How To Troubleshoot Hard Drive Boot Problems

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To troubleshoot some of the most common issues with a hard drive that will not boot:

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1.      Examine the POST codes and other messages displayed at boot time.

  • The numbers in the 17xx range indicate that the hard drive or controller were not found. Check that both devices are connected and functional.
  • The message No Boot Device Available indicates that the BIOS could not find an installed operating system on the hard drive or on a bootable floppy disk, optical disk, or thumb drive. Verify that the operating system was installed. If it was, try to boot from a bootable CD-ROM (or floppy disk) and access the hard drive, then check the boot partition for errors.
  • The messages “No Operating System Found” and “Ntldr Can’t Load” are often caused by the presence of non-bootable media in a boot device.
  • A configuration or CMOS error indicates that the information reported by CMOS is different than the hard drive found by the POST. Check CMOS settings. If the settings will not stick, check the battery on the system board.
  • The message “Hard Drive Not Found” or “Fixed Disk Error” indicates that the hard drive was not found during the POST. Check all hard drive and hard drive controller connections. The hard drive or controller might be dead.
  • The message “Reboot And Select Proper Boot Device Or Insert Boot Media In Selected Boot Device” indicates that the BIOS found no bootable device in the system. It could also indicate that a removable media drive does not contain media if no hard disk was found and it found a removable media drive (such as a CD-ROM drive).

2.      If the drive is newly installed, verify that it has an operating system by booting with a bootable CD-ROM and entering the drive letter at the command prompt.

  • If the drive letter is recognized, it might need an operating system installed.
  • If the drive letter is not recognized, the drive might need to be partitioned and formatted, and then have an operating system installed. If the fdisk and format utilities are on the boot disk, you can use them to partition and format the drive.

3.      Otherwise, diagnose and correct the boot problem.

  • Perform a cold boot.
  • Verify that CMOS lists the correct device settings for the hard drive. This includes the correct drive type, whether LBA is enabled, and the CHS (cylinders, heads, and sectors) settings.
  • Verify that CMOS is set to boot from the hard drive.
  • Listen to the drive or touch the drive to determine if it is spinning during POST. It should be spinning up to full speed during this time. It usually makes noise during this time and you can feel the vibrations of the drive while it is spinning.
  • Use your multimeter to verify that the power connection readings are correct. They should be +12V for Pin 1 and +5V for Pin 4. Pins 2 and 3 should be grounded.
  • Verify that the PATA data cable is correctly oriented. Pin 1 is almost always on the side nearest the power connection. Pin 1 on the cable is on the side with the stripe.
  • Check drive settings. For an IDE drive, verify that it is set to master, slave, or Cable Select as appropriate to the drive and its location in the drive chain within the system. For a SCSI drive, verify that the termination is correct for its location in the chain and that it has a unique device ID. For a SATA drive, jumpers can be moved to enable or disable features. Verify that the jumper settings are correct for the level of features you need.
  • Look for data recovery options. There are some built-in recovery capabilities in some operating systems. You can also purchase software to assist you in recovering data. In many cases, though, you will need to resort to sending the drive out to a company that specializes in recovering data from damaged drives.
  • If none of these fix the problem, replace the drive.

4.      Verify that the drive now works.

  • Boot the system.
  • Verify that you can read from and write to the drive you repaired.

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