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Please help! Notebook HDD upgrade problems

Last response: in Storage
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May 24, 2008 7:20:13 PM

About a year ago I upgraded my Dell Inspiron 8600 notebook's 60GB HDD to a WD Scorpio 120GB HDD. Everything has been fine but I need more free space so I purchased a WD Scorpio 250GB drive to upgrade it with. BTW, these are all IDE/PATA drives.

After backing up all the files from the 120GB drive to a portable USB drive, I installed the 250GB drive. The BIOS reported the drive as 137GB, so I updated that to the latest on and the BIOS still sees it as a 137GB drive. According to Dell this is normal as the OS still has access to the full disk space.

So, I installed Windows XP SP1 from one of my installation disks and everything went perfectly. All the space was being reported, so I proceeded to copy all the backup data from the portable USB drive. Everything was good but I still hadn't installed the correct video adapter and audio driver files. After several successful startups and shutdowns to be sure things were on the right track, I got around to opening the DELL folder and started by running setup for the ATI 9600 mobility video driver files.

This is where my problems began. After installation of the video driver files, I was prompted to restart now or wait till later. I selected now. The computer shut down and right after the POST on restart I got a "A disk read error occurred" -> "Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart".

So the next thing I do is insert the Windows XP SP1 installation CD and try to boot to that. Once it starts to boot, it displays "Setup is inspecting your computer's hardware configuration..." for no more than 3 seconds and the screen goes blank. Within 20 seconds the CD has stopped reading and at about the 40 second mark the CD stops spinning altogether.

I tried booting to a WinXP SP2 CD, and the original Dell WinXP SP1 CD as well with the same results.

Next, I have a Diagnostics disk from Dell that I boot to. It creates a Windows 98 runtime environment and I run all the tests - nearly two hours worth - and everything passes.

I replaced the new 250GB drive with the previous 120GB drive and everything runs normally.

I tried to create my own bootable CD for WinXP using BartPE but that failed as there were 9 errors that halted the operation and I'm not sure how to correct them.

I don't have a way of connecting 250GB drive to one of my other PC's either as the interface is different and I'm not sure a PC sends power through their IDE cables anyway.

I'm out of ideas. What should I do next?

Thank you!
May 24, 2008 7:28:17 PM

BTW, I'd be willing to Fdisk the 250GB drive to get it back to a starting point, but I'm not sure Windows 98 (the only OS I seem to be able to boot to) can Fdisk that big a drive.

???
May 24, 2008 7:47:39 PM

Thers adapters you can buy to hook it up to a desktop. Thats what I do.
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May 24, 2008 7:54:32 PM

1. Dell lied. If BIOS reads the drive as 137GB you might have a problem. I'm not familiar with all the details, but older systems (I'm not talking OSes in this case although legacy OSes have the same issue) have a limitation where they cannot access drives larger than 137GB. I think it has to do with LBA or something. How old is the laptop? It could be that the designers never anticipated a drive that large being used on that laptop...

2. You can get a 2.5" External PATA to USB enclosure online for about $20. Since you have so many laptop hard drives floating around that might be a worthwhile investment.

-mcg
May 24, 2008 8:40:49 PM

Could it have been a problem that I didn't create a short FAT partition at the beginning of the drive before creating the NTFS partition? (I'm just thinking in terms of recovery)

Also, some people have reported being able to install Windows Vista on this same notebook with the 250GB drive and eradicating any problems. That, and the fact that I had it running for quite a while with WinXP SP1 makes me think what I was trying to do is doable and I just didn't go about it the right way. If I can get to the drive I just may give it another shot with WinXP SP2 (Microsoft publishes a registry mod that allows SP1 to use LBA, but they say it isn't necessary with SP2).

I think I'll go looking for one of those USB enclosures for notebook PATA drives. Any suggestions?
May 24, 2008 9:41:31 PM

AFAIK most external enclosures are pretty similar. I have a Nexstar that works well.

-mcg
May 25, 2008 8:19:59 AM

I wanted to be sure to give an update.

I was able to jar things loose using a Win2k Pro installation disk of all things! It was the only disk other than the Dell Win98 Diagnostics disk that I could get to boot up at all. After running the Win2k Pro "repair" for a few minutes, I aborted and restarted the notebook. Lo and Behold, the disk read error was gone and I got a missing Ntldr.com error. That's what I was hoping for! When I inserted a WinXP sp2 installation disk, it started right up and let me in.

I wiped out the partition and started from scratch using a WinXP SP2 installation disk. The installation went fine and I've got it up and running with all the latest drivers for my Service Tag from Dell's website. You can imagine I was just peeking through a couple eyelashes when rebooting after installing the updated video driver. But so far everything - and I mean "everything" is working great.

So I think I'm back in business with this drive - now I just have to re-transfer all the data from the portable USB drive and reinstall about 75 programs.

I really believe that what made the difference this time around was installing straight to SP2 which supports the LBA addressing straight away without any tweaks to the registry.
May 26, 2008 8:55:01 PM

Well, I think it was Fool's gold. I got 95% of my apps loaded, 114GB from the old drive, and most drivers I use, but when I installed an incorrect firewire driver I got into an infinite reboot loop of BSOD's. I don't have time to get into right now but it looks like perhaps it was just a matter of time before a critical file would be put outside the 137GB "barrier" and be unreadable upon startup.

I guess if I want more than 137GB I'm going to have to get a new notebook with a SATA drive. Problem is, I'm looking for a 15.4" widescreen with 1680x1050 resolution with WinXP Pro native. Many of the 3rd party programs I use weren't designed for Vista and I don't like OS's that make it so cumbersome to get to the nuts and bolts of it.

Maybe I'll try partitioning this thing into 120GB partitions... Otherwise, it'll just have to be converted to a USB enclosure drive.
!