Archive for September 2009

SATA drives, downgrading and initializing.

September 29, 2009

welcome to the new world.

PATA is the past. SATA is the future.
Soon enough solid state will replace plate disc hard drives,
but it will still be interfaced on SATA.

I was hesitant about SATA when it first came out 5 years ago.
I liked PATA because I was used to working with it. Even with
it’s multiple modes. I learned on PATA.

Now there’s SATA. And SATA has different rules.
Especially pre installed with the worst operating system
since windows 95, Vista.

I recently bought a brand new Seagate SATA laptop hard drive.
I installed it in my laptop and inserted my Windows XP SP2 disc and pushed the power button.

The blue setup screen came up as usual, but when BIOS tried to detect the hard drive it could not. No hard drive, no OS.

I couldn’t imagine what was going on.

I shut the laptop down and took the hard drive out and installed it
in an exteral 2.5″ USB drive. I connected it to another computer
and the external drive was recognized and it even read the serial number of the seagate hard drive inside the external case.
But I couldn’t access it in Windows XP. It didn’t show up in My Computer. But the USB hub port recognized it.

I was stumped. Why wouldn’t this drive work in any computer?

Then I read a forum and it explained that the hard drive had to be
initialized through Disk Manager in Windows.
I’ve never had to initialize a hard drive in Disk Manager before
and I’ve been building computers from scratch for years.
I recently built a custom computer using a SATA hard drive for
the primary boot drive and didn’t have this problem.

So Disk Manager explained why I couldn’t access the disk as
a secondary drive in Windows XP. Once I initialized the disk,
it asked to format it in NTFS. I told it to do that, and then
like majic it appeared in the My Computer section.

So that solved that problem.

So I took it out of the external drive and put it back in my
laptop. Turned the power on and BAM! BIOS still didn’t recognize
the hard drive.

So once again I was stumped. I went into BIOS and chose to use
native SATA configuration, thinking that the SATA drive needed
native control in order for BIOS to see it.

Wrong again!

From the Compaq website, I was informed that if I was going
to downgrade (or as I like to refer to it as, get rid of the trash)
to XP, I was going to have many problems. The other problems
would be drivers. Since they didn’t provide drivers for XP.

They told me the first problem I was going to have was
the hard drive. Windows VISTA uses a native SATA settings
to recognize the hard drive. While XP uses an ATI setting to
recognize the hard drive. So if you are enable Native SATA
settings in BIOS, and you try to install XP on a SATA hard drive,
BIOS will not see it.

The answer:

First, don’t buy computers with Windows VISTA pre installed.
I usually don’t, I usually build mine from scratch and install
Windows XP as the OS. I only bought the laptop because it
was a buy at the time and i was originally going to install linux
on it.

Second, to get around these two problems,

Disk management:
To initialize a hard drive in Windows XP,
Click Start, Run
type compmgmt.msc
press Enter.

In the console tree to the left, Click Disk Management

The Disk Management window appears.
The disks and volumes appear in a graphical view.
The disk will be named in a box to the left and a blank area or
rectangle will be to the right.

Click the rectangle and choose to initialize the disk. It will ask
you a bunch of questions and ask how you want to format it. Once you format the disk, it will be accessable in Windows XP. You’ll be able to see it in My Computer.

To install XP on a native SATA enabled BIOS computer:
Power the machine up,
Press F10 or whatever you would to get into BIOS
Navigate to Configuration options
If there is a SATA settings option of use Native SATA, disable it.
Press F10 to save the configurations and insert your XP disc in and restart the computer.

If you don’t have an option to disable the native SATA settings
in BIOS:

the other option is more complex and involved.
It’s what’s known as slipstreaming.
Slipstreaming is putting XP operating system boot up disc
together yourself and repacking it with what you need,
for example SATA drivers.

Because new computers don’t come with 3.5″ floppy drives
anymore, the only option is to set the drivers up on a
slipstream disc and install from the setup.

So there you have it. How to install XP on a VISTA pre installed machine. The drivers will be necessary for the computer though,
so I recommend going to the manufacturer websites and finding
each driver manually on the internet once you have your
network and/or wireless drivers installed.

Find your exact drivers for your hardware or they won’t work right.
also, make sure they are either compatible with XP or 2000.

How do you find your drivers?

There’s a couple of ways to do this, but the easiest way is
to go to device manager and look for the drivers and firmware
versions of them.

right click on the my computer icon, choose properties.
click the Hardware tab, click Device Manager right underneath it.
it will show you a tree structure of everything you have
installed on your computer. Just right click on one
of the items and select Properties.
It will show you everthing there is to for that device.

Then write it all down on a sheet of paper because when you
install XP, you’re going to need to refer back to that.
The manufacturer website had many versions of drivers
and many different driver software. Make sure you get
the right one for your device.

I recommend getting the network or wireless drivers first and making
sure they work first. Because then you’ll have internet access
and it will make things easier that way.

If done correctly, you should have no problem downgrading your
computer or laptop to XP and have it functioning as normal.

It’s a lot of work, I admit.

But so is having Windows Vista. So there!


a RAM issue

September 24, 2009

Computers are great as long as they boot up and don’t take too long to do updates.

However, when your computer becomes sick and won’t get you into Windows,
or Mac, it becomes frustrating. Especially if you have no idea why it’s down and
you have no choice but to see a tech and pay some ridiculous price and wait in line.


When your computer refuses to boot and there are no error messages and it
goes into a power cycle loop and never boots up, but powers on and shows a screen
and your totally confused as to what’s going on,

here a suggestion,

if nothing else seems to be wrong with the computer, but it powers on fine and even goes through a
POST test but won’t boot into the bootable harddrive

try troubleshooting the RAM.

if you can run a POST test on it and have it manually count the RAM, do it.
It should tell you if any of the RAM modules are broken.

RAM is the easiest thing to fail on a computer or laptop and lock you out of your computer completely. Because the computer needs all of the RAM modules to be functioning correctly or it’s programmed not to proceed, checking the RAM and troubleshooting RAM first is the easiest and most common way to get a computer or laptop back up and running.

I’ve run into many issues with computers lately that have been solved just by taking out a RAM module and trying to boot up again.

Even if the RAM has been in your computer for ages and never been a problem,
it could rock itself loose of it’s socket, or just become old and loose functionality.
It’s possible to have RAM for a long long time and then one day it just goes.

*Note*, if you have only one RAM stick in your computer or laptop, you’ll need to either borrow someone elses (making sure it’s the correct key card type ddr, ddr2, etc) or simply go to your local computer shop and buy another stick. ┬áNothing expensive, just the bare minimum to see that it fixes the problem.

Obviously if you have POST codes or beep codes telling you it’s another issue altogether, that’s another story.

The best thing about replacing RAM is, it’s the easiest thing in a computer or laptop to replace. You may need to push some cables aside in order to access RAM, but it’s easy to release the clips on the side and pull it out of a computer or laptop.

Just be sure your grounded of course, safety first, even if it’s broken.

There are lots of great websites if you just google them that will show you with pictures how to replace the RAM, and also give you information about what type of RAM is in your computer so when you go to the store you won’t sound like a total NOOB!