Preparing the hard drive for Windows 98

Preparing the hard drive

Some of you may be thinking that partitioning your hard drive with the Fdisk utility, or performing a clean format of your hard drive is a monumental, if not impossible task, but rest assured that with some careful thought and prior planning, it’s easy. Carefully planning your steps and making sure that you understand each one of those steps will be the key to your success!

Here are some “must do” procedures!

  • Make certain that you have created a backup of everything that you may need to use or restore later, such as data files,  music files, picture files, mail and address lists, drivers for your sound card, video card, modem and CD Rom drive.

  • You may also want to save certain of your applications and their updates.

  • At the very least, make sure you have all your passwords and phone numbers for connections safely stored on floppy disks. If passwords are stored and you don’t remember them, this could be a potential problem. One way around it though would be to change all of them prior to shutting down and then write down each new password.

  • NOTE: If you have multiple drives then the other drive might be the place to store information while you re-partition and reformat the first drive. If you want to change the second drive too, you can do that after having installed Windows 98 on the first drive.

  • Last, but not least, you will need a Windows 98 Boot Floppy Disk. If you are installing the full retail version of Windows 98, then Microsoft will have provided you with this boot floppy disk. If, on the other hand, you intend to do a reinstallation of Windows 98 and do not have a boot floppy already made, you will need to make one. Use a new floppy diskette if possible and insert it into the drive. Click Start, Settings, Control Panel and then select Add/Remove Programs. Now select the “Start Up Disk” tab and follow the instructions. This is a “must do” under all circumstances, as without this special Startup Disk, you will not have driver files that will enable you to access your CD-ROM drive to load the operating system (Windows 98). We also highly recommend that you create this Startup Disk and then boot to it to insure that it works and that you can access your CD-ROM drive!

Errata and other useful information:

One issue that always generates controversy is how to accurately determine file and drive sizes:

Specifically, whether 1 kilobyte (KB) is equal to 1,024 bytes (binary) or 1,000 bytes (decimal). Depending on the context, both can be correct. Most people are more familiar with the decimal number system than with the binary number system. Consequently, the decimal “equivalent” is often used. If you would like more information on this issue, a great source would be the Maxtor Web site, which discusses this in depth.

Another issue that we frequently receive email about are drive letter problems (How to Change Drive Letters).

The Windows 3.X, 95 and 98, and specifically FAT 16 and FAT32, are descendants of the DOS (Disk Operating System) file system. This is the determining factor for the current partitioning and drive letter schemes of “A” through “Z”.

Disk partitioning became necessary when hard drives exceeded the 32 megabyte (MB) limitation imposed by old DOS. Unfortunately 32 MB is not enough room for the Windows operating system, much less the programs loaded after it. As megabyte drives gave way to gigabyte drives, the file system had to be increased and extended to accommodate them. Although many different schemes were examined and a number of them successfully emerged, the FAT32 and EXTEND systems prevailed. To complicate matters even more, these extended file systems were extended even further and became known as FAT32X and EXTENDX.

The following will focus on the EXTEND or EXTENDX type of partition because of the peculiar way this partition type affects drive lettering. The only difference between the these two is that the X identifies the partition as larger than *8.4 GB. If an X is needed, then it will be added automatically. When you create partitions you must begin with C as the first partition because A and B are reserved for small disk devices (even if you have none or only one). In other words, the first “active” partition on the first hard disk will always be C.

Unfortunately this is unavoidable. Typically, all additional available partitions (available as they are active DOS partitions) are contained within the EXTEND type of partition. This is not a problem until you add another hard drive to your system. Suddenly the first active partition on the secondary drive becomes D and what was D primary drive becomes E. If you have another device, such as a CD-ROM drive, designated as the E drive, then it may now be reassigned as F, G, or H depending upon the number of physical drives and partitions that were created.

The problem that often crops up is that programs and files are referenced by drive letters. When the drive letters are reassigned, programs cannot locate their files and vice versa. If you are like most people, when you format and reinstall your operating system and program files, you mutter to yourself, “Isn’t there a better way?” Well, we’re not sure that it is better, but it helps. Read on!

Partitioning Secondary Drives:

There is a secret to making drive letter assignments behave, and that is to start with EXTEND partition types on secondary drives and beyond. Therefore, if your first hard drive is partitioned into C, D, and E, and you add a new drive, then configure it as an EXTEND type so that it will be appended to your letter list and begin with F. It really is just that simple.

For example, let’s assume that you have one hard drive currently installed, and you want to install another. After you have read the instructions, you plug it in to the appropriate slot, start the computer in DOS mode, and then run FDISK. Now FDISK asks whether you want large drive support, which you do if your drive exceeds 2 gigabytes, and it asks whether you want to create a DOS partition, which you do. Now FDISK asks whether you want to create a primary or an extended DOS partition. Now here is where people make their mistake, they choose to create a primary rather than an extended partition.

Create an extended partition, and allow it to cover the entire hard drive. You can create logical drives within the extended (extend) partition, but restart your computer first, and then go back into FDISK to create logical drives. Why? Because of a “bug” in FDISK that can be overcome by restarting the computer after creating an Extend and before creating the logical drives (remember, if an X is needed it will be added automatically). If you don’t restart, there are cases where FDISK will miscalculate the logical partitions. Restart your computer in DOS mode, and then format each drive that you created.

One very big caution before you format, confirm that the drive letters have not changed due to some error in the process by first trying to access the new drive letter before you format. Therefore, if your first hard drive ended with E, then you should expect the next drive letter to be F. If you type “F:” (no quotes) and then press , you should see a prompt “F:\>”. But when you type DIR and then press to perform a directory scan, you should see an error message because that partition (extend) has not yet been formatted. Keep pressing F (for Fail) until you see a prompt. You can then type C: and then press Enter to get back so you can run Format . This is an important check, because the last thing you want to do is accidentally format the wrong drive.

Another issue is that of Assigning Drive Letters to Devices Other Than Hard Drives:

DOS reserves and assigns drive letters for hard drives beginning with C. As a result, CD-ROM drives and similar devices will always get bumped to the drive letters beyond your last hard drive partition. If there is a way around this we have yet to find it. You can assign higher drive letters to devices by way of Control Panel, System icon, Device Manager, but you cannot force DOS to give up a hard disk partition drive letter. There are some alternatives though. Some utility programs such as Norton’s CleanSweep and Partition Magic, have “move” utilities which can, in some cases, help with this situation. You can also use a registry editor to change the drive letter references in the registry. We caution you though about using third party applications in Windows 95 and Windows 98, such as Oil Change and Clean Sweep. Specifically, we do not provide any technical support for issues that arise as the result of any of these applications having been installed on a system that we have shipped! Technical support for those applications and any problems that arise as the result of their installation remains with the vendor.

Using the Registry Editor to Change Drive Letter References:

You can use the Windows Registry Editor to edit drive letter references in the Windows Registry. The following information is provided for informational purposes only, and if used you are doing so at your own risk. Always backup the registry before making any changes. The Registry Editor (regedit) has a Find feature, as part of the Edit profile, that you can use to locate and manually edit drive letter designations as necessary. As an example,  if your CD-ROM was changed from F to D, then you would simply find F: and replace it with D:. This procedure will take care of all registry references, but you will still need to change the properties for any Start menu items and desktop icons. This is performed by right-clicking the item and selecting its properties. It is still possible though, after all of this effort, that you will have missed some pointer reference, in which case you will need to reinstall the program or programs affected by the changes you made.

Mixing SCSI and IDE Hard Disk Drives:

Many times we receive calls from customers who created a mixed drive environment when they have added hard drives to their computers that were formerly all IDE drives. When creating a mixed drive environment, regardless of the reason, you may need to open your BIOS configuration utility to specify the order in which you want the drives to load or initialize. Some BIOS configuration utilities cannot specify the load order, however most newer BIOS’s normally will enable you to create this mixed environment and specify the load order. You should always check your system documentation to determine if this can be done as well as how to it. Always back up the data on your drive before making any changes just in case something goes wrong.

The Partitioning Procedure

  • Insert the boot disk into the floppy drive and then restart your computer.

  • As the system begins the boot process and boots to the startup disk, a menu will come up giving you three (3) choices, (1) To start your system with CD-Rom drive support; (2) To start your system without CD-Rom drive support and (3) More information. At this point you can select “Without CD-Rom drive support”.

  • When the system finishes the startup or boot process, you will see the MS-DOS prompt on the screen, which will look something like this: A:\>

  • At the MS-DOS prompt, type “Fdisk” (without the quotes) and touch enter.

  • You will then be asked whether or not you want large hard drive support or the FAT 32 file system. An explanation of the FAT (File Allocation Table) can be found elsewhere at this web site. Suffice it to say that if you choose N or No at the prompt, you will be limited to FAT 16 and a 2 gigabyte partition size, while FAT 32 does not have this limitation. Therefore, selecting “N” will give you FAT 16 and a 2 gigabyte partition and “Y” will enable large hard drive support, or the FAT 32 file system. Answer “Y” and let’s move on.

  • At the next menu, you will be provided with a number of choices:

  1. Since we are deleting the original partition, select 3 from the menu – Delete ……

  2. Next, select 3 from next menu to delete any logical DOS drives first;

  3. Next, delete any extended DOS partitions you find, (menu item 2) and then delete the primary partition (menu item 1) both on the second menu after selecting 3 delete from the first menu.

  4. Now restart your computer and boot back to the Start Up Floppy. Again type “Fdisk” (no quotes) at the MS-DOS prompt.

  5. At this point in time you will need to have decided how you want to partition your drive. If you want to use FAT16 or a primary FAT16 partition, then respond to the question about large drive support by selecting “N”. If you want to use FAT 32 and large hard drive support, then select “Y”.

  6. Make a primary partition (menu item 1 then select 1). Select the partition size. The maximum for FAT 16 is about 2.1G, and for FAT 32 you can select the drive size you desire up to the limits of the drive or the motherboard bios limitations if there are any. Only create the primary partition at this time. You can make the entire drive a single primary partition or you can segment the drive any way you wish, such as primary, then extended logical drives. Once this has been done, touch the ESC key a few times to exit Fdisk and then restart the computer and boot back to the Startup Disk. If you want to install a second partition or logical drive, then follow the instructions in #7. If you want only one single partition, then move on to step #9.

  7. At the MS-DOS prompt, again type Fdisk. This time, when asked about large disk support, select “Y”. Use menu item 1 and then 1 (if you did not create a primary partition using FAT16 above). Next use Menu item 1 and then menu item 2 to create an extended DOS partition. Make this the size of the rest of the drive. (this is not needed if you made the whole drive a primary partition).

  8. Next select menu item 1 ‘create ….” then menu item 3 to make logical DOS drives. Make the size whatever you want up to whatever space is available. You may create one or more logical drives.

  9. Make sure that you use menu item 2 in Fdisk to set the primary partition as active, as if you forget you won’t be able to format that partition and your computer will not provide any clue as to why not.

  10. Restart your computer to the Startup Floppy, and then format the partition you have created. The correct syntax at the MS-DOS prompt is “Format c:/s” (without the quotes) and touch enter.

  11. Once the format has completed, remove the Startup Disk from the floppy drive and restart the system and verify that the drive(s) that you fdisk’d are accessible and readable. If you have done everything correctly, your computer will boot to a C:\> prompt.

  12. Now you are ready to install the operating system.

  • NOTE: If, for any reason, your are unable to create a Windows 98 Startup Boot Disk, you can download one by clicking this link:  DOWNLOAD DISK 

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