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Clinton McClure

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I have a 7 year old eMachines T2240 pc running XP Home Edition SP3 (which over the years has been upgraded with a new video card, sound card and RAM) which recently started experiencing HDD trouble. A co-worker had two Western Digital 7200 rpm, 120g HDDs which he had used a couple times for backup storage before upgrading to larger drives so I was able to score these for $5 each. Before buying them, he brought them to work and connected them to a external enclosure to make sure there were no files on them and both drives were ok.

After uninstalling my dying Seagate 40g drive, and connecting one of the new HDDs to the master end of my EIDE cable, I was able to use Acronis to image the drive with two partitions. One is the original 40g active bootable partition from the Seagate drive and the other is a 70g logical partition. The pc boots fine. For some reason I am only seeing 110g on the drive but that's a separate issue.

Everything is fine and dandy until I connect the second HDD to the slave connector. The pc will post and see both drives, load the Windows splash screen then nothing, just a black screen. I have tried setting the jumpers on the drives as (1)master and (2)slave, (1)cable select and (2)cable select and (1)master and (2)cable select. Every boot attempt is the same. I can go into BIOS and see both drives and have made sure the boot order sees the primary master drive first but I cannot boot up after exiting BIOS.

Unplugging the slave HDD allows the machine to boot normally.

I have even booted back into Acronis and repartitioned the slave drive (which shows up as 110g instead on 120g) as a single logical partition and still get nowhere.

I have added HDDs to systems before and never ran into this. Any ideas other than the slave drive died as soon as it was installed? I have the feeling I am overlooking something obvious.
 

David Norman

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Sounds like you;ve gone through most things I've dealt with by messing up my own machines.

Have you tried a different IDE cable? A malfunctioning IDE header which is being overwhelmed by 2 HD's? I'm not sure why you'd be seeing the correct drives in the boot screen if that was the problem. If the HD themselves were bad I'd think it either wouldn't report the correct drive info or it wouldn't even get through to the splash screen.

Is there a firmware update for the Emachines MB? I've seen some odd limitations on some old Emachines in the past, but surely 120GBx2 shouldn't mess with it too much.

Since it's locking up in the Windows load, it sounds like a corrupted Windows file.

Can it boot into Safe mode by chance?

Do you have a Windows Setup disc? What I'd do is put the current slave drive in by itself and see if it will load Win XP, then maybe try the current master in the slave position.

I guess it's possible the old HD wasn't really bad, but maybe something in the WinXP itself had become ill and mirroring the new drive just continued a file issue.
 

Clinton McClure

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Thanks for the suggestions David!

I think I found the culprit.

I finally got it to boot into safe mode with both drives connected. I had to set the master drive's jumper to cs and the slave's jumper to slave. (Told you I was overlooking something simple.)

I was able to get booted into Windows and the system was stable for a couple minutes then rebooted itself. This led to a looping reboot cycle where I might make it to the Windows splash screen or I might make it all the way to the desktop before the next reboot. The last time I had seen this behavior was when a RAM stick died.

I have a 128M and a 512M stick installed so I reseated them and got the same result. I then removed the 128M stick which yielded identical results, but removing the 512M stick allowed me to boot stable into safe mode. I was able to navigate around and check my drives. They both show up with one partitioned to 40G and 71G and the other as 111G. (I have since remembered that manufacturers round up and overstate the drive size and doing the math proves the difference.)

I tried booting into normal mode but there are so many background processes running (NIS, Ad-Aware, BOINC SETI@home, etc... that 128M RAM doesn't cut it and the system bogs down to the point that it becomes inoperable.

So it looks like both HDDs are in good working order and I have 2G of PNY RAM on the way from Newegg.
 

David Norman

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That's still odd behavior from the IDE -- there shouldn't be any difference between CS + Slave, Master + Slave, CS + CS, or Master + CS if the MB and software are functioning correctly.

I hope the new RAM fixes things up since at least that's a simple fix.

Have you tried to run memtest86+ or one of the other free ram testing programs on the individual sticks to check their function?
 

Patrick Sun

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You may want to get one of those 80-pin (80-wire) IDE cables, should be pretty cheap at a PC store if they still carry IDE cables. Then also try CS for both hard drives.
 

Clinton McClure

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Yeah I thought it was wierd that with the 40g Seagate I had the jumper set to master but the Western Digital will only boot when set to cs, even with no slave drive attached. I just chalked that up to an eMachines mobo but I will investigate further. I ran memtest86 last night and it confirmed the 512m stick was bad.
 

Patrick Sun

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Oh, hard drive space reported by the operating system is usually 93% of the stated capacity since hard drive makers use 1,000,000,000 bytes = 1GB, while your operating system gets 1GB = 1024^3. At least it is stated on the hard drive retail boxes, but the consumer has to read it and do the conversion.
 

Clinton McClure

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Yeah, Patrick. I forgot about doing the math at first, then it came creeping back to me after thinking about it for a while.
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That's what I get for not utilizing my A+ skills for two years...
 

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