10 Pounds of Files in a 5 Pound Bag
April 17, 2020 7:46 AM   Subscribe

My elderly but beloved Asus (ET2410IUTS i5 3.10 Hz 8G Ram) AIO system has run out of file space. I consolidated 1 TB of active files onto a 4.5 TB external drive. This left about 70GB of empty space on the factory drive. The system will not reboot unless the external drive is disconnected. After bootup, I can reconnect the external drive and everything, including performance speed, is fine.

The OP system was refreshed with no effect on the problem.
Any ideas as to what could be causing this?
I've been shopping for a replacement and found that with the exception of touch screens (that I do not need,) the specifications for a replacement AIO have not changed in seven years. The build quality on the ones that I have examined has gone down. Some of them do not have an HDMI in port. I need HDMI in to keep using my XP workstation that has $$$$$ hardware and $$$$$$ software that will not run on W10.
I am willing to upgrade the HD myself if that is where the problem is. According to Dr. YouTube, this is a do-it-yourself project. I would consider replacing the 1TB SATA III drive with a larger unit. Any reason why newer AOI HDs are not larger than the 1 TB drive that I have now?
posted by Raybun to Computers & Internet (4 answers total)
The system might be prioritised to boot from an external drive over an internal drive, so every time it starts with the external drive connected it tries to load the OS from the external and fails. The setting for this is in the BIOS: instructions for amending the boot priorities.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:55 AM on April 17, 2020 [5 favorites]

EndsOfInvention's suggestion is my guess too.

I am willing to upgrade the HD myself if that is where the problem is.

Do you mean the problem of not booting up when the external drive is plugged in or something else?

Any reason why newer AOI HDs are not larger than the 1 TB drive that I have now?

I'm not familiar with AIOs but I'm guessing they use drives that are physically small and thin (2.5 inches?) and you run into limits trying to increase disk density with smaller hard drives. I think the trend in smaller form-factor machines today is to use SSDs, but SSDs at high capacities are still extremely expensive. There are some 2TB 2.5 inch hard drives, though.

Whatever you do, I recommend having more than one backup of your data. I've had some really bad experiences with external hard drives lately (apparently they're often lower-quality than internal ones to begin with).
posted by trig at 8:10 AM on April 17, 2020

Seconding that you should make sure that any important data is stored on at least 2 different devices/places. All hardware fails at some point; there is no such thing as bullet-proof data storage.

It shouldn't be too difficult to upgrade the hard drive if you want to, the main difficulty will be getting the OS onto the new hard drive, or imaging the contents of your existing drive onto the new one. I'm not sure if the youtube videos you've looked up go into that, but definitely make sure you know how to attack that problem before you dive headfirst into things. If I were you I'd look into getting a USB to SATA interface cable along with the drive so that you can access the contents of either the new drive or the old drive without having to have it installed into the system.

If you're reasonably satisfied with your current setup aside from the capacity of the hard drive and you're fine with external solutions for archiving data, in addition to checking the boot priority thing for your existing external HD as mentioned above, you might also look at Network Attached Storage devices. This is a more expensive solution, but depending on what you get it can be more robust than a plain external hard drive; you'd just access it over your home network instead of having it plugged in directly to your AIO.
posted by Aleyn at 10:57 AM on April 17, 2020

Boot order. You may also be able to use your disk management / partitioning / etc. program to make sure that there's no partition on the external drive that is marked as 'active' so that if the BIOS does check that drive first before the internal drive, it won't find a bootable candidate and will skip it. In general, most disk formatting things (out of the box defaults) would create the disk label boot sector partition table thingy and mark the partitioned space as a bootable OS.

Try to find the magic keys that you press when you reboot the machine to enter the boot device selection menu and then select the internal drive and see if it boots. If it does, find the magic keys to go into BIOS and re-order the boot priorities to pick your internal HD before any external HD (or CD or USB stick or etc).

The magic keys are usually one of the function keys: F2, F8, F10, F11, F12. Reboot and bash a function key until you get into BIOS. Or just Google your machine to find the right magic key to press.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:37 PM on April 17, 2020

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