Hard drive is spinning up but not being detected

Hi, I just fixed up this old IBM ThinkPad R50e and installed Linux. I had to install Linux on an external hard drive as the internal drive won't work for some reason. (USB is probably slowing down performance, but I'm using it now and it's seems to go pretty fast) I came here to ask about the internal hard drive. Here's the issue. With the main hard drive plugged in, (it's removable) it spins up quietly but is not detected by BIOS or anything else. Something that it also does which is strange is that if it is in, the computer will not boot into BIOS or Linux on the external hard drive. It will just hang at the load menu or hang saying that it's opening BIOS. If I just unplug the hard drive, it will boot into BIOS or into Linux no problem. I'm wondering if there's something wrong with the hard drive (hope not) or the data connectors, and I hope to get the hard drive to work as the hard drive has Windows XP installed which I would like to use. What could be going wrong (and how can I fix it if possible =D), and is there a way to diagnose what is wrong with the drive. I would prefer not to have to buy a PATA (old drive) to USB or whatever cable to check it on my main computer if possible... but if it's needed to fix it I guess I would buy it...
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  1. Also, BIOS version is very old, something like 2.04 (using the computer to type this so I can't check) and I have never used BIOS before, so it's probably pretty limited and I can't do a ton in BIOS. If possible, I would like to update BIOS. I downloaded a BIOS update and burned it to a CD, but it didn't burn right and I think I read that it's not good to "flash" the BIOS (that's what I would be doing, right?) when an OS is installed, so is there another way to update BIOS?
  2. Does anyone have an idea? I really would like to get XP to work again on it.
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