9.1. Your PC's Drives : An Overview
Today's PCs stuff information onto a wide variety of drives, each designed to store information in different- sized helpings. To see the drives connected to your PC, open My Computer (Start My Computer). Figure 9-1 shows some samples of almost every kind of drive Windows can communicate with. The list below gives you an overview of the drives youre likely to find on your computer.
Floppy drives (storage capacity: 1.44 MB) . Standard on most PCs for the past 20 years , floppy drives (Section 9.8) read information from little plastic squares known as floppy disks. Most new PCs no longer include floppy drives, because they're so rarely used today. But almost every PC still comes with the required connectors for you to install a floppy drive (Section 9.9) if you really need to read some important old disks.
Figure 9-1. Windows XP's My Computer lists all the working drives on your PC. The PC shown here contains two hard drives (top), a CD burner and DVD burner (second row), and a USB flash drive and a network drive (third row). Windows XP lists drives even if you haven't yet slipped a disk inside them. That's why My Computer still lists your CD and DVD drives, as well as any flash card readers plugged into your PC's USB port. You may also spot icons for attached digital cameras or MP3 players; in Windows' mind, these all count as drives too, since they're capable of storing picture and audio files.
Hard drives (20 GB to 500 GB) . Your PC's main storage tank, its hard drive, continues to stay popular because advances in hard drive technology constantly ups the storage capacity of these drives. Early hard drives held about 10 MB of dataenough for 1 or 2 MP3 files. Hard drives now commonly hold 100 GB or moreone thousand times more than their ancestors .
Hard drives come in two main flavors. Internal drives fit inside your PC's case; external drives come inside a box that plugs into your PC's USB or FireWire port. Since they live outside your PC, external drives are much easier to install than internal drives.
Note: If My Computer notices an attached iPod music player (Section 8.3.4), it lists the iPod as an external hard drive, not a music player. My Computer can copy files, including MP3 files, onto the iPod as data , but the iPod won't let you listen these songs until you remove them and then reimport them using iTunes.
CD drives (650 MB) . What floppy drives lost in popularity, CD burners quickly grabbed. Today, every new PC comes with a CD burner (Section 10.5.1) for creating music CDs, data CDs, or a combination of both.
DVD drives (4.3 GB) . DVD drives (Section 10.8) first caught on with movie buffs, who liked to watch flicks on their PCs and laptops. PC engineers have since figured out how to let common folk save data on DVDs. The result? DVD burners look to replace CD burners as the drive of choice. Unfortunately, until Microsoft figures out how to make Windows XP easily save info on DVDs, you must buy a DVD burner program (Section 10.12) from another company.
Flash drives (64 MB to 4 GB) . A curious engineer connected a USB port to a flash memory card, and gave birth to the flash drive . The modern equivalent of a floppy drive, these go by many names : keychain drives, thumb drives, USB drives, and jump drives. They're lightweight, portable, and durable, with no moving parts . Being the technological newcomers, they're more expensive than other drives, but prices are dropping.
Zip drives (100, 250, and 750 MB) . Created in the day when people needed more storage than a floppy could offer, Zip disks resembled fat floppies and offered 100 times more storage space. Stiff competition from cheaper storage disks like flash drives, burnable CDs, and DVDscombined with quality-control problemsseverely diminished their popularity.
Network drives (any size ) . When two or more PCs share information through a network (Section 14.1.1), clicking your way to a game folder buried on another PC can wear out your fingers before the game loads. To speed things up, Windows XP lets you assign a drive letter to a frequently-used-but-far-away folder, and call it a network drive (Section 14.8.5). That lets you click your kitchen PC's "R" drive to see the files stored in another PC's "recipes" folder. (The letters you see after these drive namesNetwork Stuff (W:), Kitchen Goodies (K:), and so ondon't mean anything. Except for a few reserved letters , you get to pick out which letter to assign to a network drive.)