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COMPUTING

From...
PC World

Upgrade your notebook hard drive: No pain, lots of gain

graphic

Apricorn's new EZ-Gig upgrade kit makes swapping in a newer, larger, and faster hard drive a virtual no-brainer.

by Jon L. Jacobi

(IDG) -- Notebooks are expensive -- so you're not likely to want to buy a new one just because you're running short of hard drive space. But upgrading a hard drive on a notebook presents special problems. For one thing, you can't simply add another in as you would with a desktop: You have to transfer your operating system, programs, and data to the new drive. Since the hard drives in most recent notebooks are fairly easily removed, the transfer process becomes the number-one problem.

The best kit available

Version 3.3 of Apricorn's $129 EZ-Gig data transfer kit makes this process painless. There are other kits available, but the EZ-Gig is the least expensive and simplest. And it's the only one I know of that doesn't require you to purchase the hard drive from the kit vendor.

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The EZ-Gig transfer kit is basically a PC Card EIDE controller and cable that attaches to your upgrade drive, plus transfer software delivered on a single bootable floppy disk. The transfer process couldn't be simpler. Plug the PC Card into your notebook, attach the drive to the cable, place the floppy in the drive and turn the machine on. Answer yes at the prompt and -- voila! -- you're transferring data.

If you're a pro or an enthusiast, you can press Ctrl-U at the prompt for a list of advanced options. You can then wipe the destination drive, bypass the notebook's BIOS during transfer, disable automatic translation of FAT16 partitions to FAT32, and force a sector-by-sector duplication -- just to mention a few choices. An important tip: Make sure your notebook's power saving is disabled or the copy process may be interrupted at an inopportune moment.

Once the data has been copied to the new hard drive, simply swap it in for your old drive. Depending on your notebook, this process ranges from a simple slide-it-out, slide-it-in procedure to complete disassembly of your notebook. Any extra mounting hardware and instructions required are included in the kit -- but only if you buy your upgrade drive from Apricorn.

Major improvements over previous version

I tested the EZ-Gig on a Fujitsu Lifebook L440-B, and the transfer went just as described. EZ-Gig 3.3 boasts two major improvements over the 3.01 version I had previously reviewed. First is the ability to skip copying the extra partition that some notebooks use to store suspend data -- giving you more room for programs on the new drive. But the biggest improvement is a reverse-copy process, which eliminates having to use the floppy during the transfer process. This option is especially handy for machines that have only one PC Card slot and use a PC Card floppy controller -- such as Toshiba's Libretto. With the reverse-copy procedure, you can install the new drive first, copy the EZ-OS onto it, and then remove the floppy controller and transfer the contents of your old drive to the new one using the EZ-Gig EIDE controller.

There's a bonus for buying an EZ-Gig. The kit's EIDE controller and cable allow you to continue using your old drive for backups or additional external storage. Unfortunately, unless you buy a drive with the EZ-Gig, no enclosure is included to house your old drive -- that'll cost you an additional $29.95.

If you decide to buy an EZ-Gig transfer and drive combo from Apricorn, you'll pay anywhere from $329 for a 2GB model to $1029 for an 8GB bundle. As soon as IBM's Travelstar 14GS 14GB 2.75-inch drives are available Apricorn will offer them as well. The EZ-Gig is sold licensed for 10 users, but extras are available on a sliding cost-per-user scale from $109 for 10, up to $2099 for 500.

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