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Installing Windows and Assigning Drive Letters


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The recent rash of new hard drives purchased here at GR.net prompts this post as I just installed a new HD and Windows yesterday. While this is aimed primarily at those with multiple physical hard drives, it also applies to those who buy bigger drives (this may need a tweak or two).

If you build a PC from scratch and are going to use other drives as extra storage space, install the drives, but do not connect them at first. Install the primary drive and connect it to both the PSU and the motherboard as you norally would ensuring that you set the jumper to the cable select position. XP seems to like this better than it does any other way for some odd reason.

When you start the PC for the first time, go into the BIOS and make sure that the first device in the boot sequence is the CD-ROM. If you have to change anything, make the changes and save and exit. Once it boots to the set up screen, let it do it's thing. Follow the on screen instructions to create a partition by hitting C. Once you do you will have the option to set the size of your primary partition for Windows. You can use any size you wish but 25-30GB is fine. Create that partition and leave the rest of the drive alone. Do not partition at this time as it will format and make it a boot sector if you do and you will not be able to rename the drive letter later. Format the C: partition and let setup install the files needed.

After your PC restarts go back into BIOS and change the boot order to the hard drive first. Once done, let Windows boot and start installing itself. Enter any information you need to during the installation. Once Windows has finished installing and booted to the desktop for the first time, you can start installing your motherboard drivers and your video card drivers. After you have rebooted from installing the drivers, connect to Windows Update (you may have to configure your PC to find your connection) and update Windows (I had 58 critical updates from the get go as anyone else with a brand new installation of Windows should have right now) to have all the latest security patches and hotfixes. Reboot if needed after the updates.

Now to your extra drive space. This is where you most likely want to install programs or other data. Open the control panel and go to Preformance and Maintenance. Once there select Administrative Tools (you must be logged in as an admin to do this) and click on Computer Management. Select Disk Management from the left menu and you will get a display of your drives on the right. Now depending on how many optical drives you have, you may want to rename it/them now to be able to assign consecutive letters to the free space on your HD. Right click on the drives and select Change Drive Letters and Path from the menu. Pick a letter far enough down to be able to assign the letters you want to the drive space on the HD. Right click on the free space and select either Format or Partition to partition the drive into the sizes you want. Format each partition and assign it a drive letter if it is not what you want. I just make one large virtual drive for data and programs and use the smaller drive for just Windows. Partitioning the empty space is also easier with Partition Magic and useable even after drives are partitioned and can merge 2 or more partitions even after the original set up if you want.

Once you have your new hard drive partitioned the way you wish, shut your PC down and now connect your other hard drives in their proper places. Once your PC has booted up and recognized all of the drives, you will need to go back to the Disk Management area of Computer Management and reassign drive letters to what you actually want (remember your optical drives were relettered earlier) them to be. Once done, all of your drives will have the drive letters you want instead of what Windows will assign to them if you have them all connected at the beginning. Windows may not even install on the new drive as Windows XP will see a different installation of itself on a different drive and boot from it. Once a partition is a boot partition, you also will not be able to change the drive letter if you so wish.

Once all of your drives are set up, finish installing any periphrials and programs as you normally would.

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  • 2 years later...

OK so today I get a new hard drive and install it and run into a problem. The drive was seen in the BIOS but not by Windows. Turns out, this is a problem with Windows (both XP and Vista) and SATA drives.

The first thing one has to do is ensure that it is seen in the BIOS. Then get your motherboard CD out and install the SATA driver that is on the CD. Reboot and then Windows will see your new drive and install the drivers for it. Then all you have to do is go into Disk Management and initalize and format it.

Now if you want to assign a particular drive letter to it, do so after formatting. One thing to remember is that if you try to change a drive letter on a drive already installed and with programs on it, they may not run, but at least Vista will allow you to do so once you reboot, there is a warning about it. If you decide against it, Windows will let you cancel the rename and go about it's business.

(I had a heck of a time finding this as a bunch of threads had been unpinned, my search had errors due to different wording apparently.)

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