HD failure

This morning, i turned my computer on and receive the unceremonious message "Primary Master Hard Disk Fail".

I have two hard disk - a 20Gig Maxtor (primary master) and a 120gig Western Digital (primary slave). Windows is installed on the Maxtor, and it is this disk which is giving the error.

The error was thrown after a ~30second pause soon after the amibios does its memory check thing, and displays the list of attached ide devices. The pause, along with the message, are highly abnormal.

I got into the bios to investigate, entered the IDE listing section, and found that my Maxtor hard disk is now being refered to as a "Maxtor ATHENA". This is not what it used to be called. The rest of my devices are fine.

Given that my computers error messages suggested that the HD wasn't found to boot off, i check the Boot Sequence settings, only to find that the Maxtor disk had completely vanished from the order! I was also incapable of finding it in the list of devices to set as a boot device, so cannot set it up in the boot sequence.

Half of bios can see my disk, albeit inaccurately. Half cannot.

Now here i choose my words carefully. I've put the error message, and related words, into google; and have found post after post after post of people with exactly the same problems with their Maxtor (and other) devices.

Although i don't want to put words into your proverbial mouths, i feel that if i don't, I won't get a decent solution/answer - so here goes...

In 85% of these posts that i found, there seems to be a suggestion that the HD controller on the HD itself, has died.

Is this really likely?

The HD is about 3 years old. I'm running win2k, no i haven't installed any other hardware recently, yes i do have a virus checker, yes i am clean, and basically [correct answer] to almost any other questions you have.

Please help me - 'They' say i'll have to buy a new HD, which isn't such a hassle, but i'd rather not if it can be avoided.
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  1. Well, you certainly don't need to buy a new drive; you have the WD. Throw the Maxtor away, set the WD as primary master, install Windows on the WD and you're back in business.

    However, the maxtor might not been lost...
    the symptoms indicate a problem with the electronics on the drive, or with communications between drive and controller.
    One infamous source of problems is the IDE cable. Try swapping the drives on the IDE cable, or even better attach them to different IDE cables. Try the drive in another computer.
    Is your system overclocked? If so, the drive may have a problem with that.
    If this all doesn't help, the electronics on the drive are likely to b defect. It is possible to replace them with another one from an identical drive (I have heard that companies use the same controller over a drive family so you might try a similar drive, but I have no experience with this)
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