|If the bios DOES NOT find an existing network connection to an existing network, the boot process will halt, and the bios WILL NOT try to boot from anything listed in the Boot Order or similar listed after PXE. |
You won't get hard drive activity after that.
(The same thing applies if the first hard drive the bios tries to access is found to be not bootable -
the bios WILL NOT try to boot from anything else.
As far as I know, the same thing always applies if the bios attempts to boot from a USB connected drive that is not bootable.
On the other hand, if the boot order settings are set correctly to allow it,
- if a floppy disk is inserted and found to be not bootable,
- or - if an optical disk is found to be not bootable, or if it is found to be bootable and you do NOT respond to the prompt while booting and choose to boot from it
- the bios will try to boot the computer from the next thing in the Boot Order or similar list. )
If the bios DOES find an existing network connection to an existing network, the bios WILL NOT try to boot from anything listed in the Boot Order or similar listed after PXE.
You WILL get hard drive activity after that if the connection to the existing network was successful, if the hard drive has been set up correctly with the proper data otherwise.
If you want to boot PXE, what existing network are you trying to connect to ?
If you're only connected to a high speed modem, or only connected to your own LAN, e.g. via a router, then that's NOT going to work.
"The CD/DVD drive with a mini-xp disk inserted gets to the "Setup is inspecting your system's configuration" message and goes no further."
That's another subject that may have absolutely nothing to do with your boot problem.
E.g. You may have
- an optical disk problem.
Is it an original CD or DVD or a copy ?
Is it clean and free of major scratches ?
If it's a copy, a CD-R or DVD-R disk should work fine in any drive that can read it's type, but other types of burnable disks may NOT read properly in a drive it was not made in.
- an optical drive problem.
Have you tried using a laser lens cleaning CD in the drive ?
How old is it ? How much has it been used ?
Check your SATA data cables. The connector on each end should "latch" into the socket on the drive and on the mboard, or on the drive controller card - it should not move when you merely brush your hand against it near the socket - if it does, mere vibration can cause a poor connection of it - use another SATA data cable that does "latch", or tape the connector in place.
(There is a slight projection or bump on one side of the outside of the connector that "latches" it into the socket - it's easily broken off or damaged)
The same thing applies for the SATA power connection.
It is common to un-intentionally damage IDE data cables, especially while removing them - the 80 wire ones are more likely to be damaged. What usually happens is the cable is ripped at either edge and the wires there are either damaged or severed, often right at a connector or under it's cable clamp there, where it's hard to see - if a wire is severed but it's ends are touching, the connection is intermittent, rather than being reliable.
Another common thing is for the data cable to be separated from the connector contacts a bit after you have removed a cable - there should be no gap between the data cable and the connector - if there is press the cable against the connector to eliminate the gap.
80 wire data cables are also easily damaged at either edge if the cable is sharply creased at a fold in the cable.
Try another data cable if in doubt.
80 wire data cables must have the proper end connector connected to the mboard IDE header - usually that's blue, but in any case it's the one farther from the middle connector on a 3 connector data cable.
- a memory errors problem - Windows Setup is VERY sensitive to even tiny amounts of ram errors that you may not have noticed previously.
Try wiping off the contacts on the ram modules, and making sure they are all the way down in their slots.
Test the ram with memory diagnostics, such as Memtest86 or Memtest86+.
Some ram manufacturer's modules do not strictly adhere to the JEDEC standards that most mboards bioses use to determine ram settings.
In that case, the ram settings in the bios Setup that the bios has automatically chosen may not be correct.
Check the ram settings in your bios - the ram voltage, and the ram timing numbers - those should be the same as for the specs for the modules themselves. Often the ram voltage and timing numbers are printed on the label on the modules.
If the voltage setting or timings settings in the bios are different from the specs for the ram, change them in the bios. The timing numbers must be as close as you can get to the same, or slower timings (higher numbers = slower) - you won't notice the difference the slower settings make.
If you have a mix of different modules
- don't mix ram that different voltages are specified for - the bios will force the ram to use the lowest voltage, if "by spd" or similar is used (default settings) - ram that a higher voltage is specified for is more likely to not work properly in that situation.
- the bios settings must be those for the slowest timing settings of all the modules, or slower (higher numbers = slower).
You MAY be able to custom set the ram voltage to the higher ram voltage in the bios if you do NOT have the bios set to detect the ram "by SPD" or similar, however, you must NOT exceed the max voltage range for the modules that require a lower voltage, and that can be hard to determine, unless you can find detailed specs - e.g. if the ram is Kingston ram that doesn't have a brand name system specific part number, that info is easily found.
NOTE that we have seen, many times, the situation where the ram passes ram diagnostics tests despite the fact one or more of the timing numbers for the modules are WRONG (too low) in the bios - in that case, it's ONLY when you actually attempt to use an operating system, including one on a CD or DVD that you are attempting to boot the computer from, that you have problems.
When you boot the computer from an optical operating system disk, the bios boot order settings are ignored. (of course, that must be set so you can boot from an optical disk, but other settings in the boot order list can be wrong).
Windows' Setup will complete successfully even if that's set wrong
If that's set wrong, you don't have a problem until Windows attempts to start up for the first time after Setup has finished.