Additional hard drives available

Recently I became concerned that the hard drive in my four year old computer might fail and I had not taken the trouble to backup the data and programs it contained.

My first thought was simply to add an additional internal hard drive. This would entail opening the machine, mechanically mounting the drive in a vacant slot, hooking the new drive to a cable and moving a jumper device to designate the drive as a “slave” to the existing drive. This would not be difficult for anyone familiar with the insides of a modern computer but might be daunting to others. However there was an easier solution.

Today there are available a number of hard drives that can be placed external to our machines and connected by means of a USB plug. I purchased such a drive on-line. It is called a Western Digital “My Book” and has an 80 gigabyte capacity. It sits on my desk, is connected to my computer with a USB cord and is powered from a small transformer plugged into a power strip.

The main drive on my machine has 160 gigabyte capacity but currently I am using only 29 gigabytes for all my programs and data. Therefore the 80 gigabyte capacity of the external drive is more than sufficient to backup my main drive. For users that might be backing up drives with lots of music or video files, My Book drives of 250 gigabyte capacity and larger are available starting at around $150, a bargain.

Connecting an external USB drive to a Windows XP machine couldn’t be easier. I connected the a.c. power to the drive, put the USB plug into my computer and Windows XP recognized the new drive and designated it as “My Book (F:)” It is the new F: drive on my computer. (I have two dvd drives called D: and E: already installed.)

I did one other thing to prepare my new F: drive for use as a backup drive. This step is a bit technical which you might want to skip, but the drive came from the manufacturer formatted as a “Fat 32” drive. This limits individual file sizes to four gigabytes each. To overcome this file size limitation, I reformatted the drive as a NTFS drive. This can be done in Windows XP by entering Windows Explorer, right clicking on the backup drive (F: on my machine), clicking on Format and selecting NTFS. Now large files can be placed on the drive without being broken up into four gigabyte segments.

I had already installed backup software from Acronis ( on my computer and was ready to try my new backup drive. I instructed Acronis to make a complete backup of my main drive and place it on my new F: drive. A few clicks of the mouse and the backup commenced. It took a few minutes but when finished I had a slightly compressed backup file of around 20 gigabytes on the new drive. It contained the entire contents of my main drive. Then I followed the instructions in Acronis and made a “rescue” compact disk and I was ready to reconstitute all my programs and data to a new main hard drive incase my current hard drive fails. I also make weekly “incremental” backup files of anything that has been changed in the last week, but I have explained this in prior columns. Now I sleep better at night.

There are many external hard drives as well as backup software available on-line. Research them for your own needs and you too may sleep better at night.

If you would like to hear more about the external hard drives, or other computer topics, visit “Coffee and Computers” at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. ‘C’ Street, any Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. Bring your questions or just come in and visit.

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.


Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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