Maxed out your hard drive! – clone a new one

I’ve had to do this myself on numerous occasions now – you’ve maxed out your hard drive there’s just no more room left for all those programs, images and music files you’ve downloaded.

Internal Hard Drive
Internal Hard Drive

An easy solution is buy yourself an external disk and move your data to that, but sometimes, particularly if it’s a laptop you just want a bigger drive.

I’d say this is not a job for the non technical as you need to go inside the laptop at some point but here’s the process.

You need to buy a replacement hard drive – I’d go for a minimum of 500GB it should be a 2.5″ drive and as this is an upgrade I’d buy one with a spin rate of 7200 rpm and go for a 16MB cache. This can have a significant improvement on the original 5400rpm drive, making power up and the running of programs almost a third faster.

You also need a external hard drive enclosure with USB – you need this as you will fit your new drive in this for the cloning process before installing into your laptop.

You will also need some software to be able to clone your drive – I’d recommend a free program called TODO Backup which can be downloaded from here:- http://www.todo-backup.com/

The Process

  1. Install your new hard drive into it’s enclosure
  2. Connect to your laptop via USB and make sure that your computer recognises it.
  3. Run your cloning software and following the instructions, make sure you se t your laptop drive as the source and the USB drive as your destination.
  4. Depending on the size of your drive the cloning process can take several hours so make sure your laptop is connected to the supply otherwise the process will fail when your laptop runs out of power and shuts down.
  5. When the cloning process is complete shut down your laptop.
  6. Remove the new cloned drive from it’s enclosure.
  7. Remove your drive from your laptop – it usually just slides out but sometimes it’s in a cradle and so you will have remove the drive from this.
  8. Install the new drive first into the cradle if it has one  and then slide into the connectors on the laptop.
  9. Now comes the good part – restart your laptop and all being well your new drive boots and shows your all your programs and Windows Explorer lets you see how much more space you have.
  10. However you may find it’s exactly the same size as the old drive as it’s cloned it exactly. To get around this you need to resize the partition for which you will need Partition Software which is also a free download from here:- http://www.partition-tool.com/
  11. Now you can install your old drive into the enclosure and this gives you the bonus of an external drive that’s a complete backup of your original files and data.

I need to add a note here – sometimes the new drive needs to be re-mounted – what this means is you need a Windows systems disk to run Repair and this will remount your drive and update your boot record.

Malware ‘Security Shield’

Malware Security Shield screenshot
Malware Security Shield screenshot

Watch out for the Malware “Security Shield” – I’ve fixed 2 PC’s with this already, whatever you do do not click on it as it will take you to a site demanding $79. Fortunately there’s a fix which you can download usually from your Anti-virus supplier or search the net. Be aware though you’ll have other viruses/trojans that need fixing.

‘My Security Shield’

My Security Shield
My Security Shield

This site offers a more comprehensive guide to identification and removal of this Anti-spyware app ‘My Security Shield’ which changes periodically in design but the removal is essentially the same at bleepingcomputer.com. I also recommend the use of Malwarebytes a Malware removal App which can be found for free download at download.com

Malwarebytes Screenshot
Malwarebytes Screenshot

NTFS for MAC – NTFS file system support for MAC’s

NTFS for MAC


NTFS for MAC – NTFS file system support for MAC’s

If like me you find yourself using both a PC and a MAC on a regular basis you must have come across the situation where swapping files between the 2 is needed. Unfortunately MAC does not support NTFS file systems.

Fortunately there is a utility which you can download to get around this NTFS for MAC. NTFS-3G installing this lets you read and write to NTFS formatted external hard drives. It also supports other file formats as well which is a bonus.

Apple – Downloads – System/Disk Utilities – NTFS-3G

A file system driver for the NTFS file system, enabling write support and other advanced features.

NTFS-3G Screenshot
NTFS-3G Screenshot

New Website – LifeStyle Computers goes live

Friday 24th June 2011

The New website for LifeStyle Computers went live today.

We’ve been researching all kinds of ideas and designs for a replacement to our previous Website and in the end we decided to go with a design based on WordPress App.

WordPress is incredibly flexible and allows us to add new pages and information (posts) without major changes to the design and just as importantly we can add this information without the use of editing apps or any special skills. This allows other members of the company to add new information and it immediately goes live on the site.

I created this website as an intern forming part of my course work for the Digital Media Production course at the Arts University Bournemouth.

 

New Website – Now Online

Friday 24th June 2011

The New website for LifeStyle Computers went live today.

We’ve been researching all kinds of ideas and designs for a replacement to our previous Website and in the end we decided to go with a design based on WordPress App.

WordPress is incredibly flexible and allows us to add new pages and information (posts) without major changes to the design and just as importantly we can add this information without the use of editing apps or any special skills. This allows other members of the company to add new information and it immediately goes live on the site.

 

NEWS – Friday 10th May 2011

New website for LifeStyle Computers to go live in the next few days.

We are just finalising the design and then we shall be moving the new website to a Dynamic Hosting Platform which you will still be able to access using http://www.lifestylecomputers.co.uk .

We also plan to keep this WordPress site running in the interim for testing new designs and ideas.

At some point we plan to run a design competition to design us a New Logo and Branding for the company so watch this space for an update.

News Archive

** Refurbished Laptops and desktop PC’s available, call us for latest stock list or with your requirements and we will check the current stock for you. Latest stock include Acers, HP, Toshiba and Dells.

** We have a New range of School or meeting room PA Systems which we supply and install, from a small portable system to a fully installed wireless Theatre communications setup.

** We are now getting in refurbished netbooks – ideal for taking notes in class or surfing the internet while on the move.

** We have moved from Christchurch to offices located in West Moors, Ferndown, Dorset call us on TEL: 01202 868890 for a complete local service. We will deliver your computer, install and provide an internet setup service. (Subscription to a broadband service is required)

MAC G4 to PC conversion project (Part 8 – Project Update)

The previous post hinted at future upgrades and some of these have now been completed:-

CPU Fan: ZALMAN 7000B ALCU Ultra Quiet CPU Cooler

MAC - PC Zalman CPU Fan Installed
MAC - PC Zalman CPU Fan Installed

The Zalman fan turned out to be as good as we had expected although this is the first time that we have specified this particular fan for a Media Center PC we usually install one of the larger versions. As you can see in the picture it fits extremely well although there is no space at all for anything bigger. The fixing point on one side actually touches one of the capacitors but importantly does not apply any force against it. The top of the fan clears the power supply by just millimetres. The good news is that due to its design the hot air is forced sideways through the heat sink and so there is no hot air blown directly against the power supply. In fact the design seems to be cooling the surrounding components as well which is a real benefit. The CPU temperatures are much more reasonable, with the side panel shut the temps are 40C at idle and the highest we have seen is 48C at high loading. The fan seems to be running at 1800rpm and cannot be heard above the case fan (which may have to be changed again to a speed controlled version to reduce noise).

Audio: Sound card Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme Music OEM

MAC - PC X - Fi Sound Card Installed
MAC - PC X - Fi Sound Card Installed

The standard onboard sound was to be honest not that good especially when hooked up to a state of the art 5.1 sound system and playing MP3’s but adding the creative X-Fi brings a whole new dimension to the audio experience (Sorry to sound like an advert for them) this card is a must buy for a Media Center and we will be fitting this into all our systems from now on. WARNING – remove your onboard sound drivers and disable in BIOS to avoid conflicts when installing this card and drivers.

Conclusion:

MAC - PC View inside showing the modifications
MAC - PC View inside showing the modifications

This is most probably as far as we are going to take this project unless we suddenly get the urge to go for a full HDTV setup but watch this space as we seem to be under a lot of pressure to build more or a similar setup to this for some of our current customers.

Previous PostBack to the beginning

MAC G4 to PC conversion project (Part 7 – Future Modifications)

CPU Fan: ZALMAN 7000B ALCU Ultra Quiet CPU Cooler

MAC - PC Inside the completed project
MAC - PC Inside the completed project

The CPU Fan is really noisy especially now that all the other fans have been replaced with quieter versions. The problem with changing the CPU Fan is the lack of space, the standard Fan sits only 5mm from the PSU so height is crucial no replacement Fan can be higher than the standard Fan we estimate the maximum height available to be 65mm. The other problem is diameter and clearance above component including memory and North Bridge heat sink. We are fans of Zalman products and they have one which is low profile and the fan sit’s inside the heat sinks so air is expelled to the sides which should help cool the the CPU and stop the PSU from getting hot. Watch this space to see how this goes.

MAC - PC Zalman CPU Fan
MAC - PC Zalman CPU Fan

HD DVD drive: Pioneer Blu-Ray Reader & DVDRW – SATA
The cheapest way to get HD content on your HD Ready TV is most probably by downloading it but there are HD OEM DVD’s drives out there and we plan to install one – most probably a Blu-ray drive in the future. One which is of interest is the Pioneer Blu-Ray Reader & DVDRW – SATA which with the SATA option will help to clear up the cable confusion we currently have in the case. As it’s also a Combo we do not loose the ability to read and write standard DVD’s.

What next:

MAC - PC Blu-ray upgrade
MAC - PC Blu-ray upgrade

This is an ongoing project so we expect the spec of this machine to change as new technology is tried and tested, the obvious next step is to upgrade the basics so a new motherboard, processor and hard drive will be on the cards. To keep the build as close to original the choice of motherboard again will be key and so far the most promising appears to be a Dual Core ready Gigabyte motherboard based on layout and features including HD ready graphics.

Finally: Not quite! see next page for project update
We acknowledge all Trademarks, copyrights etc. used in this article and make no actual recommendations in regard to any of the technology that was used in the making of this project. There are also no plans to offer this system for sale although requests to do so are high but watch this space in case we decide to offer a future kit for you to be able to build your own.

Project updated see next page

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MAC G4 to PC conversion project (Part 6 – Modifications)

Case Fan and PSU Fan:

MAC - PC Power Supply Installation
MAC - PC Power Supply Installation

As we plan to turn this into Media Center noise in particular fan noise will be an issue. So for now we have replaced the case Fan with an Akasa version and this also has the benefit of a standard motherboard connection so we ditched our modified setup and plugged the case fan straight onto the motherboard. With the case Fan noise dramatically reduced it was clear that the PSU Fan needed some attention so we dismantled the PSU and removed the stock Fan and replaced it with the Akasa equivalent with in this case a small switch to control the speed. This switch exits nicely through the blanked of hole in the PSU which must on some models contain an on/off switch.

3.5″ drive space:

MAC - PC Front Panel Optical Drive and Card Reader
MAC - PC Front Panel Optical Drive and Card Reader

The drive caddy has space for an external 3.5″ drive which we used to add a card reader and front USB and Audio outputs. You could also use it for a floppy and combined card reader. You do need to cut the front panel for this unless you are lucky en ought to get a case with the optional Zip drive fitted. Our panel was cut to size very carefully – to prevent the plastic splitting we covered it with masking tape first and drew the outline of the cutout on this. The best tool for this job turned out to be hand jigsaw the dremel tended to melt the plastic when a test cut was made. Oh the Apple logo is illuminated we drilled a hole in the case to allow the blue illumination inside the case to come through.

Graphics Card: MSI GeForce 7600GS 512MB AGP

MAC - PC MSI Fanless Graphics Card GeForce 7600GS
MAC - PC MSI Fanless Graphics Card GeForce 7600GS

We chose this card for many reasons one for the heat pipe technology so there’s no Fan and two it claims to have HDTV output which may come in handy if we decide to upgrade the optical drive for a HD drive eg. Blu-ray etc. We’ve not tried this card before so it’s a bit of an unknown quantity but we have high hopes.

Case illumination:
We’ve added two blue light mini fluorescent’s for case lighting. One we’ve glued under the case the others mounted internally at the top of the case. We love the effect of the blue light coming through the case and being picked up by the external plastics, especially around the door release, Apple logo and the case handles.

What comes next? see part 7 for future developments

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MAC G4 to PC conversion project (Part 5 – Powering up)

Switching on:

MAC - PC Inside the completed project
MAC - PC Inside the completed project

Like all first power ups on new builds it pays to re-check connections before applying power. It’s also a good idea to use a standard PS2 mouse and keyboard connections as USB wireless keyboards and mouse may not be recognised by the bios initially so you’ll be unable to setup the basic settings. As we have already tried our setup before assembly we expected it to work on start up which it did. We are not using a SATA drive so no drivers need to be installed but if you are you may have to temporarily fit a floppy to upload them. The great thing about this case is that you can open the side panel to see it working when it’s powered up – please note we know exactly what we are doing and we would never advise anyone working on a live PC with the case open.

Graphics card:
For a new build like this we generally and in this case decided to use the onboard graphics saving the installation of a graphics card until after the operating system is installed. Picture shows graphics card installed after first power up and O/S installed.

Setting the bios:
This is where you need your manual unless you know what to set here, usually though the default settings are ok and you only need to set the Clock and Number Lock etc.

Installing the operating system:
I suppose this is the final insult installing windows although I suppose you could be installing Linux but in our case we decided to go for Windows XP Media Center edition on the basis that this may well end up as a media center rather than a games machine.

Too good to be true ? :
It all works, we are still surprised that everything went as well as it did especially after reading on the internet how many problems others experienced in doing a similar conversion.

Part 6 will look at the modifications we have made since the original build and what happens in the future.

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