Time for a New Year’s Upgrade!

I’m not usually one for New Year’s resolutions. It’s always seemed pretty easy to break promises to myself at any time of the year. But I must admit that the beginning of the year is a good time to consider the future. So, here’s something I’ll be implementing soon, and with hope it might be of use to you.

Essentially, I plan to find time to fend off an old adversary: disk space (or, rather, lack of disk space). Yes, it’s great that laptops are finally powerful enough to replace 98 percent of what I need a desktop for, but I sure miss the ability to use 3.5” drives—1TB runs about $300 or more nowadays. We laptop users are constrained by space to 2.5” drives, and so we’re sort of left wishing for a quarter of a terabyte. Even that turns out to be a tall order because, first, 2.5” drives obviously have smaller platters and therefore less surface area upon which to store data, and second, 2.5” drives have a lower profile, which allows space for only two platters, whereas 3.5” drives sport enough space for four platters. (One 2.5”drive vendor has tried squeezing three platters into the case, but that seems a trifle optimistic for my taste.)

This year, however, vendors have released 2.5” 200GB and 250GB drives in rotational speeds of 7200rpm and 5400rpm, respectively, which puts me in a real quandary: Can I live with a 5400rpm drive? I’d like the room that 250GB would afford, but I’m running Windows Vista, and, well, Vista is sort of a 7200rpm OS, if you know what I mean. But even a move up to 200GB would be a blessing and would save me the time involved in my nearly-weekly ritual of finding stuff to archive offline and remove from the drive, so next year it’s time to move up, even if it’s not to 250GB. (Windows XP laptop users might find the 250GB drive’s performance acceptable if, again, you know what I mean.)

But how to easily move up to that larger drive? It depends. If you’re running XP, I’ve successfully used Acronis TrueImage Workstation to transplant a few versions of XP from smaller drives to bigger ones without trouble. You just pop the new drive in a USB or eSATA enclosure, attach it to the laptop, and boot from the TrueImage CD. The rest is straightforward. But what if you’re using Vista? Well, TrueImage is reputed to work on Vista, but I’m cheap, so I’d stick with the tool that’s right in the box—CompletePC Backup. Connect your system to a network or an external hard disk (an inexpensive USB drive works fine) and run CompletePC Backup to create the backup. Then, remove the old hard disk from your laptop and set it aside. (Of course, this is one of the best parts about doing an “OS transplant” from an older, smaller drive to a newer, larger one: If the transplant fails, you can always re-install the old drive and still have a working OS, letting you then figure out why the transplant failed and try again.)

Then, with the new (and empty) drive installed, keep the external hard disk connected and boot from the Vista installation DVD. After choosing a language to install, don’t click Install Now; instead, click Repair My Computer, then Complete PC Restore, and follow the GUI. The system will see the CompletePC backup sitting on the external hard disk.

One more thing to know about CompletePC Backup: It can be kind of slow. I started my CompletePC backup around 9:30am, and as I write this CompletePC Backup is only 51 percent done. I’ve never really understood why CompletePC takes so long, although part of it is no doubt the fact that I’m saving to an external USB drive, but even backups on an eSATA drive take significant time. As they say, though, your patience will be rewarded. Here’s to a bit more living space in 2008!

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