PC Buyer Beware!

Common hard disk drive (HDD) problems

Solutions to common hard disk drive  problems – Click the links to go to them

 

1. – My 5-year-old desktop PC’s SATA hard disk drive failed and I replaced it with a 1TB SATA drive, but on booting it gives this error message: “Hardware BIOS Initiate Failed, Press ‘G’ to continue”

2. – Windows can only see 137GB of my 250GB IDE hard disk drive

3. – I partitioned and formatted my new hard disk drive, but a message just says there’s no operating system

4. – I ran benchmark tests on my IDE hard disk drive, which say that the drive isn’t running at full speed

5. – A problem with an old IDE hard disk drive and a new SATA hard disk drive running from a PCI SATA adapter card

6. – Why can I only create four partitions on my hard disk drive?

7. – How can I transfer the contents of my entire old SATA hard disk drive to the new one so that Windows 7 boots from the new drive?

8. – Can I use an old IDE hard drive in my new PC that only supports SATA hard drives and CD/DVD drives?

My 5-year-old desktop PC’s SATA hard disk drive failed and I replaced it with a 1TB SATA drive, but on booting it gives this error message: “Hardware BIOS Initiate Failed, Press ‘G’ to continue”

Hard disk drive problem

My 5-year-old desktop PC’s boot SATA hard disk drive failed. I’ve kept the failing SATA drive installed on another SATA port on the PC’s motherboard because, although it won’t boot into Windows XP, it still allows me to transfer files to it. I swapped the new SATA drive – a Samsung 1TB model – with the failing drive. Now when the PC boots it produces a “Hardware BIOS Initiate Failed, Press “G” to continue” error message and the drive doesn’t show in the BIOS or in Windows XP. I’ve tried changing the SATA data cable without success.

Answer

You should not keep a failing hard disk drive working in your computer and save files to it because you won’t be able to recover them if it fails completely unless you have made backup copies elsewhere.

Does the BIOS support 1TB drives? – Being 5 years old, it is unlikely to support drives of that size and will require a BIOS update that provides the required support (if an update is available, which is unlikely to be the case given the age of the computer). You will have to identify the make/model of the PC’s motherboard and then visit its manufacturer’s website for a BIOS update. The free CPU-Z utility can be used to identify the motherboard. Otherwise, the only way to use the drive is from a PCI or PCI Express SATA controller card that provides that support.

I had a similar problem when an ASUS A7N8X-E motherboard refused to detect a Hitachi 1TB hard disk drive, in spite of using the latest firmware that Asus provided. I bought a PCI SATA controller, which works perfectly with the 1TB drive.

If a PC’s motherboard only supports SATA I/150, which is no doubt the case because SATA II drives weren’t available when you bought that PC, and the new drive is a SATA II drive, which is also no doubt the case, there should be a jumper on the drive that forces it to work as a SATA I drive.

You should always check the hard-drive manufacturer’s website for issues and a firmware update if you have problems getting a hard drive to work if the BIOS supports drives of its capacity and the motherboard also supports the make/model of drive (SATA II). Here are some examples concerning Seagate hard drives.

Seagate fixes 7200.11 drives–except when it doesn’t – “Seagate on Tuesday released a fix to a bug in its current generation of drives that caused them to become undetectable by a computer. Users have found, however, that the fix breaks 500GB drives–the fix has since been retracted.” –

http://news.cnet.com/seagate-fixes-7200.11-drives-except-when-it-doesnt/

Windows XP can only see 137GB of my 250GB IDE hard disk drive

Hard disk drive problem

I installed a 250GB IDE Maxtor hard disk drive in a computer running Windows XP, but it can only recognise 137GB of the drive.

Answer

Elderly motherboards and Windows 98/Windows Me and Windows XP prior to Windows XP SP1 (that has Service Pack 1 installed) have a 137GB barrier. Any disk space over that amount isn’t recognised because Windows (or any other operating system) requires driver support for 48-bit Logical Block Addressing (LBA), which was only included in Windows XP SP1.

How to enable 48-bit Logical Block Addressing support for ATAPI disk drives in Windows XP – This article describes the Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1) 48-bit Logical Block Addressing (LBA) support for ATA Packet Interface (ATAPI) disk drives that can increase the capacity of your hard disk to more than the current 137 gigabyte (137GB) limit. – http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=303013

You should also check the version of the file Atapi.sys that is installed. In Windows XP, it can be found in the C:\Windows\System32\Drivers folder. Locate the file (if necessary by using the Search facility), right-click on it, choose Properties, and then click the Version tab of the window that comes up. The file should be version 5.1.2600.1135 or higher. (I had version 5.1.2600.2180 at the time of writing.)

For more information on this subject read the information on upgrading hard drives on the Upgrading PC/Computer Hardware, Windows & Software section of this site.

Note that if you are using Partition Magic as your partitioning utility, versions earlier than 8.01 don’t support hard drives larger than 137GB.

If you have a motherboard that has an Intel chipset of the 800 series (810 to 860), there are patches that fix the limit available from: http://www.intel.com/

You should make sure that your computer’s BIOS setup program is the latest version. The motherboard’s manufacturer’s site should have details about BIOS updates, what they support, and how to install them. A BIOS update could fix the problem.

You might still have to partition the drive to get it to work. You can create partitions with Windows XP’s Disk Management. To do so, enter diskmgmt.msc in the Start => Run box, or use a free program such as QTParted, which is part of the rescue CD for the Linux operating system that can be obtained from http://www.sysresccd.org/.

[Note that Disk Management in Windows Vista and also in Windows 7 can be accessed by entering diskmgmt.msc in its Start => Start Search (Vista) and Start => Search programs and files (Win7) box. Disk Management in Vista and Win7 allow the resizing of partitions on-the-fly without data loss.

Download the ISO image and then burn it to a recordable CD-R/DVD-R/DVD+R disc. You can run QTParted from the CD. It is meant for use with Linux, but can be used to partition and resize partitions for the NTFS file system used by Windows XP. Alternatively, you can download the program here: http://qtparted.sourceforge.net/, but you’ll have to create your own bootable CD/DVD and copy the program to it if you want to use it from a CD/DVD. You can also use it from Knoppix Linux, which runs from a bootable CD/DVD. Download the ISO image free of charge from http://www.knoppix.org/ and use CD/DVD burning software to burn it to a recordable CD/DVD.

Your PC’s BIOS setup program should be set to boot from a CD/DVD drive in order to boot into Linux at startup without interfering with an installation of Windows XP/Vista. You would place the Knoppix Linux CD/DVD in its drive and reboot the PC. The PC will boot into Knoppix Linux, which looks like Windows. From the Start menu go to System and choose the program QTParted, which looks and works very much like Partition Magic, which was priced at £50 new in the UK at amazon.co.uk at the time of writing (September 2008). It can be used with Windows XP/Vista on NTFS partitions.

If you still can’t get the drive to work at its full capacity, you’ll have to purchase a PCI IDE Controller adapter card. You install it in a spare PCI slot on the motherboard and attach the drive to it instead of to the motherboard.

Many PCI IDE Controller cards are made by Promise Technologies, but the company’s controllers can also be found built into some motherboards. Promise has updated its device drivers to support 48-bit LBA operation, but at the time of writing this, it had not obtained Microsoft WHQL (Windows Hardware Quality Labs) certification for the drivers that gives them a recognisable digital signature.

This situation leads to a driver problem, because Windows XP installs its own drivers for Promise controllers that have not been updated for 48-bit LBA support if it cannot install signed drivers. (48-bit support is required by Windows to recognise the full capacity of drives larger than 137GB.) In this case, even if you download and attempt to install the latest unsigned Promise drivers, Windows will refuse to install them because it has installed its own signed drivers, which always take precedence over unsigned drivers.

If this is the case, the Windows drivers will be dated July 1, 2001 (07/01/01). You can check this by opening the Device Manager. A Promise card or controller will be listed under SCSI Controllers even though it is not an SCSI device. Right-click on the controller’s entry, click Properties in the menu that comes up, and then click on the Driver tab of the window that comes up.

You can force Windows XP to install the Promise drivers. To do that, right-click on the controller’s entry, and then click on Update Driver… You must not allow Windows to search for and install the drivers automatically. Choose all of the manual choices and ignore any warning messages no matter how ominous. You will arrive at the Have Disk button that allows you to point Windows to the location of the driver file. The Promise driver that supports 48-bit LBA support is dated March 28 2003 (3/28/03) or later.

When Windows is restarted, you should be able to see the full capacity of any hard drive larger than 137GB.

I partitioned and formatted my new hard disk drive, but a message just says there’s no operating system

Hard disk drive problem

After I cloned my old IDE hard drive’s data to the new one (also an IDE drive), and then repartitioned and formatted the rest of the drive, all of the partitions are visible to Partition Magic and the data is present, but the computer won’t boot. An error message comes up that says that there is no operating system.

Answer

Run your partitioning program (Partition Magic, or QTParted, mentioned in 2. above). Right-click the new drive with the mouse, and make sure that the partition with Windows installed on it is set to Active. Moreover, make sure that the boot IDE drive is installed on the motherboard’s primary IDE connector, and that it is jumpered as a master drive. There should be videos available on YouTube that show how an IDE PATA hard disk drive is installed as a master or as a slave drive.

I ran benchmark tests on my IDE hard disk drive, which say that the drive isn’t running at full speed

 

Hard disk drive problem

I ran the hard-drive benchmark tests on my IDE drive using HDtach and I discovered that it isn’t running as fast as it should be running. My PC runs Windows XP Home Edition fully updated to Service Pack 3 (SP3).

Answer

HDtach tends to overestimate the average speeds of each type of disk drive. However, if the hard drive is more than a third slower than the average speeds it lists, take the following steps:

If the IDE hard drive is installed on the same cable as a CD/DVD drive, then install it on a cable on its own, or with another hard drive. Installing it on the same cable as an optical CD/DVD drive can force it to run slower than it should. Right-click on My Computer, then left-click on Properties in the menu that comes up, followed by the Hardware tab in the window that comes up. Open the Device Manager, open the category called Disk drives by clicking on the + beside it.

If the hard drive’s software device drivers are installed properly the drive’s make and model should be listed. (If not then Windows installs its standard IDE drivers and you should install the manufacturer’s drivers, downloaded from your computer’s make/model of hard drive from its website.) Double-click on the Primary IDE Channel under IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers. If a setting for DMA if available (Direct Memory Access) is available in the Transfer Mode menu, enable it if it isn’t already enabled.

Note that the DMA if available setting is not available for SATA hard disk drives. DMA is enabled from the BIOS for SATA hard drives.

Read I can’t find out if DMA is enabled for my hard drive in Windows XP/Vista on this website to find out how to enable or disable DMA in Windows XP and Windows Vista. The Vista information can be used in Windows 7.

A problem with an old IDE hard disk drive and a new SATA hard disk drive running from a PCI SATA adapter card

Hard disk drive problem

I cloned the system on my old IDE hard disk drive on to my new SATA hard disk drive that runs from a PCI SATA adapter card. I jumpered and installed the old drive as a slave drive. Unfortunately, when I boot the system from the new SATA drive, a message comes up saying that there is no operating system (Windows XP).

Answer

The old hard drive might not be attached to the correct connector on the ribbon 80-conductor IDE ribbon cable. A slave drive has to be connected to the middle connector on the cable, not the end connector. Click here! to read an illustrated article on installing an IDE or SATA hard disk drive on the Build Your Own PC section of this site.

When you boot the computer, enter the BIOS (press the key that the first window says enters Setup). Under the menu item that is usually called Advanced BIOS Features, there is a setting called Boot Sequence or Boot Order. Look for an option to boot from an external controller. If there isn’t such an option there should be one called Boot from an SCSI controller. An SCSI controller for SCSI drives works in a similar way to an IDE adapter card. Enable it. Doing that should enable the system to boot from the SATA drive instead of from the motherboard’s IDE controller.

You should also use your partitioning utility (Partition Magic, etc) to make sure that the primary partition on the new SATA drive is set as Active. You can use Disk Management in Windows XP to make it active. Enter diskmgmt.msc in the Start => Run box to open Disk Management. Right-click on the drive to bring up the menu options.

[Note that Disk Management in Windows Vista and also in Windows 7 can be accessed by entering diskmgmt.msc in its Start => Start Search (Vista) and Start => Search programs and files (Win7) box. Disk Management in Vista and Win7 allow the resizing of partitions on-the-fly without data loss.

Note that it can be tricky connecting both IDE drives and SATA drives to the motherboard. If, say, you install a SATA drive and then install an IDE drive, unless the BIOS is programmed to know the difference, the system will usually try to boot from an IDE drive first. If a BIOS update isn’t available that allows the two types of drive on the motherboard to be installed so that the system can boot from the SATA drive, a PCI SATA adapter card is required (such as the one you are using). The BIOS is set as instructed above.Note that PCI Express x1 SATA controller adapter cards are available for use if the motherboard has a free PCI Express x1 slot.

Why can I only create four partitions on my hard disk drive

Hard disk drive problem

My hard drive is recognised properly by the BIOS at start-up, shows up properly in the Device Manager and appears in My Computer, but I can only create four partitions with FDISK [FDISK is used in Windows 98 and Windows Me. Alternatives are the partition programs that can be used from within Windows XP/Windows Vista or from the Windows XP/Vista CD/DVD, Partition Magic, etc]. There is still plenty of drive space that I can’t partition and format.

Answer

In order to use FDISK, you must have the drives formatted to the FAT32 file system, because it won’t work on the native NTFS file system used by Windows XP/Vista.

You have created four primary partitions; the maximum number of primary partitions that Windows can create using the FAT32 file system. To create more partitions, you have to create an extended partition and then create logical drives (partitions) within the extended partition. Each logical drive will have its own drive letter assigned to it by Windows (E: – F: – G: – etc.).

You should be able to find an option to create an extended partition. It’s immediately apparent in FDISK, but you’ll have to find out how to do it with other partitioning utilities. When it has been created, you’ll have the option to create logical drives within that partition. Windows XP allows you to partition hard drives from its CD, or from Start => All Programs => Administrative Tools => Computer Management => Disk Management. The hard drive partitions are represented graphically by rectangular spaces under headings for each drive (Disk 0, Disk 1, etc.). To create an extended partition, right-click on any empty space (unpartitioned space), and select the option to create an extended partition. There has to be an existing partition on the boot drive because Windows XP is operating from one.

Alternatively, use the free QTParted. See the first problem for information on it. It can create new partitions or resize existing partitions very easily.

How can I transfer the contents of my entire old SATA hard disk drive to the new one so that Windows 7 boots from the new drive?

Most hard disk drive manufacturers supply a free utility from their websites that can do that for you. There are other programs that can be used, such as cloning software to transfer the files. CloneZilla is free and does the job very effectively, but it is not the easiest of programs to use, so I’ll provide the instructions on how to use it to do what you want here.

Download CloneZilla from http://www.clonezilla.org/. Click the Stable (Debian-based) .iso/zip and then download the latest version of the .iso file. A blank recordable CD or DVD disc to which you can write the .iso file is required. If you have disc-burning software installed, it can be used to burn an ISO file to a disc if it provides an option to record an image file. Windows 7, which you have, supports .iso files, so right-click on the file, select Open with… and choose Windows Disc Image Burner and click the Burn button. If you have an older version of Windows that doesn’t support image-burning, the free CDBurnerXP from http://cdburnerxp.se/ does the job nicely.

With the PC switched off but connected to the mains with its switch also switched off so that the PC remains earthed, install the new hard disk drive, power on the PC and boot from the CD/DVD disc you burned. If you need to know how to install an IDE PATA hard disk drive as a master or slave drive, search YouTube for a video using the search query: install an IDE PATA hard disk drive.

When you run the program for the first time, choose English as the language. The default settings are all right for the keyboard, so select Don’t touch keymap. Choose Start CloneZilla on the next screen to run the program. On the next menu you have to choose how you want to use the software. You want to copy one hard drive to another, so choose the device-device; device-image option that makes a backup image of a hard drive. Choose Expert on the next screen.

To make a complete copy of a hard disk drive, select the disk_to_local_disk option. The other options copy a hard drive to a hard drive on another computer, or just copy one partition.

On the next screen, choose the source hard drive. Since nothing has been changed yet, this is the first hard drive in the computer, listed as sda or hda. You can check the displayed model number and listed size of the drive. Take care to choose the correct drive, because otherwise all of your data could be lost. The next screen shows the available source hard disks. If only two hard disks are installed, the new drive will be the only one shown. Make sure that you choose the correct drive if there are multiple hard disks installed and press Enter, then Enter again.

You should see a list of the Expert options you can choose from. If you want to use the entire volume of the new drive, choose Resize the file system to fit partition size of target partition. This expands the old drive to fit the new one. If this option is left blank, the old hard drive is copied to a partition of the same size on the new drive. In order to use any extra space, a new partition will have to be in created Windows. Chose Use the partition table from the source disk on the next menu to start the copying. Press Enter to continue. Press the Y key when prompted to confirm your choice and then just allow the software to do the rest.

When the process is over, if you still have the old drives installed as it was, the computer’s BIOS Setup Program has to be set to boot from your new hard drive instead of the old drive. There is a section in every PC’s BIOS that sets the boot order of devices.

You should be able to choose between the two drives which of them you want as the first boot device. When the new drive is working, it will boot to Windows 7, which has been cloned to it. The old hard drive can be use as additional data storage, or you remove it from the computer.

Can I use an old IDE hard drive in my new PC that only supports SATA hard drives and CD/DVD drives?

Hard disk drive problem

I have an old high-capacity IDE hard drive that I would like to use to store backups and system images, but my new PC’s motherboard only provides ports for SATA dives. Does that mean that I’ll have to bin the IDE drive?

Answer

Most new PC motherboards don’t provide ports for IDE hard drive or CD/DVD writers because the IDE standard has been replaced by the SATA standard. Fortunately, this situation doesn’t mean that you can’t install IDE drives on the latest motherboards. There are two ways of installing them – 1. – you can buy a PCI or PCI Express IDE interface card (if the motherboard has a free slot of one of those standards) costing between £15 and £25 or 2. – you can buy an IDE-to-SATA adapter that is fitted to the back of the drive converting it from IDE to SATA. Then you just plug in an SATA data cable into the back of the adapter and to an SATA slot on the motherboard. These adapters often require a power connector from the PC’s power supply unit – usually a floppy-disk-drive power cable – such as the one provided here – http://www.lindy.co.uk/… The white connector on the left is for a floppy-drive power connector and the black connector on the far right side of the device is the SATA connector.