Hard drive freezing my computer
January 5, 2009 2:38 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible for a computer to be too old to handle a new hard drive?

My computer is 7 years old and I just bought a new hard drive. Windows couldn't format it. I was using my old XP cd that came with my computer originally. I took the hard drive back to the store and the tech guy suggested maybe it was because it was XP SP1. He formatted it on a machine at the store.

Brought the drive back home, hooked it up as the slave. When I tried copying all my files to the new hard drive, it would freeze the computer. I had to disconnect the drive to get the computer to start again.

Is the computer too old or it's just a bad drive? My system is updated to XP SP3.
posted by quoththeraven to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
It's quite possible that the computer's power supply isn't up to the task of powering the additional hard disk. Do you have an external enclosure you could try the drive with? That way it would be powered externally; if that works, upgrading your power supply to something bigger might be an option.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:45 PM on January 5, 2009


The only time the hard drive would be "too new" for the computer is if the connections for it don't exist, such as trying to put a SATA (skinny plug) drive into a computer with only IDE (wide ribbon) capability. If your XP install can see the entire drive, it will work.

Some other things you might consider:

- What else is connected to your power supply? If you have an older computer with an equally older power supply, it might only be putting out 200W or so of juice, and maybe having two hard drives, a CD-ROM, a floppy drive and various USB peripherals all connected is too much for it to handle. Power issues will cause random things to happen, especially during heavy load (like disk to disk copying). Try a new P.S. or buy a USB enclosure with its own power supply and stick the drive in there. (If you go that route, you might consider buying a pre-done external hard drive just to save the trouble) On preview, see le morte above.

- Can you format the disk yourself? If you can't, the disk itself might be bad and while a newer computer's IDE controller is better able to handle it, your older controller (built onto the motherboard, most likely) lacks those error correction features. Try a new drive.

Those are where I would go, especially if your BIOS and XP both see the disk's correct properties.
posted by fireoyster at 2:47 PM on January 5, 2009


Yes, it's possible.

First of all, make sure you're using a newer-style (thin) IDE cable. Older IDE cables are too noisy to support new drives and will cause the types of problems you're describing.

Secondly, you should try to put the two drives on different IDE channels if possible, instead of using master/slave. Make the optical drive the slave of one of the hard drives.

In addition, IDE hard drives come in different speeds (ATA-133, ATA-100, etc), and if your drive is set to a speed higher than the motherboard can support, it would cause problems similar to the ones you describe. You would have to change the drive's settings to match your motherboard. Sometimes this can be done in device manager, but drive manufacturers often provide a floppy disk that allows you to change the settings of the drive.

Finally, make sure your motherboard's BIOS is up to date.
posted by helios at 2:54 PM on January 5, 2009


Old motherboards can only access a certain amount of hard drive space, such as 32gb. It's my understanding that this would not cause any problems though - you just wouldn't see the full size of the hard drive.
posted by niles at 3:14 PM on January 5, 2009


Definitely, Yes.

How big is your existing drive?

Lets say for example your computer is 7yrs old.. and your existing drive is a 40Gig (or smaller) and you are trying to install something like a 160gig or bigger... you could definitely run into problems.

First thing I would do is look for a BIOS update for your motherboard (is it a brand name computer?, or a generic home-built "white-box" ???) You may need to crack the case open and see if the motherboard is labeled/marked and then hit the manufacturers website to see what BIOS updates are available.

If there are no BIOS updates available.. I would search Google to see if anyone else has had the same problem you are describing (chances are, in this big wide world, someone else had tried doing the same thing you are)
posted by jmnugent at 3:26 PM on January 5, 2009


7 years is about right (though on the trailing edge, I think) to hit into the 128GB drive limit, and nowadays it's getting harder to find drives less than 160GB. given the age of your computer, the chips in the computer that talk to the hard drive may not understand your drive if it's bigger than 128GB (to be really simplistic). sometimes Windows can be smarter than the computer is and will recognize it; sometimes the computer doesn't like that. seconding jmnugent for looking for BIOS, CMOS or firmware updates (they might be called any of those three) as a lot of the times support for bigger drives can be added in after the fact. you may need to do this update if one's available - if Windows figures out that, say, your drive is 160GB but the computer can't deal with anything more than 128, it could act flakily when you try to use the space beyond the 128GB mark.

you might also check the jumpers on the drive; some of the bigger disks have a "capacity cap" jumper that limited the reported size of the drive for compatibility with older computers. not all have them but if yours does, it could fix the issue (though you won't get to use the extra storage).

alternatively, if you have a spare PCI slot, it might not be a bad idea to return that drive, get a SATA one (the brand-new spec, sorta) and a PCI SATA card. the computer's hard drive controller could just be buggy (it's happened) and just plain out doesn't like two hard drives on the same cable. plus, SATA drives are easier to move to another computer if you upgrade.
posted by mrg at 5:13 PM on January 5, 2009



7 years is about right (though on the trailing edge, I think) to hit into the 128GB drive limit, and nowadays it's getting harder to find drives less than 160GB. given the age of your computer, the chips in the computer that talk to the hard drive may not understand your drive if it's bigger than 128GB (to be really simplistic). sometimes Windows can be smarter than the computer is and will recognize it; sometimes the computer doesn't like that. seconding jmnugent for looking for BIOS, CMOS or firmware updates (they might be called any of those three) as a lot of the times support for bigger drives can be added in after the fact. you may need to do this update if one's available - if Windows figures out that, say, your drive is 160GB but the computer can't deal with anything more than 128, it could act flakily when you try to use the space beyond the 128GB mark.

As far as I know, Windows XP sp2 and beyond can see drives past 128gb just fine. Once Windows is running. All it needs is for the BIOS to be able to recognize the drive long enough to boot itself up fully. Once its running, it shouldn't be an issue, even if the BIOS reports a smaller drive. This should not be an issue on a secondary drive. To rule out master/slave incompatibilities, install the second drive as master on the secondary IDE channel, with the cdrom as the slave on either drive.

However, what will happen, and it did to me a few times due to ignorance, is that you install this nice new drive, format it as one big volume, install Windows and go happily on your way. Months or years later, as you fill up the drive and the filesystem spreads out over the disk, what will happen is that Windows will do an update and put some important file beyond the 128gb barrier. Now that file is invisible to the bootloader, and Windows pukes. To solve this, you have to partition the drive so the boot partition is completely inside the 128gb barrier.

Also, you shouldn't have any power issues unless your power supply is faulty. Hard drives don't use all that much power. 10-15 watts, max.

To determine if the drive is faulty, download the drive testing software from the manufacturer and run it and see what it says. It tends to be accurate enough.
posted by gjc at 7:43 PM on January 5, 2009


I am late here, but one thing to check is that both your existing drive and the new drive have the master/slave jumpers set correctly. Don't use cable-select, it was unreliable and would case exactly the kind of issues you are seeing.
I would second the advice about moving the new drive to a different IDE cable if possible.
posted by AndrewStephens at 10:52 PM on January 5, 2009


Response by poster: Thanks everyone for trying to help. I ended up taking back the drive to the store.

To answer some of your questions, the new drive was 160gb. Which might have been the problem. My bios is updated. And I don't think the power supply is the problem since it's 430w, and I've run two hard drives before (under 80gb).

The store suggested getting an 80gb drive if anyone still sells them.
posted by quoththeraven at 1:47 PM on January 6, 2009


What do you want to accomplish? If this doesn't have to be a system drive, get an external enclosure and use USB -- not a good idea if you don't have USB 2.0 ports. Another possibility is getting a PCI hard drive controller card.

Used smaller drives are cheap and easy to find in buy sell trade forums. Being used is an issue, but probably not a very big one. After all, you should never be assuming a drive will last longer than the next thirty seconds anyway.
posted by Chuckles at 6:31 PM on January 7, 2009


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