BIOS started not detecting HD

Hewlett-packard / Media center pc m7680n
November 17, 2009 at 07:42:48
Specs: Windows XP Pro, Intel Dual Core/1- 2GB DDR2 667 Ram
Not sure why the machine info showed up wrong. It's a custom built w/ a dual core Intel 2GHz cpu, MSI P6NGM-L motherboard, 1 Kingston DDR2 667 stick, IDE DVD drive, 2 WD Caviar SE sata drives (160 and 500GB), and Pci-Express graphics card.

I'm helping diagnose a problem with a custom built desktop where one sata hard drive usually isn't detected by the bios on bootup. It was fine two weeks ago, started requiring cold restarts to be detected, and now requires up to 8-12 cold restarts to be detected. When it's not detected, the bios autodects it as [] and a size of 0mb. When it is detected, the system boots up and runs fine until next shutdown.

I've run the system through a full set of diagnostics and no issues found on the motherboard (MSI P6NGM-L), CPU, RAM, or hardrive. The S.M.A.R.T info shows it to still be very healthy also.

I've tried new sata cables, switching to the other sata mb connectors, used one that works fine for the other sata drive, disabled quick bootup, reset the CMOS, reseated everything, and I'm sure a few other things...

I have to believe it's the hd despite all the tests and reports showing it's healthy. I'm in the process of creating a partition on the other hd and copying the boot image to it. Any ideas what else to try or what else could be the problem? Logical thing would be to buy a new hd and give it a go, but would rather rule out everything else first if possible (and using this second hd partitioned should do that I guess).

Thanks for any assistance/insights on what could be happening!

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November 17, 2009 at 10:08:02
Are both hard drives set to IDE mode ? Do you have any kind of RAID enabled ?

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November 17, 2009 at 10:27:12
Sharp bends in the SATA data cable can cause problems.

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November 17, 2009 at 11:04:44
Oh and meant to say, had tried hooking the drive up to my desktop and my controllers couldn't recognize it, which leads me to think it's something with the drive. Just not sure why it's showing healthy the times it is detected (as few times as that is!).

The bios is set to IDE mode. There aren't any jumpers set on the drives - wasn't before and not sure what would need to be set(?)

I've tried two brand new cables. Plus, moved the one from the 500Gb drive that detected to the other drive with the "flaky" behavior, it didn't detect, and moved it back again (and detected the 500Gb drive again), so can't think it's the cables.

Thanks for the suggestions!

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November 17, 2009 at 12:20:32
I take it you didn't install any SATA controller drivers then?

You could try to first install the SATA controller drivers and then reboot to the BIOS. Change the drive configurations to AHCI or RAID and save.

Keep in mind this may cause a boot failure because you installed windows without any SATA drivers.

Are you running SP3?

Look at the links below.

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November 17, 2009 at 12:39:54
Since the system was running fine for months (if not longer), I didn't try installing/updating the SATA controller driver(s). I'd think they were installed when the original builder installed WinXP. And you're right, I got the blue screen of death when it did boot up and BIOS was set to AHCI. Now, I could get it to boot up into Windows, install the AHCI drivers (assuming there are some for this motherboard/controller), and set the BIOS to AHCI to see if it helps. Not positive but I believe SP3 is installed.

Here's the one problem I see - if the BIOS doesn't detect the drive, it doesn't matter what O/S (or drivers, etc) is running, right? If it isn't detected, it won't be accessible/visible in any bootable environment... When running via bootable diagnostic disks, I couldn't access the drive if it wasn't detected by the BIOS. I always thought the BIOS "initialized" the hardware, etc. and once completed, the O/S then kicked in...

I will check out these link in a few and as always - thanks for the input!!

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November 17, 2009 at 15:33:39
I believe that changing the BIOS settings may help with the BIOS configuring the drives. Google for AHCI, you will get many hits. The two links I provided are typical. One mentions Intel based systems seem to work better when set to RAID.

After that you need to have the correct drivers installed. I think WinXP SP3 includes some SATA drivers.

Worst case scenerio is that you may need to perform a repair or re-install.

One other thing to note. Don't rely entirely on SMART to determine the health of the drives. Use the dedicated drive fitness test from the manufacturer's site.

BTW, is the 160GB drive a SATA I model by chance? That may be part of the problem if you have both drives on the same controller.

Even though SATA drives are all Masters, SATA controllers serve TWO SATA ports for each controller. You probably have other ports you can use if you currently have both on the same controller (1&2 for instance). Also, SATA optical drives on the same controller might be an issue.

Just thought of one more thing. You may have an option for adjusting the time the BIOS takes to ID the drives. I think the settings may go to 5 seconds. Worth looking at.

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November 18, 2009 at 06:08:37
Thanks again.

Seems like the drive has faded out where can't get it to detect even after many cold restarts. Both are SATA-II drives...did try jumpering it down to SATA-1 but nothing.

I'm planning on getting a new SATA-II after work and try putting a backup image I had onto it. Thought might be able to repartition the larger drive, put the image on the new partition, make active, and boot to that. Windows boots up but stalls at WinXP startup screen (MS Windows XP logo displayed on the blue screen). Checking the partitions at one point, it showed a mismatch/bad MBR. I could do a fixmbr on it, but don't want to chance messing up the partition table and lose all the data on the other partition. I figure that is a definite risk?

Oh and the Mb handles up to 4 SATA drives, and they were staggered between SATA1 and SATA3. Can't imagine the builder didn't install the drivers for the SATA controller when installing XP (or if using a native XP driver, it was booting up fine for 6-12 months prior to the drive slowly stopping being detected over last 1-2 weeks).

True about the S.M.A.R.T info - it seems to me everything is pointing to drive failure given what I've tried.

Curious on thoughts if it could be the MBR keeping it from completing the boot up after reimaging the new partition (via Active@Disk)? Never had a problem before - I know it's going from a 160GB drive (one partition) to a 40GB partition on the 500GB drive, but know I've done similar reimaging enough time before...

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November 18, 2009 at 08:20:15
Did you look for the seek time for HD configuration in the BIOS as mentioned in #6?

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November 18, 2009 at 10:06:10
Yes...had come across that along with disabling quick post when hunting for solutions before starting this... Unfortunately there isn't a setting for the seek time (or much of anything else drive related). Best could do was try disabling the quick post to no avail.

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November 18, 2009 at 18:48:33
Ok - finally went and bought a new hard drive, installed a backup image on it, and booted up immediately. For curiosity, I gave the old hard drive one last try and it failed to detect again. Would have to conclude it was the hard drive failing and finally died.

Again thanks for all the suggestions!

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November 18, 2009 at 19:04:54
No problem.

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