Almost no matter what our initial thoughts were about an appropriate size for a hard drive, we tend to out-grow them. With today’s huge available hard drive sizes, as well as today’s programming practices, programs are becoming bigger and bigger as well as more bloated with "features" that no one uses.
Windows is getting bigger and bigger, too. Then, there are the audio files and video files that we record that swallow drive space in vast amounts (DVD-quality video takes 8 GB of drive space per hour of recording).
The basic question becomes "Do I replace my hard drive with a larger one, or just add another hard drive to increase my available storage?" My usual choice is to add another hard drive.
Of course, if your current drive is failing, the answer is much more obvious….
Prices have dropped dramatically on hard drives, especially in the last couple years. Not only are SSD’s becoming available as reasonable choices for home PC’s (at least for the boot drive), the advances in hard drive capacity have driven the prices of all but the highest capacity drives down to $100 or less, at least for Internet-order for bare drives(non-Retail — drive only, no software, cables, screws, adapters, etc).
Adding a drive is an easy step. If your current case has space for an additional hard drive, then adding one becomes an easy step. If you don’t have an available SATA connector for the hard drive data cable, you can get an add-on card to install in a PCI or PCI-e slot on your motherboard. If you don’t have an available SATA power cable, you can get an adapter to convert an available molex 4-conductor plug to a SATA power plug, or get a SATA adapter to split one plug into multiple plugs.
If you don’t have space in your computer, you can always add an external hard drive to use as aditional storage.
If you’re running Windows XP and want to use a SATA hard drive, you may have to get a SATA driver for your motherboard.
Once you have installed your new hard drive, the next step is to create the primary partition, or an extended partition plus one or more "logical partitions," on it. Windows will trigger a wizard to do this; however, I prefer to use the Windows Disk Management Tool (diskmgmt.msc) to do the partitioning.
If you choose to replace your hard drive, the important step is to clone the existing hard drive onto the new hard drive. The idea is to copy everything to the new hard drive, using special software that usually comes with the retail versions of new hard drives, before you remove your old hard drive.
However, if you suspect viruses, rootkits or other malware may still be involved, I’d go with the clean install solution.
Rather than using the included software, which is usually limited in its flexibility, I would use Acronis True Image to restore one of my recent backups. I’d probably update the backup before the switchover, too, before doing that.
Alternatively, and my usual choice if I replace the hard drive that has Windows installed on it, is to reinstall Windows from the Windows DVD (or from restore DVD’s, if I didn’t have original operating system DVD’s). Windows does seem to need a clean install occasionally to get rid of all the junk that accumulates over time. That works fine, but it means that I have to reinstall all my programs and reconfigure them.
The other solution is one that I use occasionally. Most readers know that I use and believe in using Acronis True Image for backing up my hard drives. I seldom mention that, when I do a "clean install" of Windows and get my many of my other programs installed and configured, I usually do an image backup of my C: drive at that point.
Then, if I later replace my C: drive (either the hard drive or just the partition on the hard drive) and want to do a clean installation, it takes a short while to do the restore process, rather than hours of reinstalling and reconfiguring Windows and those programs, too.