Most PATA IDE drives will work with this MP3 player. The player supports both 3.5” and 2.5” IDE harddrives. Connectors are provided on the board for both types (although you can only have one drive plugged into the player at a time).
Drives must be relatively modern; anything from 1994 onwards should be fine. Very old drives such as the ancient MFM drives will not work. To a large degree this is self-limiting, in that very old drives also have very small (and hence uninteresting) capacities. Another way of saying it might be, that any drive 1 GB or larger should work fine.
If you’re purchasing a new drive for the player, I’d suggest obtaining a PATA drive with an 8 MB cache (also called “buffer size”). Most IDE drives come standard with a 2 MB cache. I’ve found that the drive generally runs quieter & cooler playing MP3s if it has an 8 MB cache. The larger cache is a common option from several drive vendors. I’ve had very good luck with the 8 MB cache versions of the Western Digital “Caviar” series of drives. Western Digital call them their “Special Edition” series of drives, but in practice they’re close to the same price as their standard 2MB cache models. Other vendors also make drives with 8 MB caches.
The maximum harddisk size supported by the player is 137 GB. (This is a software limitation; it could theoretically be updated to go beyond this, but that’s not on the priority list right now.) The drive must be formatted as a FAT32 drive, and fragmented disks are OK. It’s not necessary to defragment the drive.
To obtain FAT32 formatting under WinNT/2000, say “yes” when asked if you wish to enable large hard drive support. Then, if you’re asked if you want NTFS, say “no” to that. (Win85/98/ME won’t ask about NTFS). WinXP will only natively format up to 32 MB on a FAT32 drive (microsoft is trying to force everyone to NTFS) however there’s a handy FAT32 formatting program which works well on WinXP; the details are here. It’s easy to use & even works over USB.
You can check what formatting scheme has been used on the drive in a couple of ways. FDISK will tell you. Alternatively, under Windows Explorer, right-click on the drive, select “properties”, and you’ll see the information on that page as well. This formatting business might sound complicated but it’s really not; under Windows you only have two choices for large harddrive support: FAT32 and NTFS. You just want make sure you don’t get NTFS by mistake.
Some people have asked about defragmenting the disk. If you want to, sure, go ahead, it won’t hurt. On a large disk with a lot of files it can take quite a while. It’s not necessary though; the player will handle fragmented files. If you have reason to believe your drive is badly fragmented you might want to defragment it, just to make the player’s life a little easier. But as a general rule you shouldn’t have to do that.
The PCB contains mounting holes which line up with the threaded holes on a 3.5” drive. This makes it simple to bolt a 3.5” drive and the MP3 player main board together. If you can’t decide whether to use a 3.5” or 2.5” drive this might be a deciding factor.