Disappearing Hard Drive
March 22, 2006 1:48 AM   Subscribe

Where has my primary hard drive gone? My primary hard drive disappeared after I installed a new CD-ROM drive! It seems my CMOS doesn’t see my main drive! Help!

I just installed a new CD-ROM burner into my PC. Hooked it up, gave everything inside a nice cleaning with compressed air, reconnected. First, a screen came on saying I had a DISK BOOT failure to, please insert system disk… I can’t insert my original WINDOWS CD-ROM, because the drive is brand new, but I have a couple of Floppy Windows system disks. When I put in a Windows System disk on a floppy the system begins to boot, and then the first screen (after naming my BIOS system) fails to recognize my primary hard drive. (I have only one hard drive, C:/)

The floppy System disk then offered me the choice of starting with CD-ROM support or without… since I have only just put in the new CD drive, I chose without. The screen now tells me that C does not contain a valid FAT or FAT 32 partition. It says I can use FDISK in DOS to create a partition.

I also have a floppy system rescue disk from my old Nuts and Bolts rescue program which has worked well in the past. On restarting, I get a message saying that “Your system appears to have no hard drives, and this problem is likely due to a CMOS configuration issue. Select Yes to restore your CMOS to the state it was in when you created this disk.” It then gets as far as 60% into a CMOS check, and hangs. After this screen is up for over a minute, I hit enter and the computer restarts.

A friend told me that I could try taking my battery out of the motherboard for an hour to blank out the CMOS memory and when replaced, it will go back to its default settings. Might that help?

My PC is no spring chicken, Windows 98, 6 GB hard drive, 128 RAM. Works fine, and was doing well until the new CD drive went in. Money is short, so the early Clovis technology will have to remain. Could the CD drive be the problem? Should I try repartitioning the FAT, and if so, how? Will I lose info from my primary drive?
posted by zaelic to Computers & Internet (23 answers total)
Usually, when this happens, it's because you either unplugged your drive cable, or you plugged the CD in on the same cable as the hard drive.

You can do that, but it's better to run the CD on a separate channel.... most motherboards have two IDE channels. Each channel supports up to two devices. Ideally, you want your hard drive on the primary, and the CD on the secondary.

If you can't do that, and have to run them on the same channel, then you'll need to set one of the them to be 'Master' and the other 'Slave'. (normally, the HD is master). There should be jumpers on both units. Many hard drives have separate jumpers for 'master with slave present' and 'master alone on cable'. There should be a sticker on the hard drive with a very terse description. You'd obviously want 'master with slave present'.

Whatever you do, DO NOT REPARTITION ANYTHING. Go slow and be careful, you don't want to lose all your data. Installing a CD should be completely nondestructive.
posted by Malor at 1:56 AM on March 22, 2006

Response by poster: Aha! A vote for no partitioning, point well taken. No, they are on separate cables.
posted by zaelic at 2:00 AM on March 22, 2006

Ok, are you SURE? They're not two ends of the same cable?

If they really are separate, double-check that all cables are tight. If that doesn't fix it, try disconnecting first the power plug (NOT the ide cable) from the CD, and then the IDE cable if the power plug alone didn't work.

After one of those steps, the hard drive should come back to life... post back with which one. :)
posted by Malor at 2:12 AM on March 22, 2006

Oh, one more thing to try... you may have an old BIOS that will only boot from the first device it sees. Try swapping the cables (probably at the motherboard, usually easiest there.) You may have the CD plugged into the primary port.
posted by Malor at 2:13 AM on March 22, 2006

Listen to Malor. CD drives are happy to seize control of an IDE channel. Know what your jumper settings are, to which cables things are plugged in, and at which position on the cable they are plugged. Only by carefully checking each one of these things (all non-destructive) can you deduce and correct your configuration.

There is no need to blank the CMOS by taking out the battery. Worst case, there should be a "restore defaults" option. Don't listen to your friend anymore.
posted by beerbajay at 2:21 AM on March 22, 2006

Response by poster: I'm going to try pulling the power and ide cables from the CD drive now... the IDE cable the CD is on goes into the Motherboard, a seaparate cable feeds the hard drive.
posted by zaelic at 2:50 AM on March 22, 2006

Response by poster: I unhooked the CD-ROM drive power and IDE cables,and voila, my hard drive reappeared on startup.

Now, how do I tell it to accomodate the new CD-ROM drive? (an MSI CD-R/RW model CR52-A2)
posted by zaelic at 3:21 AM on March 22, 2006

Ok, so you have some kind of conflict between the two devices.

Have you tried swapping the cables? That is, plugging the CD into the port the hard drive is in now, and vice versa?
posted by Malor at 3:29 AM on March 22, 2006

Oh, and did the computer start with the IDE cable plugged in, but not the drive cable? That was an important step.
posted by Malor at 3:30 AM on March 22, 2006

dammit. IDE cable but not the power cable.
posted by Malor at 3:30 AM on March 22, 2006

Response by poster: I pulled both IDE and power from the CD-ROM drive when I started it.
posted by zaelic at 3:37 AM on March 22, 2006

Right, I was hoping you would pull JUST the power cable and NOT the IDE cable. I was trying to prove whether or not the cable was faulty. Then, if that didn't work, you were supposed to pull both and try again.

What happens when you swap motherboard connectors?
posted by Malor at 4:27 AM on March 22, 2006

Response by poster: I tried your advice. With just the IDE cable )no power cable) the computer doesn't recognize the hard drive on start up. I also tries setting the Hard drive jumper to slave, and then master, neither affects recognition of the drive.
posted by zaelic at 4:58 AM on March 22, 2006

Response by poster: Obviously,what is confusing me no end, is why this happened... when I tried simply replacing my old CD drive last night, the same thng happened.
posted by zaelic at 5:06 AM on March 22, 2006

Ok, you might have a bad cable. What happens if you use the CD's cable to hook up the hard drive?
posted by Malor at 5:17 AM on March 22, 2006

This definitely points to a conflict between the two drives. You might want to check the jumpers on the back of the CD drive, to see if the drive is set as primary or slave or none of the above. This shouldn't make a difference, since the drives are already on separate cables, but it's worth a try if you don't have access to a spare cable.
posted by SteveInMaine at 5:37 AM on March 22, 2006

Well, it points to SOMETHING being wrong, but whether it's a conflict or a simple bum cable is questionable.

The next thing I was going to suggest was to try to hook up both the hard drive and the CD on the same cable, I just hadn't gotten to it yet. :)
posted by Malor at 5:48 AM on March 22, 2006

Oh, YET ANOTHER thing to try... I'm gonna have to leave soon, so I may not be able to answer again until late this afternoon. I've seen BIOSes that got confused if there was just a slave present on an IDE channel, with no master. It's an old bug, but you have an old machine.

So, another thing to try: hook up both devices on separate cables, and set both of them to Master, No Slave Present (or just Master if that's your only option).

If that doesn't work and you go for the single-cable option, set the hard drive to Master and the CD to Slave.
posted by Malor at 5:52 AM on March 22, 2006

Have you tried going into your BIOS and actually looking at what it recognizes? You should be able to hit 'delete' while the machine boots and get into your bios. There should be an option like "basic settings" which will tell what hard drives the BIOS actually sees.

What are the jumpers for the drive and CD drive say? Set them both to "master" and plug them both into seperate IDE channels.
posted by delmoi at 7:37 AM on March 22, 2006

Response by poster: If that doesn't work and you go for the single-cable option, set the hard drive to Master and the CD to Slave.

BINGO! Thanks Malor, that did the trick! Thanks to all for the help. Any idea why this happened? Was it just a bum cable?
posted by zaelic at 10:03 AM on March 22, 2006

Well, we haven't gotten that far yet, but it sounds like you have either a bad cable, a bad secondary controller, or a buggy BIOS that doesn't correctly detect the combination of drives you were using.

To narrow it down, you'd have to try the various steps I mentioned above.

The way you're doing it now is fine, although you will lose a bit ot of speed on the hard drive. It's a scoche better to run them separately, but realistically... unless you want to fiddle with it anyway to figure out what's actually wrong, don't bother.
posted by Malor at 10:32 AM on March 22, 2006

Response by poster: Suggestions, then? should I reset my BIOS? Get a new cable and try again? Don't notice any loss of speed yet.
posted by zaelic at 12:34 PM on March 22, 2006

Well, if you go back and read all of what I wrote carefully, you'll see a number of things to try that you haven't done yet, if you want to screw around with it any more.

You'd probably only notice the speed loss when using both the CD and the hard drive fairly intensely... installing new software or ripping CGs, mostly. You'd likely take about a 10% speed hit. The rest of the time, the hit is probably too small to notice.
posted by Malor at 5:21 PM on March 22, 2006

« Older Do I have to pay "document fees"?   |   Mobile phone video formats & conversion Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.