By Xin Feng, Ph.D. 8/03/01
These days 20GB or 30GB 9.5mm hard drives are really cheap, about $150 or $250. With such huge space, you can put all your MP3 music or cool movies into your laptop and make it a portable entertainment center. However, many old laptops, including Libretto and CF-M32, cannot see more than 8GB by BIOS. Therefore, you have to install an overlay program to use the extra space.
Among the many overlay programs, -- all are free from major hard drive manufacturers, I've found the EZMaker from Western Digital is the only one that's fully compatible to all versions of Windows, including Win95/98/SE/Me/NT/2000. But, it refuses to install if it cannot see a WD or IBM drive around. In order to make your life easier, buy a IBM drive instead of Toshiba. Otherwise, you have to mount the drive to a desktop that has a WD or IBM drive to install EZMaker. Unfortunately, there is still no 9.5mm IBM 30GB drive yet and only Toshiba currently offers it.
Upon thousands of requests, here I list the steps on how to upgrade your laptop up to 30GB. It is impossible for me to cover all the related issues, because situations are very different. But, all the key points should have been included here. Let's take a 20GB drive and Win2000 installation for example.
Sounds pretty complicated? It is, even more than it sounds, especially if you want BIOS hibernation. The good news is: we can do all the dirty work for you for just $40.
[08/05/01] All 32-bit operating systems, such as Win95, 98, SE, Me, NT, 2000 and Linux can see all the space after OS loading. If you make a single partition, Windows won't boot one day when system files required during OS loading expands over 8GB. If you make the first partition less than 8GB to boot Windows NT/2000, things will be just fine; but for Win95-Me, the rest partition will disappear whenever the scandisk utility runs under DOS, which is usually the case after a crash. Linux has no such problems as long as you make the boot partition less than what the BIOS can see. Therefore, for all versions of Windows, you do need an overlay program if the BIOS cannot see the entire disk space.
[02/20/02] The EZMaker, including the latest version from Western Digital's website, is not compatible with 40GB hard drives (at least Toshibas) running Windows XP. After waking up from standby mode, the hard drive is abnormal and in risk of corruption.
Therefore I had to try other overlay programs to find one that works with 33GB and larger hard drives and Windows XP. Here is the latest results:
Ontrack based overlay programs (such as DM from IBM) is the worst, as always. The worst thing about it is: the hard drive will be erased or "disappear" if you uninstall the overlay or the overlay is somehow corrupted such as due to a crash or virus. The same goes for installation - you cannot simply add overlay without having to erase the drive. EZBios does not have this serious shortcoming. You can add/remove EZBios anytime without data loss. When you install EZBios to a Libretto drive, reserve the last 100 MB for hibernation.
The MaxBlast II V1.00 is so far the best. It installs to any hard drive including Toshiba 40GB unlike the EZMaker that requires a WD or IBM drive around. Therefore, you no longer have the hassle of swapping the drive between laptop and desktop and you can install the EZBios directly on your laptop. MaxBlast II, like its earlier versions, has a very nice graphical user interface for easy installation. The best thing is, you can uninstall/reinstall EZBios anytime, without loss of data! For example, you can uninstall EZBios after Win2000/XP's installation and everything will work just fine until one day when Win2000/XP cannot boot because some system files required for booting are somehow (e.g. after use of a disk defragmenter) moved beyond the 8GB boundary. Then, you can re-install EZBios and everything will be just fine again without any data loss and re-installation of Win2000/XP and applications.
Note: for Libretto, don't uninstall EZBios or the BIOS will hibernate to the end of first 8GB instead of the physical end and thus corrupt the hard drive. For CF-M32, the BIOS won't hibernate and hurt the hard drive if it cannot see an hibernation partition. Even so, I still recommend that you leave the EZBios there and don't uninstall it.
In PC, hard drive is accessed via BIOS Interrupt 13 calls. Old Int13 routines has limit for 500MB, 8GB or 30GB drives. An extension to Int13 has been added to newer BIOS to eliminate the limit. Therefore, newer BIOS has no this limit. For old BIOS, an overlay program, such as MaxBlast II, can be used to load this extension before OS loading, so the Int13 calls are translated into extension calls.
Old OSs, including DOS, Win3.xx and NT, were not aware of this extension and therefore always need an overlay program to use large hard drives . Newer OSs, including Linux and Win95/98/Me/2000/XP, are aware of the extension and do not rely on an overlay to access hard drive after OS loading. Therefore, performance and reliability of an overlay program is not an issue once these OSs are started. However, they do matter during OS loading and unloading and that's why some overlay programs (such as IBM DM) cause trouble during standby and hibernation.
Libretto hibernates to the end of the drive space that BIOS can see, i.e. at 8GB without overlay. If you don't want to use an overlay program, you should make the first partition within your Libretto with fdisk and reserve about 100MB right after; otherwise, the hard drive will be corrupted when it does BIOS hibernation. If you use overlay, you can simply leave about 100MB at the physical end of your hard drive during the overlay installation.
CF-M32 hibernates to a special type partition. If such an partition does not exist and you let it go hibernate, the BIOS won't - does nothing other than making a beep. Unlike Libretto, there is no any risk of drive damage related to hibernation. If you do need BIOS hibernation but do not want to use an overlay program, you should use the hibernation utility found on CF-M32 CD to make partitions. If you need BIOS hibernation and use an overlay program, you should reserve about 200MB during the overlay installation and later make that 200MB to the right type partition. I forget the type because I never use CF-M32's BIOS hibernation (not compatible with Win2000 and XP and they have their own hibernation), but you can figure it out with Partition Magic or Linux's partitioning tool.
The bottom line: For Win95/98/Me or older, you should always use an overlay program, because the auto-started DOS version scandisk kills extra partitions!
Go to our products page to upgrade your laptop to the largest hard drive currently available. Let us do the dirty work for you, and do it right, and you can be relaxed from worrying about data loss.
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