Hard drive activity led light not working/Dell Dimension 8200

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Hard drive activity led light not working/Dell Dimension 8200

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I noticed yesterday that the green led light in the front panel of my Dimension 8200 (located to the right of the power button) is dead, not blinking anymore whenever there's hard drive activity. Other than that the rest of the PC is working fine. What could be causing this failure? Maybe a loose connection somewhere? Thanks for any suggestions. 

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  • alegator
    I noticed yesterday that the green led light in the front panel of my Dimension 8200 (located to the right of the power button) is dead, not blinking anymore whenever there's hard drive activity. Other than that the rest of the PC is working fine. What could be causing this failure? Maybe a loose connection somewhere? Thanks for any suggestions. 

    Hello alegator, These lights for the hard drive activity are LEDs and usually never fail.

    The connector could have become disconnected from the motherboard.

    Since you mention the system shows no issues otherwise, I would check the connection to the motherboard.

    This usually can be done by just removing the side panel and locating the wire from the front of the case panel.

    They are usually located in the lower right corner of the motherboard and  and the hard drive wire is labled "HD".

    If it is found to be disconnected, just locate the pins that would be labled HD and reconnect it.

    All this just assumes that this is the problem, but there are other conditions that can cause the same issue.

    This is just the quickest to check.

    Hope this helps.

  • Hi Hans, I checked the connectors from the motherboard and they are all firmly attached. As I said everything else works normally in my Dimension, the 4 diagnostic leds in the back are normal (all green), all other front devices are fine too (the power button led is lit, the USB front connectors all active). Yet, the hard drive activity led is dead (always off). What else could be causing this? Is this a serious condition or a sign of more trouble down the road? Is there a way to diagnose the problem? (using the Dell diagnostics floppy disk?). Thanks again. 

  • alegator
    I checked the connectors from the motherboard and they are all firmly attached. As I said everything else works normally in my Dimension, the 4 diagnostic leds in the back are normal (all green), all other front devices are fine too (the power button led is lit, the USB front connectors all active). Yet, the hard drive activity led is dead (always off). What else could be causing this? Is this a serious condition or a sign of more trouble down the road? Is there a way to diagnose the problem? (using the Dell diagnostics floppy disk?). Thanks again. 

    Hello alegator, While it is unlikely that the hard drive LED has failed, it is possible.

    Other components could have failed as well.

    The LEDs are usually located on a very small circuit board and one of these components could have failed.

    There is a possibility that the hard drive itself could not be sending the signal to the motherboard for the light to function.

    The pins on the wire could have been damaged or the wire itself.

    There are quite a few possibilities for this issue.

    I have built a few servers that didn't have these LEDs and added one to them using an old one removed from another junk system, drilling a hole in the front of the case and applying glue to attach it to the case.

    This was just personal preference, since I knew I would be maintaining the system for years to come.

    The activity light not working should not affect the operation of the system at all.

    Many servers don't even have them. They are just an indication of the hard drive activity, and no more than that.

    When I work on a system, I use this often, just to see any indication of system hangs and over-activity, but it is not a neccessity.

    If the system is working normally, I would not be concerned at all about it not lighting up.

    Just some thoughts.

  • Thanks for your thoughts Hans, they are reasonable and many of them crossed my mind too. I could try with another hard drive and see whether that's the issue. I find the led light convenient, I regularly check for any led activity when the system is at idle that could suggest any suspicious process running. Also, when I restart I always wait for the led to stop so to verify that Windows completed the reboot. And the led is specially useful when any activity is going on with the OS unloaded, for example when cloning my hard drive. I consider a waste of resources using software to show HD activity, which in anycase is useless when outside the OS.
    My Dell Dimension is almost 8 years old (2001). What is the life expectancy of the motherboard? Any idea? When that'll happen I'll have to replace the PC as probably a Dimension 8200 mobo is not available in the market anymore.

  • alegator
    Thanks for your thoughts Hans, they are reasonable and many of them crossed my mind too. I could try with another hard drive and see whether that's the issue. I find the led light convenient, I regularly check for any led activity when the system is at idle that could suggest any suspicious process running. Also, when I restart I always wait for the led to stop so to verify that Windows completed the reboot. And the led is specially useful when any activity is going on with the OS unloaded, for example when cloning my hard drive. I consider a waste of resources using software to show HD activity, which in anycase is useless when outside the OS.
    My Dell Dimension is almost 8 years old (2001). What is the life expectancy of the motherboard? Any idea? When that'll happen I'll have to replace the PC as probably a Dimension 8200 mobo is not available in the market anymore.

    Hello alegator, All the suggestions you mentioned, I use as well, and find them very helpful. I don't think the hard drive is causing the issue.

    I am really at a loss with this XPS 420, since the HD activity light is located on the very top of the case and since I have the tower sitting on a desk, I cannot see the HD light unless I stand up. Very poor design in my opinion.

    I tried to listen to the drive but it is so quiet, I cannot here it.

    I don't know the expected life of your system motherboard, but I have probably 50 or more Dell systems in 4 different business networks that I maintain, that have been running 24 hours each day for close to ten years without shutting down except for power outages and normal maintenance such as hardware and software upgrades.

    If you are comfortable with modifying the case, you could locate an LED from an older system and connect it to the motherboard where the current connection is, drill a small hole in a convienient location on the front of the case and hot glue it in place.

    I have done this several times and also some reset switches as well.

    I may even do this to the XPS 420 later, but I am not so sure I will keep it, because it does not do what it is advertised to do.

    I normally build my personal systems so I can get what I want. I only purchased this Dell system since my eyesight has gotten so bad recently.

    In the spring, I may tackle it anyway. I have built about 20 systems in the past few years for myself and family members, so one more want be any problem.

    I hope and have faith that you will get your system issue resolved.

  • Hi Hans, I have some news. Yesterday I performed a well needed disk cloning, I frequently do it to keep a backup of my current Windows installation in a 2nd identical hard drive. When the disk cloning process started (outside the OS) I noticed that the hard drive led light was functioning. When the cloning procedure finished and after removing the 2nd backup hard drive all things went back to the situation described in my post above, i.e. led light dead. So I think that there must be some defect in the IDE cable connecting the main hard drive to the mobo that prevents the led light to detect the OS hard drive's activity, whereas the 2nd hard drive's IDE cable is fine and allows the 2nd drive's activity to be detected by the LED. Would you also conclude this?

  • alegator
    Hi Hans, I have some news. Yesterday I performed a well needed disk cloning, I frequently do it to keep a backup of my current Windows installation in a 2nd identical hard drive. When the disk cloning process started (outside the OS) I noticed that the hard drive led light was functioning. When the cloning procedure finished and after removing the 2nd backup hard drive all things went back to the situation described in my post above, i.e. led light dead. So I think that there must be some defect in the IDE cable connecting the main hard drive to the mobo that prevents the led light to detect the OS hard drive's activity, whereas the 2nd hard drive's IDE cable is fine and allows the 2nd drive's activity to be detected by the LED. Would you also conclude this?

    Hello alegator, That is a very real possibility. Did you have the second hard drive on the secondary IDE connection.

    If so the primary IDE connection or circuit could be the culptit. You do seem to have narrowed it down. 

    I would continue to explore this area for the issue. You now know it is not the LED or wire or motherboard connector.

    I never re-use IDE cables because I have had some issues with them.

    Since I purchase many new hard drives and motherboards that come with new cables, I always discard the old IDE cables.

    I probably have a thousand used IDE cables in the garage.

    You could connect the cable that was connected to the second hard drive to the primary hard drive as a check.

    If this proves successful, you could leave it in the system and pick up a new cable later.

    Glad to hear you are making progress.

  • Hi Hans, issue is resolved. It was the faulty hard drive IDE cable.I replaced it with a new cable and now the led light is working fine. Thanks for your help, regards. 

  • alegator
    Hi Hans, issue is resolved. It was the faulty hard drive IDE cable. I replaced it with a new cable and now the led light is working fine. Thanks for your help, regards. 

    Hello My Friend, That is really great news, and a faily inexpensive repair, compaired to how it could have been.

    While I have had issues with IDE cables before, never one like this.

    So this was a learning experience for me as well, and I thank you for confirming and updating us on your positive results.

    I hope you will get quite a bit more service out of your Dell system.

    You know, this defective cable could have been causing other unknown issues as well.

    I am really glad you got it resolved.

  • Hi Hans, yes, that was inexpensive. However, I'm using a temporary 40 connector IDE cable I had as spare but the original Dell cable is an 80 connector IDE and I'm not sure if the 40-connector one I'm using now is UltraDMA or not. In anycase tomorrow I will try to purchase the original Dell cable or some other brand 80-connector UDMA IDE cable. This is the third time I have to replace this IDE cable. About 3 years ago, when my Dell was still under warranty, I had an issue whereby my PC wouldn't boot because the hard drive wouldn't be recognized. After some tests that I went thru with the assistance of Dell Tech Support they finally decided that the motherboard needed replacement. So they sent a technician and he replaced the mobo with a new one. However, even after replacing the mobo, the issue was still present. The technician then replaced the IDE cable and voila, issue resolved. So it was not the mobo (the original was fine), it was again a faulty IDE cable. The technician said I could keep the new mobo, so end of story, when Dell only needed to replace the IDE cable, they also replaced my mobo with a new one, all for free Smile  So far, all "major" issues I had confronted with my Dell have been reduced to replacing worn out IDE cables. It's worth it having at least 3 spare IDE cables just in case. Regards.

    P.S.: There's an issue that is driving me crazy for a long time. When adding a 2nd hard drive for cloning (I only use one main drive) the PC will not recognize it, it will require a couple of shutdowns, and maybe change of pins from cable select to Master/slave for it to be recognized. I haven't done the test with the new cable, but I'm almost sure that it was an issue also related to the faulty IDE cable. 

  • Hello alegator, I've heard these kinds of stories far too often.

    I was wondering why you always removed the second backup hard drive, rather than just installing it and leaving it in the case?

    I have 3 hard drives in my system, and use two of them as backup drives. I also have an external drive, and a laptop drive in a small enclosure, and a backup on a network drive.

    I do regular backups often. The 40 wire cable is not working as UDMA, as the 80 wire cable is required for that. I would replace the 40 wire as soon as possible. You may not notice any improvement in performance but you will know you have the proper cable.

    I use Norton Ghost for a Ghost Image and save it to the D: backup drive. I then copy the Ghost Image folder to all the other backup devices. It takes only 13 minutes to do the Ghost Image and a little longer to copy it to the other drives.

    But that is done only so often as I deem a back up to be necessarry.

    If I were to install the drives, whether in the case at the same time, or otherwise, I would set them both as CS. That way you want have to worry about the settings.

    The system should recogonize either and/or both when set to CS.

    You may have to enter the BIOS one time and let the BIOS recogonize them. Then the BIOS should recogonize them at every boot.

    Glad to here of your success, as I thought about this last night as to what other possibilities there might be.

    I never had this issue before so I never would have considered it. You taught me something I will never forget, if I ever have this issue.

    Again, Congratulations with your success.

  • Hi Hans, I always remove the 2nd backup drive as I can work with just one, so I disconnect the 2nd drive to save energy, to minimize noise and most importantly to avoid the backup drive to wear out unnecessarily. I do cloning once every 2 or 3 months, so it doesn't bother to install/remove the 2nd drive each time.

    You say I should replace the current 40 wire IDE cable as soon as possible. Are you hinting that it might damage my system in anyway? Or you're just mentioning it because it only affects performance?

    If I ever use 2 drives I always set them both to cable select, which is the default Dell configuration. Also, the main OS drive is set to cable select. I only mentioned changing the pin configuration whenever some issue arised like hard drives not recoginzed, etc. And surely, I always enter the BIOS when adding/removing a 2nd drive to allow for detection.

    I'm happy I could "teach" you something with my case, and I appreciate the time you devote to provide useful feedback to this forum.

    Regards. 

  • alegator
    You say I should replace the current 40 wire IDE cable as soon as possible. Are you hinting that it might damage my system in anyway? Or you're just mentioning it because it only affects performance?

    Hello alegator, The only reason I mentioned it was because of performance.

    I have been using computers for over 28 years, and I have never had a hard drive to fail. I have replaced hundreds for others though.

    I defrag my system sometimes several times every day, if I install or uninstall some programs, and many don't suggest this due to unnecessary hard drive wear. Most of today's hard drives are far better quality than in years past, so wear and tear is not nearly as critical as it once was.

    You are correct about the power saving. The average hard drive usually consumes between 5 and 10 watts of power per hour, 5 at idle and 10 at use, so it could add up in a months time.

    I have 5 systems that run in my house 18 hours each day that have 13 hard drives total. Just think of the money I could save without these systems.

    I don't think there should be any reason to believe there would be any damage caused with the 40 wire cable..

    I have used the 40 wire cable on 80 wire hard drives without issues, until I could acquire the proper cable.

    The only difference in the two cables is that the 80 wire cable has 40 more ground wires to prevent any cross interaction with the other data wires. This may or may not be an issue anyway.

    I wouldn't make a special trip just for the proper cable, just pick it up at your convienience.

    Hope this helps.

  • Hello Hans, the tasks I perform in my PC do not justify havng a 2nd drive permanently installed. The only task that would justify in my case a 2nd drive is video editing, by keeping video files in the 2nd drive to avoid excessive load on the main drive while video editing is active and therefore speed up the process a bit. But most of my video files in the last two years are HiDef and my Dell is slow for HD video editing, so I'm keeping all the HD video files offline until the day I will buy a newer PC.

    Regarding disk cloning it sure is more convenient to have a 2nd drive permanently installed, but as I said I only perform cloning once every 2/3 months and it does not justify wasting the added energy and generating more decibels in my room. I mentioned wear and tear but you seem to minimize that risk. It is my knowledge that no matter how much you take care of a drive, since they are mechanical devices, they all will eventually die. In my case, I have 14 hard drives of which only one failed, but it was an older one. It's true that todays's drives are more reliable than older ones, but the risk of them failing is always present, that's the main reason I do backups/cloning (of course there are other data loss factors like data corruption, etc). I would say that if you havent't coped with a drive failure in 28 years then you're extremely lucky, first time I hear such a record.

    The IDE cable is tough to get as Dell uses custom dimensions for it. As I found out I can only obtain it from the local Dell office. Thanks for reassuring that a 40-connector cable won't pose a damage risk to my system.

    Congratulations on your home PC network! Hope you give good use to it.

    Regards.

  • Hello alegator, You seem to have a very good strategy that works well for you.

    I agree about the data loss, and that is why I have backups everywhere and often.

    I am really fortunate with my equipment failures. I have had only one Gigabyte motherboard fail, but every ATI video card that I have purchased has failed, which is about ten of them, all out of warranty of course. I only purchase Nvidia cards now, and never had one to fail.

    In all my years, I have never had a CPU to fail.

    I have 6 systems in the house and use 5 of them every day. The other one is for the grand kids to play on when the come over.

    I have 4 systems in the computer room in the garage, that I have the early Windows OS installed on, just for when someone calls with an issue, I can go to the machine that their OS is on, and try to resolve their issue.

    One with Windows 2000, Windows 98SE, one with Windows 95 and one with Windows 3.1.

    You would be surprised how many people still use Windows 3.1.

    I also have an interest in 4 companies with over 100 systems on 4 networks and servers that I maintain.

    Some of these systems have been running over ten years 24 hours a day, every day with only occasional shut downs for normal maintenance.

    I use my computers at home for remote energy management in commercial buildings, and for Camera Surveilence at different buildings around the city.

    I use the Laptop here at home for my Home Camera Security system.

    I have toooo much equipment and responsibility. I need to phase much of this out, but they want let me.

    Glad you have a handle on your issue and will get a newer system at some point.