In this blog, I cover the the basics of installing a 2.5″ mobile hard disk drive into a USB 2.0 enclosure, and I will explain how to partition and format the drive for use with a Windows 8.1 operating system using the Computer Management tool.
So I just had delivered a 2.5″ red hard drive enclosure from Amazon. It uses an external USB 2.0 interface and I was in need of connecting a 320 GB mobile hard drive that I bought from eBay. I am going to use this drive for backing up system data and other files to it. It cost only around $7.00 total with shipping included and arrived fast considering it was coming from overseas. The enclosure was said to support up to a 500 GB hard disk drive so I didn’t think installing the 320 GB drive would present a problem.
Here’s a couple of pictures of the enclosure to give you a better idea of what I am working with.
The enclosure features a screw-less design, and once you fit a 2.5″ mobile hard drive inside, you can tightly squeeze the hard drive into its power and data connectors. Be careful not to bend the two components as the circuit board does not easily come apart, so you have to slightly angel the drive to fit it into the box and press securely so that it fits into place. Once you do that you can slap the cover on it, and everything should fit snuggly in the case.
Once you finish installing the case into the box, you can connect it to the computer. Initially, I had a couple problems getting my computer to recognize the drive, so thinking I installed it wrong I removed it from the computer and removed the case. I then unplugged it and reconnected it and tried to get my computer to recognize it again. It did not work. I tried unplugging some other mobile drives I had attached and still it would not operate.
I then tried the front USB port on my computer and it was still reading on the computer. Finally, with some a stroke of luck I connected it to a USB hub connected to the computer, and it finally got recognized by the operating system. I don’t know why it worked the for the third time, but one thing I noticed about this enclosure is that it’s very flimsy and the drive box comes apart easily. So I do believe, you pay for what you get and this enclosure isn’t the best.
Introduction to Computer Management Function in Windows 8.1
Trying to put the negative aspects of my purchase behind me, I’ll finish explaining what was needed to get the drive properly recognized and working with the operating systems. In this section I will show you what I did to actually partition and format the hard drive in my Windows 8.1 operating system.
The hard drive I installed, was used, and the buyer who sold it to me did not take the time to format it, so there was three partitions setup already on the device. I simply deleted those partitions, and erased the files on them by completing a format on the drive in Computer Management.
How to Access Computer Management in Windows 8.1
Here’s how to get to the Computer Management window in Windows 8.1:
- Right click the Start button. From the drop-down menu that appears, left click the Control Panel menu item. The Control Panel window will load.
- In the Control Panel, double left click the Administrative Tools function.
- In Administrative Tools on the left side, left click Disk Management.
- On the right side, double left click Disk Management (local).
- This will load the configuration window in which you can see all drives and partitions installed in the computer.
For this tutorial, I am working with an external 320 GB hard disk drive connected via USB 2.0 enclosure. Therefore, Windows only reports 298.09 GB for data files because certain space is devoted for system files.
How To Create a New Simple Volume Using Wizard in Windows 8.1
To create a new simple volume follow these steps:
In Disk Management, right click the specified drive, 298.09 GB Disk 7 Basic and right click once. This will cause a popup menu to appear.
- From the popup menu left click New Simple Volume. This will start a New Simple Volume Wizard. in which you can create a new partition.
Read the information presented and left click Next to proceed.
- On this window is where you can specify the size of the new partition. Input a number (in megabytes) or accept the default value. Generally you can make the maximum size available for the hard drive by inputting the number you see in the “Maximum disk space in MB:” area on this window. If you want to setup separate partitions, don’t use the entire drive space. Try using half and the re-run the wizard to create a additional partition.
10, Left click Next when you are ready to proceed.
- On this Windows you can specify a drive letter that you want the new partition to use in Windows. By default, the drive letters A and B are generally reserved for a floppy drive, while C is reserved for the Windows system partition. Any other partitions already being used on the computer, will not show in this drop-down selector area, so choose a drive letter that is not already in use.
- Left click Next when you are ready to proceed.
For the purpose of this tutorial, I am going to assign a drive letter of M to the drive.
- If you mount the drive to an empty folder left click the Browse button and specify a location on the next window.
If you don’t want to assign a drive letter at this time, select the option “Do not assign a drive letter or drive path“. You will not be able to use the drive in Windows untill you manually specify a drive letter through Computer Management.
Left click Next when you are ready to proceed.
On this window is where you can format the new partition. Formatting involves preparing the disk for first time use and it allocates sectors, and applies attributes to the drive. Basically, you are deleting any data off the partition and setting up for use,
- The allocation unit size you can specify a size from the available drop-down menu selections. File Allocation Unit Size is explained in the following paragraphs.
Introduction To File Allocation Unit Size
If you are a “Standard User” by Microsoft’s definition, you should keep the default 4096 bytes. Basically, the allocation unit size is the block size on your hard drive when it formats NTFS. If you have lots of small files, then it’s a good idea to keep the allocation size small so your hard drive space won’t be wasted. If you have lots of large files, keeping it higher will increase the system performance by having less blocks to seek.1
In terms of space efficiency, smaller allocation unit sizes perform better. The average space wasted per file will be half the chosen allocation unit size. So 4K wastes 2K per file and 64K wastes 32K. However, modern drives are massive and a little wasted space is not worth fussing over and this shouldn’t be a determining factor (unless you are using a small Solid State Drive or SSD).
If you’re going to have thousands of files under 64k it’s worth considering a lower size unit. However, if you’re going to fill the drive with huge, hundred megabyte videos, then a higher unit size is more applicable.
If you don’t know, just go with the default value.
- This value in box 18 in Figure 1.13 is referred to as specifying a Volume Label. On IBM Compatible computers, the Volume label is simply a unique name for the drive. Assign a good volume label to a drive to help identify the contents in Windows Explorer. For example, you can change Drive C to BOOTUP or STARTUP, or WINDOWS to indicate that your Windows installation reside on that drive. You can also use unique names like MUSICFILES or MOVIES to indicate you want to store music or video files on that drive.
- Checking the box indicated in #20 in Figure 1.13 will instruct Windows to do a Quick format. A quick format as its name implies takes a lot less time then a regular format. When you choose to run a Quick Format on a volume (or partition), format removes files from the partition, but does not scan the disk for bad sectors. You should only use this option if your hard disk has been previously formatted and you are sure that your hard disk is not damaged.
For the purpose of this tutorial and because I am using a second-hand hard drive, I will leave this option unchecked and instruct Windows to do a regular format.
Enable File and Folder Compression
- Checking the box indicated in #21 in Figure 1.13, will instruct Windows to compress data on the drive. Smaller drives usually don’t benefit from using this option so I am going to leave it unchecked. I can always enable the feature later through Explorer or My Computer functions.
Left click Next when you are ready to proceed.
And that’s it once you click Next the wizard will complete the operation, format the new partition, and initialize it for use with Windows.
You can check the status of the operation on the Computer Management screen. Because I did not use the Quick Format option, the process took about 2 hours to complete the format. After the format completes, you will be able to see it’s status in Computer Management, and access the new drive in Windows Explorer.
Conclusions and Recommendations
So there you have it installing a new USB hard drive into a 2.5″ mobile enclosure and configuring it through Windows Computer Management Wizard. As you could tell, I was not impressed with the quality of this enclosure as I have to be careful about moving the drive around when it’s connected to prevent possible data loss. In any case, the drive makes a welcome addition to enhance the quantity of storage on my computer. I finished this blog, by providing step-by-step instructions for preparing the hard drive for use with a Windows 8.1 operating system. Just remember, there is a lot to the Computer Management function and it’s always available for your use through the Windows Control Panel from Windows XP to the latest Windows 10 versions.