Cannot Detect SATA HDD

It’s been increasingly common to suddenly find that new hard disk drives are not working on PC systems. More specifically, SATA drives.

Once I had 4 HDDs not work on a system I was building. It turns out that there are a lot of SATA II drives out there now, and I can’t say that the blurb on manufacturer’s websites (especially Seagate in this case) are helpful.

It’s all down to the jumper settings. The drive needs to run at 150MB/s data rate for older SATA controllers. Auto negotiate doesn’t work on these drives, otherwise the speed would be 300MB/sec.

So here’s a guide to the various drives out there, and how to kick them down into SATA I mode:

  • Seagate Barracuda
    Pins 3+4 (the right-most pins when you face the rear of the drive).
    Source: ViaArena

Windows XP Boot Silliness

Spent about half an hour trying to get a PC to boot today.

I think that sometimes you forget what you’re doing so much – you just need to see the obvious.

After cloning an image of a NTFS drive partition, Windows decided that it didn’t want to boot. I had used Image for Windows. After a quick boot, Windows XP wouldn’t start.

Typically, this isn’t a problem as there’s a simple fix. Use fixboot and fixmbr in the recovery console. Which I did. And it didn’t boot.

I did the thing again. And again. And again. Still no booting.

I’ll cut a long story short. In my haste to clone the drive, I failed to set the primary partition as active. Once this had been done, the system booted beautifully.

The moral of this story? Never assume it’s broken when you are rushing.

Remote Assistance Fun

It’s with a certain amount of trepidation that I try to support people over the Internet. Usually, I try to make sure that it’s a problem that’s straightforward and will have some soft of simple answer. At least in theory.

Of course, sometimes, sometimes I get sucked into something which I instantly regret as I start to work on the problem.

This happened today. And not because someone wanted me to fix their computer! Instead, I was just trying to play Generals online. Of course, introducing new players to your forum is always going to be grief. In this case the grief was caused by a 2 year old Packard Bell.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m no fan of ‘off-the-shelf’ computers. That includes Dells, HPs and so forth.

So, the grief (and the beef) is in fact trying to manage with getting these games to work using outdated graphics chipsets. S3 is not exactly known for the high-performance compared to the affordable and excellence of the ATI and GeForce cards.

In the end though, my advice was to go down to PC World, buy the cheapest graphics card they have in stock. This will be vastly superior to the one being used.

Let’s just hope his Packard Bell has an AGP slot… And the next time someone is joining my online gaming, I’ll insist that they get it online before making me wait!