FDISK and FORMAT Disadvantage

The biggest problem with FDISK is that it is destructive. If you change your mind about disk structure, you must back up your system and start over again. That alone is cause for using FDISK with care, but here are other limitations you should keep in mind:

  • FDISK doesn't provide any help with issues of drive letter changes.

  • FDISK requires FORMAT before the drive is ready for use.

  • FORMAT must check the entire drive before making it ready for use. Its error management is rudimentary and can waste a lot of disk space with older drives that have disk errors.

  • FDISK and FORMAT are designed for a single operating system environment, with no provision for multiboot options (Windows 9x and NT or Windows 9x and Linux, for example).

  • FDISK and FORMAT offer no procedure for migrating data to a new drive, and the XCOPY command is tricky to use.

  • FDISK and FORMAT might cause conflicts with existing CD-ROM drives, which often use the next available drive letter after the existing hard drive.

Although Disk Management in Windows 2000 and Windows XP does a better job than FDISK/FORMAT of avoiding drive letter conflicts with existing drives, it's still a destructive process if you need to change your disk partitions, and it has no provision for migrating data.

For these reasons, many drive vendors offer some type of automatic disk installation software with their hard drives. These routines can make the task of disk migration a fast, easy, and reliable operation. Typical features of automatic disk installation programs include the following:

  • Replacement for FDISK and FORMAT. A single program performs both functions more quickly than FDISK and FORMAT separately.

  • Database of drive jumpers for major brands and models.

  • Drive copy function. Copies contents of old MS-DOS or Windows 9x drive to the new drive, retaining long filenames, file attributes, and so on.

  • CD-ROM drive letter relocation utility. Moves CD-ROM to new drive letter (to make room for new hard drive letters) and resets Windows Registry and INI file references to new drive letter so CD-ROM software works without reinstallation.

  • Menu-driven or wizard-driven process for installing new hard drive.

  • Optional override of BIOS limitations for installation of large hard drives (>504MB, 2.1GB, 8.4GB, and so on).

The two major vendors in the automated disk-utility business are Ontrack Data International, Inc., and StorageSoft. These companies sell their disk-installation products to OEM hard drive vendors for use with particular brands of drives. They also sell to the public "generic" versions that can be purchased for use with any brand or model of hard disk.

Disk Manager and EZ-Drive are DOS-based utility programs, whereas DiscWizard, MaxBlast, and Disk Manager version 4.x offer a Windows-like interface. Seagate's DiscWizard and MaxBlast actually analyze the system, ask the user questions about the intended installation, and prepare a customized procedure based on the user's responses.

OEM versions of disk-installation programs are available from the drive makers' Web sites; retail versions of Disk Manager v4.x usable with any combination of drives can be purchased from retail stores or at the vendor's online store.