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The Hard Disk
by: Pawan Bangar
The Hard Disk Guide ;
From throwing our unnecessary files, to defragmenting, from partitions to formats-learn how to keep your hard disk in top shape
The hard disk is the place where all your programs and data are stored. If the hard disk Stops working you could end up losing all your data. What we'll do here is take you on. A quick tour of the different things you need to know about it, so you can keep it working smoothly.
What is the hard disk?
The hard disk is a magnetic mass storage device installed in special bays within the system unit. The hard disk could do compared to a large cupboard having several shelves
With different items being neatly arranged and stored on each self. The hard disk stored all the data you need to store on your PC-the operating system (for example, Windows),
Software program (for example an office suit), business or household applications and data, games, e-mail message, address books and so on.
A hard disk off the assembly line is just a mass of magnetic media. The magnetic surface of the hard disk has to be structured into specific areas where data can be stored properly, a process known as formatting. When you buy a new computer, the system comes with a formatted hard disk.
A hard disk needs to be divided into partitions before it can be used. The hard disk on a newly purchased computer comes configured with a single large partitions, the primary partition (C: in My Computer) and an extended partition, which may be further subdivided into logical partitions (D: E: and so on in My Computer) if required. Partitioning makes the storage of data more efficient and reduces the access time to retrieve data.
The storage capacity of hard disk has increased by leaps and bounds since IBM XT's first 10 MB hard disk. Nowadays, 10GB is the entry level and 17 GB is common. The hard disk communicates with a PC's motherboard through an expansion card or a disk interface card.
How does it wok?
The disk is formatted to divide its magnetic surface into concentric circular paths called tracks (these are like the grooves on a phonograph record) and wedge-shaped slices called sectors. Data is stored in the form of a file or groups of disk sector called clusters. A disk drive locates data by moving its magnetic read-write head to specific track within a specific sector.
When a new file is created in a freshly formatted hard disk, it is assigned cluster numbers in a sequential order. If the file is expanded, then the first available clusters are assigned. When file is deleted, their cluster numbers are simply marked as available. Over course of time, when files grow in size to require additional cluster or are deleted, the perfectly ordered sequence of clusters gets disturbed, a process known as fragmentation.
Partitioning the hard disk
Partitioning divides a large hard disk into smaller virtual-not physical-hard disk or partitions, leading to an efficient utilization of space and boosting your PC's performance. Partitioning could be very useful in following circumstances:
1-One PC, several users-If several persons have to work on the same PC, partitions could be assigned for each of them so that each person has his or her own "working space." This could be useful in home setting too, where you could have separate partitions for your spouse, children's games, business applications and data and so on.
2-Work on multiple operating systems-You may want to work on more than one operating system on your PC, for example Win98, Linux and Windows95. (Maybe you have applications that work perfectly in Win95 but suddenly crashed in Win98). You can keep these various operating systems safely on the same hard disk by installing them in separate partitions.
Partitioning Tools There're several partitioning tools available for your hard drive. Two of the most popular ones are:
1-PartitionMagic Version 4.o for Windows95 and 98-Partition Magic, from Power Quest is a useful and powerful partitioning program. It effortlessly creates, moves, converts and resizes partitions on your hard disk without the necessity of reformatting the disk of erasing valuable data.
2-FDISK- is a freely available partitioning utility that runs in the DOS environment. Its greatest UPS is that it is available for free. It is cumbersome to use and also requires formatting of the hard disk (perhaps its biggest drawback).
Formatting a hard disk
As with most mechanical devices, prolonged use of the hard disk results in inevitable wear and tear and malfunction. Repeated adding and deleting of files takes its toll on the hard disk and you may get disk error, including the notorious "fatal error" of Windows. This is an indication that you may need to re-format your hard disk to have it working properly again.
However, before deciding to re-format the disk it may be worthwhile to try out other alternative-
1-Run Disk Defragmenter
2-Use a cleanup shareware programs such asregclean.exe, available for download.
However, if after trying out these alternatives, you continue to get fatal error message, then you probably need to format your hard disk.
The procedure of formatting is simple enough but has to be done carefully. When you format the hard disk, all the data on the disk is lost-Windows operating system, software programs, business applications data, games, e-mails messages. In short everything.
How to do the formatting
1- Double-click on My Computer icon. Then click the icon for the drive you want to format. (e. g. C:)
2- On the File menu, click Format and follow the instructions.
Remember that you can not format a disk if there are files open on that disk. If the disk has been compressed, use Drivespace or other compression to format the disk.
1- Click Start, click Shutdown, click Restart, and then click on OK.
2- Press and hold the CTRL key until the Microsoft Windows 98 Startup Menu appears.
3- Select Command prompt only and press Enter.
4- At the C:prompt, type format C: and press ENTER.
5- Follow the instruction on the screen.
After formatting you're left with a blank hard disk with more space then before. The next step is to restore the programs you need on your disk.
1- First reinstall Windows and then application programs you use.
2- Restore your backups into appropriate files. If you use a Zip drive or a CD-writer, these need to be installed first.
3- Reinstall all drivers for the printer, modem or other peripherals.
Do the defrag
A file on your disk may not be stored all in one place or cluster. For example, if you create a Word document and make changes to it at a later date, the change may get saved in a different cluster from the original file. The more often you make changes to a file, the more disorganized the cluster becomes, and the disk becomes fragmented. This makes the magnetic head that reads and writes data to and from the disk, works harder to retrieve the entire file. Fragmentation of hard drive reduces the storage efficiency and then access time for retrieving information.
The process of defragging helps to rearrange the files and unused space on your hard disk so that programs run faster.
Before Defragging, it may be a good idea to check how much of your hard drive is fragmented. You can do this by running ScanDisk. Empty the temp folders and Recycle Bin before defragging.
Windows 95 and Windows 98-: Open the Start Menu, choose Programs, choose Accessories, and choose System Tools and click on Disk Defragmenter.
You defragging schedule will depend on how much you use the PC. A good rule of the thumb