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I have an old laptop (Dell Inspiron 3500 running Windows 98) which had a hard drive failure. I searched for HDDs but the 5 GB ones (that was the original drive's capacity) were unreasonably priced. I managed to find a 60 GB hard disk but I am not sure that it is going to work.

Does anyone know if there is a way to limit the capacity in order for it to work?

EDIT: I have not included any details about the drive because there is not a specific drive. I found some on EBAY but I am not sure which one should I buy because I don't know if there is something specific I should look for. As for the capacity, that is the smallest capacity unused drive I could find. So, if there is a required feature, I will look for that.

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  • 5
    is it a IDE hard drive? or SATA? Mar 6 at 19:29
  • 3
    This will depend on the drive. Can you edit your post to include information about which drive you're asking about
    – OmarL
    Mar 6 at 19:29
  • 4
    Some hard drives have a jumper to reduce capacity
    – OmarL
    Mar 6 at 19:30
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    On old drive controllers/software there's an old capacity limit which is 4 GB (when the disk offset is stored on 32 bits) If your machine can support a 5GB disk, I don't see why it would not support a 60GB disk Mar 6 at 19:30
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    so basically why not try the drive? and if it doesn't work, I suggest a IDE CF adapter with a 4GB or 8GB CF card. Less chance of failure, and still widely available at cheap prices. Mar 6 at 20:30
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Since the price seems to be an issue, I'll suggest a cheap alternative to hard drives.

A IDE Compact Flash card reader with a 4GB or 8GB compact flash card is a cheap combo, still sold (less than 10 euros for the reader on Amazon), consumes not much power (which could be an issue with a hard drive)

The capacity shouldn't be an issue either. For less that 50 euro you can find some reader and CF card online, for 2"5 44 IDE pins. And it's small enough to fit in a 2"5 drive location.

I'm using one for my amiga 1200 (2"5 IDE) as a replacement for old hard drives that all packed up and it works very well. I know it's not a PC laptop, but if you're running IDE it should work all right. And the silence is great too.

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I have not tried it, but according to the Wikipedia page on the Host Protected Area, one use case was to use large disks on systems whose BIOS could not cope with them. It would therefore seem to be a case of picking a likely-looking modern disk and doing a suitable hdparm -Np command on it from Linux to set a permanent HPA limit. For example, if you wanted a disk to pretend to be exactly 5GiB, hdparm -Np $((5*1024*1024)) /dev/sdX should work. The disk can then be transplanted into the Dell.

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  • 5
    As a side note, is this how scammers tell USB flash drives to report a larger than actual capacity?
    – James Hyde
    Mar 7 at 19:40
  • I tried and it works.
    – fraxinus
    Mar 7 at 22:02
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    @JamesHyde not really. HPA can make a disk smaller, not larger. And it does not work for USB, it is an ATA feature. In USB mass storage, the scammes abuse the firmware parameters. A lot of USB storage firmwares are reverse engineered and/or leaked at least to allow setting of the reported size.
    – fraxinus
    Mar 7 at 22:06
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    Indeed I have installed IDE drives which have a jumper link which "tells the bios" that the size is smaller (32GB I think), but then the OS can see the whole drive. I have never seen this feature on a SATA drive though, which means I have been unable to installed SATA drives (with a SATA/IDE converter) on the offending machines since the SATA drives are always too large for the bios. Luckily not been called out to one of those machines for a few years now.
    – Rodney
    Mar 7 at 23:36
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According to https://www.philscomputerlab.com/windows-98-maximum-hard-drive-capacity.html Win 98 supports harddrives up to 127 GB so your 60 GB drive should work fine. But never buy a HDD second hand!

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  • Wouldn't the BIOS have problems recognising it?
    – Hristos
    Mar 7 at 9:54
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    "never buy a HD second hand!" is excellent advice! you never know where this drive has been. Mar 7 at 10:23
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    @Jean-FrançoisFabre Brand new drives have a much higher probability of failure than used ones (unless those were badly mishandled or completely worn out). Without actual data about your second-hand drive market, you can't really say which option is safer. Neither is guaranteed to keep your data safe. With good backups and possibly a RAID, a failed drive is just a minor inconvenience.
    – TooTea
    Mar 7 at 13:06
  • @Hristos Possibly, but that would only mean that you couldn't access the excess part of the drive, not that the drive wouldn't work. So buy a 100 GB drive and use 31 GB or something like that.
    – d-b
    Mar 7 at 16:42
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My experience has been that if you try to use a hard drive with a capacity beyond what the hardware will support you just get the capacity the hardware supports.

The important thing is the size (3.5" or 2.5") and the interface (IDE aka PATA or SATA.) I strongly suspect you're dealing with a 2.5" IDE.

Before you spend any money on it, though--do you have the disks you will need to reinstall the OS? A new drive won't have a system on it and even if you managed to get a drive with a system on it it won't have the drivers for your hardware.

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  • I fortunately have some Windows 98 disks. I also have a backup of the disk, as it had failed before but i managed to make it work for a few minutes so I have anything that was in there
    – Hristos
    Mar 13 at 14:45
  • @Hristos The disks you list will let you reinstall Windows, but do not include all the device drivers you will need. Windows can probably boot in safe mode but the performance will be pathetic (safe mode exists to let you fix driver problems, it's not meant to be actually used) and you'll be missing most of your hardware--probably no USB and no Ethernet--driver installs only by physical media. Mar 13 at 21:20
  • I am not sure about how clear my previous comment was but I have a copy of the previous hard drive's files (OS,drivers,applications,files and everything else that was in there) and a pair of installation CDs that must be that specific computer's CDs. So the drivers should work.
    – Hristos
    Mar 17 at 8:21
  • @Hristos I knew you had a copy of the HD but that doesn't automatically mean you can reinstall, you need the driver disks for that--which you say you have. You might be able to copy the image on to the new HD but given the situation I wouldn't be certain of that. Mar 17 at 23:08
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For Windows 98; boot a linux distro and partition the disk giving Windows only the 32GByte. Then boot Win98 and install. It will work.

The fact that there's more disk past the end of the partition only matters to fdisk (which will crash if you open it); but you don't run fdisk from your hard disk.

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