As I sit here looking out of the window at the falling snow while drinking a hot lemon flavoured cold and flu drink, I can't help feeling glad that Christmas is over. While I enjoy it as much as the next person, it is hard work and very expensive. Your whole routine is disrupted, you eat too much and drink too much. Then as soon as it's over, you have to go back to work :-( Personally I could do with a weeks holiday after Christmas so I can recover from it :-) Still, it's over now and you can take back those silly presents and swap them for what you really wanted, like some new memory simms, or a larger hard disk, or a new CD player, or what ever.

"OK", you say, "I've got this wonderful new piece of hardware what do I do with it? And no funny answers please"

No funny answers, well that limits me a bit. I suppose I'll just have to talk about.....

Spare Part Surgery

Last month I described the inside of your PC and where all the interesting parts could be found. This month I'll tell you how you can add or replace bits. But before we start you will need to get a few things together:-

A cross head screwdriver
A flat head screwdriver
An anti-static strap as described last month
A pencil and a piece of paper
A jug of coffee
A punch bag, or a large cuddly toy, or in fact anything you hit hard with out fear of retaliation :-)

WARNING    Your computer while robust does include a lot of delicate electronic components. It is possible to damage it if you are not careful. While none of the things I talk about in this article should cause any damage to you or your machine I cannot take any responsibility for any damage which does occur, however it is caused.

Right, now you have your bits ready so lets start with....

Expansion Cards such as graphics cards, internal modems etc.

These are pretty simple to install. The first thing to do is take the cover of your PC and decide where the card is to go. As I explained last month these cards all fit into slots at the back of the machine, so have a look at the back. If this is a new card then look for an empty slot. If the board is a replacement, for example it is a new graphic card then find the existing card.

Before inserting the new card you will either have to remove the old card or a 'blanking' plate. In either case you will find a small screw holding it place on the back casing of the PC. make sure you have your earthing strap on correctly and the remove the screw. If you are removing a card then grasp it by the edges and pull it straight up. Once the card has been removed place down, if possible on, or better still, in an anti-static bag. If this is a new card the remove the blanking plate.

Now place the new card in the chosen slot. Make sure that the card fits. There are a number of different types of slots so make sure that your card is right for the chosen slot. Once you are sure it is correct press it firmly into place. make sure that it is pushed down fully and then replace the screw.

Now put the case back on and start up the PC and you should see your wonderful new toy working.

Should it not work then get the punch bag, cuddly toy or what ever and beat the living daylights out it. Note I do not recommend belting the cat. Apart from being a nasty thing to do cats fight back :-)

Once you have gotten rid of your aggressions go and get a cup of coffee. Then sit down drink the coffee and read the manual. The chance are the reason for the card not working is in the manual. If the manual does not help then try turning off the PC, remove the cover and push the card down. More often than not the cause of a new card not working is that it is not in the slot properly. If that does not work then get advice from an expert.

"So it's easy to install a card but what about new memory simms?"

Well they are pretty easy too.

However, it is very important to make sure that the memory simms are correct for the motherboard you have. Read the manual that came with the PC and/or get advice from an expert before buying the simms.

OK - to install the simms, first remove the cover and locate the existing ones.

The existing ones will be little circuit boards 'standing' up from the motherboard. Examine the slots into which the simms have been inserted. At each end of the slot there will be a small 'catch'. If you have to remove the old simms then ensure that your earthing strap is on correctly and the gently push the clips to one side. You should then be able to pull the SIMM forward slightly and pull it out. Note that very little pressure should be required. If the SIMM does not come out easily the check that you have released the clips. As you remove the SIMM look and see which side, left or right, the notch is. All simms have a small notch at one end so that they will only insert into the slot one way, the correct way.

To insert a new SIMM gently place it in the slot. Make sure the slot is at the correct end. Then gently push the SIMM down and back. Again note that it should not require much pressure, if it does then check that you have the SIMM the correct way round.

Once you have all the new simms inserted, replace the cover and switch on the PC. You should notice the numbers in the top left of the display count up to the value of your new ram.

If you have added some simms and the number does not increase then the system is not recognising the new simms. This may be because the simms have not been seated properly so try switching the PC off and reinserting the simms. Another possibility, with older motherboards is that the CMOS configuration information needs updating. This was the case with my old 386 for example. Your manual should tell you if this is the case and of course how to do it.

If the simms are still not recognised then you may have to set jumpers on the motherboard - read the manual and find out. If that does not help then get expert advice.

If you have removed all the old simms and replace them then either the numbers will count up to the value you expect or nothing will happen. If nothing happens then the memory has not been recognised so check, as described above that the simms are correctly seated. If they are then get expert advice.

OK - that's cards and memory, what's next?

Well, the next most likely thing that you are going to install is a new hard disk.

There are a number of different types of hard disk, including IDE, EIDE, SCSI and so on. However, for our purposes at the moment we can class them as either IDE/EIDE and the rest. The IDE and EIDE disks are connected directly to the motherboard, or, on older machines, to a standard I/O card which also handles the com and parallel ports. The other types of hard disk require an additional card.

If your new disk needs an additional card then insert the card as shown above and connect the disk to it as per the manual.

If your new disk does not need an additional card, that is it is an IDE or an EIDE card then you need to decide if you want two hard disks in your machine or just the one. In my opinion the only reason for opting to have a single hard disk is that there is not enough room inside the case for two. But that is just my opinion :-)

Which ever you decide to do first back-up your hard disk. If possible take two, or more back-ups, just in case the first will not restore.

If you are going to replace the original hard disk then create yourself a bootable floppy diskette. You can do this by formatting a diskette with the command Format a: /s. When the disk has been formatted you will need to copy some Dos files to this disk. The ones you need are:-


The next thing to do is to check the CMOS settings for your existing hard disk. Your manual should tell you how to get into the CMOS set-up program, but the most common way, in my experience, is to press the del key during the boot up sequence. Now there are a number of different CMOS set-ups but all them will have a section describing the hard disks. The most likely place is under 'Standard CMOS settings'. Once you have found the hard disk settings note down the details which will have the following titles, Type, Size, Cyls, Hds., Precomp, Landz, Sector and Mode. Do not worry about what the mean just copy them down. Note that if you have a newer system the value for Mode, might be auto, in which case the other values will all be set to zero. Once you have noted down the CMOS settings back out of the set-up program, without saving, and switch the PC off.

Then read the documentation for your new disk. You will need to note down the same information that you found in the CMOS set-up. Also look for the section on jumper settings, you'll need it later.

Now remove the cover and make sure your earthing strap is connected correctly.

Locate the existing hard disk and examine the ribbon cable hanging out of the back. You will notice that one of the end wires is coloured, usually red but not always. Note which side of the connection this coloured wire is. It is usually the side nearest the power connector. Now follow the ribbon cable back to the motherboard and again note which way round the cable is connected.

Now decide where the new disk is to go. If it is to replace the existing hard disk then carefully remove the screws holding it in place, remove the ribbon cable and the power cable and slide the old disk out.

 Note   It may be necessary to remove some other bits in order to get at the hard disk. For example you may have to remove the floppy diskette drive. If you do have to do this write down how the cables are connected. For example, if there is a ribbon cable right down which side the coloured wire goes, is it the end connection or the middle one and so on. Write down as much as you can, you'll need it.

If you are adding a second hard disk then workout where it is to go. In most cases there will only be one place, but if you have a choice try and keep some space between the drives. Some of the larger hard disks can get very hot which is not good. The more space between them the less the heat from one will affect the other. Also it will give you room to install a fan should it be necessary.

Once you have decided where you want the disk to go examine the ribbon cable. It has been my experience that the second connection will never be in quite the right place, so check that it will reach to the required position. If the ribbon cable does not reach then see if turning it around will work. That is swap the end that is on the motherboard. or I/O card for the end that is on the hard disk. If you do that make sure the coloured wire is in the same place. If the cable still will not reach then you will either have to get another ribbon cable or else settle for one hard disk. The same holds true if the ribbon cable only has connections at the end and none in the middle.

Now comes the tricky part. On one side of the disk you will find a circuit board. Some where on this board there will probably be some 'jumpers' which control how the disk is used. In case you don't know a jumper is a small block with two holes. A jumper is placed on a pair of pins so as to connect them. In most cases you will need to set jumpers on both disks. The one already installed must be set to 'master with slave present' and the new one set to 'slave'. In most cases the jumpers will be set to master. There are far too many different types of disks for me to be able to tell you where the jumpers are or which ones to set but it should be mentioned in your documentation and/or printed on the disk itself. If you do not have the information then note the make and model number from the hard disk itself and get some expert advice.

Now slide the new disk into place and attach the ribbon cable and the power cable. Note that the ribbon cable should have the coloured wire on the same side as the power connector. Make sure the power connector is round the correct way. It can only go in one way so it should not need any pressure.

Once the cables are connected line up the hard disk and insert the screws. Do not over tighten the screws.

Next check all the connections and then replace the cover.

Start up the PC and enter the CMOS set-up program. You will need to set the disk parameters so that the hard disk can be recognised. If this is the only disk then you will need to re-set the Primary or Master Disk. If you now have two disks then leave the Primary settings as they were and set the secondary settings.

The first parameter to change is the Disk Type. If possible set this to Auto, which will mean that the disk type will be automatically detected at start up time. If there is not an Auto option then you will need to set it to User. Note that in some cases the only options available are all numbers. In this case you will have to find one which allows you to change the settings. This will usually be one number higher, or lower than the Primary Disk Type. If you have used the User setting then you will need to set the Cyls, Hds and Sectors. If you have the information then set the Precomp and Landz settings as well, but if you do not have them then set the values to zero. The size value will be filled in automatically as you enter the other options.

Once all the parameters have been set the exit the CMOS set up program saving the new settings.

Your PC will now re-boot.

If you have installed the new disk as a second disk then the PC will boot up as normal, although you will not yet be able to see the new disk. If the disk is the only one then you will need to boot from the floppy diskette.

Once you have booted up enter the command Fdisk.

You will then be presented with a menu of 4 or 5 options:-

1. Create DOS partition or Logical DOS Drive
2. Set active partition
3. Delete partition or Logical DOS Drive
4. Display partition information
5. Change current fixed disk drive.

The last option will only be displayed if you have two hard disks installed. If option 5 is displayed then at the top of the screen will be a line which says:-

Current fixed disk drive: 1

If you have just added a second drive then select option 5.

You will be asked to Enter Fixed Disk Drive Number (1-2) ...... [1]

Enter 2 and press the enter key.

You will be returned to the main menu. Select option 1.

If this is the only disk then just select option 1.

You will be presented with another menu:-

1. Create Primary DOS partition
2. Create Extended DOS Partition
3. Create Logical DOS Drive(s) in the Extended DOS Partition

Select option 1.

You will be told how large the disk is and asked how much of the disk you want for the Primary partition. If you want the whole of the disk to be one partition then just enter the full amount, which is usually the default. If you want to partition the disk, and if it is a large disk then it is worth it (see below), then enter the amount of disk you want for the 1st partition.

Once the Primary DOS Partition has been created you can create an Extended DOS partition using the second option. This time you want to use all the remaining disk space. You will then need create one or more Logical DOS drives in the Extended Partition so select o ption 3.

If this is the only disk the you will need to Set active partition by selecting option 2 from the main menu. It is usual to select Partition c: 1 to be the active partition.

Once all that has been done you will need to Format each of the partitions.

If this is the only hard disk the restore from your back up.

Now you can access your new hard disk.

A couple of paragraphs ago I said there were good reasons for dividing a large hard disk into partitions. The main reason is the amount of wasted space goes up with the size of the disk. For more information see the first edition of Re-Boot. In the meantime here is a copy of the cluster size table.

 Size of Disk    Cluster Size  
 0 - 32 Mb     K  
 32 - 64 Mb    1 K  
 64 - 127 Mb    2 K  
 127 - 255 Mb    4 K  
 255 - 511 Mb    8 K  
 511 - 1023 Mb    16 K  
 1023 - 2047 Mb    32 K