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THE CUTTING EDGE / PERSONAL TECHNOLOGY | PC FOCUS

It's Easy to Add Disk Space or a Little Zip

April 27, 1998|LAWRENCE J. MAGID

Hard disks on new PCs are like closets in new homes. When you first move in, there's a ton of empty space. But after you've lived there awhile, you start to feel cramped.

A first line of defense should be to delete unnecessary files, but if that doesn't do the trick, it makes sense to remodel, or in this case, add a second hard drive.

Installing a second hard drive is relatively easy if you're comfortable with taking apart your machine, mounting the new drive in the case, connecting cables to the motherboard and PC power supply, and using software to format the new drive. You may also have to move little pin connectors (called "jumpers") on one or both drives. If the prospect of tinkering inside your machine makes you squeamish, a technician will do the job for about $50.

Most Windows PCs use the IDE (integrated drive electronics) interface for their hard drive and CD-ROM drive. IDE is relatively cheap and fast enough for all but the most demanding power users.

Some PCs and most Macs have SCSI (small computer system interface, pronounced "scuzzy") ports for hard drives, drives, scanners and other peripherals. SCSI drives tend to be a bit more expensive but a little faster and easier to install than IDE drives.

A third option is to get an external storage system that plugs into a PC's parallel (printer) port. Parallel port drives are slower than the other options but are much easier to install.

IDE drives connect to the PC through a cable that attaches to the system board. The drive itself is physically attached to the PC's case in what is called a drive bay.

Up to two devices can be connected to an IDE connector, and most PCs have two IDE connectors. One connector is probably already used for the existing hard drive and the other for the CD-ROM drive, but you can still add up to two IDE drives.

If you add a second drive, the easiest strategy is to keep your current drive as your C drive and make the new one your D drive. That way you can leave Windows and all your existing applications right where they are and start adding new programs and data files to the new drive.

Prices change all the time, but currently you can get a 4.3-gigabyte IDE drive for less than $250 or a whopping 8.4-gigabyte drive for as little as $300.

While a second internal drive may be economical, many users do better with a drive that accepts removable cartridges, which offer unlimited capacity because you can keep buying more cartridges. They're also great for backup because you can store them off-site.

Iomega's Zip drive is popular because it is relatively inexpensive and the external models are easy to install. You can buy an internal IDE version for $99 or an external parallel or SCSI version for about $149. Disks are only $14 each but hold a meager 100 megabytes.

And Zip disks run considerably slower than a hard drive, so you won't want to use them to run software. They're mainly used for backing up files or moving data from one machine to another.

Need something closer to a transportable walk-in closet? Iomega also makes the Jaz drive, which, depending on the version, stores either 1 or 2 gigabytes of data. Jaz drives are almost as fast as most hard drives, so you can use them for programs as well as data.

A 1-gigabyte internal Jaz drive will set you back about $299, although some online merchants are selling refurbished models for less than $200. Disks cost about $89 each. An internal 2-gigabyte Jaz costs about $550, with disks selling for about $169. External Jaz drives cost about $100 more.

All Jaz drives have a SCSI interface, which connects to both PCs and Macs. A SCSI card for a PC costs about $99. Iomega offers a $49 adapter that lets you plug a Jaz drive into the PC's parallel port, but that slows it down considerably, of course.

SyQuest, Iomega's chief competitor selling cartridge-style drives, offers some bargains. The 1-gigabyte SparQ (internal IDE and external parallel) costs $199, and cartridges are $39 each. The $299 SyJet (internal IDE and external SCSI) stores 1.5 gigabytes. Cartridges go for $79. SyQuest also offers a version of the SyJet that comes with a parallel port adapter.

All this may seem complicated, but it gets pretty easy once you decide what you want. By adding a hard drive or a removable storage system, you'll have a lot more room for programs and data and a fast way to back up your machine.

Unfortunately, your victory may be short-lived. Hard drives, like closets, abhor a vacuum. Sooner or later, all that empty disk space will again be just a memory. Fortunately, disk drives keep getting larger and cheaper.

You can e-mail Lawrence J. Magid at magid@latimes.com and visit his Web site at http://www.larrysworld.com. On AOL use keyword LarryMagid.

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