Quick Study

By Brian Robinson

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Be careful of those hard drives, XP users

This post is for those that are still, and will be for a while, users of Windows XP. If that isn’t you then look away – or maybe gloat a little.

It seems that XP users could hit a tricky patch if they intend to update their hard drives to take advantage of the new Advanced Format drives that apparently will be standard by early 2011.

According to this BBC story, those drives need to be formatted into 4 kilobyte sectors as the minimum that the drive can write data to, whereas XP follows the 30 year old DOS convention of formatting disks for just 512 byte sectors.

This Ars Technica story goes into a bit more detail about the history of all of this. God forbid but, since I used to write about this stuff way back when, it actually makes sense to me!

The change is needed to keep up with the humongous sizes of today’s hard drives, which are rapidly heading towards a terabyte as standard, a big difference from the early days of DOS when a megabyte actually meant something.

The Ars Technica piece also talks about the 2 Terabyte partition limit that XP users are subjected to.

Anyway, it seems that XP users need to be aware of all of this and of potential workarounds. If you don’t do something the new drive will still work under XP, just incredibly slowly. That actually might bring computers more into line with the speed that most of government works at, but it’s not what people want out of IT these days.

This also goes for Linux users, by the way.

I might assume that the tons of much-smarter-people-than-me in government have been aware of this problem for some time and are way ahead of the game. But the first rule of journalism is assume nothing.

‘Nuff said.

Posted by Brian Robinson on Mar 11, 2010 at 12:19 PM


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