Moving Hard Drives

By Forest Wilcox, Tampa PC Users Group


I own two computers, one in New York, my home, and one in Tampa where I spend half of my time. Thus, I am faced with the problem of keeping them in sync with each other. I have struggled with full back ups, backups of files with the archive bit set using Iomega’s Ditto tape and Zip disk backup drives. They work fine for most files, but I have found no way to transfer things like Window settings and Desk Top settings between the computers. The way I use my computers, these settings are constantly changing.

After successfully upgrading a hard disk from a one Meg drive to a 4.3 Meg, I was emboldened to carry the new hard disk with me as I traveled back and forth. I was also encouraged by the fact that both computers were of the same make (Acer Pentiums) and vintage, though one is a tower and one is a conventional desktop.

The first transfers weren’t without problems, mainly getting the unlike modems to work. I had problems until I discovered Plug N’Play. It really works! All I do now is use Control Panel’s Add New Hardware (Start, Settings, Control Panel) after physically installing the drive. I use the default settings, that is, let Windows search for new hardware. Now my Desk Top remains the same wherever I am.

Not willing to quit while I am ahead, I took my hard disk with me on a visit to my daughter in California. I could have made floppy copies of interesting things to exchange and demo, but why not demo the whole hard drive? My daughter’s computer is an unknown clone, though a Pentium, and with Windows 95. We had that much in common. This transfer was interesting.

We went through the procedure using Add New Hardware but now Windows requested at various times the original Windows Upgrade CD and other original disks to pick off the necessary drivers and files needed for the strange computer. We had to repeat the process several times until Windows found no new hardware. The other necessary changes required were local telephone numbers for my AT&T Internet, Juno e-mail and Reuters Service accounts, all of which were obtained from 800 number telephone calls. Since this was a very temporary arrangement, we did not make a physical installation. We connected an unused power cable, borrowed the ribbon data cable and let the drive sit outside the chassis. This was an unqualified success.

A precaution, don’t try to install the moved drive as a second hard drive; only one operating system per machine is allowed unless you have System Commander or its equivalent.

When I transport my hard drive, I use the anti-static envelope that it came in and then wrap it in bubble wrap. I have carried it in my carry-on luggage as well as put it in my checked suitcase. I am undecided about putting it through the security system, but have done it without a problem so far.

I still make a full backup before I transport the hard drive (using a Zip drive), but I do save the up to two hours required if I were to use the backup to restore onto a second hard drive. u