Upgrading your computer system need not be a painful experience

Computer file

March 18, 1991|By Richard O'Reilly | Richard O'Reilly,1991 Los Angeles Times Syndicate Times Mirror Square

Computer users who like to acquire a lot of different software programs quickly learn that there is no such thing as a hard disk that is too big or too fast.

It is not unusual to find software that needs 5 to 10 megabytes of storage on your disk, especially if any graphic or type font files are involved.

Even the 40 megabyte hard disks that are commonly installed in today's lowest-priced Intel 80286- or 80386-equipped PCs will soon leave you begging for more if you become a software collector, and especially if you use Microsoft Windows programs.

It is not mechanically difficult to replace your old hard disk with a new, larger and probably faster model. What makes it a big chore is transferring everything on your current hard drive to the new one. It can take a long time to back up the old disk onto floppy diskettes -- and a lot of diskettes -- and then to restore them onto the new drive.

A much less painful upgrade is to add a second hard drive, which would probably become "Drive D" in the nomenclature of the DOS operating system. If you have the available drive bay space in your computer, that is an easy upgrade.

But even if your computer has space for only the hard drive already installed, there are other possibilities, two of which I've 00 just finished testing.

One is the Hardcard II XL from Plus Development Corp. of Milpitas, Calif., (408) 434-6900, which fits into most computers using Intel 80286 and 80386 chips, but not those with IBM's PS/2 microchannel design.

The other is the Bernoulli Transportable 44 from Iomega Corp., (CQ) Roy, Utah, (800) 456-5522. It works with virtually any design of IBM compatible and Macintosh computers.

Hardcard II XL is the latest in Plus Development's line of hard drive expansion cards and comes with a 50-megabyte capacity for a suggested retail price of $579 (105 megabytes listed at $999).

Installation is quite easy, if you want to tackle the job yourself, and should be cheap if you have a dealer do it.

Your computer must have an empty 16-bit expansion slot on its main chassis board, which you can quickly determine by removing the chassis cover. (A 16-bit slot has two sockets, a long one in line with a shorter one.)

The Hardcard II XL, which has a 3.5-inch hard drive mounted sideways on it, measures a mere 7/8-inch wide, but it is 13 inches long so it may not fit in some smaller-profile computers.

Once the Hardcard is in place, you have to run a software program to prepare your computer to recognize the Hardcard and to format the disk for use. Doing so was easy and fast. No other settings should be needed, but there are a number of optional settings available if the Hardcard interferes with some other device installed in your computer.

According to performance figures supplied with the Hardcard, I expected it to be much faster than the regular hard drive in the older 80286-equipped PC-AT clone in which I tested it.

In fact, on a simple performance test with Norton Utilities, it was 3.5 times faster. But in another test, copying a 10,000-line file, it was only twice as fast.

The Bernoulli Transportable 44 offers many advantages other than additional hard disk storage, but at $1,399, it costs more.

The first advantage of the Bernoulli is that it really isn't a hard drive in the traditional sense. Instead, it features a removable, rigid cartridge to house the recording media. Thus the capacity of the Bernoulli is limited only by the number of cartridges you have. The 44-megabyte cartridges are $420 for a pack of three. Each plastic-housed cartridge is the size of a 5.25-inch floppy disk and is about 3/8 inch thick.

For a decade this Bernoulli removable cartridge technology has made it possible to carry your software programs and files from computer to computer as long as each was equipped with a Bernoulli drive.

The new Transportable 44 also lets you more easily move the drive itself among different computers.

It comes with a simple cable adapter that allows the Bernoulli Transportable 44 to be connected to any parallel printer cable, in place of the printer, for transferring files or running programs. The only limitation is that you cannot also run a printer, unless the computer has a second printer port. When connected in this fashion, the Bernoulli drive operates about as fast as a normal 3.5-inch floppy drive.

You can improve speed five-fold by adding an optional adapter card ($265) to the computer, which uses the Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) method of connecting with the Bernoulli drive. When I did that, the Bernoulli was virtually as fast as the Hardcard II XL.

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