As not-particularly-old readers will doubtless remember, there was once a time when the maximum capacity of an IDE hard drive was restricted to 528MB, due to failings in the design of the PC BIOS caused by discussions that went along similar lines to the “640KB of main memory? That ought to be enough for anyone” argument. In 1993, the EIDE standard raised that limit to 8.4GB, but now even that is looking rather cramped. This newest drive from Maxtor uses the UltraDMA ATA interface to achieve an impressive total capacity of 13.6GB. Actually, it’s 13.6 thousand million bytes, rather than true gigabytes, but since all drive manufacturers use the 1GB=1,000,000,000 bytes rule, it’s now a fair method of measurement.
Physically the same size as any other 3.5inch-platter hard drive, the DiamondMax 3400 stores 3.4GB on each of its four platters, which spin at a rate of 5,400rpm. The drive connects to the host PC’s UltraDMA ATA interface using a conventional EIDE cable, one of which is provided in the box. In fact, rather a lot of equipment is provided in the box, including a mounting kit for a 5.25inch drive bay, some screws, and software to allow PCs with older BIOSs and operating systems to access the full capacity of the drive, using a drive overlay that loads as part of the Master Boot Record. As far as the out-of-box experience is concerned, Maxtor certainly doesn’t believe in doing things by halves, which makes this drive childishly easy to install. Even so, you may find that you have to divide the drive up into numerous partitions, particularly if you are using an early version of Windows 95. Fortunately, the supplied software can help with that, too.
Once installed, partitioned and formatted, the drive performs well. The 256KB data buffer and 9ms seek time help in that respect, as does the fast drive-to-PC interface. These specifications are true not only of the 13.6GB drive that we looked at, but also the other, smaller capacity drives in the range, which include 5.1GB and 8.4GB units. The drives also support SMART fault prediction and custom error correction code, and are backed by a three-year warranty.
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