Hard disk drive

How to Use Windows 10’s Storage Spaces to Mirror and Combine Drives

The Storage Spaces feature built into Windows allows you to combine multiple hard drives into a single virtual drive. It can mirror data across multiple drives for redundancy, or combine multiple physical drives into a single pool of storage. Storage Spaces is similar to RAID or LVM on Linux.

This feature was added in Windows 8, and was improved in Windows 10. It’s available on all editions of Windows 8 and 10, including Home editions.

What Are Storage Spaces?

To create a Storage Space, you need at least two physical drives on your PC. These can be internal drives or external drives connected via USB.

Storage Spaces allow you to create a “storage pool” of two or more physical drives, grouping them together. Once you’ve created a storage pool made up of two or more physical drives, you can create three types of “spaces” using that pool:

  • A simple space is designed to give you the most storage possible, but doesn’t provide any protection against drive failure. Windows will store only a single copy of your data across all the drives. If one of these drives fails, your data will be lost and corrupted. This is ideal for temporary data.
  • A mirror space is designed to protect you from drive failure by storing multiple copies of your files. A single drive—or more than one drive, depending on how you configure things—can fail and you won’t lose any data. This is ideal for protecting important data from hardware failure.
  • A parity space is designed as a compromise. Windows will keep a single copy of your data along with parity information. You’ll have more space and you’ll be protected if a single drive fails. However, parity spaces are slower than simple and mirror spaces. This solution is ideal for data archival, and not data you use frequently.

If you choose to format a mirror or parity space with the Windows Resilient File System (ReFS), Windows will automatically monitor and maintain file integrity to prevent file corruption.

How to Create a Storage Space

You can create a Storage Space from the Control Panel. First, connect the drives you want to group together to your computer. Then, head to Control Panel > System and Security > Storage Spaces. You can also just search for “Storage Spaces” in your Start menu.

Click the “Create a new pool and storage space” link to get started.

Select the drives you want to add to the pool and click “Create Pool” to create a storage pool from those drives.

Warning: All data on the drives you select will be erased, so back up any important data before continuing!

After creating a pool, you’ll be prompted to configure your new storage space. Type a name for the storage space and select a drive…

What Is UEFI, and How Is It Different from BIOS?

New computers use UEFI firmware instead of the traditional BIOS. Both are low-level software that starts when you boot your PC before booting your operating system, but UEFI is a more modern solution, supporting larger hard drives, faster boot times, more security features, and—conveniently—graphics and mouse cursors.

We’ve seen newer PCs that ship with UEFI still refer to it as the “BIOS” to avoid confusing people who are used to a traditional PC BIOS. Even if your PC uses the term “BIOS”, modern PCs you buy today almost certainly ship with UEFI firmware instead of a BIOS.

What Is a BIOS?

BIOS is short for Basic Input-Output system. It’s low-level software that resides in a chip on your computer’s motherboard. The BIOS loads when your computer starts up, and the BIOS is responsible for waking up your computer’s hardware components, ensures they’re functioning properly, and then runs the bootloader that boots Windows or whatever other operating system you have installed.

You can configure various settings in the BIOS setup screen. Settings like your computer’s hardware configuration, system time, and boot order are located here. You can access this screen by pressing a specific key—different on different computers, but often Esc, F2, F10, or Delete—while the computer boots. When you save a setting, it’s saved to the memory on your motherboard itself. When you boot your computer, the BIOS will configure your PC with the saved settings.

The BIOS goes through a POST, or Power-On Self Test, before booting your operating system. It checks to ensure your hardware configuration is valid and working properly. If something is wrong, you’ll see an error message or hear a cryptic series of beep codes. You’ll have to look up what different sequences of beeps mean in the computer’s manual.

When your computer boots—and after the POST finishes—the BIOS looks for a Master Boot Record, or MBR, stored on the boot device and uses it to launch the bootloader.

You may also see the acronym CMOS, which stands for Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor. This refers to the battery-backed memory where the BIOS stores various settings on the motherboard. It’s actually not accurate anymore, since this method has been replaced with flash memory (also referred to as EEPROM) in contemporary systems.

Why the BIOS Is Outdated

The BIOS has been around for a long time, and hasn’t evolved much. Even MS-DOS PCs released in the 1980s had a BIOS!

Of course, the BIOS has evolved and improved over time. Some extensions were developed, including ACPI, the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface. This allows the BIOS to more easily configure devices and perform advanced power management functions, like sleep. But the BIOS hasn’t advanced and improved nearly as much as other PC technology has since the days of MS-DOS.

The traditional BIOS still has serious limitations. It can only boot from drives of 2.1 TB or less. 3 TB drives are now common, and a computer with a BIOS can’t boot from them….

How to Use Mulitple External Monitors With Your Laptop

Multiple monitors are awesome. They really are—ask anyone who’s used a two- or three-screen setup for their desktop, and they’ll tell you that they have a hard time going back to just one. Laptops have a built-in advantage here, since they have one screen: to boost productivity, just add a monitor.

But what if you want more than one screen hooked up to your notebook at once? What if your laptop lacks a bunch of external video ports? What if you’re travelling, and you can’t lug around a full-sized monitor? Don’t worry, you still have more options than you might think.

The Ideal Solution for Newer Laptops: Thunderbolt

Thunderbolt 3, which uses the new USB Type-C connector standard, is the newest way for laptops and tablets to output video. The advantages are obvious: a single cable can handle video, audio, standard data transmission (for external hard drives or a wired Internet connection) and power, all at the same time. Not only does this reduce clutter on your desk—assuming you have the hardware to take advantage of it, of course—it means laptops can be made smaller and thinner by consolidating ports.

So, if you have a laptop with Thunderbolt 3 and a Thunderbolt-capable monitor, this is by far the best solution. You can just hook up each monitor to one Thunderbolt/USB-C port.

However, it’s rarely that simple. Unless you have a very new laptop and very new monitors, you’ll probably need a bit more to make this work:

  • If you have a laptop with multiple Thunderbolt/USB-C ports but older monitors that don’t have Thunderbolt input, you’ll need some sort of adapter for each monitor, like this USB-C to HDMI or this USB-C to DVI adapter. Remember, you’ll need one adapter for each monitor you’re connecting.
  • If your laptop only has one Thunderbolt/USB-C port, you’ll likely need some sort of docking station to connect two monitors to one port. We recommend checking out this Dell Thunderbolt Dock, though there are others out there as well. Note that some laptops, like the small one-port MacBook, do not support running multiple displays from one port using these docks, so check your laptop’s specifications, and if you’re going to try a dock, buy from a store with a good return policy in case it doesn’t work.

Thunderbolt has a massive amount of video bandwidth, and it’s more that capable of supporting multiple standard monitors (the new Macbook Pros can output to two 5K displays at once, so long as you have the right adapters). Specialized adapters—basically mini-laptop docks—are designed for the purpose of regular docking to a multi-monitor setup with mice, keyboard, and other connections.

Once USB-C and Thunderbolt become more common on laptops and…

How to Get the Most Out of Your Android TV

If you’re an Android user, Android TV is a great way to bring your mobile OS (and your favorite apps) to the big screen. And if you’re looking to get more from your Android TV box, this is a collection of few tips and tricks to help supercharge your experience.

If you’re really looking for more information on Android TV (and which box you should buy), this post probably isn’t for you…yet. First, I’d take a look at what Android TV is all about, along with a few recommendations of some of the best Android TV boxes on the market right now. Then, come back here and get started tweaking.

Re-arrange Your Apps

Just like on your phone, you can pick and choose the order of your apps on Android TV, as long as your box is running Android 6.0 and above. It’s actually really simple to do:

  1. Long press the icon you want to move,
  2. When the screen turns gray, move the icon around,
  3. Use the “select” button to drop the icon.
  4. Hit “Done.”

That’s all there is to it. If you want a more in depth look at re-arranging home screen icons, check out our primer.

Expand Your Device’s Storage

If there’s one negative thing to say about most Android TV boxes, it’s that they don’t have enough internal storage. Fortunately, you can use an external hard drive on most Android TV boxes to add more storage, or even an SD card on certain models to make the expansion process even easier.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a blanket method here—it all depends on what your device support. The good news is that we have an excellent tutorial on adding an external hard drive…

How to Encrypt Your Mac’s Time Machine Backup

You encrypt your Mac’s system drive like you should: if your computer is stolen, your data is safe from prying eyes. But on your desk, right next to your Mac, is a carbon copy of everything on your hard drive: your Time Machine backup. Wouldn’t anyone who grabbed that drive have access to all the same information?

Yes they would, which is why it’s important to encrypt your Time Machine drive. There are two ways to do this, and both are relatively straightforward. You can retroactively encrypt your existing Time Machine backup, which allows you to keep your old backups. The downside: this retroactive encryption can take a long time, which is why you might want to simply create an encrypted partition using Disk Utility and back up to that. Let’s go over both options.

The Slow, But Non-Destructive Option: Encrypt Your Current Backups

If you have Time Machine set up on your Mac already, you can encrypt your drive retroactively. The process is going to take a while—for a one terabyte mechanical drive, the process could take more than 24 straight hours—but you can start and stop the process as many times as you like.

Head to System Preferences > Time Machine, then click “Select Disk.”

Select your current backup drive, then click “Remove Disk.”

Yes, we have to remove the drive before we can start encrypting, but don’t worry: your backups will remain on the drive. Click the “Select Backup Disk” button.

Click your old Time Machine drive in the list of options, then check the “Encrypt backups” option.

How to Free Up Disk Space in Parallels

Virtual machines can use a large amount of disk space. If you want to regain some of that disk space, just deleting files inside the virtual machine won’t help. You’ll need to reclaim that disk space, shrinking the virtual hard disk and making it use less space on your Mac.

Parallels includes a helpful wizard that will walk you through this. To open it, launch Parallels, select the virtual machine you want to free up space on, and click File > Free Up Disk Space.

If you have multiple virtual machines you want to free up space from, you’ll need to repeat the below process for each virtual machine.

You’ll see the Free Up Disk Space wizard for that virtual machine. The wizard has four options:

  • Snapshots: If you’ve taken snapshots to save the state of the virtual machine, those snapshots will use space. Click the “Snapshot Manager” button and you can choose to delete some snapshots to free up space.
  • Resume & Shutdown: If you put the virtual machine to sleep instead of shutting it…

Can a Short Circuit Damage a Hard Drive?

There are few things that can compare with the sinking feeling you get when you go to turn your computer on and it quickly dies a moment later due to hardware problems. With that issue in mind, today’s SuperUser Q&A post has the answer to a stressed-out reader’s question.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

10TB All OS FIPS 140-2 256-bit – AES USB 3.0 Encrypted Drive
All OS XP Compliant Hardware Key 256-bit AES Drive for Windows/MacOS/Linux Go to buslink.com

The Question

SuperUser reader Baris Usakli wants to know if a short circuit could damage a hard disk drive:

Everything was working fine until one day when my computer would shut down a split second after the power button was pressed. All the fans would start spinning and the lights would come on, but then everything would go dark half a second later. After this happened, pressing the power button had no effect. The only way to get my computer started again was to unplug the power cord, then plug it back in.

I suspected the power supply was the cause at first, so I bought another one, but I still faced the same issue. I unplugged everything and reseated the RAM/GPU and drives. After doing that, my computer booted and I thought I was good to go, but then I noticed my secondary hard disk drive was no longer working.

It was not visible in BIOS or Windows. I replaced the hard disk drive with another one, but after a while, the original issue came back. So I reseated everything again and was able to boot back up, but to my horror, the new hard disk drive was dead as well. At this point, I thought maybe something was shorting the system out, so I took…

The Complete Guide to Speeding Up Your Virtual Machines

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Virtual machines are demanding beasts, providing virtual hardware and running multiple operating systems on your computer at once. As a result, they can sometimes be a little slow. Here are some tips to help you squeeze every last drop of performance out of your virtual machine, whether you’re using VirtualBox, VMware, Parallels, or something else.

Create Fixed-Size Disks Instead of Dynamically Allocated Ones

When creating your virtual machine, you can create two different types of virtual disks. By default, virtual machine programs will generally use dynamically allocated disks that grow as you use them.

For example, if you create a new virtual machine with a dynamically allocated disk with a maximum size of 30 GB, it won’t take up 30 GB of space on your hard disk immediately. After installing your operating system and programs, it may only take up 10 GB. As you add more files to the virtual disk, it will expand up to its maximum size of 30 GB.

This can be convenient, as each virtual machine won’t take up an unnecessarily large amount of space on your hard drive. However, it’s slower than creating a fixed-size disk (also known as a preallocated disk). When you create a fixed-size disk, all 30 GB of that space would be allocated immediately.

There’s a trade-off here: a fixed-size disk uses more space on your hard disk, but adding new files to the virtual machine’s hard disk is faster. You also won’t see as much file fragmentation. The space will be assigned in a large block instead of being added in smaller pieces.

Install Your Virtual Machine Software’s Tools

After installing a guest operating system inside a virtual machine, the first thing you should do is install your virtual machine software’s drive package—Guest Additions for VirtualBox, VMware Tools for VMware, or Parallels Tools for Parallels. These packages include special drivers that help your guest operating system run faster on your virtual machine’s hardware.

Installing the package is simple. In VirtualBox, boot your guest operating system and click Devices > Insert Guest Additions CD Image. You can then launch the installer from the virtual disc drive in your virtual machine. On VMware, select the Install VMware Tools option in the virtual machine’s menu instead. In Parallels, click Actions > Install Parallels Tools.

Follow the instructions on your screen to complete the installation. If you’re using a Windows guest operating system, it’ll be just like installing any other Windows application.

Ensure you keep these updated with your virtual machine program. If you see a notification that an update is available for Guest Additions or VMware Tools, you should install it.

Exclude Virtual Machine Directories In Your Antivirus

Your computer’s antivirus program may be scanning your virtual machine files whenever they’re accessed, reducing performance. The antivirus can’t see inside the virtual machine to detect viruses running on your guest operating systems, so this scanning isn’t helpful.

To speed things up, you can add your virtual machine directory to your antivirus’s exclusions list. Once it’s on the list, your antivirus will ignore all files in this directory.

Ensure Intel VT-x or AMD-V Is Enabled

Intel VT-x and AMD-V are special processor extensions that improve virtualization. Newer Intel and AMD processors generally include these features. However, some computers don’t automatically enable them. You may have to go into your computer’s BIOS and enable this setting yourself, even if your computer…

The Raspberry Pi Becomes a SCSI Device

SCSI devices were found in hundreds of different models of computers from the 80s, from SUN boxes to cute little Macs. These hard drives and CDROMs are slowly dying, and with that goes an entire generation of technology down the drain. Currently, the best method of preserving these computers with SCSI drives is the SCSI2SD device designed by [Michael McMaster]. While this device does exactly what it says it’ll do — turn an SD card into a drive on a SCSI chain — it’s fairly expensive at $70.

[Gokhan] has a better, cheaper solution. It’s a SCSI device emulator for the Raspberry Pi. It turns a Raspberry Pi into a SCSI hard drive, magneto-optical drive, CDROM, or an Ethernet adapter using only some glue logic and a bit of code.

As far…

How to Take Apart a Hard Drive and What to Do With the Magnets

In Summary: Working on hardware is never an easy task. It can be quite difficult and expensive, but with the proper guidance and tools, you too can fix your computer.

 

We’ve previously discussed ways you can upcycle your old hard drive, but how exactly do you take them apart? And what do you do with the most valuable part — the magnets?

If you want to be absolutely certain that your data has been wiped before attempting this, make sure you check out our ways to completely delete your hdd.

All mechanical hard drives contain rare earth neodymium magnets. These can be expensive to purchase, but did you know just how easily hard drives can be harvested for these precious materials? Let’s jump right in.

What You Need

You only need a few basic tools to get started. Alongside some hard drives to disassemble, you will need:

  • Flat-head screwdriver: Useful to pry open the case, and to undo the armature (see below).
  • Precision or Torx screwdriver set: Necessary to undo the case and magnet screws.
  • Vice grips or pliers: Needed to remove the magnets from their backing.

You may have many of these tools already. The only really specialist tool you need is the precision/torx screwdriver set. This is needed to remove the special star shaped screws. These are security screws, designed to stop people like you and me from tampering. They obviously don’t work very well as a security deterrent though, since you can purchase the necessary screwdrivers on Amazon or from your local hardware store.

Disassembly

Now that you have everything you need, let’s make a start. First, identify the front and back of your hard drives. The front usually contains a label or sticker:

HDD Front
Whereas the back will often contain a circuit board of some sort:
HDD Back
This is not always the case, as it can vary per model of drive, but they will usually follow a similar format.

Start by removing the screws holding the top of the case on (you’ll need your Torx screwdrivers here). You may have to investigate a bit for this, in my case there are six screws visible, and one final screw hidden underneath a warranty sticker. This is a fairly common trick, so make sure you check all over if things are stuck, and especially underneath any warranty stickers.

HDD Warranty
Once all the screws are removed, it should be easy to lift the top of the case off. You might need a flat-head screwdriver to prise the lid off, if it’s really stuck (remember to check for hidden screws).

In some…