Dimension 9150 will not boot from sata drive

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Dimension 9150 will not boot from sata drive

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I've been struggling with this machine and searching the internet all day long but can't find a solution.  I'm experienced at all this stuff (but still have plenty to learn!) so I hope I've done all the obvious hings.

This is a friend's machine and I was called to find out why it wouldn't boot.  My 'friend' had done some stuff but I don't know what and he had no idea what he was doing anyway!

The m/c is a 9150 with a single SATA HDD (250GB) XP media centre is what I believe is expected to run

Originally it was coming up with "no boot device found" and checking the BIOS showed that SATA0 was not set as a bootable device so I set it but now when booting is just shows a blank screen with the cursor in the top left.  Going via f12 to try booting the utilities partition gives the same result.

Using an XP Pro SP3 CD and going to the recovery console detected NO windows installations.  Using that same CD and continuing as if to install showed 4 apparent 'disks', all seemingly unformatted.

If I boot into Puppy Linux then I can mount all the partitions and access everything as expected.  Similarly I can boot an XP version using UBCD and that recognises the drive and chkdsk finds nothing wrong.

I've also mounted the drive in another machine and run chkdsk there and found no problems.

It seemed as if the BIOS was not able to recognise the SATA drive.  I got hold of the appropriate Intel Matrix Storage Manager driver and tried going through the XP installation process using F6 to load drivers but this made no difference.

As far as I can see, it is as if  the BIOS can't see the disk properly and neither can XP installation, although everything seems find when booting a different OS from CD.

At some stage in the process I had diagnostic lights 1,2,3 on and 4 off, but that just seem to mean there's a problem and I know that!  When it hangs with a cursor flashing there are no lights on.

I tried installing a different SATA drive and going throgh the XP install process but got exactly th same result.  I've also tried setting the SATA operation to try auto/ATA rather than auto/AHCI but to no advantage.

I'm right out of ideas now!

 

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  • Yes

     

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    Ron

    Forum Member since 2004

    I am NOT a Dell employee

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  • Try clearing BIOS settings.

    Power off and unplug

    Press/hold power button for ~15 sec

    Open the case and remove the motherboard battery

    Press/hold power button again for ~30 sec

    Reinstall the battery (right-side-up!) and see if it boots now with only mouse, monitor and keyboard attached. BTW: If the battery is more than ~2-3 years old, it might be dying/dead so this would be a good time to replace it. CR2032 lithium ion coin cell.

    If you don't have an internal floppy drive in this system, you'll probably get a floppy drive error when you reboot after resetting BIOS. In that case, just run BIOS setup (Press F2 before Windows starts to load) and look for the option to disable the Diskette Drive. Save the change and exit setup.

    Ron

    If this answers your question, please click  Yes  

    Ron

    Forum Member since 2004

    I am NOT a Dell employee

  • Me again...

    One more thing.  XP can't see a SATA hard drive unless BIOS is set to RAID Autodetect/ATA. So you'll have to change to that setting if you intend to reinstall XP. If you load the SATA driver from a floppy disk during the XP installation, you'll have to change the setting back to ACHI again before it'll boot the next time.

    You can also load the SATA driver after XP has been installed, in which case you can install it from a file downloaded to the hard drive. But remember to change BIOS to ACHI on next reboot.

    Ron

    If this answers your question, please click  Yes  

    Ron

    Forum Member since 2004

    I am NOT a Dell employee

  • Hi Ron,

     

    Thanks for those thoughts.  I'll try giving the BIOS a complete reset, though I'm not hopeful.  The machine is only 18 months old so the battery "should" be OK, but I'll replace it anyway.  I always keep a supply of CR2032's (and others) on hand for older machines.  The stuff about floppies I'd already detected (is that the way the system shipped because when I came to it it complained that it couldn't find an internal floppy... surely it would have been set to disabled?  Anyway, it is now!)

    Your comment about needing auto/ATA for XP install to work was something I didn't know so I'll have an explore down that line and see what that reveals.

     

    p.s. if it helps, I really am experienced so if it helps to reduce your typing, feel free to say things like, "reset the bios by taking the battery out", etc.  I know from my clients that there are those I can talk technical to and those I have to say, "go to the start button and click on it.....".  If I don't understand something, then I'll ask. Smile

     

  • Sorry, wasn't trying to minimize your experience working with PCs. I try to be complete so the next person with similar problems who stumbles across the thread can find all the info they need to fix it too.

    If the system doesn't have an internal floppy drive, the system should have been shipped with the floppy controller disabled in BIOS. The default BIOS setting is to have the floppy drive controller enabled in BIOS. When BIOS gets reset, intentionally or otherwise, the floppy controller is enabled and you get a floppy drive error message when booting.

    If this system was complaining about the floppy drive and BIOS hadn't been reset by the user, that suggests either the settings got scrambled or the battery died and everything was reset to the factory defaults.

    Because XP doesn't have built-in SATA drivers, it won't see a SATA drive when BIOS is set to RAID or AHCI. And once the SATA drivers are installed into XP, it won't see the hard drive if BIOS is set to RAID Autodetect/ATA. Later versions of Windows have SATA drivers so they don't have this problem.

     Ron

    If this answers your question, please click  Yes  

    Ron

    Forum Member since 2004

    I am NOT a Dell employee

  • Hi Ron,

    I took no offence and was just letting you know you don't need to detail everything, though, to be fair, it'll probably be useful for others looking at this.

    So far I've set the bios to auto/ATA and indeed now the XP installation disk does find windows.  I had a look at fixmbr but hesitated to actually let it run at this stage since it seems to be saying that it's non-standard and it might make things go wrong.  I must admit that when I looked at the disk with a low level editor, the MBR and boot record both looked to be OK and the partition table looked as I expected and pointed to all the right places.

    I've yet to do the bios reset as suggested and I'll do that next, although I don't really think that's going to reveal very much.  Having done that I'll try a windows repair install, loading up the intel SATA drivers and see if that puts things back as they should be.  Hopefully that will allow me to then try to boot with ahci set.

    FYI the system does not have a floppy drive installed, though I have a USB one available.  Thanks for your assistance with this.

    Ken.

  • I reset the BIOS, set it back to auto/ATA and set going a repair install having first loaded the intel SATA drivers from floppy.  It recognised the old windows installation and did the file copying OK but when it cam to reboot, it just hung as before.  I tried setting the bios back to auto/AHCI but it still hung.

    What did surprise me was that when I selected a repair install, it said there had been a previous incomplete attempt and did I want to try again.  I answered yes to this but it did cause me to wonder if my "friend" had had a go at a repair himself.

    I'm beginning to think it's time to set it back to how it was when he got it - but I'm not convinced that even that would help!  Obviously, the first thing I did was take a copy of all his data to an external drive before I started messing about.

  • I've now done a bit more testing by inserting a spare SATA drive and setting bios to auto/ATA and then installing XP Pro onto the drive.  I've done it twice now, each time with no problems.  The first time I just went through as normal and the second time I loaded the AHCI driver from floppy during the install process (via F6).

    In both cases the system worked without problems and in both cases if I set the bios to auto/AHCI it failed to boot cleanly but at least did something,in that it started to load windows, obviously failed and then rebooted.  Certainly it's a different behavious than I got from the original disk.  I'd hoped that by using the SATA driver at installation I'd have been able to use AHCI but apparently not.

    I'm now thinking that maybe I DO need to try a fixmbr, though I think I'll try to take a copy of the old one first!

  • DON'T use fixmbr!!

    If you do, you'll lose acces to PC Restore which resets the (original) hard drive to exactly the way Dell shipped it with XP, drivers (including SATA) and any free software they provided. PC Restore should have the drive running again in only ~10 min vs 2+ hr to do a clean install.

    PC Restore will wipe out any personal files and software installed by the user, so it's good you backed up the drive before you started working on it. You will have to install the XP service pack (eg, SP3) plus all subsequent updates for XP, IE, .net etc. But it's still faster/easier than doing the clean install.

    But if the system fails to boot when set to ACHI after installing the SATA drivers, are you sure you installed the right SATA driver for this hardware and XP? 

    Maybe there's a hardware problem on the motherboard with the hard drive controller..?? You could always leave the BIOS set to Autodetect/ATA. You'd lose the advantage of SATA and the Intel Matrix Storage Manager, but the user probably won't notice any difference.

    Ron

    If this answers your question, please click  Yes  

    Ron

    Forum Member since 2004

    I am NOT a Dell employee

  • I've certainly not been prepared to run fixmbr unless I can first back up the old MBR and reinstate it if needed.  It did seem likely that if it's not standard then there's a reason for that.

    Mind you, I'm not sure that PC Restore is available anyway!  According to the instructions, there's supposed to be a blue bar with www.dell.com at the top of the screen during boot but there is no sign of this.  If I press ctrl/F11 nothing happens.  If I select the boot menu and choose boot to utility partition, nothing happens - i.e. it just sits there.

    I'm not at all sure I DO have the correct SATA drivers installed.  I searched the Dell support site for this computer and found R130118 which purports to be Intel Driver for Matrix Storage Manager.  When I added the driver during the XP install I was presented with a list of options:-

    "Intel(R) ICH8R/DO/DH SATA RAID Controller (Desktop ICH8R)"
    "Intel(R) ICH8R/DO/DH SATA AHCI Controller (Desktop ICH8R)"
    "Intel(R) 631xESB/632xESB SATA RAID Controller (Server/Workstation ESB2)"
    "Intel(R) 631xESB/632xESB SATA AHCI Controller (Server/Workstation ESB2)"

    and chose the second; ICH8R AHCI, though must confess I'm a bit out of my depth here.  I had expected to end up with a system with the drivers installed but maybe I'll try installing it into the running XP and see if that gives me AHCI.  I must admit, I'm less bothered about getting AHCI running rather than ATA.  The user will never notice the difference and I just want to get it working!

     

    Ken.

  • I've taken the plunge and done a MBR fix!  It seemed to me that nothing would work anyway and at least having done that it can now boot XP (after a fashion).

    I did use MBRfix to take a copy of the MBR first so I COULD reinstate it, although, since it seems to be the cause of the problems, I don't know why I should!  What would be useful would be if someone has a working one of these machines and could send me a dumb of their MBR then I could maybe try merging the code with the partition table data and make a repaired MBR.

    Although I've now managed to get past the freeze-on-boot black screen, when I got it going it continued doing a windows repair install and at the end of it I've not got a working machine, in that it says XP must be activated before I can log on, but it doesn't provide any activation wizard.  I've come across this before and it's related to it needing IE8.  Of course, first I need to set it to restart its 30 day activation period, but maybe I'm getting somewhere at last.

     

    Ken.

  • If the hard drive was ever reformatted or replaced, you lost the Dell MBR and won't have access to PC Restore or the Utiltiies partition.

    Did you use a Dell XP Reinstallation CD to reinstall XP on this system? The Dell disk checks to see if it's being installed on a Dell PC. If it is, Windows should install without requiring activation. If you used a non-Dell disk, it probably will ask for activation.

    And what version of XP did you install?

    If you're geeky, this explains the ins/outs of the Dell MBR and access to PC Restore. But, again, if the hard drive was reformatted or replaced, none of this is of any use to you.

    What happens if you do a clean reformat/reinstall of XP but don't install the SATA drivers during the install (BIOS set to Autodetect/ATA)?

     "Intel(R) ICH8R/DO/DH SATA AHCI Controller (Desktop ICH8R)"  looks like the right SATA driver to be used during the installation.

    Isn't this fun?

    Ron

     

     

    If this answers your question, please click  Yes  

    Ron

    Forum Member since 2004

    I am NOT a Dell employee

  • I've not reformatted the disk, simply inserted a new MBR (having saved the old, broken one).  I can still get at the utilities partition using Boot Magic but, as you point out, ctrl+F11 is no longer available, though from the link you gave me, it's possible I can fix that.

    I've not (yet) used the Dell CD because I haven't had access to it.  It looked, once I'd got things going, that someone had started the reinstall process and it had failed part way through so I did it again using an standard XPpro SP3 CD.  Probably I'm going to d it again when I get the proper Dell CD since it's likely to make a better job of it (even though it'll probably take it back to SP2 (or earlier).

    When I was playing with my own driv e in the machine, I had no problem doing a clean install without the SATA drivers, though, of course, I was stuck with not being able to use AHCI.

    As for fun... well, maybe; for certain defined values of 'fun' Wink

    Thanks for all your input on this, Ron.

    Ken

     

  • DSRfix has restored the MBR to how it should be now.  Big Smile

     

    Ken

  • trentham

    DSRfix has restored the MBR to how it should be now.  Big Smile

    Ken

    Does that mean you were able to run a successful PC Restore? And is it working now?

    Ron

    If this answers your question, please click  Yes  

    Ron

    Forum Member since 2004

    I am NOT a Dell employee

  • I'm not actually WANTING to run a restore but I'm pretty sure that I could if I wanted.  The facility is back now.

    To summarise.

    • The machine simply wouldn't boot - not into the XP partition, nor into the utility partition, and there was no sign of the restore facility because it wouldn't get that far.  Any attempt to boot simply froze the computer showing a black screen with a cursor in the top left.
    • Booting into other OS's showed the partitions to be looking OK and running chkdsk (from another machine or via UBCD) showed no errors and the partition table in the MBR looked fine.
    • Putting another SATA disk drive in the machine allowed a clean install of XP Pro and it booted OK
    • Trying a repair install of XP (using XP pro rather than the Dell original MCE disk) seemed to go OK, although it revealed that someone had already tried this, however when it came to rebooting, the system froze as usual.
    • Using MBRfix allowed me to (1) take a backup copy of the MBR and (2) write a new MBR after which time I was able to boot both XP and Utility, though the DSR (recovery) facility was no longer there.
    • Now the XP repair install continued to completion, although it left the machine needing activating again and being unable to log on or run the activation wizard, though that's another, much simpler problem.
    • Using DSRfix allowed me to regenerate the MBR boot code which allowed me to get into the DSR again, although I didn't run it.
    • Also during all this there was a problem with the SATA drive in that I wasn't able to get it to work if the bios was set to auto/AHCI so throughout all (working) processes it has been set to auto/ATA.  This problem remains, although I can live with it if it doesn't resolve itself.  It's probable that the last install I did, did not set the SATA drivers initially, although the test install to another drive showed that even doing this, didn't help.

    I think that pretty well covers where I've been and where I am now.

    It looks as though the main problem was down to a corruption in the MBR code and had I known that straight off, running DSRfix would probably have mended it straight off.  As it was, I've been all round the houses, hopped over a few fences and done a bit of tunnelling along the way!  Wink

    It would be nice to get the machine to a 'better' state.  I'd like to have AHCI back (as a matter of pride) and I'm not sure that everything reinstalled exactly as it should so I'm intending to do another repair install with the correct Dell CD(s).  In its current state I'd need to install IE8 so that I can activate it.  Hopefully a correct repair install will obviate the need for activating but I'll almost certainly need to get SP3 at least.

    Originally I too the machine away on Thursday morning saying "I should have it back later in the afternoon".  Little did I know... Crying

    Ken.