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 Creating a bootable USB flash drive for Windows XP
A bootable flash drive can come in handy -- but trying to create one might have you pulling out your hair. Windows expert Greg Shultz shares the method he followed, from configuring the BIOS to allow the USB port to act as a bootable device to creating a bootable image of Windows XP using the free PE Builder software (and a pair of Windows Server 2003 SP1 files) to formatting and copying the image onto a UFD.

Safely remove the Windows XP Service Pack 2 Uninstall files


When you install Service Pack 2 on your Windows XP workstations, it creates an Uninstall directory to make it easy to remove SP2 if necessary. Unfortunately, this directory can take up a lot of space. Greg Shultz explains how to free it up safely.


10 customization tricks to save you time in Windows XP

Windows XP tricks10 customization tricks to save you time in Windows XP
From adding Safe Mode to the Boot menu to including UNC information in the command prompt to displaying My Computer as a menu of drive options, this collection of tips will give you some great ideas about how to tweak WinXP to help you work more efficiently.

This is a TechRepublic Instruction set

Clean Out Unused Device Drivers

When you remove hardware from your computer, the listing for it simply disappears from the device manager, but often times the drivers are left behind to hang around.

Right-click "My Computer" > "Properties" > "Advanced" tab. Click on "Environment Variables" Below the bottom Environment Variables window pane (System Variables), click on "New " For Variable Name, enter devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices and for the Variable Value, enter 1
Click OK to close "Environment Variables" and OK again to close "System Properties"

Now, open up the Device Manager and go to "View" and select "Show Hidden Devices". The hidden devices will appear to be grayed-out. You will need to be careful about what it is you want to remove. If you're familiar with your hardware, you can easily remove entries for PCI cards, extra drives, printers, and other USB/FireWire devices. Otherwise, it is suggested to leave everything else mostly alone unless you are completely sure of what you're doing.

Once you're done, you can delete the Environment Variable you created in the directions above.

The "Toothpaste Trick" For Scratched CDs
Sometimes a CD gets so beat up and scratched that a CD player or CD drive will not read it. Here's a trick that may save your CD. Polish the plastic side with toothpaste.

Take a cotton swabs, rub some toothpaste in, then gently rub the swab over the scratches until they disappear or until you feel you can't rub them out any more. Now, by doing this, it may create more scratches, but it's the deep scratches that are really causing the problem. After you're done, wash the CD in clean water and let it dry. If you have a smooth cotton cloth, you may use that to dry it off. To not use a dish towel, hand towel, or paper towel for they will scratch the CD you just "repaired".

If there are still some scratches remaining, use a metal polish (Brasso works best) in the same way as the toothpaste. Finally, rub Vaseline gently onto the CD without pressing hard, moving out from the center of the CD to the rim.

Now, go ahead and test the CD. After you verify that it's working again, make a copy of the CD to back it up so you don't risk losing it. If it's not working, try the procedure again and look for a scratch that may still be visible, and concentrate on reducing it or making it disappear completely.

Now, this whole process does rub down the plastic coating of the CD, so be careful that you don't rub all the way through to the label. If you do, the CD will be ruined completely.

Speed-Up Adobe Reader 7 
Sometimes, Adobe Reader seems to take forever to load and display a PDF. Heres's a little trick for speeding things up a bit.

First, open the plugins folder for Adobe Reader: C:\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat 7.0\Reader\plug_ins

Next, create a new folder named "Optional" right there in the "plug_ins" folder.

Finally, move all files and folders from the "plug_ins" folder to the "Optional" folder you just created, except for:


Leave these files where they are (in the "plug-ins" folder) otherwise Adobe Reader will fail to operate correctly.

If you are running version 7 and/or anything else other than version 7, you can also use a tool called Adobe Reader SpeedUP found here:
[http://www.softpedia.com/get/Office-tools/ PDF/Adobe-Reader-SpeedUp.shtml]

How to Get the Real Capacity of Your Hard Drive

Manufacturers calculate drive capacity slightly differently than how computers actually see usable storage space. Manufacturers count drive capacity using the decimal system, while computers count drive capacity using the binary system. So, when you wish to convert to one system of measurement to another, there are discrepencies, much like the way there are discrepencies when converting between the Celcius and Fahrenheit temperature scales.

So, to calculate the actual drive capacity, take the manufacturer's advertised capacity and divide it by 1.024 three times. For example, if you take an 80GB drive capacity and divide it by 1.024 three times, you will get 74.5GB of actual storage space.

For referece, here's a list of common drive capacities matched with their actual data capacities (rounded to the nearest hundreths place):

10 GB = 9.31 GB
20 GB = 18.63 GB
30 GB = 27.94 GB
36 GB = 33.53 GB
40 GB = 37.25 GB
60 GB = 55.88 GB
74 GB = 68.91 GB
80 GB = 74.51 GB
100 GB = 93.13 GB
120 GB = 111.76 GB
160 GB = 149.01 GB
180 GB = 167.64 GB
200 GB = 186.26 GB
250 GB = 232.83 GB
300 GB = 279.40 GB
320 GB = 298.02 GB

Troubleshoot and solve Windows XP boot problems

Toggling Windows XP's taskbar grouping feature10 things you can do when Windows XP won't boot
If your computer powers up okay, but the Windows XP operating system won't boot properly, you have some troubleshooting ahead of you. Windows expert Greg Shultz looks at the likely culprits and explains what tools and techniques you can use to fix the problem.

This is a Tech Republic article with off site content

Toggling Windows XP's taskbar grouping feature
Toggling Windows XP's taskbar grouping featureYou probably know that Windows XP can help you consolidate your taskbar buttons, but sometimes it's easier to lay everything out in front of you. Greg Shultz explains how to set up a toggle to ungroup the taskbar.

This is a Tech Republic article with off site content


Easily create date-based folder names in Windows XP

Windows XPIf you create files on your hard disk on a daily basis, consider using date-based folder names to help you keep your data organized. While manually creating folders with the current date as the name really isn't much of a hassle, wouldn't it be cool if you could automate the procedure? Well you can by changing the short date format and adding a special command to Windows XP's context menu.

This is a Tech Republic article with off site content

Quick solutions for uncovering a lost Windows product key

Lost Windows product keyFind a lost Windows product key
To install or reinstall Microsoft Windows, you must have access to a product key for that version of the operating system. If you no longer have access to the product key, you've effectively lost that Windows license. Here's a look at the procedures and tools you can use to reveal a lost product key for a currently installed version of Windows.

This is a Tech Republic article with off site content

see also: Disabling Windows Messenger on a Windows XP machine

Zero in on Windows XP Device Manager problems with this handy Help
WinXP Device Manager

Windows XP Device Manager Error Code Help File
Don't waste time digging through TechNet or the Windows XP Professional Resource Kit trying to pin down an error code. This Help file contains definitions and troubleshooting tips for 32 Windows XP Device Manager error codes.

This is a Tech Republic article off site content

Download: Extract troubleshooting info from Windows XP BSOD error messages
When a serious system crash triggers a Stop error, deciphering the information displayed on the dreaded BSOD will expedite your troubleshooting efforts. See how to interpret the key information included in common Windows XP BSOD error messages. And check out our photo gallery!

This is a Tech Republic article off site content

Disabling Windows Messenger on a Windows XP machine

Disabling Windows Messenger on a Windows XP machineIt's the app that won't go away. If you've removed Windows Messenger--or so you thought--in favor of a different chat and videoconferencing application but still can't seem to get rid of it, Greg Shultz will tell you how to banish it from your Windows XP machine for good.

This is a Tech Republic article off site content

Copying and pasting in Windows XP; Some Old Tricks that Still Work in Home or Professional:

Simplify copy and paste operationsCopying and pasting in Windows XP is simple enough--but how would you like to make it even easier? Greg Shultz shows us how to teach some old keys new tricks by simplifying the copy and paste process in both Professional and Home versions.

This is a Tech Republic article off site content

Using the Windows Installer CleanUp Utility

Using the Windows Installer CleanUp Utility Not able to remove or uninstall an application in Windows XP using either the Uninstall option or the Add/Remove Programs tool? The Windows Installer CleanUp Utility may be able to help you wash your Windows clean. Greg Shultz tells us how.

This is a Tech Republic article off site content

Using the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard as a quick file backup tool

Using the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard as a
quick file backup tool Have you backed up your files lately? Put the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard to use, and preserve valuable information on your Windows XP machine.

This is a Tech Republic article off site content


A Reader Wonders if he is ready for Windows Vista?
Should he upgrade now or wait?

Reader George writes: 

I'm currently getting ready to either buy or build a new home computer. However, in anticipation of Windows' new operating system, Vista, to be released later this year--what is the best hardware to have inside the case that will prepare me for this? I'm wondering about not only the CPU, but motherboard, graphics board, fans, cases, power supply, single or dual hard drives (RAID), monitors, and so on. Or would it be wise to wait until the release of this new OS before getting this new system?
George, the answer depends largely on your needs. If you're buying/building a system because your old one is on its proverbial last leg, then sooner would be obviously better than waiting for Vista's final release. On the other hand, if you're just bored silly with your old system and it's perfectly fine otherwise, waiting may not be such a bad thing.

Buying now will give you that instant gratification; waiting will go a long way toward insuring that the system is Vista certified or at least compliant. Of course, you can buy now, while keeping in mind the system requirements for Vista in mind.

Prices will fall on the current cream of the crop as newer, faster, more powerful components will arrive on the market. The machine you buy today will be considerably cheaper in 8-9 months when Vista becomes available. It's a sad, ugly truth behind computers - they don't hold their resale value for very long.

If you're a gamer, video editor, or uber-geek who has to have the latest and greatest hardware, THE chip to get would be the AMD Athlon64 4800+ X2 chip. This is the dual core Athlon64 model that's currently the top of the line. However, coming very soon, AMD is supposed to be releasing a 5000+ chip. Who knows what will be top of the heap when Vista finally ships.

If you're just going to do the basics, surf the web, e-mail, the occasional letter to be banged out in Word (or whatever word processor you happen to like), I'd still stick with at the VERY least, an Athlon64 single core chip based system. The reasoning behind this - 32 bit chips, while adequate for the tasks mentioned above, will be lacking in the performance department when Vista arrives.

As far as motherboards go, I've had my eye on a Gigabyte GA-K8U-939 board. It seems to have most everything I could possibly need or will be wanting in the foreseeable future - with only one exception - it doesn't have any firewire ports. However, given the K8U board has five PCI slots, finding room for expansion is not a problem.

The only other possible weakness this board may have is in that it has an AGP video slot instead of the newer PCIe (PCI Express) slot. For what it's worth, unless you're into heavy gaming or video editing the AGP based slots are more than adequate for the immediate task.

Power Supply: For what it's worth, your best bet is to get one that's at least 450 to 500 watts. Visit your local computer hardware superstore (CompUSA, Frys, Circuit City, etc...) and look at the power supplies. Lift the individual unit and see how heavy it is. The heavier it is for its size, the better. Cheaper power supplies tend to be fairly lightweight and tend to be a bit weak and underpowered. A power supply is merely a transformer that converts 120 volt AC current to 12 volt and 5 volt DC current. You want a heavy duty power supply with lots of heft.

Case: Get one that you like - but keep in mind that many cases ship with a power supply - consider what it comes with and how much it will cost to replace the PSU should the one in the case be underpowered.

RAM: Get as much of it as you can afford onto the motherboard. The more RAM you have available, the less Windows has to use a swap file and the snappier your system will be. I would go with a minimum of 1 GB. Given Windows' track record in the past few versions, 512 MB is probably going to seem to be a bit underpowered when you go with Windows Vista.

Hard drives: A lot of what sort of disk subsystem you get will depend largely on what you're planning on doing with your system. If you're the type who just does a few letters here and there, web surfing and email, you probably won't need a huge hard drive. On the other hand, if you're into video editing or other projects that take up a lot of disk space, plan accordingly. Either way, figure out what you're going to need and then at least double the value. I would go with at least a 160 GB or larger drive to start. One more thing to consider on hard drive choice - spindle speed. Your older drives are typically 5400 RPM or slower. Newer drives tend to spin at 7200 RPM or faster. Faster is better. The same is true of cache. Many drives these days sport anywhere from 2 MB to 16 MB worth of cache. The more the better - and more expensive. Stick with 7200 RPM or faster drives with at least 8 MB cache.

Standard Parallel ATA (aka EIDE) drives are generally adequate for most users - unless you're into video editing or heavy gaming. These two tasks are quite disk intensive and the faster the drive, the better. If you're into gaming and video editing, you should definitely think about getting a SATA (Serial ATA) drive. SATA has the benefit of having faster throughput.

It's also possible to use both EIDE/ATA133 and SATA drives in the same computer. Most of the mainstream motherboards on the market now will support both types. And if it says it supports SATA, it will also have EIDE/ATA100/133 support. Feel free to get say, a 60 or 80 GB EIDE drive to boot the computer and a nice big fat SATA drive for your data drive.

To RAID or not to RAID? That is the question...

RAID (Redundant Array of Independent (or Inexpensive - depending on who you ask) Disks) is a number of techniques for either speeding up data access or creating what's called "fault tolerance" - meaning if you've got multiple drives and one fails, you've still got your data or at least can rebuild it without having to dig through your backups... (You DO back up your data, right?) There are a number of different types of RAID. Read more about RAID types at http://www.bytepile.com/raid_class.php

Now then, the big question you need to ask yourself is do you really need it? How important, or better yet, how irreplaceable is the data in question? Is it just a place to store jokes and other misc. files that people send you via e-mail? Or are you running a business and your client list, inventory database, and other mission critical files are going to be stored on that machine? Another question is how often do you back up? Weekly? Daily? Monthly? Whenever you feel you're in the mood?

RAID 0 or a striped data set is great for those who need high performance - gamers and video editors. Raid 1 or a mirrored drive array is great for those who want a back up of their data without having to back up. Most of your typical motherboards that have RAID capability will offer those two types. Most of the other RAID types require specialized hardware and drivers.

Optical drive: As you're going to need one to install Windows and most other software, you might as well get a decent drive. Fortunately, DVD +/-RW burner drives are getting to the point of being dirt cheap. The drive I got about 6 months ago for about $60 is now selling for about $22. There's no real excuse for not having one of them any longer. Avoid Sony and Plextor - they're actually the same drive and the drive quality tends to be weak. The drives wear out fairly quickly.

As far as other components go:

Monitors: There are two main classifications for video output devices - old fashioned CRTs and the newer LCDs. Both have advantages. CRTs still have a slightly better picture and in my opinion, look better than the vast majority of flat panel LCDs. LCDs, on the other hand, are lighter and take up a LOT less desktop real estate. A large CRT monitor can also give you a hernia as they tend to weigh quite a bit. Of course, you probably won't be moving the monitor around that much. It will more than likely stay in one place until it drops dead and gets replaced. CRTs also tend to be cheaper than the flat panel equivalent.

Which one to get? Go to Best Buy, CompUSA, Circuit City, Frys, or any other computer superstore in your area and LOOK at the ones on display. Have the salesman give you a mixed demo of the capabilities of the monitors on display. It's something that you'll have to be looking at for 3-5 years so you want to be sure you're going to be comfortable with the unit. Get one that you feel comfortable looking at. No sense in going blind. Now, keep in mind you don't HAVE to buy the monitor at the superstore - be sure to shop around once you've got an idea of what you want to get.

Keyboard, Mice, etc... Once again, while you're looking at the monitors, look at the keyboards, mice and other devices you want on your system. Find a keyboard and mouse that you find comfortable and go for one of them.

Windows XP: The last big question here is the operating system. You can, of course, go with Windows XP Home, Professional, Media Center Edition and of course the 64 Bit variety.

Home and Professional are more or less identical in so far as the underlying guts go. The only difference is in the networking components and capabilities. Home will allow you to connect 5 computers to the host computer while Pro will let you connect 10. Pro will also let you connect to Windows domain controllers.

Media Center will allow you to watch TV, provided you've got a TV Tuner card built in. It's usually also configured with a remote control so you can kick back and watch TV, DVD movies, or other media.

The good, the bad and the ugly facts about Windows XP 64 bit edition...

The good: It allows you to take full advantage of 64 bit processors. Certain applications WILL run MUCH faster. But mundane tasks like word processing, email, etc..won't benefit much from XP 64

The Bad and The Ugly: Driver support, from what I've heard, is still lacking. Not having 64 bit drivers for your peripherals means you can't use those devices. Drivers are supposed to be coming but...

All in all, your best bet is to figure out what you plan on doing with your new computer. Consider your needs and double them. Shop around! Decide on whether you want to build your own computer or buy a complete system. Visit discount search engines like http://www.pricewatch.com to find good deals on the components you want to buy if you're building your own. Visit computer shows in your area (if available). The vendors there tend to have "Massive Price Wars" in order to outsell the guy in the next cubicle and there can be good bargains to be had if you shop around.

Creating your own Sleep button in Windows XP

Creating your own Sleep button in Windows XP Is the Sleep button on your Windows XP machine in an inconvenient location for regular use? If so, here are five simple steps that show you how to create your own Sleep button.

This is a Tech Republic article off site content


Q: Do LCDs really save much energy over CRTs?
Submitted by Beth

A: My mother used to say, "Pinch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves". If you have a business with a room full of monitors, the savings can be substantial.

With energy costs expected to rise, people are looking to save money wherever possible, and though switching from a CRT to an LCD won't save you tons of money (usually around $10 per year), a penny saved is a penny earned. However, if you're considering switching an office full of monitors, the savings could add up quickly.

For example, if your CRT eats up 150 watts per hour of energy and you use the monitor eight hours a day, 200 days a year, it uses 240 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year. At 7 cents per kWh, your CRT costs $16.80 per year to run.

On the other hand, LCDs typically use only about 50 watts per hour while on. And following the same equation, we find that an LCD costs $5.60 per year to operate, a savings of $11.20.

To find out how much energy your specific monitor uses, look for a label on the back of the monitor, usually near the inputs. If the watts per hour isn't listed there, check the documentation that came with your display. The U.S. Department of Energy's Web site also provides a list of typical wattages for various appliances.

Saving Ink

Tired of buying ink cartridges every other week? Well then here’s a tip for you! If the printing you are doing is just web pages or just information, then you don’t really need photo-quality printing right? To change the printer settings to low-quality, just go to Start-->Printers and Faxes, right click on your printer and then click “Properties”. When your printer info page loads, select “Printing Preferences”. This should open up your printer settings window, and from here you need to find a tab that says something along the lines of “Paper/Quality” or any tab that gives you the option to change the quality of your printing. Put it on the lowest quality possible and try printing a test page to see if it’s just good enough to be read. This will save tons of ink and printing time in the long run.

Changing Your Monitors Refresh Rate
Makes it easier on the eye

You may not realize it, but the refresh rate of a monitor's output is probably the most common reason that people have trouble viewing PC monitors. To make the rate easier on the eyes, go to 

Start | Control Panel | Display | Settings | Advanced | Monitor 

and change the refresh rate in the drop-down box to the highest supported level. In most cases, higher refresh rates are easier on the eyes and the difference is subtle but noticable over time.

Green light on Floppy Drive stays on: 

Reader Jay writes: I have recently swapped out my Mainboard for a new one. Now my floppy drive’s light stays on and Windows XP’s Windows Explorer will not recognize my data diskettes. What could be wrong and what should I do. <<>> Jay

There are only 2 reasons for this fault one is the Bus cable is on back to front either at the floppy side, which should have pin one facing the power connection, or on the board.

However you've checked and made sure this is not the case then the second reason is the drive controller has failed.

If this does not work then you'll have to install a new floppy drive and/or a new drive controller. There are some simple options below you may want to try.

As this is a new Motherboard, I’d have to say that the problem lies either with the cable being reversed or, if you are using an old drive, that the drive has finally given up the ghost.

Cable reversed or bent pin...

  1. First, check for a bent pin in either end of the cable.
  2.  Hook up your floppy cable this way:

How to locate Pin 1.

  1. On the motherboard connection, the red marker on the floppy cable will be facing the same direction as the red marker on the primary and secondary hard drive cables.
  2. On the floppy, the red marker goes next to the power supply cable. You can always flip-flop one cable end to see if that turns off the green light, too.
  3.  Try a different cable if this doesn't work

  4. Make sure that your BIOS is set up to scan for a floppy drive at the system pretest.

Resetting the CMOS the Easy Way
Easy is what we are all about

In many cases, BIOS issues and other lower-level device failures can be attributed to poor CMOS settings that might had been modified by a client; to fix these issues, a simple reset of the CMOS is oftentimes enough. If you are having difficulty locating the CMOS reset jumper, however, don't worry too much. All you have to do is remove the battery so that the charge is lost. First, unplug the PC in question. Then, locate the battery (typically a silver CR2075 battery) and remove it from the motherboard for at least one minute. Insert the battery back into place, turn on the PC, and the default BIOS setting should be set.

Adding Your Old Hard Drive to Your New Computer

Reader Richey Asks: I have purchased a new computer and want to transfer the hard drive from my older Windows 2000 Pro machine into my new Windows XP Pro machine. Could you give me a step by step introduction to this procedure? Thanks, ~ Richey

Answer: Transferring your old hard drive to your new computer is a really good idea, for a number of reasons. First, it makes certain that none of your confidential data--credit card numbers, passwords--winds up in a garage sale, and eventually in the hands of a hacker. Secondly, it gives you two physically separate hard drives in the machine, which you can use as a quick and simple backup solution. Just copy your important files from one drive to the other, and you're now guaranteed that even if one drive craters, your backed-up data will still exist on the other drive. You can obtain inexpensive backup software that will automate this task. Finally, using your old hard drive gives you extra storage space for free!

But before we go any further, let me speak briefly on the subject of viruses. Frequently, people upgrade their new machines because the old one stopped working properly; however, the reason it stopped working properly was often due to an unsuspected virus infection. Viruses live on the hard drive; and if you transfer the old, virus infested hard drive to the new computer, you'll infect your new machine as well. Fortunately, there's an easy way to protect yourself. Your new computer probably came with a virus protection program already installed; make sure it's working properly, then visit the manufacturers website and update everything. In particular, make certain that the virus definitions are right up to date. A good antivirus program running on your new computer will detect and eliminate viruses on your old hard drive automatically. But that program must be there, and be working properly, and be up to date. If it isn't, you could easily wind up infecting your new machine with viruses.

With that said, installing the old drive in the new machine is quick and simple; but there are a few gotchas to keep in mind. First, lets open up your old machine and physically identify the old hard drive. Shut the machine off, pull the power plug out of the back of the old computer, and remove the computer access panel or cover. You're looking for a thin metal box, about 4 inches by six inches, and about an inch thick. That box is your hard disk drive, where all your data lives. There will be a ribbon cable attached to the back of the drive, which connects to the motherboard; and there will also be a 4 pin power plug, also connected to the back of the drive, which runs up to the power supply. The 4 pin power cable is polarised, so it will only connect one way; sadly, the data cable - the ribbon cable - is sometimes polarised, and sometimes not. This means that it IS possible to connect it backwards. However, take a close look at the data cable. It will have a thin red line along one edge of the cable. Make note of which edge of the socket the red line on the cable is aligned with, and connect it to your new machine the same way. Having made careful note of how the cable is connected, remove the power and data cables - they can be stiff, but they just pull straight out - disconnect the hard drive from the old computer and remove it.

A quick note about hard drives. Starting in 2004, a new way of connecting hard drives to computer motherboards started to emerge. Traditionally, hard drives have used a ribbon data cable, about 2 inches wide, to connect to the motherboard; this was known as a PATA cable, for Parallel ATA cable. This method is going away, in favour of a new type of cable and electrical topology known as SATA, which stands for Serial ATA. A SATA cable has a rubber exterior and is about the thickness of a pencil, as opposed to the broad, flat ribbon cable associated with the old PATA cables. SATA drives are faster, and are easier to connect; but your old hard drive will almost certainly be the old PATA ribbon cable.

However, your new computer will almost certainly use a Serial ATA hard drive. Fortunately, most optical drives, such as DVD burners and CD readers, still use the old PATA specification. The problem is that SATA is new, and the fine details of how it works still vary from motherboard to motherboard; hence, on some motherboards it is possible to have a mix of SATA and PATA drives controlled by the same primary controller, and on others it is not. For that reason, I'm going to suggest that you install your old PATA hard drive on the secondary controller, along with one optical drive. However, if your new computer already has two optical drives, then you cannot do that; in this case, it will be necessary to connect your old drive - in some fashion - to the primary controller. Depending on your motherboard, this may, or may not, be possible. You'll need to read the manual that came with the motherboard, and probably make some settings changes in the Bios as well. However, all of this only applies if your old hard drive is a PATA drive, and your new computer has a SATA drive. If your new computer is still using the older PATA technology - surprising, but possible - then just connect your old hard drive as a slave device on the primary controller.

Master, Slave, Primary controller, you ask? Ah, let me explain.

When the IDE (Independent Drive Electronics) specification was finalised about 15 years ago, it was decided that each manufacturer would handle his own drive data storage method internally, and supply a standard data signal to the motherboard. Further, it was decided that the drive controller - the chip that controls the flow of data from the drive to the motherboard - would control a maximum of two drives, and each drive would be referred to as either a Master or a Slave. As time went on and CD drives made their appearance, it was discovered that people needed more than two drives; and so it became customary for motherboard manufacturers to include two drive controller chips, which were then labelled primary and secondary. As a result, virtually all motherboards manufactured today have two drive controllers; and each drive controller is capable of controlling two drives. Hence, motherboards today can typically control a maximum of 4 IDE devices. These devices are identified as Primary Master, Primary Slave, Secondary Master, and Secondary Slave.

Your new machine will probably be using SATA technology on the primary side, and the older PATA technology on the secondary side. So you'll be connecting your older PATA drive to the secondary controller. However, the secondary controller will probably already have one device on it; an optical drive, such as a CD ROM or a DVD burner. This device will already be set as a Master device; but your old hard drive will likely also be set as a Master device, as well. The thing you must avoid is having two drives on the same controller jumpered the same way, i.e., two masters or two slaves on the same cable; so you'll need to change either the optical drive or your old hard drive to a slave device. Here's how to do it: on the broad, flat top of your old hard drive you'll see a bunch of printing, and hopefully, a diagram. On the diagram you'll see M or MA (for master) S or SL (for slave) and C or CS (for Cable Select). Cable Select allows the physical position of the drive on the cable to determine if it will be seen by the computer as a master or a slave drive. Dell uses this topology, but hardly anyone else does; so unless your machine is a Dell, you probably won't have to worry about it. Instead, look at the diagram and note the jumper position associated with the SL. That's how you're going to be jumpering the drive.

On the back of the drive, where the cable plugs in, you'll see a tiny array of 7 or 8 gold pins, with a black jumper (called a Berg connector) connected to one or two of those pins. This is the jumper array, which determines if your drive will be seen by the computer as a master, a slave, or a cable select drive. It's very likely that your old drive will be set to the 'master' position; refer to the picture printed on top of the drive and get yourself oriented. Now, remove that black jumper and position it over the set of pins marked 'slave' on the diagram. Congratulations! You've now re-jumpered your old hard drive as a slave device.

If you find the diagram on the hard drive confusing - or worse, missing - you could consider leaving the old hard drive alone, and instead re-jumpering the optical drive in your new computer as a slave device. The jumpers on optical drives are usually much more plainly marked than those on hard drives, but it does involve getting your fingers into some very tiny spaces. If you can do that, you might find it easier to rejumper the optical drive, and leave the old hard drive alone.

At this point, you should have one device jumpered as a master, and the other jumpered as a slave. Now, you need to physically mount the old hard drive in the new case; hopefully, there's an empty bay, but on some cheap new machines there isn't, and you'll have to improvise. If you haven't already done so, shut down your new machine normally; then physically remove the power plug from the back of the computer chassis. Now, with the power disconnected, attach the drive.

Once the drive is mounted securely, you'll need to connect a data cable to the drive. To do this, identify the optical drive on the machine, and find the ribbon cable coming out of the back. Follow it down to the motherboard with your fingers. On the way, you'll find a socket spliced into the ribbon cable; this is the socket you want to plug into the back of your old hard drive. If the ribbon cable going from the back of the CD drive to the motherboard doesn't have a socket on it - very common on cheaper machines - you'll need to replace the ribbon cable with one that will accommodate two drives. You can find a suitable replacement cable at just about any store that sells computer parts.

Remember how we had the data cable connected in the old machine? Hook it up the same way in the new machine, with the red mark on the cable on the same side of the hard drive. If you've forgotten, the most common - but not universal - way of connecting a cable to the hard drive is with the red mark on the cable closest to the center of the drive, and furthest from the outside edge.

The last thing you'll need to do is plug a spare power cable into the back of the old hard drive. This is a 4 pin polarised plug, and it's impossible to plug it in the wrong way. The color coding on the wires is red, two blacks, and a yellow wire. Typically, there will be some spares coming out of the power supply; find one, and hook it up. In the unlikely event that you have no spares, you can get a splitter or Y cable adapter at most computer stores.

At this point you've re-jumpered your old hard drive so that it's a slave drive, you've physically mounted it in your new machine, you've connected the ribbon data cable and you've plugged in the 4 pin power cord. Now, plug your new machine in and turn it on. Watch the screen; you should see the original hard drive in the new machine listed, followed by a space, followed by the optical device and the hard drive from your old computer.

Let the machine boot into windows, left click on my computer, and check the drive listings. You should see two hard disk drives; one will be the old drive from your old computer. If you don't, right click on 'my computer' and select 'manage' from the drop down menu. This will start the computer management console. On the left hand side, select 'disk management'; this will list all the drives found on your machine. If the drive from your old machine is not listed, it means you've got a basic configuration error; the parallel cable is backwards, or the drive is jumpered incorrectly, or the drive is not getting power. If it is listed, there will typically be an error message which will give you a hint as to the problem that windows is having. But typically, with most older drives, you won't need to venture into the management console; it usually is only an issue when you install a drive larger than 127 gigabytes, or thereabouts. Given that your older hard drive had windows 2000 on it, I'm guessing that it's in the 40 to 60 gig range.

At this point, assuming your drive is visible in My Computer, you're home free. The old hard drive still has the old operating system on it; but it will not affect the operation of your new machine, simply because the computer will always boot from the new hard drive first. The exception would be if the new hard drive died; at which point on start-up the BIOS would continue to look for a bootable device, find the old drive, and try to boot windows 2000 up. However it would not be real successful, because all sorts of other parameters - like the motherboard, processor, quantity and type of memory, and about 50 billion other things - would all be very different from your old machine. It would be very confusing, to say the least, and probably not at all successful. For this reason, at your convenience, you may want to delete the Windows folder from the old hard drive. Just make sure you've copied any important data from the Windows folder before you delete it. Alternately, you could simply reformat your old drive; but this will erase every scrap and smidgen of your old data.

So there you are - a quick guide to moving your old hard drive to your new machine! It's actually quite easy, and certainly worthwhile doing. I hope you come to appreciate the convenience and flexibility that two hard drives gives you. Enjoy!