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Don’t try this at home

“What you got in that system?”
“An 850.”

“Oh. 850 MHz isn’t too bad these days.”

“No, the CPU’s a 750. The hard drive’s an 850.”

“Where’d you get an 850-gig drive?”

“Who said anything about gigs?”

Yeah, I put a computer together this week. I had problems with the hard drive. Bad problems. Like Windows won’t load anymore and it coughs up a hairball when I try to reformat the disk. Yeah. Bad news. So I sent in a clunky old Seagate 850-meg drive off the bench. Hey, I wanted to play Railroad Tycoon, alright?

Along the way I recalled a few tricks.

FORMAT C: /Q /U /AUTOTEST formats a hard drive as quickly as possible, no questions asked and none of that aggravating “saving unformat information” that takes a week and doesn’t work when you want to unformat the drive anyway.

FORMAT C: /U /AUTOTEST does an unconditional, no-questions-asked long format, but still faster than plain old format without switches.

But if you want to get a drive up and running really fast, use the GDISK utility that comes with Ghost (if you don’t have Ghost, you may be able to find an old version of GDISK online if you look hard enough, because at one time it was freely distributable):

GDISK 1 /MBR /WIPE will quickly delete all the partitions on a disk.
GDISK 1 /CRE /PRI /FOR /Q will create and format a single FAT32 partition so fast you’ll wonder what’s wrong with Microsoft. Reboot and you’re ready to rock’n’roll.

Well, as much as an 850 will let you rock’n’roll, that is. Which ain’t much. But I know I’ve got a decent hard drive around here somewhere. So I think I’ll go find it. I’ve had enough of this insanity.

And I still haven’t gotten in my game of Railtycoon.

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5 thoughts on “Don’t try this at home”

  1. you may be able to find an old version of GDISK online if you look hard enough,

    A .ZIP file containing GDISK 1.1.1 is available here.

    Also try here.

    And one could always break down and buy the OEM full version; for instance here.

  2. Yikes. I thought that I was the only one that had an 850 MB drive still working. In fact, I think that the 212 MB WD drive that I salvaged from my sister’s Gateway 2000 486 still runs. As a matter of fact, that machine has been through hell and still works as well as can be expected.

    I refuse to throw it out because it’s obsolete. It works, after all.

  3. I’ve got a handful of 100-something meg drives in my basement. They’re completely obsolete for Windows but for specialized Linux boxes, they’re fine (and sometimes overkill), so I use them for that. Obsolescence is relative. I have one of them loaded up with DOS and standard utilities for data recovery purposes. These days I can do better with a CD, but at the time I loaded it up, blank CDs cost close to $20 and I paid $5 for that drive, so it was a no-brainer. I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth out of it.

  4. Free Fdisk at
    (part of the FreeDOS project) has extended command-line support.

    For example :

    fdisk /clearall 1
    will delete ALL partitions on the first hard drive (1)

    fdisk /pri:60,100 1
    will create a primary partition using 60% of the
    first hard drive

    fdisk /ext:100,100 /log:100,100 1
    will create an extended partition of 40% of the hard drive and use all of it for one drive

    fdisk /reboot
    will reboot the computer so you can then use
    the autoformat command like this :
    for %%v in (c d) do format %%v: /autotest

    Dev T
    Interesting DOS programs at
    TTCS website at

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