These days hard drives are coming in Advanced Format which means a larger physical sector size in comparison to the older drives. Windows XP can not be installed directly on an advanced format drive and the drive needs to be realigned using different tools before we can install Windows XP. Now what is an advanced format drive?
To know more about it, please refer the articles listed below and there are many more that helped me in knowing the things while fixing customer's PC when I was working for a back up and recovery product.
Microsoft's Article About Advanced Format
Advanced Format drives contain a logo(as shown here http://www.idema.org/?page_id=2900) but at times the logo may be missing. Last year I purchaed a 2 TB WD drive but it does not have any AF logo(might be its a 512-byte emulation (512e) disk). While purchasing the drive I was sure to buy an advanced format drive and asked the shopkeeper as well but he was not sure about it. I purchased the drive assuming it to be advanced format as it was a latest one at that time from WD and then checked it using the utilities, if it is an advanced format drive or not.
Let us see how we can check if our hard drives are an advanced format or not:
1) Open a run window and type msinfo32, then click on ok to display the System Information screen
2) At the left hand side, expand the Components option then Storage under it and after that click on Disks as shown below. It will list all the disks attached to your computer and you can check the Bytes/Sector option if it shows 512 or 4096 (this one is for advanced format)
However, I found that this method is not 100% reliable as it shows the logical sectors and does not display the information about the drive format, you can see that it shows 512 Bytes/Sector (This is the actual logical sector ratio on my drive) for my WD drive despite being an advanced format drive.
Alternatively you can use the Dell Advanced Format HDD Detection Tool Utility which is a console application and needs to be run from an "Elevated Command Prompt". The tool is for Dell systems however it always worked for me :
Click here to visit the download page for the utility (158 KB)
Once downloaded, run the utility and click on continue
Extract the utility in your desired folder
Now open an elevated command prompt, it means you should run it with administrator rights. Click on start>> Type cmd>> Right click on it>> Click on Run as administrator
Now go to that directory using cd option where you have extracted the utility (cd is used for changing the directory in both Windows & Linux) and run the exe using dellafdt.exe as shown below:
You can see in the above image that for my Western Digital drive which is an advanced format drive it shows the same however for my Seagate drive which is an old drive, the utility shows that it is not an advanced format drive.
The Dell utility always worked for me though it is recommended for Dell computers. HP users can download a utility from HP to check their hard drives for advanced format.
Click here to visit the download page for HP utility
It can be run in Windows or from a bootable USB Disk (incase you need to check other systems) but it gives error on Non-HP computers.
If you are running Linux on your computer then simply give the command #fdisk -l on the terminal to display the information about your drives.
As shown in the image above, it displays different logical/physical sector ratio for my local drive and advanced format drive as the later has 4096 byte of physical sector size. So, depending upon the requirement of your computer you can use different tools listed above to check the drive for advanced format detection.