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Chapter 3. Troubleshooting Storage Devic... > Troubleshooting Installed Hard Disk ...

Troubleshooting Installed Hard Disk Drives

When you turn on your computer, you expect the system to start, load the operating system from the hard disk, and display the usual desktop or sign-on screen. If the screen comes on but the system never displays any activity from the hard disk, your system (boot) hard disk isn't working. If the hard disk that starts your computer isn't working correctly, you'll see an error message referring to a missing “boot device.” Although the computer industry likes to use the term booting to refer to starting a computer, you're much more likely to want to “boot” your misbehaving PC in the general direction of the trash can!

If the ailing hard disk is an additional drive, such as an external hard disk, it won't show up in My Computer or Windows Explorer and you'll see a “Missing Shortcut” error when you try to access files or programs stored on it.

Instead of getting mad, or getting even, it's time to get smart. What happened? Before you get gloomy and decide that today's the day that your hard disk has really failed, cheer up! There are plenty of other reasons why your computer and your hard disk might not be talking to each other.

A few problems are the leading causes of apparent hard disk failure; they're so common that we like to call them the “usual suspects”:

  • Nonbootable floppy disk in drive A:

  • Loose or missing power or data cables

  • Incorrect hardware configuration

  • Incorrect BIOS configuration

Whenever we have hard disks that don't want to work, it's useful to look at this list and note that there are many reasons other than actual hard disk failure for your hard disk to seem to “disappear” at startup time or not work properly.

To start your research, check out Table 3.1, where we present, in lineup form, the “usual suspects” that cause hard disks to disappear (as far as your PC is concerned) or not work correctly.

Table 3.1. THE USUAL SUSPECTS IN APPARENT HARD DISK FAILURES
Type of DriveWhy Hard Disk Doesn't WorkSolution
IDE/ATA, Serial ATAUnbootable floppy disk in drive A:.Remove the floppy disk and reboot.
 System power supply might not be connected to drive.Shut down the system, attach the power connectors to the drive, and restart.
 Data cable is not connected at all or not connected properly.Shut down the system and then reconnect the cable to the drive and ATA/IDE or SATA interface.
IEEE-1394 (FireWire,i.Link)Port disabled.Verify that the port is working by using Device Manager.
 Drive not powered on.Check the power going to the drive.
 Port can't provide power to drive.Check that you are using a 6-wire 1394a port. Only 6-wire 1394a ports can power a 1394 drive; 4-wire ports do not provide power.
USBPort disabled.Verify that the port is working by using Device Manager.
 Drive not powered on.Check the power going to the drive.


Table 3.1 gives you an overview of the “usual suspects” and their solutions. If you're an ace hardware detective, Table 3.1 and the cross-references that follow may be all you need to apprehend the culprit.

For more information about the ATA/IDE interface, see "The ATA/IDE Interface," Chapter 1, p. 30.


But if you're a novice at tracking down a troublesome component, keep reading.

For more information about the Serial ATA (SATA) interface, see "The Serial ATA (SATA) Interface," Chapter 1, p. 33.


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