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Why has Windows XP made my boot SATA hard disk drive the H: drive after a clean install, and how can I changed the drive letter back to the C: drive?



This is my setup with regard to the IDE drives (three hard drives and two DVD drives) installed in my PC:

Primary Master IDE: N/A - Primary Slave IDE: Western Digital, 320GB - Secondary Master IDE: Plextor DVD-ROM - Secondary Slave IDE: NEC DVD-RW Third Master.

IDE: Western Digital Raptor 74GB, which is connected to a SATA connector on the motherboard, using an IDE-to-SATA adapter.

[Note that SATA-to-IDE adapters are also available.]

When I formatted the Raptor and installed Windows XP, everything went as it should, but when I got into Windows, the Raptor was the H: drive and can't be changed in Disk Management (to bring it up, enter diskmgmt.msc in the Start => Run box), because it is the boot drive. Why is that? Can I change it to the C: drive, and why is the IDE Raptor shown as a Third Master IDE when it is connected as an SATA hard drive?


When you installed Windows XP on the IDE hard drive on an SATA-drive connection, the setup program looked for all of the valid partitions. It installed Windows on the next available letter, which was H: in your case. In a different setup of drives it could have been another drive letter.

It is difficult to change the drive letter of the boot drive. Visit these pages for more information:

How to change [hard disk or CD/DVD] drive letter assignments in Windows XP -


Changing Drive Letters in Windows XP? -


The easiest way to do it is to disconnect the IDE drives and only have your SATA hard drive connected. If you have a memory card reader installed, disconnect that as well, because drive letters are assigned to it. Run the Windows setup again. Windows will now be installed on the C: drive. Now you can reconnect the IDE drives and a memory card reader. Windows will assign drive letters to them.

How the drives are described depends on the motherboard's chipset. If it works, it doesn't make any difference if an drive connected to an SATA connector on the motherboard is described as an IDE drive. Some chipsets haven't been perfected to show SATA drives correctly.

If following that advice doesn't work, visit the PC's motherboard manufacturer's site for a BIOS update, because the BIOS setup program might have a bug that affects booting from a drive connected as an SATA hard drive.

Read the information on the BIOS section of this website if you don't know how to enter or update the BIOS.

If you don't know the make and model of the motherboard installed in your computer, here is a good free utility - Belarc Advisor - that creates an analysis of the hardware and software on a personal computer. Look under FREE DOWNLOAD - http://www.belarc.com/. Another utility that also provides information on the motherboard is CPU-Z.

Note that if you only have one SATA hard drive and one IDE hard drive installed on the motherboard and nothing you do will make the system boot from the SATA hard drive, you should be able to set the SATA hard drive as the boot device in the BIOS when the IDE (PATA) hard drive is connected.

Alternatively, you should be able to remove the IDE (PATA) hard drive from the boot order of drives in the BIOS if an option is set to include it in the boot order.

Another option is to make use of the Recovery Console to delete and then reformat the active boot partition on the IDE (PATA) hard drive.

Doing that changes its serial number, which Windows generates when a partition is newly formatted. The new serial number won't be recognised by Windows, and it should then recognise the SATA hard drive as the C: drive. The newly formatted IDE (PATA) partition will be allocated a different drive letter.

If you still can't get the BIOS to boot from an SATA drive when an IDE hard drive is also connected, try copying the Windows system files called NTLDR and NTDETECT.COM (usually located C:\, which can be viewed in My Computer or in Windows Explorer) to the IDE (PATA) drive's partition. Then use the Recovery Console to run the BootCFG /rebuild command, which should locate the system files on the PATA drive and create the correct boot information in the boot.ini file.

Read this article on the Recovery Console on this site for information on how to use the BootCFG /rebuild command: The Recovery Console and information about the CHKDSK hard-drive diagnostic utility.

Change drive letters in Windows Vista and Windows 7

Note that Windows Vista and Windows 7 do not have a Recovery Console. Visit the Recovering Windows Vista and Recovering Windows 7 sections of this website for information on the various ways of recovering an installation of Windows Vista and Windows 7.

If you need to know how to change drive letters in Windows Vista and Windows 7, entering the search term change drive letters in windows vista / 7 in the Google search box at the top of this page (enabling the Web Search option on the first search page) should bring up plenty of relevant links.

Computer diagnostics: How to solve or fix common desktop and laptop PC problems

Click a link below to visit the described category of computer problems and solutions addressed on this website:

1. - Recovering and repairing Windows XP when a computer crashes or fails to boot

2. - Recovering and repairing Windows Vista when a computer crashes or fails to boot

3. - Windows Vista problems: How to fix problems with Windows Vista

4. - Recover, restore and repair Windows 7 (Win7) when a computer crashes or fails to boot

5. - Windows 7 problems: How to diagnose and fix problems with Windows 7

6. - Windows XP: How to troubleshoot and fix shutdown, restart (reboot), and startup problems

7. - Typical DLL (Dynamic Link Library) device driver problems

8. - Software problems: How to fix problems with Windows, programs, and utilities

Also visit the Software pages on this site for more information on specific software-related information and problems.

9. - Motherboard and power supply problems: How to fix common problems with faulty motherboards (mainboards) and power supplies (PSUs)

10. - RAM memory problems: How to fix problems with the Random Access Memory

11. - Hard disk drive problems: How to fix computer hard disk drive (HDD) problems

12. - CD/DVD drive problems: How to fix problems with CD and DVD drives and discs

13. - Processor problems: How fix common processor (CPU) problems

14. - Video/graphics card problems: How fix common computer video and graphics problems

15. - USB and FireWire problems: - How to fix common USB and FireWire problems

16. - Network problems: How to fix common wired and wireless networking and internet problems

17. - Laptop/notebook problems: How to address or fix the most common laptop/notebook problems

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