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Your Win­dows and hard­ware prob­lems solved

My sys­tem crashed a cou­ple of weeks ago and re­fused to boot. Af­ter try­ing to trou­bleshoot things, I ended up pur­chas­ing a new 3TB hard disk and re­in­stalling Win­dows 10.

I only re­alised af­ter the in­stal­la­tion that Win­dows thinks the hard disk is 1.99TB; it doesn’t see the ex­tra ter­abyte. I down­loaded Sea­gate Dis­cWizard, but al­though this can see the ex­tra ca­pac­ity, it can’t ac­cess it. Is there any way of ac­ti­vat­ing the ex­tra space us­ing a soft­ware pro­gram? Ev­ery­thing I have read online seems to sug­gest that I need to re­for­mat the hard disk and re­in­stall Win­dows, but ob­vi­ously I’d rather not.

The problem you’re com­ing up against is a lim­i­ta­tion in the master boot record (MBR) par­ti­tion­ing scheme, which dates back to the early 1980s. MBR uses a 32-bit num­ber to keep track of sec­tors on the disk, and be­cause the sec­tors are each 512 bytes, that al­lows for a max­i­mum ad­dress­able ca­pac­ity of ‘only’ two ter­abytes. The so­lu­tion is to switch to the newer GUID par­ti­tion ta­ble (GPT) scheme, which doesn’t have this lim­i­ta­tion.

There are two prob­lems, how­ever. The first po­ten­tial is­sue is that it used to be tricky to con­vert an MBR disk to a GPT one with­out data loss. For­tu­nately, with Win­dows 10 ver­sion 1703 (the Cre­ators Up­date), Mi­crosoft added a tool to do just this. The other is­sue arises if you’re planning to boot your sys­tem from your 3TB disk. Only com­put­ers with a Uni­fied Ex­ten­si­ble Firmware In­ter­face (UEFI) sup­port boot­ing from a GPT par­ti­tion. Most PCs built in the past decade should be fine, but you’ll prob­a­bly find that, if present, UEFI boot mode isn’t en­abled on your sys­tem. If it’s sup­ported you should find in­struc­tions on how to en­able it in your PC or mother­board man­ual. If it’s not sup­ported, you’ll need to fit a sec­ond disk and in­stall Win­dows on it be­fore you can con­vert the 3TB disk to GPT.

We’re go­ing to as­sume that your PC does sup­port UEFI boot mode. Given that you’ve in­stalled Win­dows on the 3TB disk – and we as­sume you’ve also saved data

there – we’d rec­om­mend taking a full backup be­fore you do any­thing else. While the backup is run­ning, check that you’re run­ning Win­dows 10 ver­sion 1703 or higher by open­ing the Start menu, typ­ing win­ver and hit­ting En­ter. If you’re on an ear­lier ver­sion than 1703, visit www.mi­crosoft.com/en-gb/soft­ware-down­load/

win­dows10, click Up­date now and fol­low the up­date process. As a fi­nal step, open the Start menu, type Disk Man­age­ment ,and se­lect Cre­ate and for­mat hard disk par­ti­tions. Look in the left-hand grey boxes at the foot of the Disk Man­age­ment win­dow to es­tab­lish the disk num­ber for your 3TB disk; if it’s the only disk, it’s likely to be disk 0.

With your drive backed up and the PC up­dated if nec­es­sary, boot into Win­dows’ Ad­vanced Re­cov­ery Com­mand Prompt by hold­ing down the Shift key while you restart your PC. When asked to choose an op­tion, se­lect Trou­bleshoot, Ad­vanced op­tions, Com­mand prompt. Al­low the PC to re­boot and log in when prompted, then at the prompt type mbr2gpt /val­i­date /disk:0, re­plac­ing 0 if nec­es­sary with the disk num­ber for your 3TB drive. Hit En­ter and wait a few mo­ments; you should see the mes­sage, ‘Val­i­da­tion com­pleted suc­cess­fully’. If you do, en­ter

mbr2gpt /con­vert /disk:0, again chang­ing the disk num­ber if you need to. The process shouldn’t take more than a few min­utes.

As­sum­ing the con­ver­sion is suc­cess­ful, you’ll see the mes­sage, ‘Be­fore the new sys­tem can boot prop­erly you need to switch the firmware to boot to UEFI mode!’. Type exit and hit En­ter to restart the PC, then if nec­es­sary en­ter the BIOS and change the boot mode. Once this is done, your com­puter should boot again, and the disk’s full ca­pac­ity should be avail­able.

There’s a small risk that the disk con­ver­sion won’t be pos­si­ble or that it will fail. If you do ex­pe­ri­ence a ma­jor is­sue it’s prob­a­bly best to re­in­stall Win­dows from scratch. Pro­vided you do this with your PC al­ready in UEFI boot mode, the Win­dows Setup pro­gram should au­to­mat­i­cally cre­ate a GPT disk, but only if the disk is empty.

With UEFI mode en­abled, be­gin the process of in­stalling Win­dows, con­firm­ing your lan­guage set­tings and the Win­dows 10 ver­sion you want to in­stall, then when prompted choose Cus­tom: In­stall Win­dows only (ad­vanced). When asked where you want to in­stall Win­dows, se­lect any ex­ist­ing par­ti­tions on the 3TB disk and delete them un­til the disk shows only Un­al­lo­cated Space – be very care­ful not to delete par­ti­tions on any other drives in your com­puter. Click the un­al­lo­cated space to se­lect it and click Next, then Win­dows should in­stall it­self to a 3TB, bootable GPT disk.

⬆ Avail­able from Win­dows 10 ver­sion 1703 on­wards, the MBR2GPT tool converts MBR disks to GPT

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