Windows CD does not see my Hard Drive... help
August 24, 2008 11:13 AM   Subscribe

For a friend... who has a virus on their gateway laptop, and the windows boot disk tells me the hard drive is not found... suggestions on formatting the disk?

Basically, I am trying to format their disk to prepare it to re install windows on it, however the Windows CD does not even recognize my friend's hard drive, thus I cannot proceed to format the disk. Any reasons as to why this may be? More importantly, do you have any suggestions?
posted by yoyoceramic to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does the hard drive show up in the computer's BIOS or during POST?

Can the computer boot to the hard drive?

If you answer no to either of the above you've got bigger problems than a virus.

How are you booting the disc? From the computer's internal drive? How is the boot order set up in the BIOS?

My guess is that the hard drive is not configured in the BIOS. When in doubt reload the system defaults. If the drive is showing up and otherwise working, then it's a boot disc problem. Try another disc.

It is possible to remove the hard drive, install it in a desktop, do a partial (file copy) install, and then re-install the drive to finish the installation - but that is a complicated process that doesn't address the issue of why your Windows CD isn't recognizing your hard drive...
posted by wfrgms at 11:23 AM on August 24, 2008

Does the laptop use a SATA controller for the hard drive? If so, XP won't see it. You'll have to do the "load additional drivers" process during the installation. Basically, you'll need to hit F6 at some point, and insert a floppy disk with the SATA drivers on it.

If you don't have a floppy on the laptop, a USB floppy drive might work, though I would Google for how to slipstream drivers into an XP installation CD.
posted by chengjih at 12:21 PM on August 24, 2008

Oh, if there is a SATA controller in the machine, you can also go into BIOS and tell the SATA controller to work in legacy or ATA mode. The XP installation CD can see it then. You might then be able to load up the SATA drivers from Gateway after everything is installed, and then swich the BIOS setting back to SATA mode.

Actually, this begs the question: why aren't you using Gateway's recovery CD? It should have all the necessary drivers for the hardware already set to go, including slipstreamed SATA drivers. A generic XP CD can work after fiddling, but the manufacturer's recovery CD takes care of a lot of that. Yeah, there may be crapware on the thing, bu that's what PC De-crapifier is for.
posted by chengjih at 12:25 PM on August 24, 2008

The first thing I'd do is make sure that the bios (that's the close-to-the-wires program that makes sure everything's running, no matter what, at the beginning) is recognizing the hard drive. When you first turn the computer on, there should always be a bios screen; somewhere on that screen, they'll list a key you can press (usually F3 or something like it) to go into Setup or Options. Boot the computer and press that key. Bioses are different for different computers, and I'm not familiar with Gateway's, so you'll have to fumble through, but somewhere, there will be hardware options; you should find those, and see if the hard disk is listed. Also, there should be boot options; it should be set up to boot first from the CD, then from the hard disk. (Or maybe CD, USB, then hard disk.) That's why, when you boot with a CD in the drive, it tries to boot off of that. If the hard disk isn't next on that list, or (this would be bad) isn't even listed, then it won't be able to boot from it.

So long as the hard drive is listed, this is what I'd do, although I don't know if it's something you'll want.

It wouldn't allow you to format the disk for installation of Windows, but

(1) Download the Knoppix boot disk, burn a copy, and boot from that.
(2) When the opening screen comes up, type "knoppix -write" so that you can write to the drive. When the computer finishes booting, right-click on the Hard Disk icon and do Properties->Device. Uncheck the "read only" box and click "OK."
(3) Open a Terminal (that's the little picture of a screen with a prompt at the bottom) and type:

sudo mformat -F /dev/hda

...that'll format the drive as an FAT32 drive, which Windows should at least recognize. (USB drives are FAT32, for example).

Of course, it might end up being more complicated than just this, but this will at least tell you if it's a hardware or a software problem. My experience is that the best way to fix Windows is with Linux, preferably with Knoppix. The Windows boot disk is hopeless at diagnostics or at recognition.

On preview, chengjih has a great suggestion; I'll bet Gateway's disk would be of a lot of help.
posted by koeselitz at 12:44 PM on August 24, 2008

Response by poster: @wfrgms

Yes, it shows up in the BIOS.

Yes, it could, until I started fiddling with files on the computer while trying to remove the virus. Now it cannot. (Oops.)

I am turning on the computer with the disk inserted, then hitting 'any key' when it prompts me to press any key. The boot order is CD then internal hard drive.


I have read about slipstreaming, and am considering that. Will write back after attempting.

I don't have any of the recovery disks, unfortunately. Maybe they're available online?
posted by yoyoceramic at 12:50 PM on August 24, 2008

I think chengjih has it with the SATA diagnosis if this is in fact a newer laptop.

Don't kill yourself trying to slipstream a new XP disc - just get the SATA drivers from the manufacturer's website and stick them on a floppy disk (or possibly a USB thumb drive.)
posted by wfrgms at 1:19 PM on August 24, 2008

it might end up being more complicated than just this

No. I doubt any troubleshooting method that requires the user to burn and run a Linux disc, format a hard drive as FAT32, and "fingers-crossed" hope that the windows disc then works, has any contemporary solution that could be more harebrained or fraught with complexity.

Don't listen to koeselitz. Or anyone who recommends a course of action that requires you to use technology best used on 1970s mainframes...

When the XP installer doesn't work, that indicates a problem. Either incompatible hardware or some malfunction. In this case I'm with chengjih regarding the SATA driver.

IF however this isn't an SATA drive then you've got more trouble shooting to do. Verify (take a look at the BIOS, or pull the drive) that this an SATA drive before you go down that road...
posted by wfrgms at 1:25 PM on August 24, 2008

Many Gateway machines have a recovery partition that can by accessed by pressing F11 repeatedly after the bios splash screen. If you're OS is Vista the recovery partition can be accessed by pressing F8 instead of F11.

If that doesn't work trying going into the bios and switching sata mode from ahci to native. Windows setup should then be able to see your disk. You can switch back to ahci once you've reloaded Windows and sata drivers.
posted by sockpup at 1:39 PM on August 24, 2008

OK, first thing: call Gateway. See what the warranty status is. Ask for a system recovery disk/repair disk/whatever they call it. As sockpup noted, there may be a recovery partition you can use, also. Call Gateway first, and see what steps you need to take. If they want you to pay money just to talk to someone, Google for the model of laptop and "recovery disk", "recovery partition", or something to that effect.

As I said earlier, you can try slipstreaming in SATA drivers to your XP install CD, but that's a pain in the ass and you're going to wind up with a bunch of coasters until you get it right, if you haven't done this sort of thing before. Calling Gateway is the fastest path to a resolution.
posted by chengjih at 2:34 PM on August 24, 2008

wfrgms: No. I doubt any troubleshooting method that requires the user to burn and run a Linux disc, format a hard drive as FAT32, and "fingers-crossed" hope that the windows disc then works, has any contemporary solution that could be more harebrained or fraught with complexity... Don't listen to koeselitz. Or anyone who recommends a course of action that requires you to use technology best used on 1970s mainframes...

*shrugs* Well, I didn't say anybody should, I said it's what I'd do. It's worked for me for this purpose more than once in the past, and it took all of ten minutes. But I agree, it's probably a bad idea for anybody who doesn't know a little Linux already. Of course, Linux has its perks. Or maybe you can tell me; does Windows allow any way yet of partitioning a hard drive with partitions larger than a few megs yet? That Knoppix disk is the only way I could find to partition my drives; and I've looked.

Either way, yeah, yoyoceramic, I wouldn't do this unless you know a little Linux. It seemed simple to me when I typed it, since it's the kind of thing I do routinely, and since it's only really one command, but it's probably a waste of time to somebody who hasn't done it and won't be doing it again. Sorry.

But, hey, look at your computer and get the model number. You'll have to check the list, but I'm pretty sure the SATA thing is the problem - these SATA drives seem to be common in Gateway computers - and that this is the driver for it right here. Download it and put it on a USB stick and see if you can bring it up during the Windows recovery. Otherwise, uh, I don't know how you'd go about putting it on a floppy, but I guess the slipstreaming thing might be an option. I don't know; I guess you should try this first.
posted by koeselitz at 3:07 PM on August 24, 2008

Response by poster: The computer didn't read the drivers off the USB thumb drive I inserted, and it doesn't have a floppy. Do I have other options for getting the SATA driver onto the internal HD?
posted by yoyoceramic at 8:37 PM on August 24, 2008

Do I have other options for getting the SATA driver onto the internal HD?

Burn it to a cd. When the install asks for the file, pop out the windows disc, throw in the disc with the driver - not sure if I've done it this way, but it should work.

Are you sure the thumb drive didn't work? Like extra triple sure?

You could try a USB floppy drive.

Or you could locate an internal floppy drive module for the laptop.

Probably before I went out and bought any extra hardware I would remove the drive, install it in my desktop (may require an adapter) and do a partial install that way. It requires a little bit of a know-how and some familiarity with the install process (you don't want to do a full install, just a copy-install before replacing the hard drive and continuing the process...)
posted by wfrgms at 11:00 PM on August 24, 2008

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