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Quirk with old Dell Dimension 4100's

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March 11, 2011 8:27:48 PM

Hello,
I have three identical old Dell Dimension 4100's. They all operate great. I need to load a new hard drive & install XP for any one of these three computers. Problem is, none of them will recognize a new blank hard drive. I've tried 4 different HDs, Seagates and WDs, 40gb to 160gb. They all three do exactly the same thing; the instant the Dell screen disappears, an "invalid diskette in A" screen appears. The only HDs these computers will boot is already loaded ones. They will all boot each other's XP loaded HDs just fine also. It makes no difference whether the CD ROM or IDE HD is set to 1st boot. Disabling the floppy drives; even disconnecting the floppy drive ribbon cable makes no difference either. They won't recognize either of my Dell install discs. The discs are fine because they load XP easily in my newer Dell 3000s. That damn "invalid diskette in A" is driving me crazy. It comes on so quick, the CD drive barely starts winding up. I even tried an old Windows 98 install disc. Same thing.
Any thoughts at all to help me?
Thanks sooo much,
Mike

More about : quirk dell dimension 4100

March 11, 2011 10:00:22 PM

Hello mreilly;
Have you tried disconnection the floppy from the system? Detach power and data cables.
Or moving a floppy from of the other PCs into the problem PC?
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March 12, 2011 2:33:03 AM

Hi WR2,
Thank you for the reply. As my post read, detaching the floppy drives makes no difference. There is no problem PC. All three PCs, do exactly the same strange thing. Also there is no floppy disc involved here. The drives are empty. That's just the false screen I get [false "invalid diskette" screen].
Thanks,
Mike
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March 19, 2011 2:39:41 PM

I'm sorry nobody had any thoughts to help me here. I did find info on "E How" suggesting to replace the 40 pin IDE ribbon cable with the newer 80 conductor [still 40 pin]. Something to do with HD grounding problems. Found them inexpensive at Amazon for 6.99 each. I was really optimistic too but it didn't make any difference. Too bad.

Oh well. I'll just keep diggin' around.

Thanks,
Mike
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March 19, 2011 7:36:57 PM

Can you boot from CD with the original HD's?
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March 20, 2011 2:29:08 PM

Sure can. The three CD drives are active and run CDs often. These 3 PCs will also boot any HD that's loaded, perfectly. But just put ANY blank, new HD in any one of these three PCs and you'll get an "invalid diskette" message before the CD drive has a chance to get an XP install disc spun up. Then you are locked there and can go no further. Good disc too; works great in the other computers. Even if I put all the bios settings back to default, same thing. Mystery!
Thanks,
Mike
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March 21, 2011 1:23:13 AM

So you can boot from CD if the original HD is in but if the original HD and the blank HD are in at the same time you can't?
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March 23, 2011 2:11:02 AM

Yes, it will boot from the CD if the everyday [original] HD is installed. I never had two HDs in at the same time. But when I do, it goes the same. Whichever one you put at the end of the ribbon will be the primary master and will act the same as described [Blank HD, "invalid diskette" screen +++++ Original HD, boots normal and works fine].
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March 23, 2011 2:07:06 PM

Those three PCs just will not recognize any blank HDs or the XP install disc when a blank HD is installed. My original post describes all that.
Thanks,
Mike
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March 23, 2011 4:30:34 PM

Do you know if the jumpers on the ide hard drives are both set to Cable Select?
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March 23, 2011 10:08:22 PM

How can I tell. Is this something I must physically do? I find no BIOS setting that mentions it either. I was told that replacing the original 40 pin 40 wire ribbon cable with the newer 40 pin 80 wire Ultra ATA/DMA EIDE ribbon cable would take care of that. So I did and of course it made no difference. I'm getting used to that [:(  [:( 
Thanks,
Mike
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March 24, 2011 1:52:38 AM

Here's a guide

Specific jumper settings will be in the drive manual and on the drive label.
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March 24, 2011 11:46:56 AM

I have an old PIII 933MHz Dimension 4100 that I replaced the original HDD in a few years back. I wish I could say that it did the same thing and I have a fix for you, but first:

Do what Uniquename said...check the jumper position on the set of pins on the back of the HDD. There is usually a diagram on a sticker on the top of the HDD case to show you the positions. Start with Cable Select (CS). Make sure the IDE cable is plugged into the MoBo's Primary IDE channel and the end connector is attached to the HDD. On my cable the color coding is blue for the MoBo end, black for the HDD.
Make sure your CD/DVD drives are also set to CS.

You mention Dell Install discs work fine in your newer Dell. Are they from that computer, or one of the old 4100s?
Sounds like something is screwy in the BIOS, but its weird all three have the exact problem. Do you get the error if you boot with no HDD? You did say you disabled the floppy in the BIOS ("External Device").

Gotta find a common denominator between the three computers. I take it you're using the same XP disc in each one? I don't think it matters, but is it a Full or Upgrade version? I assume each computer has its own CD-ROM drives?

If you have one of the running HDDs installed, can you add the new blank HDD as a second HDD in the middle position on the IDE cable?
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March 26, 2011 2:30:20 PM

noonin,
Awesome. Thank you for the concise, helpful & easy to understand response. Here's what I'm coming up with:
Every IDE HD in the house is set to Cable Select [all were shipped that way]

I've hooked together a working HD along with a brand new blank HD and switched them back & forth at both positions [master & slave] setting each jumper to the corresponding position. No matter what the position or combination, the working HD was the only one to be recognized [either with or without an XP disc in the drive].

Now, back to one drive only as master. Whether a new blank HD is hooked up OR no hd at all, the result is the same; an instant "invalid diskette" message. This of course paralizes everything.

I'm using a brand new ribbon cable hooked up properly [blue end to MOBO]

I have two discs: One's an old XP Pro upgrade install disc. The other is a 2005 disc from Dell [XP Pro SP3 reinstallation disc]. Both of these discs have, at one time or another, installed OS's in blank HDs in all the computers in the house [old and newer PCs]. I try to use the newer Dell disc [SP3] because it doesn't take so long to update after installed [only 96 updates!!]. The old disc is SP1.

Both discs are recognized fine when a working HD is installed.

I have four new blank HDs, two different brands. None of the old Dells will recognize these blank drives nor recognize the XP discs when these blank HDs are installed.

Switching 1st boot from CD ROM to IDE HD [& back and forth] was no help.

Putting the BIOS back to default did not help.

Yes, I have the floppy set to "disabled" and also have the cable disconnected from it.

Yes, all three each have working CD drives. Two Sonys and a Lite On.

The only thing these three PCs will boot is a loaded and working HD.

HOWEVER, something I never mentioned is the one thing that will override that "invalid diskette" message is a DBAN [wiping] disc. It will start it's program whether an HD is installed or not. Then, after all of it's setups are done, will correctly recognize the HD to be wiped OR correctly report "no hard drive found" if an HD is not hooked up.

Whew!!! That's all I've got.

Thanks noonin,
Mike



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March 26, 2011 7:09:48 PM

mreilly said:
noonin,
Awesome. Thank you for the concise, helpful & easy to understand response. Here's what I'm coming up with:
Every IDE HD in the house is set to Cable Select [all were shipped that way]

I've hooked together a working HD along with a brand new blank HD and switched them back & forth at both positions [master & slave] setting each jumper to the corresponding position. No matter what the position or combination, the working HD was the only one to be recognized [either with or without an XP disc in the drive].

Now, back to one drive only as master. Whether a new blank HD is hooked up OR no hd at all, the result is the same; an instant "invalid diskette" message. This of course paralizes everything.

I'm using a brand new ribbon cable hooked up properly [blue end to MOBO]

I have two discs: One's an old XP Pro upgrade install disc. The other is a 2005 disc from Dell [XP Pro SP3 reinstallation disc]. Both of these discs have, at one time or another, installed OS's in blank HDs in all the computers in the house [old and newer PCs]. I try to use the newer Dell disc [SP3] because it doesn't take so long to update after installed [only 96 updates!!]. The old disc is SP1.

Both discs are recognized fine when a working HD is installed.

I have four new blank HDs, two different brands. None of the old Dells will recognize these blank drives nor recognize the XP discs when these blank HDs are installed.

Switching 1st boot from CD ROM to IDE HD [& back and forth] was no help.

Putting the BIOS back to default did not help.

Yes, I have the floppy set to "disabled" and also have the cable disconnected from it.

Yes, all three each have working CD drives. Two Sonys and a Lite On.

The only thing these three PCs will boot is a loaded and working HD.

HOWEVER, something I never mentioned is the one thing that will override that "invalid diskette" message is a DBAN [wiping] disc. It will start it's program whether an HD is installed or not. Then, after all of it's setups are done, will correctly recognize the HD to be wiped OR correctly report "no hard drive found" if an HD is not hooked up.

Whew!!! That's all I've got.

Thanks noonin,
Mike

Sounds like you have an evil, posessed floppy drive;-). I haven't a clue why those old Dells don't like any of your new HDDs and what will cure them. Just out of curiousity...you say they work fine with a HDD that already has XP installed, correct? If so, what does the floppy drive look in Device Manager? Any errors?

How are the jumpers on your opticals set...CS or Master-slave? I had issues with my "new" Frankenstein Micron that I transplanted my old Dell's HDD into. I tried CS but it didn't like it (it wouldn't recognize my opticals), so I went all drives as Master-Slave...HDD set to Master at the end of the Primary IDE cable, the DVD-ROM set to Master on the end of the Secondary IDE cable, and the DVD-RW as Slave in the secondary's middle connection.

What about just installing XP on one of the new HDDs on another computer (without activating Windows, of course), then moving it to the old Dell and let it see if it'll recognize it and configure the "new" hardware it sees?
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March 30, 2011 3:41:34 PM

Hi noonin,
Yes, the CD drives are all jumpered to CS. I think these 4100s are pretty much CS computers. The CD drives however do have 40 wire cables. I nstalled an 80 wire cable which made no difference. Then I jumpered the CD drive as master and hooked up the 40 wire cable again. Still no difference. I think the fact that they all play CDs great and the DBAN disc will lock onto any HD sort of rules out the CD drives as beng the problem.

I tried installing an HD from one of the newer Dell 3000s ages ago. It was a no go. They are 5-6 years newer, configured totally different, P3 vs P4, just plain incompatible. They wouldn't even think about booting each others HDs.

You had mentioned setting all your drives as Master Slave. Guess I could try that on one of the PCs. But I think the new 80 wire cables wouldn't allow that?? I'd have to put two 40 wire cables back in and try that? Can't hurt; I'm getting dizzy!!

T'care,
Mike [:0 [:) 

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Best solution

March 30, 2011 5:30:45 PM

mreilly said:
Hi noonin,
Yes, the CD drives are all jumpered to CS. I think these 4100s are pretty much CS computers. The CD drives however do have 40 wire cables. I nstalled an 80 wire cable which made no difference. Then I jumpered the CD drive as master and hooked up the 40 wire cable again. Still no difference. I think the fact that they all play CDs great and the DBAN disc will lock onto any HD sort of rules out the CD drives as beng the problem.

I tried installing an HD from one of the newer Dell 3000s ages ago. It was a no go. They are 5-6 years newer, configured totally different, P3 vs P4, just plain incompatible. They wouldn't even think about booting each others HDs.

You had mentioned setting all your drives as Master Slave. Guess I could try that on one of the PCs. But I think the new 80 wire cables wouldn't allow that?? I'd have to put two 40 wire cables back in and try that? Can't hurt; I'm getting dizzy!!

T'care,
Mike [:0 [:) 

My old Dell Dimension was all Cable Select (HDD and DVD drives). The "new" Micron with a P4 I just rebuilt didn't seem to like CS, so I went with Master/Slave. Just be consistent...all devices as one or the other.

I still don't understand why all these different size HDDs are generating the same error on different machines. A 40GB HDD is what mine came with and I can't see there weird some wierd size issue. The problem drives are all PATA, right?

When you look in the BIOS, does the floppy still show as turned off? If not, you can try setting the BIOS to Default in the Maintenance tab, save and exit.

Or, try a BIOS reset. Power down, unplug the power cord and hold the power button down for 10 seconds. That should clear the BIOS of any possible corruption and give the MoBo a fresh start. Then try again.
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March 31, 2011 3:37:57 PM

Hey noonin,
Yup, they are all PATA. I have three of the WD160gb; all the same right down to the last letter. One is active daily & the other two are blank. Have a blank Seagate 160gb, a blank WD 40gb, and a blank WD80gb. All the blank ones are never recognized and give the "invalid diskette" screen. For that matter though, I get the same "diskette" screen with NO HD connected at all.

I've tried all the BIOS reset methods you mentioned and then some. Results: "same same". The floppy is disabled in the diskette config, disabled in the boot sequence and physically unplugged from the ribbon as well as the power cord is pulled. Go figure.

The PCs are all up and running but if I ever need to load and install a new HD, I'm screwed. The last time I got one to load was a year or two ago. I was so mad I just kept hitting reset with the disc in for what felt like a hundred times. All of a sudden, for no reason, the disc and drive hooked up and I loaded it quick. Haven't been able to do it again since.

Oh well, WEARY !!
Takes for the help noonin. You tried hard.
T'care,
Mike


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March 31, 2011 4:37:01 PM

mreilly said:
Hey noonin,
Yup, they are all PATA. I have three of the WD160gb; all the same right down to the last letter. One is active daily & the other two are blank. Have a blank Seagate 160gb, a blank WD 40gb, and a blank WD80gb. All the blank ones are never recognized and give the "invalid diskette" screen. For that matter though, I get the same "diskette" screen with NO HD connected at all.

I've tried all the BIOS reset methods you mentioned and then some. Results: "same same". The floppy is disabled in the diskette config, disabled in the boot sequence and physically unplugged from the ribbon as well as the power cord is pulled. Go figure.

The PCs are all up and running but if I ever need to load and install a new HD, I'm screwed. The last time I got one to load was a year or two ago. I was so mad I just kept hitting reset with the disc in for what felt like a hundred times. All of a sudden, for no reason, the disc and drive hooked up and I loaded it quick. Haven't been able to do it again since.

Oh well, WEARY !!
Takes for the help noonin. You tried hard.
T'care,
Mike

Hey, it was a fun challange :-).
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April 2, 2011 1:36:12 PM

If you put two working hard drives in do they both work?
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April 2, 2011 2:20:12 PM

That's a good thought but I no longer have two to use; just the one and the rest are blank. One I could have used I damaged yesterday by putting it into my newer Dell 3000 and tried to force boot it. Damaged the boot sector. Now it's unbootable in the 4100 it came from. I could probably have fixed it with my XP repair disc but now I'm right back to where I was [none of the 4100s recognizing the discs]. I can't use the HD in my daily user, I'm using right now talking to you, because it's a SATA HD. I bought it by mistake from Tiger Direct last year and it's hooked up with a StarTech IDE/SATA adapter I bought from Dell. Works fine but I don't want to disrupt it 'cause the adapter is very delicate [fragile] and touchy.
T'care
Mike
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April 7, 2011 2:34:33 PM

noonin,
If you are there, I've got it fixed.
It wasn't a problem with the three computers or the discs at all. I went to Dell just to d/load a video driver. In the process of indentifying the 4100 PC, one drop-down asked which OS I had. My choices were 98, 2000, or ME. Then it suddenly hit me. These PCs were built in the year 2000. XP wasn't even released until 2001 and XP Pro [what I use] was between 2003 & 2005. So the OS install programming was almost completely foreign to these older PCs. It was always hit and miss to get them to recognize the discs but now had become impossible for whatever reason. Of course, whenever I finally got it to install, it worked great.

So the fix [or workaround] was my digging through many boxes of stuff to find an old Windows 98 disc. It installed right away. Now that I had a loaded and operational HD, I popped in the XP Pro SP3 disc, the HD was now recognized and the installation went fine. The 98 OS was removed in the process.

So in all the weeks and months I've got invested in this nightmare, I don't know if I'm happy, relieved or just plain numb. But at any rate it was REAL educational. Newer programming in obsolete equipment does not always go smoothly!!

Thanks again noonin. You're a great guy.
Always,
Mike
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April 8, 2011 12:25:07 PM

Wow, glad to hear your mystery is solved and XP loaded! The thing I don't understand is I did the same thing as you. I put a new, totally blank HDD in and was able to get it to install XP. Of course it asked for my Windows ME disc that came with the computer, but I still had it so it all went smoothly. I wonder if it's a difference in that yours was a '98 configuration and mine was of ME ? Either way, good to know you were able to straighten things out and get rolling :-).
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April 9, 2011 12:13:02 AM

Best answer selected by mreilly.
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April 18, 2011 3:31:28 PM

Hey noonin,
One last tidbit update. When temporarily installing W/98 [or any other older OS] DON'T choose the smaller disc option. This put that OS in a little tiny corner of the HD. That corner is too small for XP Pro and it will refuse to install there. Then it will force a partition, label that the "C" drive and label the main XP part of the HD the "F" drive. It was a mess and impossible to get rid of because the XP startup info gets put in "C". All else was in "F".

Soooo, choose the LARGE disc option. XP Pro will then overwrite it completely without leaving a trace of W/98.

Before I figured this out, I ordered an ME disc cheap online hoping that might work better. Now I don't need it but I've never seen a "Millenium Edition" screen so it might be fun to fiddle with for a bit.

Have a great week.
Mike
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April 18, 2011 3:57:32 PM

mreilly said:
Hey noonin,
One last tidbit update. When temporarily installing W/98 [or any other older OS] DON'T choose the smaller disc option. This put that OS in a little tiny corner of the HD. That corner is too small for XP Pro and it will refuse to install there. Then it will force a partition, label that the "C" drive and label the main XP part of the HD the "F" drive. It was a mess and impossible to get rid of because the XP startup info gets put in "C". All else was in "F".

Soooo, choose the LARGE disc option. XP Pro will then overwrite it completely without leaving a trace of W/98.

Before I figured this out, I ordered an ME disc cheap online hoping that might work better. Now I don't need it but I've never seeMillenniumenium Edition" screen so it might be fun to fiddle with for a bit.

Have a great week.
Mike

Hi Mike,
Hmm, good to know...interesting it wouldn't allow you to reformat and wipe that section like when picking Large. I don't think I considered it, but the HDD that had ME on it wasn't the one I used. I installed a new blank HDD and only used the Win ME disc for verification to use the Upgrade version of XP Home Edition when the installationportioned partioned it with like 20GB for the OS and programs (C drive) and 80GB for files and such.

Windows ME was a fragile nightmare. It was nicknamed More Errors on the Dell forum I used for help when I was learning to use the computer back in 2000,
not to mention that splash screen was UGLY, LOL!

Hope your vintage Dimensions are working as fast as the little squirrels inside can run ;-). I "stripped" mine down of any unnecessary programs or processes as far as I could, but it just got too painfully slow if I opened too many browser windows, God forbid if the AV started scanning, it would just crawl along. I'm just too impatient of a person :cry: 
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April 19, 2011 12:58:39 PM

noonin,
Yup, I hear ya. I try to use my wife's P4 Dell whenever I need something done quick. Later I come downstairs and hop on one of the 4100s and I go "c'mon, c'mon I haven't got all minute [all day in the old days], but they're doing the best they can. The difference from P3 to P4 is staggering.
Stay happy,
Mike
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