Walt Mossberg

Recent Columns by Walt Mossberg

Mossberg’s Mailbox

An Easier Way to Repartition

There’s no other major item most of us own that is as confusing, unpredictable and unreliable as our personal computers. Everybody has questions about them, and we aim to help.

Here are a few questions about computers I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability. This week my mailbox contained questions about laptops sans serial ports, repartitioning hard disks and expanding storage capacity.

If you have a question, send it to me at mossberg@wsj.com, and I may select it to be answered here in Mossberg’s Mailbox.

Because of the volume of e-mail I receive, I can’t routinely answer individual questions by e-mail, or consult on individual problems or purchasing decisions. I read all questions I receive and select three each week to answer in the column.


I notice that Dell sells some laptops without parallel and serial ports. Is it OK to buy a laptop without them?

For the vast majority of average consumers, the answer is yes. Parallel and serial ports were, for years, the primary way to connect Windows computers to printers, scanners and other devices. But they have been replaced in the past five years by faster and more flexible USB ports, and, to a lesser extent, by FireWire, or 1394, ports.

Some corporate-computer departments still maintain equipment that uses the archaic parallel and serial ports, which is why IBM, Dell and others include such ports on some laptops aimed at the big-business market. But the only consumers who need these ports are the tiny minority that are still trying to use ancient printers or other peripherals.

I want to repartition my hard disk to transfer capacity from the D drive, which is empty, to the C drive, which is full. When I called tech support, I was told that the only way to do this is to perform a system restore, which includes reinstalling all the software on my system. Is there an easier way?

Yes. You can use a very handy program called Norton PartitionMagic, which can change your hard-disk partitions without disturbing or deleting any of your installed software or data files. The program is made by Symantec, and costs about $70. More information is at www.symantec.com/partitionmagic.

I’ve been dabbling in creating home videos with iMovie and iDVD on my iMac. I find I need more disk space to store all my clips and such. Is there a way to expand the hard-disk storage?

You might be able to bring the computer to a dealer and have a larger hard disk installed internally, and your data transferred. But a simpler solution would be to buy an external hard disk that hooks up to the iMac through its FireWire or USB port.

In most cases, these drives just plug in and work immediately, without any software installation or configuration. You can buy these external drives at most computer stores, physical and online. They vary widely in capacity and price.

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Because of the volume of e-mail I receive, I can’t routinely answer individual questions by e-mail, or consult on individual problems or purchasing decisions. I read all questions I receive and select three each week to answer in the column.

Write to Walter S. Mossberg at mossberg@wsj.com


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