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Drives & Storage Frequently Asked Questions

Hard Drives

Q: What is a hard drive?
A: The hard drive is an internal disk drive in your computer that stores your operating system and program files. Frequently used files and programs are often saved on the hard drive for easy and quick access.

Q: Will a new hard drive improve my system's performance?
A: Yes. One of the best ways to boost your PC's performance is to increase its hard-disk capacity. Replacing an existing drive or adding a second one is now a very cost-effective and simple option.

Q: Is bigger always better?
A: Just like you can never have too many closets in your house, you can never have too much computer storage space. Of course, there are limitations — namely your computer's capacity and your budget. Hard drives are measured in gigabytes, and the higher the number, the better. Less than 20GB is an entry-level size, 30GB to 60GB works for most people's needs, and more that 80GB allows extensive storage of intensive multimedia programs, digital photos and additional software.

Q: What type of drive will I need for my system — IDE/ATA or SCSI?
A: Most PCs include support for IDE drives, and usually include connectors on the motherboard. IDE drives are the most common. When installing SCSI drives, you may have to install an SCSI board first, if you don't already have one in your system. SCSI is arguably the hard-disk interface of choice for network servers and power users, and IDE is more commonly known as the choice for the average user.

Q: Does a hard drive come with everything I need to get started?
A: Yes. However, you will need to restore your operating system (Windows 95/98, etc.) from a restoration disk and you will need to restore all of the files you had saved from the hard drive. Your computer comes with a restoration disk, which contains the program files the manufacturer originally loaded onto the hard drive.

Q: How do I determine which IDE controller speed I need?
A: The Ultra DMA/ATA/33/66/100 and the UDMA/ATA/133 are all backward compatible, which means any new drive will work with either, but to experience the full speed and performance of the newer hard drives, you will want to use a controller that matches its speed.

Q: What is the difference in performance between 5400 rpm and 7200 rpm drive speeds?
A: One important performance advantage in a hard drive operating at 7200 rpm is the speed with which you can retrieve files. At 7200 rpm the seek time is reduced substantially.


Q: What is a CD-ROM?
A: CD-ROM (compact disc read-only memory) is a type of optical disc that can store up to 800MB of data. CD-ROMs cannot be erased and filled with new data. CD-ROM players can also play audio CDs as well as graphics and video.

Q: What is DVD?
A: DVD (digital versatile disc or digital video disc) is a relatively new type of CD-ROM that holds a minimum of 4.7GB, enough for a full-length movie. One of the best features of DVD drives is that they are backward compatible with CD-ROMs. This means that DVD players can also read CD-R and CD-RW discs, as well as audio CDs.

Q: Should I upgrade to a faster CD-ROM drive or consider DVD-ROM?
A: A DVD drive may be the best investment. DVD drives are backward compatible with CD-ROM technology, and you won't have to pay much more for a DVD drive than a fast CD-ROM drive. A DVD drive will give you the added benefit of all the new DVD entertainment and data titles that are currently available.

Q: What are my system requirements if I decide to upgrade my CD-ROM or add DVD?
A: Your system needs at least a 166MHz processor, 32MB RAM, 10MB hard disk space, SVGA graphics adapter, PCI slot available, IDE connector on motherboard, available drive bay, Windows 95/98/NT, Sound Blaster audio card and speakers.

Q: What comes with a DVD upgrade kit?
A: DVD upgrade kits provide everything you need to run DVD software and play DVD movies on your current system. The two main components of these kits are a DVD-ROM drive, which looks and installs just like a CD-ROM drive, and a PCI decoder card, which turns digital data into full-motion video and surround-sound audio. The software necessary to operate your new DVD drive is normally included as part of the kit.

Q: Can I watch Dolby Digital Surround Sound DVD movies on my PC?
A: Yes, if the DVD PCI decoder card has Dolby Digital capability. Also, your speaker system should support Dolby Digital sound to hear the full audio effect.

Q: What is CD-ROM transfer rate and how can it affect performance?
A: The transfer speed of a CD-ROM drive, which can be as high as 72x, refers to the flow of information. Faster transfer rates indicate quicker running applications, which mean smoother graphics and faster access to data.

CD-R and CD-RW

Q: What is the difference between CD-R and CD-RW?
A: CD-R (compact disc-recordable) drive is a type of disk drive that can create CD-ROMs and audio CDs. This allows you to master a CD-ROM or audio CD for publishing. CD-RW (compact disc-rewritable) is a type of disc that enables you to write onto the disc multiple times. One of the problems with CD-R is that you can only write to it one time. With CD-RW drives and discs, you can treat the optical disc just like a floppy or hard disk, writing data or music onto it multiple times. It is important to note that CD-R, also known as "record once," can be played in a conventional home or car CD player.

Q: Can I play the music CD that I made from a CD-RW drive in my car or home CD player?
A: No. You can only play the disc on a conventional CD player if you burned it onto a CD-R instead of a CD-RW disc. You will also need to record the music as a Wave file in order to use it in your car.

Q: What is a Wave file?
A: A wave file is a digital audio file that ends with the extension .WAV, which is used to create sounds in a Windows operating system.

Q: What are my system requirements if I decide to upgrade to CD-R or CD-RW?
A: You should have a 266MHz processor or greater, 16MB RAM, 10MB hard disk space, IDE connector on the motherboard, an open drive bay and at least a Windows 95 operating system.

Q: How do I determine the type of drive I need?
A: Several important numbers are listed on the product packaging. Record speed is listed first (e.g., 6x); the rewrite speed is listed second (e.g., 4x), or in the case of a CD-R drive, no second number is listed; the playback speed is listed last (32x). Naturally, the greater the speed, the faster the record time. Drives are available in either SCSI or IDE interface, depending on your system needs.

Q: Is software included with a CD-R or CD-RW drive?
A: Yes. The most popular is the Adaptec Easy CD-Maker software, which allows you to record data, download MP3 files off the Internet or your hard drive, and record directly from you CDs. It will help you categorize your music and create jewel case inserts as well.

Removable Storage

Q: Do I need additional storage for my PC or notebook computer if my hard drive has the necessary capacity?
A: It is always a good idea to back up your important files since you cannot guarantee that your data will be safe if it exists only in one place. Think about the time it took you to create the data and set up your PC so it works the way you want it to work. Now imagine trying to start up your computer only to find that your hard drive has experienced a major malfunction!

Q: What are the different types of removable storage devices?
A: Tape backup, Zip/Jaz/LS-120 SuperDisk drives, recordable/rewritable CD drives and Clik! PC card drives for notebook computers.

Q: Which system is right for me?
A: This depends on how large your hard drive capacity is and what type and size of files you will need to back up. There are also different types of storage media for PCs and notebook computers.

Back-Up Options:

  1. Hard drives
  2. CD-R and CD-RW
  3. Tape drive backup — Used for making regular backups of hard drives and large files. Tape drives use a cartridge to store highly compressed data.
  4. Zip drive — An external, removable mass storage device developed by Iomega that can store 100MB or 250MB of data on a single Zip disk.
  5. Jaz drive — Iomega's Zip drive can store 100MB on a disk, while the company's Jaz drive stores 1GB, roughly ten times as much.
  6. SuperDisk/LS-120 floppy drive — A bootable drive designed to replace or add to the floppy disk drive. The LS-120 drive stores 120MB of data when used with LS-120 media. LS-120 drives are backward compatible with standard floppy drives.
  7. Clik! drive — An Iomega drive that reads and writes to the Iomega Clik! 40MB disk. The disk measures 2" x 2".

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