Heath's Helpful Tips- by Heath Phillippi

How to Warp a Hard Disk

To everyone who read my column last month, welcome back to Heath's Helpful Hints and OS/2 e-Zine!. For all you new comers, thanks for stopping by.

Last month we talked about finding information on OS/2. Hopefully you liked what you saw and switched (if you aren't already using OS/2). This month we will be discussing the options for setting up your hard disk with OS/2.

Most computer users never think about what file system they are using. They format their hard drive or floppy and put files on it. Period. You get choices about word processors, not file systems. The use of OS/2, however, gives you a few very important new options for setting up hard drives. The most important being HPFS or High Performance File System versus DOS's old FAT file system. Also introduced is the ability to boot between two or more operating systems using the Boot Manager or Dual Boot options.

Making a drive HPFS is easy. If you are installing OS/2 just choose to format the partition you plan to install OS/2 on and click the HPFS option button. Be sure to back up the partition if there is data you need on it! If you already have Warp installed and you want to try it on an extra drive or partition simply use the FORMAT /FS=HPFS (type HELP FORMAT from the command line for more options).

Even with all the advantages HPFS has over FAT, FAT still has a couple of uses. The first is when you are using a small hard drive (<200 meg or so) or you have limited system RAM (<6 meg); in these situations, FAT is still your best choice. The other place for FAT is if you have to use a Dual Boot setup.

Boot Manager or Dual Boot?

OS/2 users have the option to boot between more that one OS. This is done by one of two utilities, Boot Manager or Dual Boot. Although they both let you boot between at least two operating systems, they work very differently and have their own advantages and drawbacks.

Dual Boot is the default install option for OS/2, and is the more basic of the two. It allows a user to boot either OS/2 or DOS (and therefore Windows 3.x or Win95), but OS/2 and DOS/Windows both reside on the same partition. Users have the ability to switch between the two by going into the \OS2 directory and typing the command "BOOT /OS2" or "BOOT /DOS". This is the only solution for installing OS/2 on a partition that already has DOS, and can't be backed up and re-partitioned. However, it also limits you to using FAT as your file system.

Dual Boot also leaves room for mucking up the system. A common example of this occurs when users get a DOS upgrade. They boot off the install floppies, forgetting the OS/2 system files are in the boot sector if the hard drive, and overwrite them. While this isn't life threatening, it can be a hassle.

Boot Manager, on the other hand, keeps operating systems separate and allows you to boot between multiple OS's (OS/2, DOS, Linux, etc.). The only down side is that you will have to set up separate partitions for Boot Manager and each OS you plan to run. This means a custom setup and a little planning ahead in order to install Boot Manager, but the effort is well worth it.


For most Dual Boot setups, one large partition that takes up the entire drive is fine. But what about Boot Manager? How many partitions will you need? How big should they be?

In my experience I have found a few truths about planning ahead and splitting your disks up based on your needs.

  1. If you are planning DOS FAT partitions, keep them as small as possible. I try to stick to under 400 meg, because of the sector size inefficiencies.
  2. If you need a data drive that all your OS's can get to, make them small (<200 meg) and make them FAT.
  3. If you are using mostly OS/2 (or Win-OS/2), and you meet the minimum hardware requirements (8 meg RAM and >200 meg HD) for HPFS, use it.
  4. If you have huge disks (1 gig+) and plan to play with different OS's or file systems, split them up into 500 meg partitions. While this is enough space for most OS's, it isn't too large to be impractical.

Don't be afraid to experiment! These are just my opinions based on my experiences. Remember, OS/2 is a great OS that gives the user a great deal of control over how the system is set up. Make your system reflect the way you work. Create a different partition for every app you use. Add a new drive every time you want to play with a new OS (if you can afford it!). It's up to you. Warp the way you want to.

Just a note: Thanks to all the responses to my last column! Please feel free to E-mail me any topics you feel should be covered, or any tips you may want to toss my way. If you send tips, tell me if you want me to credit you if I use them. Some people get touchy when you spread their E-mail address around. Go figure.

Heath Phillippi is currently a Customer Engineer for AmeriData, Inc. in Appleton Wisconsin. He is the OS/2 Warp Champion for the OS/2 BESTeam, as well as a proud member of Team OS/2.

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