harddrive question
August 23, 2006 11:27 PM   Subscribe

TechSupportFilter: having problems with an ata harddrive

all right i'm having some computer problems. i'm trying to set up my dell desktop. my intention was to install another IDE harddrive (100gb) along with the current ATA (80gb). so i just assumed i'd have enough IDE cable and went ahead and took the ATA drive out because it was easier to put that in a different slot than the IDE. so i took out the two ATA cables (two separate thin plugs - one short and one long - one on an IDE-looking-cable and one on a blue, 3 threaded cable) and set it off to the side. i then fooled around with the IDE drive, finally realizing i couldn't do it. so then i put the ATA drive back in its slot. after that, i took out some compressed air and sprayed the whole inside of the case off (man was it dusty!).

well i booted up windows to make sure nothing went earth-shatteringly (not a word?) wrong and it seems fine. i can both read and write files to the drive. however i tried to do a reinstallation of windows. i popped the slipstreamed sp2* into the drive and booted from it. it loads and gets to the screan where it says to press enter to set up windows. when i press enter, it says it cannot find a harddrive and to press f3 to reboot. it says to run a manufacturer's disc diagnostic (which i tried... to no avail). i then went back into xp and right clicked the drive and tried to format it. when i'd have "quick format" checked, it said that it could not be performed, but when it wasnt checked, it said the disc was in use (even in safe mode).

or could this be dell not wanting me to reformat on my own. this is such a convoluted question ... i apologize. it could just as well be a simple hardware problem. i'm not sure how much of the above information is necessary, but i figured i'd give all the info i had. sorry about that.

i really appreciate your help.

*i've used this cd to set up other computers - it's worked fine
posted by willmillar to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
if you enter your system setup screen (bios screen), does it show both drives as recognized?
did it auto-select the drive info? verify that info against the information on the label on the drives (sectors, cylinders, etc).
posted by jak68 at 11:36 PM on August 23, 2006

Response by poster: //OP//
sorry for the confusion. i acutally never ended up hooking up the IDE drive to the computer. what do you mean about "auto-select[ing]" and the "sectors, cylinders, etc". i know a fair bit about computers, but not much technical stuff about harddrives.
posted by willmillar at 11:57 PM on August 23, 2006

oh i see.
I'm just guessing too, but what i mean is -

1. go into the bios setup screen (usually you press F1 or ESC or something; when the dell logo comes up it should tell you what to hit for setup. this is different from the F8 for windows startup options).

2. once in bios, you can tab around and find the screen that shows you what drives are installed. It will detail the drive it THINKS it has. you can have it show you the details (if you look on the drive label, you'll see it will tell you details on the drive like sectors, cylinders, etc). These should match whats on the label. If they dont, you can tab around and change the settings in the bios. There should also be an option there called 'auto select'. you might want to select that first and see if it just works. )

Also check that you put the ATA drive back properly. Did any jumpers fall off the back of the drive? It should be configured as the primary ('master') drive. Check the connections of each cable at both ends - did something slip off?

It seems to me that windows is able to recognize the drive (hence it works when you go into windows), but dos/bios is not able to (hence it fails when you try to reinstall). That seems to be a drive-recognition problem at the bios/dos level; hence you should check the BIOS screen and make sure that it is recognizing the drive correctly there.
posted by jak68 at 12:16 AM on August 24, 2006

after you do the above (if its recognizing the drive correctly in bios), reboot, go into the windows options by pressing F8 after the dell logo, and select "command prompt only" as the option. When you get the command prompt - can you read and write to the drive? try a few simple dos commands like "dir" and "type [filename]". copy a dummy file around if you can (copy [source] [destination]). If you get that far, then i'm stumped.
posted by jak68 at 12:20 AM on August 24, 2006

Oh god, you're trying to reinstall Windows XP on a SATA drive for the first time? Ouch. Welcome to a wonderful experience.

XP installation doesn't play well with SATA drives because the SATA technology was so new when XP came out. SP2 fixed a lot of the problems but I still have major headaches so it clearly didn't solve all of them. The problem is that XP often doesn't have the correct SATA controller driver on the CD so it can't find the drive in order to install itself. So you need a 3rd party driver for your SATA controller. You have to put it on to a floppy and then when installing windows there is a time when you can press one of the function keys or something to install 3rd party drivers.

Once you hit the key you put in the floppy, windows will install the SATA controller driver, and then XP should recognize the SATA drive for installation.

Which 3rd party driver you need depends on your motherboard and such. It took me a bunch of scrounging but I needed the Promise Fasttrack 378 SATA controller driver when I did this on my old box. Find out what SATA controller you have and you should be able to get the appropriate driver from the web.
posted by Justinian at 1:12 AM on August 24, 2006

Note: read the above answers... if the problem is what I suspect, there isn't anything you can do in the BIOS.

DEFINITELY check the cables and connections first. SP2 made this plug and play some of the time, so it may work fine if there is just a loose connection.
posted by Justinian at 1:13 AM on August 24, 2006

This could have changed recently, but last times I've been fooling around with computers, it's been like this:

Sometimes SATA drives are recognized by the BIOS itself. Sometimes they're recognized by another controller and you'll see that right after the BIOS.

Go into your BIOS and look for "Primary Master" "Primary Slave" "Secondary Master" and so on. This is the traditional place for hard drives to reside. If you see your SATA hard drive here, then I believe it is presented to windows in the same way IDE drives are, and I don't think you need any special drivers for basic functionality. Don't know what your problem is if this is the case.

If you don't see your hard drive listed in the regular BIOS screen, then you need to do the floppy thing. I think there's also a trick where you can burn an XP CD with the drivers in the right spot and it will use them, but I don't know details.

What's your problem installing the IDE drive?

i then went back into xp and right clicked the drive and tried to format it. when i'd have "quick format" checked, it said that it could not be performed, but when it wasnt checked, it said the disc was in use (even in safe mode).

Never tried, but I'm reasonably sure Windows will not be able to format the partition it is running from.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 2:25 AM on August 24, 2006

I'll rephrase the above stuff and add a little bit.

It sounds like your problem is that Windows can't find the hard drive on bootup from CD. I'm not completely sure from your description, but I think you probably have an SATA disk (a very small, thin data plug), and Windows often doesn't have drivers for those. So you would need to download and create a driver floppy from Dell, press F6 when the XP install first boots from the CD, and then load the driver from floppy when you're given the chance. (several minutes later).

You can sometimes avoid this problem. Some motherboards have a 'legacy' setting for SATA, where the BIOS sort of pretends it's an old-style PATA drive. (same speed, slightly different method of connecting.) If you have this, it will be buried somewhere in your BIOS, probably in the chipset settings somewhere. Sometimes it's called 'legacy compatibility' or 'legacy mode', and I've also seen it called 'Win98 compatibility'.

However! There's a definite chance that if you change this setting, it could let you install XP, but would hose your EXISTING installation... it *might* not be able to find its boot volume anymore. So if your intent is to preserve the old install and add in a new one, it *might* break. That's definitely not certain, but anytime you're monkeying around at a low level like this, this sort of thing is possible. If you want to preserve your old install, make sure you test that it still boots after changing this setting. If not, change it back.

The most compatible solution is going to be a driver disk. I suggest going that way if you can.
posted by Malor at 8:35 AM on August 24, 2006

Response by poster: //OP//
thanks for all the suggestions, guys! i'm going to try them out now. wish me luck! i'll be back with results soon!
posted by willmillar at 9:42 AM on August 24, 2006

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