using the FAT32 file system?


I purchased an external 250GB hard drive that was formatted to use the FAT32 file system at the factory. When I was installing the software for the drive, it advised me to format the drive to the NTFS file system, which I did. That was when I discovered that not all advice should be put into action. I bought an external drive so that I could use it on a PC running Windows XP Home Edition and a Mac running OS X. Using the NTFS file system, the drive can be read but not written to by the Mac. Is there a way to convert the drive back to FAT32? If conversion is not possible, I'd like to know if I use Drive Image to create an image of an NTFS drive/partition, then reformat the drive/partition to FAT32, can I then restore the image and have it running on FAT32?


It has been said on the web that an old copy of Partition Magic 7 can convert NTFS back to FAT32 if the NTFS drive is not compressed or has no other advanced attributes set. Apparently versions of Partition Magic since version 7 cannot be used in that way. I have no experience of doing that myself, so I can only report what others have reported. Otherwise, you would need to create a full backup, not an image created with Drive Image or Norton Ghost, reformat the drive as FAT32, and then restore the backup. You can use the Windows Backup program. Click here! to go to a page on this site devoted to backups. Or you can reformat the drive to use the NTFS file system and restore all of the software and data files.

No, you cannot create an image of an NTFS drive/partition, reformat it to FAT32 and then restore the image to it, because the image restores everything exactly as it was on the drive/partition that was imaged, including the file system.

My external USB hard disk drive works with my desktop PC but it won't work with my laptop computer


I have an external USB hard disk drive that I bought so that I could use it to backup my laptop and desktop PCs, both of which have USB 2.0 ports. Unfortunately, the drive only works from the desktop PC. I have run other USB devices (printers and flash drives) from all of the USB ports on the laptop, so they all work. Both computers use Windows XP Home updated to SP3.


Windows XP can still find USB devices that are not a keyboard, mouse, flash drive or printer tricky to deal with. The external USB drive might not be receiving enough power to initialise, so try the following remedy.

Because laptop computers are used with battery power, they usually come with power-saving options set by default. To find out, open the Device Manager in the laptop by entering devmgmt.msc in the Start => Run box, or right-click on My Computer and click Manage in the menu that comes up to access it.

Open Universal Serial Bus controllers and double-click on all of the USB Root Hub entries. There should be three or more such entries. Click on the Power Management tab for each one and remove any check mark in the box that has Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power next to it. Then disconnect the drive, restart Windows, and connect the drive.

If doing that doesn't work, the drive may have come with a USB-to-5V cable, which you should use, because it provides more power.

Will a Hi-Speed USB 2.0 external hard disk drive work with my old USB 1.1 computer?


My ageing self-built computer runs Windows 98 SE, has a 500MHz Pentium 3 processor, and has USB 1.1 ports on the motherboard. The 12GB hard disk drive is running short of space. I intend to upgrade all of the hardware when Windows Vista becomes available, but in the mean time I would like to buy an external USB hard drive, but the are all listed as using Hi-Speed USB 2.0. Will I be able to use one of them on my PC?


The USB 2.0 standard is fully backward-compatible with the USB 1.1 standard, so you can use any Hi-Speed (USB 2.0) external hard drive with your computer. However, the USB 1.1 standard can only transfer data at a maximum speed of 12Mbit/s (12 megabits per second), which is slow if you want to copy a large number of files or large files to the drive. With the USB 2.0 standard, the maximum data transfer rate is 480Mbit/s. If your computer has a spare PCI slot on its motherboard and you want to use USB 2.0 with the drive, all you have to do is purchase a PCI USB 2.0 adapter card for about £10/$20 that can add two or four USB 2.0 ports to it. The card will come with its own device drivers.

You can enter a search query, such as pci + usb2 + adapter, as is, in a search engine to find local vendors.

Installing Linux on a dual-boot system with Windows XP or Vista on an old IDE hard drive when the PC has two SATA hard disk drives installed


My PC has two SATA hard drives and I am using Windows XP Professional with the SP3 update installed. I want to try Linux, but to avoid any possible problems I intend to install it on an old IDE hard drive. My questions are: 1. - Are there any problematic areas that I need to be aware of when installing an IDE (PATA) hard drive on a system with existing SATA drives? I appreciate the fact that I don't have to install another drive, I can install Linux to another partition on one of the existing drives, but I feel more comfortable with it installed on a separate drive. 2. - I need to set up a dual-boot system. How is it best to do this? 3. - Is there anything else I need to know before I embark on this adventure?


You can try many distributions of Linux without installing them by running them from a boot CD/DVD that usually provides an option to install it.

For example, if you have access to a computer connected to broadband, you could try downloading Ubuntu Linux from You can then use CD/DVD burning software to burn the download as an image to a CD-R/DVD+/-R disc, which creates a bootable disc that can run Ubuntu Linux from the disc without installing it. You can also order a free CD from the website. You computer's BIOS setup program has to have the CD/DVD drive set as the first boot device in order to boot from a disc. The startup screen will tell you which key to press to enter Setup (the BIOS). I use the disc to boot the system in order to find out if a problem is caused by software or hardware. It can provide you with wireless access to a network and hence the web just by clicking on the network icon at the top right of the screen and entering the WEP/WPA encryption key (if security is set), and you can run its included software, which includes the Firefox browser. If you have a suspected virus/spyware problem and it has disabled your installed scanners, you can access one or more of the many free online scanners to scan the system. They don't remove malware, but they can tell you where it is located so that you can remove it manually.

If you like Ubuntu (or any other distribution of Linux that works from its CD/DVD), you can choose to install it.

The settings for the boot order of devices in the BIOS setup program determines which hard drive is the boot drive, so it doesn't matter if you install Linux on an IDE or an SATA drive. If you want to boot to the CD/DVD drive in order to install an operating system from a CD/DVD, you would set it is the first boot device. After the installation, you would set the hard disk drive that contains the operating system that you want to boot from as the first boot device.

Your PC is recent and is already booting from an SATA hard disk drive, so you shouldn't have a problem installing an IDE hard drive, but other users with older systems should note that it can be tricky connecting both IDE drives and SATA drives to the motherboard.

If, say, you install a SATA drive and then install an IDE drive, unless the BIOS is programmed to know the difference, the system will usually try to boot from an IDE drive first. If a BIOS update isn't available that allows the two types of drive on the motherboard to be installed so that the system can boot from the SATA drive, you'll have to buy a PCI SATA adapter card and set the BIOS as instructed in this Q&A: A problem with an old IDE hard drive and a new SATA drive running from a PCI SATA adapter card.

If you haven't purchased the boxed product that comes with documentation, you can make use of a search engine to find information on installing the version of Linux you have chosen. For example, the search query install ubuntu linux brings up plenty of useful links, including a YouTube video tutorial and this article:

How To Install Ubuntu Linux In 12 Easy Steps -

The Linux installer installs a boot manager that allows you to choose the operating system that you want to use at startup. It works well. Windows XP does likewise if you install it on a system with an existing version of Windows installed.

However, note that while it is easy to install Windows Vista on to a system already being run by Windows XP (you just run the setup from the Vista DVD), installing XP on a Vista system is much more difficult.

How to dual boot Vista and XP (with Vista installed first) -- the step-by-step guide with screenshots -

You can also install Microsoft's Virtual PC, which is now free, and then try Linux on that before installing it in its own right on the PC.

Virtual PC is a PC within Windows that you can install another operating system on without it affecting the main operating system. Doing it that way will enable you to find out if the hardware on your PC works with the distribution of Linux that you've chosen to use.

Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 -

You can run the Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 Demo from that page. The demo "shows how Virtual PC is perfect for any scenario in which you need to support multiple operating systems, whether you use it for legacy application support, technical support, training, or application development."

With today's versions of Linux, setting up an actual dual-boot system is not much of a problem. Just be aware of what the hard drives are called under Linux so that you can get things set up where you want them. You may have a problem if you have to reinstall Windows XP after Linux is installed.

In Windows XP Home and Professional, you can use the Recovery Console to rebuilt the boot.ini file that contains the boot information if it goes wrong. Read the Q&A on this site called Using the Windows XP Recovery Console to restore a boot.ini file.

Note that if you are using Windows Vista or Windows 7, it does not use a boot.ini file to configure the boot options and it does not have a Recovery Console.

1. - Recover, restore and repair Windows 7 (Win7) when a computer crashes or fails to boot

2. - Recovering and repairing Windows Vista when a computer crashes or fails to boot

Why do I get a black screen with an "Operating system not found" message at startup?


At startup, my desktop PC, which runs Windows XP Home Edition with the latest SP3 update installed, goes immediately to a black screen that says: Operating system not found. When this has happened previously, usually rebooting a couple times or checking for loose cables corrected it. Unfortunately, none of those remedies worked this time. Any ideas on how I can get the PC working?


With an ageing PC, or one that has a faulty hard disk drive that isn't spinning up fast enough, the BIOS setup program that configures the system's hardware at startup, starts looking for the operating system (Windows XP) before the drive can deliver it. When the drive has got up to speed, everything then works as it should. Rebooting probably got the drive running so that it could interact with Windows and start up as usual.

Some BIOSes have a setting that can be set to introduce a delay in the startup sequence in order to overcome this kind of problem. However, if a hard disk drive is no longer able to spin up in time, it's a clear indication that the drive is wearing out. Its bearings may be worn out, the lubrication may have thickened to the point where it slows the drive down instead of making it spin up fast, etc. Usually, when a drive starts behaving in this way, you should replace it, because it's usually only a matter of time before it won't spin up at all. Unfortunately, that is what seems to have happened in your case.

Hard disk drives are very cheap these days, so installing a replacement won't be very difficult. If your PC is running an IDE (PATA) hard disk drive and doesn't have connectors for the newer SATA hard disk drives, you can still buy IDE drives, and you can add an SATA drive if you install a PCI SATA host controller adapter card that has its own BIOS.

Information on how to install a hard drive can be found on this Build a PC page on this site. Upgrade information on hard drives can be found on this Upgrade Checklist page on this site.

However, if you have vital data on the drive that you haven't backed up, a data-recovery company will be able to recover it from a dead drive, but you will be left light in the pocket, because such a service is expensive.

If you have data that you don't want to lose, or can't afford to lose, you should always make several backups of it. Information on backing up data can be found on this page on this site.

ScanDisk and the Disk Defragmenter keep restarting in Windows 98


My computer runs Windows 98 with the Norton Antivirus and Norton Firewall installed. When I run ScanDisk and the Disk Defragmenter under Programs => Accessories => System Tools they both freeze. I've disabled the screensaver and both Norton programs to no avail. A message from ScanDisk says that an application is accessing Windows, but I can't discover what it is. Is there an easy way around this problem?


This has to be the most commonly asked question of all time.

To function properly, the ScanDisk and Defrag utilities that are part of Windows 98 require that the system is not running any programs while they're running. Windows constantly writes data from the hard disk drive to its Virtual Memory swap file (win386.swp), ready for transfer to the RAM memory, and this activity usually makes ScanDisk and the Defrag utility restart a few times when they're first run, but this activity should stop, and hence not bother these utilities. If it doesn't, one or more programs are actively running and causing the file-swapping activities, which are then making the utilities stick.

A screensaver makes Windows write to the hard disk drive when it first starts, but after that it won't prevent those utilities from working.

Several programs are loaded at start-up and run in the background. One or more of these is almost certainly the cause of the problem. Several of these programs place their icons in the System Tray, which appears in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. You can usually turn those programs off by right-clicking on their icons and clicking the option to close them. But the easiest way to disable these start-up programs is to enter msconfig in the Start => Run box. (This works in Windows XP as well.) Click on the Startup tab of the window that pops up. All of the programs listed there start up with Windows and run in the background. If there is a check mark in the box beside a program's name it is enabled. Removing the check mark disables it so that it isn't loaded at start-up. You can safely disable all of those programs, but you should leave the System Tray, otherwise it won't appear. If you disable them all and those two system utilities work, you would then turn one of them on at a time until they freeze when run to find out which of them is responsible.

If there is still a problem after all of the start-up programs have been disabled, you'll have to run a more advanced tool to discover where the problem lies. There is a free Sysinternals utility called FileMon that shows exactly what is running on a system. Sysinternals was an independent organisation but it is now owned by Microsoft. Visit for the great free utilities.

You should click on its filter icon to limit the tool to showing just which programs are writing data to the hard disk drive. You should then know what the mystery program is. You can use Find to locate it on the hard drive. If you don't use it, you can try using Add/Remove Programs to remove it, or delete its file manually it it isn't listed there.

You should note that Windows Me has a superior Disk Defragmenter to the one that Windows 98 installs. It is far more tolerant of disk writes made during its operation. The program has the same file name in both versions of Windows. It's called defrag.exe. There are sites that offer the Windows Me version for download, or supply it by e-mail.

If you want the newer version, try entering this search query - defrag + "windows me" - in a search engine.

If you obtain it You would then rename the file in the C:\Windows folder to say xdefrag.exe and then copy the update to the same folder, because you cannot have two files with the same name in a folder.

The C: drive on my PC/computer's hard disk drive is nearly full but software doesn't work properly if installed on another partition or drive


My Acer laptop computer running Windows XP Home Edition with the SP3 update installed has an 90GB hard disk drive. It came with a C: drive of 40GB and a D: drive also of 40GB. The C: drive is nearly full, so I tried installing a new program on the D: drive by changing the default installation path. The program installed properly but accessing it is a different matter. For example, shortcuts to it don't work. I would like the drive to be a single partition, but I don't know how to remove the partition without destroying the data.


Most Acer laptops come with the hard drive that split into two partitions of equal size. There is also a smallish partition from which diagnostics software can be run. Having the drive set up in that way enables the user to keep files separate from Windows and programs, making backups easier to do. It was common for PC manufacturers to set up Windows NT computers (Windows NT is the forerunner of Windows XP/Vista, which are both built on the same architecture) with a 4GB or 8GB Windows partition, and have all of the data on the other partition. Administrators could then format the Windows partition and do a clean reinstallation of Windows from time to time without affecting the data. Moreover, in Windows 98 and Windows Me, hard drives are formatted with the FAT32 file system, which can be read by Windows XP/Vista and Windows 98/Me. FAT32 is not designed for use on partitions much larger than 32GB, so if the computer had an 80GB hard drive, it would have to be partitioned if it were using those older versions of Windows (98/Me).

A well-programmed software application won't present any problems if it is installed on the D: drive, or on any other partition. However, poorly written software is still common, and it can cause problems if it is installed anywhere other than on the C: drive. It is possible to redirect shortcuts and edit the Registry to point to the correct location, but the quickest fix would be to reinstall the software on the C: drive. To redirect a shortcut, right-click on it, click Properties, and click on the Shortcut tab. The Target box contains the information that makes Windows look for the file in its correct location. It is contained within double quotation marks as in the following example of a shortcut that goes to the MySpreadsheet.xls document in the My Documents folder.

"C:\Documents and Settings\My Documents\MySpreadsheet.xls"

If the C: drive is nearly full, as it is in your case, it will become fragmented quickly, which will slow the system down significantly.

The NTFS file system that is native to Windows XP/Vista does a good job of minimising the number of fragmented files, but it can only do so if there is plenty of free space on the drive, because the Disk Defragmenter (or any similar software) requires plenty of space in which to work. A drive with about a third of its space free is ideal.

Without that free space, the Windows virtual memory (swap file/paging file) located by default in a file on the C: drive will become fragmented, which has a seriously negative effect on the system's performance. The Master File Table (MFT), which stores information about every file on the drive, would also become fragmented. This has such a bad effect on drive performance that NTFS reserves the disk space immediately following the MFT so that it can expand. The default size of this MFT is 12.5% of the drive space, which is usually far too much. This reserved area constitutes part of the free disk space. Windows starts to use this space for files when it has filled up the rest of the drive. But when the C: drive gets nearly full, the MFT itself starts to become fragmented.

The large amount of space reserved for the MFT area on the drive increases general fragmentation. For example, if 20% of the drive is free space and 12.5% is reserved for the MFT area, Windows will place new files in the remaining 8% of the drive, which then becomes fragmented as the files grow, because the original space a particular file was saved in is too small to hold it if it grows, and Windows splits it up (fragments it).

Windows 98/Me/XP cannot change partition sizes without destroying the data, but third-party software, such as Partition Magic can change the size of partitions without destroying the data. You have to purchase Partition Magic, but you can obtain free alternatives, such as:

Partition Logic - "Free under a GNU general public licence. It can create, delete, format, defragment, resize, and move partitions and modify their attributes. It can copy entire hard disks from one to another. - It's basically intended to duplicate the work of commercial programs such as Partition Magic, Norton Ghost, Drive Image, or BootItNG. It works from a bootable floppy or CD, under it's own operating system." -

If you can't get Partition Logic to work, Paragon Hard Disk Manager is often provided free on the cover DVDs of computer magazines. You have to register it. Version 8.5 Special Edition was free on issue 165 of PC Pro magazine (available in May 2008, but called the July 2008 issue). It can resize partitions without losing data, redistribute free disk space, create and delete partitions, etc. I tried it and it works very well. It can also create a recovery CD/DVD and make backups.

Note well that with partition-resizing utilities there is always the danger that a system error or a power glitch may prevent the program from doing what you want of it, thereby damaging the setup to the point where it becomes inaccessible. For that reason, only attempt to resize a partition after you have made a complete backup of the drive.

Alternatively, paid-for imaging utilities such as Acronis True Image or Norton Ghost can be used to copy the partition, and then, after verifying the copy, can delete the partition. You can then recreate the partition to occupy a the size that you want when using the utility to restore the data.

Moreover, the hidden restore points that System Restore creates can take up quite a lot of space. You can reduce this if you right-click My Computer, choose Properties and open System Restore. Windows makes System Restore enabled for all of the drives, but you should only have the C: drive enabled to use it. You can reduce the amount of reserved space by clicking the Settings button. There is a slider that can be moved between Min. and Max. The Windows virtual memory swap or paging file, which defaults to the C: drive, can also be large. Temporary files can take up another large amount of disk space, especially if you don't clean them out regularly by using a cleaning utility or by right-clicking on the drive in My Computer, clicking Properties, and running Disk Cleanup.

If the C: partition is nearly full, you must have a lot of data on it, so, if you don't want to do any of that, you could move a substantial amount of it to the D: drive.

The best option is to move as much of the data files to the D: drive. However, by default Windows XP places data under the Documents and Settings folder, which, by default, is on the C: drive. Moving the whole of the Documents and Settings folder is not a good idea, because too many badly written programs may expect to find it on the C: drive. But if one application is responsible for a large part of the data, you could make just that application store its data on the D: drive.

Fortunately, moving just the My Documents folder to the D: drive is a simple matter. To do that, right-click on the My Documents icon (on the desktop or in the Start menu) and choose Properties. This window shows the current location and has a Move button. Click on Move, navigate to the D: drive, and click the Make New Folder button to create your folder. Call it something like Michael's Documents, (where Michael is your name), and click OK to return to the Properties window of My Documents. When you click Apply, it will move your existing documents to the new folder. When you have your data spread as evenly as possible on the two drives, you should defragment the C: drive. You can use the Disk Defragmenter under All Programs =>" Accessories =>" System Tools in Windows XP, and you can also use free Sysinternals utility called PageDefrag which can defragment the Windows virtual memory swap file and the Registry. Sysinternals was an independent organisation but it is now owned by Microsoft. Visit for the great free utilities.

Alternatively, Diskeeper from is an excellent program.

System imaging: Are there any problems or issues involved when you restore a backup image of a Windows XP/Vista system to a new hard disk drive or to a new PC?


I use Image for Windows from to create an image my desktop and laptop PC's hard drive's primary partition on a regular basis. The desktop PC runs Windows XP Professional and the laptop runs Windows Vista Business. However, I have wondered if the restoration would work if I had to restore an image after a hard drive failure. I know that Windows requires to be reactivated if sufficient changes to the hardware have been made. So, what is the situation with regard to Product Activation if you replace a defunct or lost hard drive with a new one of a different size made by a different manufacturer? And what is the situation in this regard if you have to buy a new desktop of laptop PC because the one the backup image was taken from was destroyed by fire or stolen?


If your desktop or laptop PC's hard disk drive died and you installed new drive and then restored a backup image of the entire system to it, you wouldn't have to reactivate Windows XP/Windows Vista, because changing the hard drive doesn't produce enough 'votes' to make that necessary. Read the Product Activation page on this site for more information on how much hardware would have to be changed to make reactivation necessary.

As long as the primary partition of the new hard drive is formatted and your PC's BIOS is set so that the CD/DVD drive is the first boot device, you should have no problems booting from a CD/DVD and restoring the image of the system.

If the new hard drive is very different from the old one, Windows XP might inform you that it has detected new hardware and then ask you to reboot once. However, if the hard drive is very similar to the original drive, you may not even have to reboot after Windows XP installs the new hardware.

However, the situation is somewhat different if you have to restore the image to a new PC.

Unless the new motherboard in the new PC is of the same make and model as the old one, all of device drivers for the new motherboard will be different from the one that was in the old PC. Moreover, the new PC will have a copy of Windows XP installed on it already, so, when you restore the image, it will restore the copy of Windows that was on the dead or missing hard disk drive.

Microsoft's policy is that a change of motherboard in a PC means that the computer is effectively a new computer and consequently has to be reactivated. This is also the position with a new PC.

The Q&A How can I replace the motherboard in my PC without having to reinstall Windows XP? goes into the considerations involved in doing that.

Note well that if it is an OEM version of Windows XP or Windows Vista, it isn't possible to restore it to a new PC, because you can't restore an OEM copy of Windows to a new PC; it has to be installed on the PC it was supplied with. You have to have the boxed, retail version of XP/Vista installed to reactivate it on a different PC, and you can only do that if that copy of Windows is removed from the first PC, because one retail copy can only be installed on one PC at a time. But you can restore an image of an OEM copy of Windows to a new PC if the new PC came with a Windows XP/Vista installation CD/DVD that can be an OEM version or a retail version for the following reason.

Because of hardware changes that the imaged copy of Windows XP/Vista will detect, the new PC will probably not boot after you restore the image, so you would have to perform a repair installation of Windows XP/Vista on top of your image. Therefore, you must have a Windows XP/Vista installation CD/DVD that came with the new PC, not the kind of Recovery CD/DVD that brand-name PC manufacturers often supply instead of a Windows XP/Vista CD/DVD (Windows XP comes on a CD, not a DVD; Windows Vista comes on a DVD).

You would use the new Windows XP/Vista CD/DVD and its Product Key to perform the repair installation.

After you have done that, your new PC will be using the copy of Windows XP/Vista it came with, and have all of the software and data that the old PC had.

Visit the Recovering Windows XP and Recovering Windows Vista and Recovering Windows 7 sections of this website to find out how to perform a repair installation in those versions of Windows.

Why does my PC/computer work so slowly for about 30 seconds after it has come back to life after activating a screensaver and turning off the monitor?


I have my computer running Windows XP set up so that a screensaver activates after 10 minutes and the monitor turns off after 45 minutes. The two SATA hard disk drives are not set to power down under Power Options in the Control Panel. The problem is that every time I move the mouse or strike a key to reactivate the PC, it's really slow for about 30 seconds. Even something as simple as opening the Start menu takes about 15 seconds. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find out what the cause is.


Most PCs have power-saving settings enabled from within Windows itself and in the BIOS setup program. Your problem appears to be caused by a hard-drive power-up delay. You say that the hard drives are not set to power down (turn off) after a set period of disk inactivity under Power Options in XP's Control Panel, but there is probably a setting in the BIOS that is enabled to power down the hard drives. I suggest you enter your system's BIOS setup program at startup and look at the power-saving settings. The key(s) you have to press are provided on the first startup screen to enter SETUP - if the computer's logo is not set to present itself instead. The entry key(s) differ between computer manufacturers. Many computers provide instructions on how to enter the BIOS when the logo appears. Your computer's user manual should provide instructions on how to enter its BIOS.

Visit the BIOS section of this website for detailed information on it.

Although recent computers avoid problems caused when Windows and the BIOS are both set to control the power-saving settings, it's a good idea to set either Windows or the BIOS to control them - but not both of them. Windows XP can handle most power-saving tasks on its own, so try disabling all of the power settings in the BIOS, and just set Windows to shut down the hard drives. It is beneficial for a hard drive to turn off after a set period of inactivity, because it saves electricity and wear and tear on the drive's bearings. To avoid annoying delays, move the mouse or press a key on the keyboard as soon as you get back to your desk. Doing that starts the reactivation process. By the time you are settled in your chair, the system will be awake again. The spin-up delays might still be present to a small degree, but not annoyingly so.

However, the boot hard drive may itself be the cause of the problem, because it might be wearing out. Natural wear, or a failure of the drive's lubricant (hard drives are mechanical devices), can lead to a high level of friction that makes the drive slower than is normal to attain normal running speed. You could check your drive's S.M.A.R.T. data to find out if it is still within acceptable limits. It is possible to run software that interprets the data produced by the S.M.A.R.T. software.

Click here! to go to information on S.M.A.R.T. on this site.

The problem is unlikely to be caused by the APM (Advanced Power Management), or ACPI (Advanced Power Control Interface) systems used by Windows to control power, but, just in case that is not the case, click the following link to go to some relevant information:

How can I install an SATA hard drive on my computer running Windows 98 SE?


I am finding conflicting reports about installing Windows 98 SE on a new SATA hard drive. Some tech sites I've found with Google say that it can't be done, while others say that it can. Does anyone have the bottom line on this issue and any suggestions on how to do it if it will work? This will be my first attempt at building a new PC, so I sure don't want to purchase the wrong type of drive, because Windows 98 SE is the only operating system that I will consider.


It is not possible to install an SATA hard drive in Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98 SE, and Windows Me unless the drive or drives are running in IDE emulation mode. Download the user manual for the drive from its manufacturer's site, which you can find by entering its make in a search engine. It will tell you how to use the drive in IDE emulation mode.

What is the maximum partition size for FAT32 hard drives?


An hour's worth of uploaded AVI video from my digital camcorder consumes about 13GB of disk space. I have a 160GB drive with a 117GB partition that contains about nine hours of video files and only 400MB of free space, so I bought a 250MB hard drive to replace the 160GB drive as the master drive. I want to use the 160GB dive as a slave storage drive and have the new drive using the largest partition that it can support. My PC dual-boots Windows Me and Windows XP, so I am using FAT32 for compatibility. So far, I haven't had any problems with the 117GB partition on the 160GB drive. However, I've read that a partition formatted as FAT32 shouldn't be larger than 64GB. If having a FAT32 partition greater than 64GB is likely to cause problems, I need to partition the new drive. Why is 64GB recommended the limit if I am already using a 117GB partition successfully?


The FAT32 file system divides the hard disk space into clusters. The limit on a partition's size in FAT32 is the product of the maximum cluster size and the maximum number of clusters. On small drives less than 8GB, FAT32 uses 4KB clusters (eight sectors). For drives higher than 8GB but less than 16GB, FAT32 uses 8KB clusters (16 sectors). For drives that are over 16GB but less than 32GB, FAT32 uses 16KB clusters (32 sectors). For file systems over 32GB in Windows Me, the cluster size is 32KB (64 sectors). The theoretical maximum cluster size is 64KB (128 sectors). However, many programs assume that a cluster won't ever be larger than 32KB. Indeed, Microsoft recommends and only supports a maximum cluster size of 32KB.

Small clusters are more efficient at storing files. If a small file of just a few hundred bytes long is stored, as most files on most Windows systems are, the file system has to allocate a whole cluster to the file. Therefore many large clusters containing small files waste disk space. But the more clusters there are, the larger the File Allocation Table (FAT), which indexes the clusters, has to be. It uses 32 bytes to index each cluster. By increasing the cluster size, FAT32 limits the maximum number of clusters to about two million. This gives each File Allocation Table (FAT) a maximum size of 64MB.

Microsoft has stated that FAT32 supports drives of up to two terabytes in size (2048GB), but this is a theoretical limit because there aren't any drives that large to test it on. Indeed, long after FAT32 was introduced in Windows 95 OSR2, most computers only supported IDE hard drives of less than 8GB and the IDE hard-drive specification itself only supported addressing drives less than 128GB. Windows XP will not allow you to format a FAT32 partition larger than 32GB, although Windows 98 can format volumes of up to 127.53GB. This limits the maximum number of clusters to 4,177,918. Windows Me and third-party utilities can format larger FAT32 volumes. So, you must have the 117GB partition on a Windows Me hard drive. If you format a 250GB drive with a single FAT32 partition, you will end up with about eight million clusters and each File Allocation Table (FAT) will itself occupy 256MB.

However, many programs provided by Windows 95/98 amd Windows Me, such as ScanDisk and the Disk Defragmenter, need to read the entire File Allocation Table (FAT) into RAM memory, and they may run out of memory with such a large one. Worse still, if the programmer assumed there would never be more than 4,177,918 clusters, as Microsoft has stated, programs can start overwriting data. There are cases where ScanDisk crashed and corrupted the drive when accessing very large FAT32 drives. On examination, parts of the FAT had been overwritten by data that should have been elsewhere in the FAT. Such crashes are likely to occur when using FAT32 partitions larger than 128GB. To be safe, you should stick to a maximum of 64GB.

Of course, it is also possible the crashes were caused by third-party formatting utilities that have broken Microsoft's recommendations. For example, they may format partitions larger than 63GB by using a 64KB cluster size. It's advisable that you don't format any FAT32 partition with a cluster size larger than 32KB (64 sectors), and don't exceed 4,177,918 clusters. This gives a maximum partition size of just under 128GB. It is safer to stick to a maximum of just under 64GB.

In any case, you should note that the FAT32 file system is unsuitable for storing large video files. You stated that an hour of your recorded video can occupies 13GB, but FAT32 has a maximum file size of just under 4GB. To store larger files, you must use the NTFS file system, and only Windows XP on your system can format a drive to NTFS.

Can I connect more than four IDE ATA hard drives to my PC?


I have six IDE hard drives that store films I can't bring myself to delete. Before DVD, I exported them to tape, but I would like a system that can access all of the drives. That way I can convert the films to DVD, or take various clips to make a compilation. Is there a system available that will take six hard drives?


IDE (also known as ATA or PATA) drives are not inherently hot-swappable, which means that without adding an expensive PCI IDE host controller adapter card you can't add IDE drives without switching the computer off first. Only SATA and FireWire serial devices can be hot-swapped. Most systems would also have problems if all of the drives powered up at the same time, because hard drives take their maximum current when the PC first powers up. SCSI hard drives, which are usually used in servers, have the ability to power up only when required by the server, which allows a server with many hard drives to power them up a few at a time. Unlike SCSI or SATA hard drives, the maximum IDE ribbon cable length of 18" does not allow them to be housed in an external case.

If you have a powerful power supply, you could place six IDE drives in a single computer. Check the maximum current on the +12V rail (or rails) against the startup current drawn by each drive to find out if it is possible. Note that some power supplies have two or more +12V rails to spread the load.

The maximum current of the +12V rail, or rails, is provided on the unit itself, and the start-up current of a particular drive should be supplied in the manual for that model on its manufacturer's site.

ATX motherboards are usually limited to four IDE devices, one or two of which will normally be CD or DVD drives. You could add a PCI Promise IDE card to support four more drives, but it would be difficult to fit all the drives, keep them supplied with sufficient power, and keep them cool, so it is not recommended.

You could use removable IDE drive trays to help slot drives into a PC as you needed them. Each drive fits into a protective caddy and that caddy then slots into a drawer in the front of the PC. However, the limitation is that for most of these trays, you have to turn the computer off to swap the drives. There are some expensive and hard­ to-find devices that add hot-swap capability, including the Vision BR-IDE35, which allows you to hot-swap five IDE drives, but this is mainly intended to build RAID arrays of hard drives. A network storage device could be used instead. These can accommodate one or two large hard drives and have to be accessed over a network, so are relatively slow.

I would recommend connecting the drives as external USB 2.0 or FireWire devices. These devices can be hot-swapped, but you must use the grey/green System Tray (Notification Area) icon the lists USB and serial devices to make it safe to remove them. To remove a serial device safely just click on the icon and select the device you want to remove. A message will come up saying that it's safe to remove the device.

The original USB 1.1 standard, with a maximum bandwidth of 12Mbits/s, was too slow for hard drives, but USB 2.0 is almost as fast as an internal IDE drive, offering a data transfer rate of 480Mbits/s. An IDE ATA 100 drive interface gives a maximum bandwidth of 100MB/s (800Mbits/s), which is nearly twice as fast, but it is sustained only for short periods. The sustained data transfer rate, which is limited by the rotational speed of the hard disk, is far less so you will notice little difference between USB 2.0 and IDE ATA 100.

You can buy cheap external USB 2.0 cases in which you can install your existing drives. The case will protect the drives from being knocked around, which is always a concern if you are swapping bare drives.

USB 2.0 cases range in price from L15 to L40. However, beware of some cheap external cases that claim to be USB2-compatible. These might be USB1.1 devices, which are still compatible, but are much slower.

A faulty Fujitsu hard disk drive


When his Fujitsu hard disk drive packed in all of a sudden, a user remembered having read a story about the failure rate of a batch of Fujitsu drives with a faulty Cirrus Logic chip that were manufactured between 2000 and 2001. When he contacted Fujitsu-Siemens and provided the drive's serial number, he was told that his drive wasn't one of the faulty batch. The user therefore wants to know if there is a way of making sure of this, and, if he has no right of redress, what kind of software or recovery service would be most suitable for recovering the data from the drive.


Although Fujitsu hard drives are usually of a very high quality and consequently extremely reliable (as can happen occasionally with the best of manufacturers), drives with model numbers beginning with MPF3 and MPG3 made between June 2000 and October 2001 produced and continue to produce an abnormally high failure rate.

The fault is due to the failure of a Cirrus Logic chip on the drive's printer circuit board (PCB). Apparently, the chemical composition of the chip was changed and was then discovered to be unstable. Not all of the drives have failed at the same time. The first failures reported were for drives used in hot or humid conditions, or drives in brands of computer known to run hotter than others.

DTI Data Recovery expects the failure rate on the faulty drives to peak in the second half of 2004.


The expected life expectancy of a hard drive is about five years, and the survivors of this batch of faulty drives are already three years old. In any case, some hard drives fail before five years of use, while others are still going strong after ten or more years. Most of the manufacturers that used these drives in their computers have offered to replace them. They will fail eventually, probably before their fifth birthday, so anyone who has one is advised to replace it.

This kind of problem can be rectified with most makes of drive just by replacing its printed circuit board. This can be made more difficult because drives with the same model number can have different circuit boards. But, unfortunately, replacing the circuit board on these faulty Fujitsu drives is not an option, because, due to their design, they only work with the original circuit board.

Many companies that specialise in data recovery have had to develop special techniques in order to recover the data from these drives. DTI Data Recovery is able to use remote diagnostics which, believe it or not, can read data from the failed drive remotely so that it doesn't even have to be sent to the laboratory. This service, like most data recovery services, isn't cheap, and costs around £300.

If the user had anticipated a hard-drive failure and invested in a DVD writer, a stack of DVD-R, DVD+R or DVD+RW discs, a copy of Norton Ghost, and the time to create a restorable master image of the system and burn it to the disks, the cost would have been no more than about £25.

The Disk Defragmenter in Windows XP/Vista says that CHKDSK is scheduled to run but I can't make it run


When I attempted to run the Disk Defragmenter in Windows XP under Start => All Programs => Accessories => System Tools, a message came up that said: "Disk Defragmenter has detected that Chkdsk is scheduled to run on Volume C: Please run Chkdsk /f." When I entered cmd in the Start => Run box and entered chkdsk c: /f, another message came up that said: "The type of file system is NTFS. Cannot lock current drive. Chkdsk cannot run because the volume is in use by another process. Would you like to schedule the volume to be checked the next time the system restarts? Y/N." Entering Y didn't rectify the problem. The same thing still happened when I tried to use the Disk Defragmenter. [This problem can also occur in Windows Vista.]


I take it that Windows XP is installed on the C: drive, which would make it the boot drive.

Chkdsk is the hard-disk-drive diagnostic and repair utility in Windows XP. It is also present in Windows Vista.

How to perform disk error checking in Windows XP -

Vista CHKDSK -

The reason Chkdsk won't run from the Command Prompt (C:\>) is because when Windows is running it retains exclusive access to files that Chkdsk needs to use, therefore, since it is refused permission to use them, it can't run. It has to run before Windows loads. By pressing the Y key, you gave it permission to do so. The next time the computer is started, Chkdsk runs before Windows loads.

To find out if the C: drive is scheduled to be checked, open the Command Prompt and enter chkntfs c:. If the drive is 'dirty', you'll be told that it is. It should inform you that the drive is scheduled to be checked the next time the system is started up. You can find out what the different switches are for the command by entering chkntfs /? You can schedule the C: drive to be checked, or exclude a particular drive from being checked by Chkdsk.

If the C: drive isn't scheduled to be checked, enter chkntfs c: /c to schedule it to be checked during the next system start-up. Chkdsk will run if the drive is 'dirty' (requires error correction).

During the next boot, the start-up screen turns to a light blue. A message says that one of the computer's drives requires checking for errors. You can press a key to prevent the check from taking place, but you want it to take place, so don't press any key and the check will run.

If you don't have the light blue screen presenting itself, it's probably because a program with the file name Autochk.exe is missing. It should be in the Windows\System32 folder. If it isn't there, a virus could have removed it along with other critical Windows files. Obtaining the file from another computer running Windows XP or by asking the members of a computer forum to e-mail you a copy, and then copying it into the Windows\System32 folder, might solve the problem and allow Chkdsk to run.

You can also run Chkdsk from the Recovery Console. For more information on this site on how to do that, visit the Recovering Windows XP page and click the The Recovery Console link at the top of the page.

Apart from those actions, there is a key in the Windows Registry that you can check. Enter regedit in the Start => Run box. Click the + beside Hkey_Local_Machine and open System => CurrentControlSet => Control => Session Manager. Under Session Manager, if Chkdsk is scheduled to run, you should find a key called BootExecute, which should have a value called autocheck autochk *.

If the problem still exists, it is possible to remove the 'dirty' flag placed on the C: drive by running the chkntfs c: /d command at the Command Prompt, which is opened by entering cmd in the Start => Run box. It only removes the flag; it doesn't remove the reason why the flag is there. But removing the flag should allow you to run the Disk Defragmenter. However, note that running the Disk Defragmenter when there are problems with the C: drive is not advisable.

If none of these options solve the problem, reinstalling Windows XP over itself is probably the only way to fix it. See the Recovering Windows XP page on this site for information about doing that.

Erase a hard disk drive: How can I wipe personal information from a dead hard disk disk drive that I have to return to Dell?


I have a Dell Dimension desktop PC. Recently its hard disk drive died. I had it replaced by a technician under Dell's service plan, but no matter how hard I begged him to, he wouldn't take the old drive with him. I have to return the dead one to Dell within three weeks or I'll be charged for it. What's more, I had to restore a back-up I had of the system, because the technician only had to install the new drive. Perhaps it was just as well because it occurred to me that the drive contains all of my personal files. How can I wipe my personal information from the dead drive before I return it? - Because I tried and failed to install it as a slave drive to the new one.


Even if a hard disk drive has been repartitioned and reformatted, the data can be recovered. It data isn't wiped. The system's file system just removes all of its references to the data, which remains on the drive. As you probably know, it's possible to resurrect a dead hard disk drive and obtain the data stored on it. But addressing the problem depends on what's wrong with the drive. To make data difficult to recover, it has to be overwritten many times with just ones or zeros by drive-wiping software. But even doing that is not sufficient to wipe the drive clean, because it's still possible to recover data that has been overwritten many times. Therefore, if you want to make absolutely sure that the data is never recovered from a working drive, you would have to destroy it. However, since your drive is dead, you can't use wiping software. It's possible to reduce the readability of the data by a prolonged application of a very strong electromagnet to the drive, but you won't be able to find out how good a job it has done, and Dell will probably regard taking that kind of action as having caused damage to the drive, which Dell would probably want to return to its manufacturer for repairs. If the drive is physically damaged, Dell would probably charge you for it anyway.

If the hard drive contains information that you can't afford anyone to get hold of, the best solution would be to physically destroy it. Open the drive and use a hammer and smash it to smithereens. Make sure that the platter(s) that hold the data are well and truly destroyed.

The best and most secure way to wipe the data from an SSD or hard disk drive

Unfortunately, testing has shown that using a software tool to overwrite a hard disk drive or solid state drive (SSD) is unreliable, leaving some data intact and therefore accessible. This is bad news to the computer users whose personal information needs to be kept private and out of the hands of cyber criminals, requiring it to be irrecoverably wiped if they want to sell or give away their computers to the third world or even send them to recycling plants...

Click here! to read the rest of this article on this website.

Is it possible to run a program (an .exe file) or Windows XP/Vista from an external USB hard disk drive or flash drive/memory stick?


Is it OK to run a program - an .exe file - from an external USB hard disk drive? I've read some reports that say that it's fine to do that while other reports don't recommend it. And is it possible to run Windows XP or Windows Vistafrom an external hard disk drive or a flash drive/memory stick?


It depends on the executable .exe file. If it's a standalone file that doesn't have or need supporting files, such as a .dll files, etc., then it can be executed safely. Many .exe files require companion .dll files in order to run, so you would have to have the supporting files installed with the .exe file. It is much like an HTML webpage that is built up by the browser using CSS code that is contained in an external .css text file. If only the HTML file (.htm webpage) is on an external drive, but the .css file is not, when run in browser, the page cannot access the code that builds it.

Remember that the Windows Registry retains information on where a particular .exe file was run from, and would expect the file and its supporting files to be located on the drive letter that the external USB hard drive was allocated. Moving the .exe file to another drive - even though it is a standalone file that requires no supporting files - would probably confuse Windows.

True standalone .exe files are fine. There are a great number of such files made for, say, flash drives. They are self-sufficient and don't require companion files. I have over fifty favourite standalone .exe files on a flash drive. The drive letter the flash drive is allocated by Windows differs on nearly every computer that I plug it into, but the files all run properly.

In fact, it is possible to run entire portable application programs from a flash drive. You can use them to work from any computer that has a USB port, save the files to your own application programs on the flash drive, and then save any documents you create to your main computer. At you can download portable flash-drive versions of many office and multimedia applications - email clients, browsers, Open Office, Winamp, FTP programs, HTML editors, Instant Message (IM) programs, and personal management calendars are available. With the new U3 standard, it is even easier to use a flash drive as a portable computer.

Booting Windows XP or a system rescue setup from a USB flash drive

Windows XP and Windows Vista do not support booting from external hard disk, and it is likely to stay that way, because making Windows boot from an external drive would make it easy to pirate the operating system, since it would be independent of the computer and could be moved from one machine to another, when the licence only allows a copy to be used on one machine.

To boot from a drive, it must have a Master Boot Record (MBR), which Microsoft does not allow on an external drive. However, all distributions of the Linux operating system are open-source software that is free to download from its developer's website. For example, booting from Ubuntu Linux installed on external USB hard drives is possible, and the procedure involved is straightforward. However, the computer's BIOS must support booting from a USB device. If you burn and ISO file of Ubuntu to a CD/DVD, you can also boot the system from it, which, under normal circumstances, is not possible with any version of Windows.

As yet, under normal circumstances, it is therefore also not possible to boot a full version of Windows from a USB flash drive.

That said, as might be expected, computer experts have found a workaround...

An ideal way of recovering Windows XP would be if you could run a complete copy of it from a USB flash drive. The following free tutorial tells you how to do it. The webpage says that only Windows XP SP1 and SP2 are supported; there is no reference to SP3.

"WinUSB is a tutorial which allows the user to run a complete Windows XP version on an USB device/stick. This tutorial is some kind of manual which you have to follow, in order to let your modified Windows XP run on your USB device. Therefore, you have to regard some requirerments which are also important to the avoidance of any infringment of the copyright of Microsoft. You only have to click on the tutorial menu-button in order to read more...

"Copyright advice: The following tutorial requires a valid licensed copy of Windows XP. Microsoft does not authorize the owners of Windows XP licences to run the licensed Windows version on more than one computer at a time. The registration of Windows XP also prevents running Windows XP on multiple systems. Due to that, you are allowed to use your licensed copy of Windows XP on only one computer. That does not prevent the use of WinUSB on another computer after shutting down the first system." -

If you have a flash drive that is bootable (some but not all of them are), it is easy to boot to a recovery system - a 'preinstalled environment', such as BartPE - from one. You can add all kinds utilities to it that are able to diagnose hardware problems and/or aid in the recovery of a system. The following articles tell you exactly how to do it, including how to format a bootable flash drive. Note that not all motherboard BIOS setup programs, especially the older ones, support booting from the USB interface. If the BIOS doesn't support it, then you can't use a USB drive of any kind to boot the system, but if it is supported, the option to enable such a system boot exists in the BIOS. However, even though the BIOS supports booting from a USB drive, there may be other incompatibilities that prevent it from being possible. The following two articles go into the details in depth.

Windows In Your Pocket -

"All it takes is a minor error in the Windows Registry or a virus infection, and your operating system can become unbootable. But with a properly configured USB flash drive on hand, you'll always have a compatible replacement no further away than your pocket or keychain. In addition, the flash drive can also provide a secure browser and virus scanner, and lets you take your favorite DVD burning and Office software with you wherever you may go. All that's needed is a bootable USB Flash drive with at least 256 MB of storage capacity and a Windows Setup CD. Using the program Bart PE Builder (Freeware), you can install Windows XP on the flash drive, along with other software as needed (and as available space permits)." -,review-1427.html

XP On Your Thumb Drive -

If you find the option to print the second Information Week article, you are provided with it on a single page that you can save to read instead of having to visit several pages.

It is also possible to boot some versions of Linux from a flash drive.

More information on how to do that can be found by using a search query, such as linux bootable usb, in a search engine.

Click here! to go to information on USB flash drives on this website.

My computer's BIOS setup program won't recognise a second IDE PATA hard disk drive


My ageing computer is running Windows XP with the SP3 update installed. It came with an IDE PATA 40GB Maxtor DiamondPlus (ATA/UDMA 133) hard disk drive. I added an 80GB Maxtor DiamondPlus drive as a slave on the same IDE PATA cable, but the BIOS doesn't detect the new drive. The drive itself is functioning because I formatted it using the Disk Management feature in Windows XP, and if I remove the master drive and put the new drive on to the master cable connector, the BIOS detects it correctly. However, when I connect it to the slave cable connector, it does not. I tried another 80-conductor IDE cable, purchased new, but it makes no difference.


If the cable is sound and the drives are connected to the power supply and the motherboard correctly, the most likely cause is incorrect jumper settings on the new hard drive. Your computer will use the 80-conductor IDE cables, the connectors of which which are colour-coded. Unless you enable the Cable Select option by having the jumper set to enable it, in order to work on the same cable, one drive has to be set as the master and the other as the slave. Most recent drives come with their jumper set to Cable Select, which should automatically make the drive at the end of the cable the master and the one on the middle connector the slave.

However, this only works if the cable and the motherboard support this feature, and you have to have plugged the correct end of the cable (usually with a blue connector) into the motherboard. The other two connectors on the cable are connected to the drives. The master drive has to be on the other end and the slave drive has to be connected to the middle connector. On older systems, which come with old-style 40-conductor IDE cables (which can only be used on ATA/UDMA 33 hard drives, not ATA/UDMA 66/100/133 drives), few computers supported Cable Select. Now most 80-conductor IDE cables and the motherboards designed for use with them support Cable Select. But sometimes this does not work. If it does not seem to be working, change the jumpers on both drives to configure one drive as the master and the other as the slave. When you use jumpers to select the master and slave settings, it does not matter which drive is plugged into the end connector or the middle connector, because the operating system knows from the setting that it is the master or the slave drive.

Note that on some IDE PATA hard disk drives, including most Western Digital drives, the jumper setting for a master with a slave attached differs from the jumper setting for a master drive on its own. Most drives have a diagram on the drive itself that shows which pins have to be jumpered (connected by a jumper) to enable the different settings, but if there is no diagram on a drive, you should be able to download the user manual for that model from its manufacturer's site. It will have illustrated information on the settings.

Visit this Build Your Own PC page on this website for an illustrated example.

Using a disk partitioning program to partition my PC's hard disk drive made my PC reboot constantly


I low-level formatted an 80GB Maxtor hard drive by using the utility from Maxtor's site. I formatted the whole drive as an NTFS volume and installed Windows XP Professional. I installed all of my programs, set up the broadband and downloaded the latest updates from Microsoft's site. To partition the hard drive, I was going to use Partition Magic 6, but discovered that it has problems with NTFS and Windows XP, so I used Partition Manager 2000 that came on the cover disc of a PC magazine.

I created three partitions. When I was finished the program told me to reboot. The PC then went into a continuous reboot loop that I couldn't break out of. I tried going into Safe Mode, but it rebooted again before getting that far. Then I noticed that the Partition Manager 2000 disc had some ticks by Windows 95, 98, NT and 2000, but an X by Windows XP. Unfortunately, I wasn't warned that Windows XP wasn't supported when I tried to run the program. Is there any way to rescue the installation, because it would be a pain going through the whole installation process again?


The best method is to remove the existing partitions and recreate new ones. But that involves destroying the data on the partitions. I don't recommend repartitioning hard disks in the way that you did, because it can cause serious problems. For example, resized partitions may not be optimised in the way that a freshly created partition would be. Moreover, it is essential to use utilities designed for the operating systems and drive sizes that you have. It is unlikely that even a two-year-old copy of any partition manager would be reliable on today's large drives. For a start, many of the older utilities have a 128GB limit, and no partition manager can work while Windows is using the drive, so they all have to boot the PC from their own operating system in order to perform the repartitioning. They make changes to the system that can screw things up if the process is interrupted, as in your case, which happened because the utility does not support Windows XP.

I would try booting from the Windows XP installation CD (if you have one), and run the Recovery Console to find out if it can see the C: partition. If it can, try entering the following commands in the following order: diskpart, chkdsk c:, fixmbr, fixboot, and bootcfg /rebuild. Those commands should undo anything that Partition Manager 2000 messed up.

Click here! to go directly to information on the Recovery Console on this site if you don't know how to use it.

If those commands don't fix the problem, you'll have to boot from the Windows CD (with the CD/DVD drive set as the first boot device in the BIOS), and repartition the drive and format the C: drive. You can format the other partitions from within Windows XP after you've installed it by entering diskmgmt.msc in the Start =>" Run box.

Microsoft has been making it more difficult to back up a working installation of Windows with every new version from Windows 95 to Windows XP. A third-party utility is required to create restorable master images of the system. When you have all of your programs installed, you can use a program such as Acronis True Image to make an image of the C: drive.

Note that available in these versions of Windows Vista - Windows Vista Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions - Complete PC Backup and Restore allows a user to create a restorable image of a hard drive's partitions in case they need to be restored, in the same way as third-party tools. In Windows 7 the backup program is called Backup and Restore and it can also create a system image along with a standard folder/file backup.

After a system image has been created, you can use the Repair Disc, a boot disc that is created within Windows Vista/Win7 to restore an image at startup. However, note that you cannot restore individual files, folders or settings from a system image. That can only be done from a standard folder/file backup.

I cannot boot Windows XP on one old hard disk drive or access the data files on another old hard disk drive installed in my PC/computer


Recently my desktop PC's motherboard died. I installed a new motherboard, an empty hard disk drive and a fresh copy of Windows XP Professional. It all worked fine until I tried to access the old hard drives. Firstly, I cannot access my old Windows XP Pro installation when the hard drive is in an external USB case. When I attempt to gain access to My documents I get an access denied error message. Secondly, the new motherboard informs me when I try boot the old hard disk drive that it is not configured properly and cannot boot. Is there any way around this problem? My other hard disk drive is only used for data. It could be formatted strangely because sometimes, whether in a computer or external USB case, I get told it is in an unrecognisable format or is not formatted, but I know this is not the case because I have accessed its 250GB plus of data often. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn't.

System: Asus A8V E SE (new motherboard), Asus A8N SLI Duluxe (dead motherboard), 300GB IDE hard drive, 200GB IDE hard drive (old install), 250GB SATA hard drive (new install), AMD Athlon 64 3800+ X2 dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM, Audigy sound card, Fusion TV card.


This MS Knowledge Base article should provide you with the information you require:

How to take ownership of a file or folder in Windows XP -

"This article describes how to take ownership of a file or a folder to which you are denied access. If you must access a file or a folder that you do not have rights to, you must take ownership of that file or folder. When you do this, you replace the security permissions that were originally created for the file or folder." -

Click here! to go to Page 1 of Hard Disk Drive Problems & Solutions

Click here! to go to the full list of hardware and software problems dealt with on this website

To the top of the page