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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | The Troubleshooting Expert | Troubleshooting Specific Components | Troubleshooting Hard Disk Drives | Missing Space Issues ]

I bought a hard disk that is supposed to be a certain size (say 4.0 GB), but FDISK or Windows Explorer only reports seeing a smaller number (say 3.8 GB), even though the disk is brand new and empty

Explanation: You bought and installed a hard disk but the system is seeing it as smaller than it actually is supposed to be.

Diagnosis: This is not really a problem at all, but actually a discrepancy in the way drive sizes are reported. Hard disk manufacturers use decimal megabytes (1,000,000 bytes) in their advertising, and BIOS auto-detect routines use the same measure. Other software, especially most disk setup and partitioning utilities like FDISK, use binary megabytes (1,048,576) in their reporting. The difference of about 5% is what you are seeing.


  • Read the more complete discussion of binary and decimal storage measurements here.
  • See this reference table for a listing of the difference in size between decimal and binary measures.

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