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Faulty drives or broken machine?

 7:20 pm on Oct 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

I've got a big problem with an elderly machine and a new hard drive. I bought an 80Gb hard drive a month ago and installed it in an old machine, which has parts dating back to 1991. Much of the machine's internals have subsequently been changed, but stuff like the CD-rom and floppy drive are original - perhaps with other things as well.

The problem is that, on startup, I can hear the new hard drive "firing up" very suddenly, and the drive is subsequently not recognised or available. After about 10 reboots, it decided to work at boot time, but it locked up after 5 minutes (and the OS with it). There is a similar problem with a DVD drive in the same machine which searches endlessly but can't read the CD - but that may not be related.

So, how can I go about diagnosing where the problem lies? Could it be a faulty new drive, or is there some 13 year-old widget on the machine that could be causing the trouble?



 8:29 pm on Oct 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

What OS is it? I think (don't quote me), that 80gb drives can't be recognized before a certain date. Do you know how old the motherboard is?


 8:32 pm on Oct 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Might be an antique BIOS issue too.


 9:02 pm on Oct 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

The BIOS dates from 1999. The 80Gb drive is a slave because the BIOS doesn't recognize it at all, but Windows sees it fine when it starts.

I'm pretty sure this is a hardware issue, even though I'd had problems with the OS (XP Pro) too. The problem is intermittent, but becoming less so. Are there things such as a controlling mechanism for the drives? Could that be faulty?

As I said, the drive suddenly spins very fast for about a second, usually during the boot process, then there is no more. It's still under warranty, but I suspect the older hardware more.

The processor's a Celeron 400MHz.


 9:34 pm on Oct 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Well, yeah, you should have a drive controller in there somewhere (maybe on the mainboard, maybe a separate board or card).

What does it show in Device Manager/IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers as your available Channels and your IDE Master Controller?


 9:51 pm on Oct 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Did you set the harddrive jumpers correctly? If the bios isn't recognizing the unit you'll never get it working consistently.

Are your ide cables new? These wear out with extremely unpredictable results, such as the ones you are seeing now, I had the same problem, tried 2 different cables, they were both bad... new cable, problem fixed. Don't assume cables that worked one place are good, I pulled one of my broken cables out of a working box, then remembered a series of harddrive failure I'd had last year, the light went on: failure caused by defective cable. Always assume a bad connection first. Also make sure to use the 80, not 40, strand ide cable, 40 strand slows the drive down to I believe udma 2.

What dma does the motherboard support, if 4 it should work fine, though of course at a slower speed than the drive is built to support, that's I think about 1/2 of 133megabits per second transfer, 66. This isn't ideal, since the drive has to basically slow itself down all the time, but it usually works ok, just cuts down the drive life a bit.

If you can't get the bios to recognize the drive the problem is not solved until it does. As soon as I replaced the cable bios saw the drives fine.

Once you've determined it's not a bad cable, download the drivetest utility disk from drive manufactorer, install it onto a floppy, boot into the floppy, run the tests. If the drive fails these tests, and the cable itself is good, then the drive is bad. Run the full tests, takes forever, go do something fun while it's running.


 11:39 pm on Oct 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Did you set the harddrive jumpers correctly? If the bios isn't recognizing the unit you'll never get it working consistently.

The BIOS won't ever recognise the drive because it's larger than 38Gb. It wasn't a problem for Windows, and it's a secondary drive so I'm not booting off it.

Are your ide cables new?

No, probably ancient...

I'm going to take the drive down to a friend with a fast (and modern) PC who can do the tests more easily.

To be honest, I think the whole thing is simply falling apart from old age, but it may be just the the drive. Of course, I've been a little negligent with my backups lately, and I risk losing over a week's data... Always the way, and there's nothing critical, just photos... :(

Thanks for the help, guys (and gals!)

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