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November 30, 1998

Readers comment on FAT-32, meta-search tools, and Ultra DMA

This week, I report on comments readers have sent on the 32-bit file allocation table, or FAT-32; meta-search utilities; and Direct Memory Access (DMA) and Ultra DMA (UDMA) hard drives.

Chewing the FAT

I wrote in my Oct. 19 and Oct. 26 columns about the benefits for Windows 95B and Windows 98 users of converting their hard drives to the new FAT-32 file system. I mentioned a Microsoft document, Q154997, which states that a limitation of Interrupt 13 can restrict your boot drive (usually C:) to about 8GB, even though your hard drive may be larger.

Newer PCs, however, get around this limitation with an updated BIOS chip set that supports Interrupt 13 extensions. PCs that shipped this year largely support these extensions; machines shipped in 1997 and earlier probably do not. IBM has an excellent white paper that explains this in more detail at

If you have a FAT-32 hard drive that is larger than 8GB but Windows will only recognize the first 8GB or so, you may be able to fix the problem by obtaining an updated BIOS from your motherboard manufacturer or your disk-controller manufacturer. This applies to both IDE and SCSI controllers. Even after upgrading your BIOS, however, you may not see all of a FAT-32 hard drive larger than 8GB. Windows NT 4.0, for example, incorrectly reports a 10.1GB IBM DTTA-351010 hard disk as 7.5GB, even with a system BIOS that supports Interrupt 13 extensions.

The solution for Windows NT 4.0 users is to obtain an updated Atapi.sys file dated 1/26/98. A Microsoft download page is at Read the text documents there for installation instructions. One file is available for Intel CPUs, and a larger file for Alpha CPUs.

My thanks to reader Jack Bayt for suggesting these points.

More meta searches

I wrote on Nov. 2 about a free meta search utility, Infoseek's Express (, that summarizes listings from seven major search engines. (See "Free Windows tool makes meta searches a much easier task. ")

Webinator, another free utility, is available at and lets you customize your own interface to a search engine that indexes multiple Web sites. The free version can index as many as 10,000 pages; the $700-priced version is unlimited. Thanks to reader Doran Howitt for this find.

Still another meta search engine is at This online service, reported to me by Michael Klein, doesn't have the convenient multitabbed interface that Express does, but it's worth a look.

Finally, a good review of five commercial search utilities (plus the free Express utility) is available at Chris Sherman's Mining Co. page,

DMA and Ultra DMA hard drives

My past three columns were on DMA and UDMA hard drives. If your hard disk controller identifies itself in the System Control Panel's Device Manager window as an Intel Bus Master IDE Controller, read You may need to switch drivers.

Brian Livingston's latest book is Windows 98 Secrets (IDG Books). Send tips to He regrets that he cannot answer individual questions.

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