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Installs but won't boot - IDE drive internal cable issue

Last response: in Windows 7
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November 17, 2009 2:10:47 PM

This is actually a solution to a IDE specific boot issue (which may even apply to Vista).

I have been trying to test Windows 7 professional on a spare work PC. The standard build for us is Intel Duo 2180 CPU, 2Gb RAM, single 200+Gb HDD, DVD-ROM/RW, on board sound/graphics - nothing fancy or esoteric.

Our machines have been upgraded over the years (new motherboards, PSU's, etc), many still in the cases they had 5+ years ago (Our Vista 'test' machine was newly built when Vista was released). This test PC had a single 320Gb Seagate IDE HDD. Despite running with XP-SP3 for the last two years or so without issue, Windows 7 Pro would install OK, but not boot from the drive unless the DVD was in and the system looked there first (I was aware of the 'system drive' issue often talked about). After 11 installs trying various 'tweaks' and even BIOS flashing - motherboard is only 6 months old - nothing seemed to work.

Suspecting a (previously unseen) hard drive fault, I opened the case to check serial numbers for warranty and noticed an 'original' IDE cable (not a current ultraATA cable). I don't know why, but I decided to change the cable and try the install one more time, and IT WORKED! Boots every time.

It seems that Windows 7 can see/use IDE drives connected using the older IDE cables, but it will not boot from them (to test, I tried putting back a different, older IDE cable - it didn't boot, but swapped the ultraATA cable in and it was fine again).

I just hope this may help anyone with upgraded older machines having 'inexplicable' boot problems with Windows 7 :D 

a b $ Windows 7
November 17, 2009 8:10:02 PM

I would say whoever built/upgraded your computers, needs a smack on the wrist for not doing his/her job properly. The 80 wire cables have been around a lot longer then your 5 year old computers and should never have been used in the first place.
November 18, 2009 7:32:57 AM

Yes, you are right - whoever did the upgrade missed the cable change and wasn't doing his/'her job properly.

However, although I appreciate your comment, the point I was making is that if Win7 can see/use the drive, surely it should be able to consistently tell you that it can install, but not make the drive bootable at the same time. In multiple drive systems, it could quite easily (and does) install it's system area to 'Drive 0', regardless of whichever drive you install Win7 to. But in a single drive system, that isn't possible.

With the original IDE cable, XP was working/booting fine (despite the fact that the newer cables have been around for years). Why can't Win7 do the same, or at least tell you consistently every time you do an install that it will not boot from the drive after install?

If it had done this, it would never have been an issue and I never would have spotted it (it still took me a while to realise). And surely, with so many older/upgraded older PC's around, it would be simple enough for the install routine to do a 'comms check' to the drive to determine if the install will be bootable (and give consistent results every time). It may not give you the precise, correct reason (e.g. the 'Controller may not support booting this device' message), but it should give that reply EVERY time, which it definitely did not - it actually gave the 'controller may not support booting' message in only two of the 12 installs I did, and I was able to circumvent it to install anyway, using the standard install menu of options (i.e. advanced, remove partitions, etc).

THIS is definitely wrong, no doubt about it, and the Win7 install routine is entirely at fault for this.

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Another point - there are LOADS of home users who see their PC as a 'black box' (i.e. they do not open it up to look inside, or if they do, they may not appreciate the differences between verious types of cables, memory sticks, etc). They trust that the people they bought their machine from/take it to for 'repairs' do their job properly. How would they know the 'wrong TYPE of cable that has been working fine for years' is preventing their upgrade to Win7?

They would likely take their PC to a 'professional' service, many of which may say "You need a new hard drive", etc. I was thinking this very thing with my test machine until I decided to swap the old (working) cable out - my good luck. But if I hadn't done it, I would never had known.

I just though others might wish to check for this as a possible solution to their problem
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November 18, 2009 11:15:31 AM

Instead of simply blaming the Win7 installer, consider that no matter how much you beta test, you simply cannot ensure backwards compatibility with everything out there.
a b $ Windows 7
November 18, 2009 6:29:00 PM

EIDE was introduced in 1994, you can hardly expect Microsoft to be checking backwards compatabily for computers built that long ago.
Even my old Windows 98 computer had EIDE cables installed.
November 18, 2009 10:49:38 PM

It's an interesting find.

When using a 40 conductor cable it basically disables the high end modes, so the hard drive will run a lot slower as well. I wonder if they just left out support for the old equipment (nobody really wants to boot Windows 7 in PIO Mode 4 or something really).

Could be very frustrating for quite a few people if you're correct.

Have you checked with Microsoft or searched the knowledge base? Could get an official answer.
a c 215 $ Windows 7
February 23, 2010 8:32:28 PM

This topic has been closed by The_Prophecy
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