Nov 18

So you’re still running Windows XP on an older PC but you’ve decided that you should move to Windows 7 soon. You’ve run Windows Upgrade Advisor to ensure your PC will run Windows 7 and your PC’s fine but your old hard drive of 3 or 4 years is only 80GB and you’re running short of disk space. Time for a fresh start with a new hard drive. High capacity (1TB) hard drives are cheap these days and they really aren’t that hard to fit. I’ll walk you through how I installed a new SATA hard drive in my PC.

The hard drive in my primary PC is a 4 year old Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 80GB ATA/133 hard drive and for quite some time I’ve been running with less than 10GB of free disk space. So I was never really able to test the Windows 7 beta or RC candidate. However I’ve blogged about the very favourable pre-release pricing of the full version of Windows 7 in the UK, so I preordered Windows 7 Home Premium from Amazon for £63.

I made a decision that I would do a clean install of Windows 7 on a new 1TB SATA hard drive and hold onto my old Maxtor drive with XP for a while – just in case. Then when I’m totally happy with Windows 7, I’ll reformat that old drive and use it for storage. Having said that, although that drive has performed faultlessly for about 4 years, I realise it is probably nearing the end of its life so I won’t rely on it for critical backups. I’ll make sure everything on it is backed up elsewhere as well.

Anyway, back to the hardware upgrade. Here’s how I went about it. Bearing in mind that I’ve never build a PC before and the most I’ve done in the past has been to add additional sticks of RAM, I found that installing a new hard drive wasn’t difficult at all and I’ve detailed the procedure here so you can follow the steps. I wanted a new SATA hard drive so I had to check first if the motherboard would support it. Luckily I had kept the manual for the motherboard (Biostar NF4-A9A) and it showed that 4 SATA connectors were present. As you can see, the L-shaped mounts ensure you can’t connect the SATA signal cable the wrong way round. Here’s a photo of what the 4 SATA connectors look like on the motherboard

SATA connectors

Remember that a hard drive needs two cables: a data or signal cable and a power cable. The old IDE ATA (or PATA) Maxtor hard drive has a 4-pin IDE or Molex power lead and a ribbon data lead. Here’s a photo of the two leads at the back of the hard drive – in the foreground the IDE power cable and on the far side the IDE data ribbon or cable.

Maxtor hard drive

So I ordered a new 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 hard drive and two cables. A SATA signal cable would run from the SATA connector on the motherboard to the new hard drive, replacing the ribbon data cable which the old ATA hard drive used. I would also need a new lead to connect the old 4-pin Molex power cable to the SATA drive. Here’s a photo of the SATA signal cable and below it, the IDE to SATA power cable connector. I chose one which splits to 2 SATA leads so that if need be in the future, I can power a second SATA device

SATA cables

Before fitting the new drive and installing Windows 7 on it, you will have to ensure that the PC will boot from the DVD drive. If you know it doesn’t, you will have to change the boot order in the BIOS. Here’s a helpful guide to changing the boot order.

I disconnected all the external cabling from the PC (making sure I knew how to reconnect all cables – this is where a digital camera comes in handy). I removed both sides of the PC case as I would have to undo the four screws securing the old hard drive in its bay. There are usually two screws on each side holding the drive in place. I earthed myself by touching the metal chassis of the PC case to prevent any static discharge to electronic components (you can also use an anti-static wrist band) then I disconnected both leads from the back of the old hard drive making a careful note how they were connected if I had to reinstall the old drive. Again, a quick photo with a digital camera really helps here. I unscrewed the four screws and slid out the old drive. Then I connected the SATA signal cable to the motherboard and to the back of the new drive and connected the IDE to SATA power cable to the old Molex plug and then to the power socket on the back of the new hard drive. I then slid the drive into place and remounted with the four screws. Here’s two photos of the new drive in place with the two new SATA cables labelled

Seagate drive 2 Seagate drive 1

Then I replaced the sides of the PC, reconnected the external cables and that’s it. Put your old hard drive away for safe keeping – you may need it again if there’s any problem, but hopefully after a few weeks with Windows 7 you’ll be confident enough to fit it in an external drive housing, reformat it and use it for storage.

So we’re ready to power up and install Windows 7 now. I’ll go through my Windows 7 installation on the new drive in the next post.


Nov 14
10 top tech blogs to follow
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Tech blogs | icon4 November 14, 2009| icon33 Comments »

Having blogged for just over a year now, I never cease to be amazed at the time and effort some bloggers put in to produce tech posts which patiently detail a how-to or compile a list of great web apps, and on top of that, the blogger’s ability to post on a regular basis, very often in their spare time. I’d like to list a few of the best tech blogs I’ve found, not blogs passing on daily tech news, but those putting in a great effort to compile tech how-tos and walk-throughs or review and compare a number of web applications, clearly written and with great illustrations. These blogs are all great for the tech novice, and advanced users will find lots of interest in them too.

Hongkiat.com

Hongkiat

Covering blogging, web design, photography, list posts, tips and how-tos all with a great layout. Well worth checking out. And with all of these blogs, be sure to check out their archives too.

Giggle Computer

Giggle

I only came across this tech blog recently, I think through a link in a tweet, and I’m glad I did. Take a look through the archive and look at the range of stuff covered. Great walk-throughs and list posts.

WebAppStorm

WebAppStorm

Nice looking blog with list posts, round-ups, how-tos and reviews – and a sister site MacAppStorm.

Knowliz

Knowliz

Roundups, and how-tos covering Windows, Ubuntu, etc. I’ve bookmarked many posts on this site.

Technically Personal

Technically Personal

Raju started this blog about the same time as I started mine and is clearly doing a great job. List posts, news, tips, tricks, and tweaks, how to watch online content for free, etc. And he posts at least once a day. Check it out!

Dedoimedo

Dedoimedo

A real gem here. Just look at the range of articles on the home page – Linux, Windows, web applications, games, physics. A lot of effort put into each post and a wealth of information to read. Bookmark this site.

Smashing Apps

SmashingApps

List posts covering web design, web apps, tech, photography, and social media. Again a great back catalogue of posts to work through.

Tux Radar

TuxRadar

Very good Linux blog for beginners and advanced users alike. Walk-throughs, reviews and round-ups. Published by Future Publishing, publishers of Linux Format magazine, for me the best Linux magazine.

MakeTechEasier

MakeTechEasier

Covers tech cross-platform, and explains it in an uncomplicated fashion. Tech tips, reviews, walk-throughs and occasional list posts.

1stWebDesigner

1stWebDesigner

Lots of list posts for bloggers, web designers and developers. Ten out of ten for effort!

So that’s just 10 of the top tech blogs I’ve come across and I’m sure there are other great examples out there. I haven’t included the big ones like Lifehacker, MakeUseOf and ghacks which I’m sure you already know of. If you have any you really like – particularly those dealing with web apps, tech how-tos, blogs that pack lots of useful info, drop a comment below.


Nov 3
Quick tip: Where is it?
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Life | icon4 November 3, 2009| icon33 Comments »

frustration

Now that I’m the wrong side of 50, I’m finding it’s real easy to forget where I’ve put things for safe keeping. I’m reasonably organized and so long as I put things back where I expect them to be, everything is fine. Problem is when I haven’t needed something for 6 months or more, you try the places where you think it might be, and if you draw a blank, then you’re stuck. I hate that. In fact, there are few things worse than wasting time hunting around for lost items, searching the same places over and over again till eventually you track it down, if you’re lucky.

For quite a few years now I’ve been using a personal information manager called InfoMagic to keep note of things I need to remember – contact details, lists, when the car needs its next service, shop opening hours, when I planted out vegetables in the garden, how long it takes to drive to various places, etc. It’s a free form organizer and the data are stored in RTF files so there’s no problem getting the data out again if necessary. The program hasn’t been updated in years, but it doesn’t need to be – one of its key features is its simplicity.

In one of its folders I have a document which I’ve just called Where. In it I put information on where I’ve stored important things I don’t need all that often – the things I know I probably won’t remember where they are in a few months time. I just enter the name of the item and where it’s located. I’ve divided my document into subsections: electronic stuff, books and magazines, household, etc. but this is not absolutely necessary as the data are searchable. If you store stuff in boxes in the basement or loft, you could label them Box 1, Box 2, etc. and detail the contents of each box in this Where document. That way you won’t have to dig through the boxes in your search.

Of course you don’t have to use InfoMagic. There are numerous free searchable notebook applications out there, like for example Evernote and Springpad, both of which are searchable.

The one downside of course is that you have to be pretty conscientious about updating the Where document, particularly when you change your mind where you want to store something. Not much point in having it if it points you in the wrong direction.

So how do you keep track of important things? Drop a comment below.


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