Hard Drive Troubleshooting

Hard drive troubleshooting can be difficult if your computer will not boot. The hard drive in your system may be an IDE or a SATA. IDE is the older variety, with the long, flat ribbon cable connector. SATA drives began appearing a couple of years ago. Gone is the flat ribbon cable. In its place is a thick serial cable.

You hard drive will have jumper on the rear. On IDE drives, these jumpers indicate which HDD is the Master and Slave. Yu can even configure a jumper to indicate which place on the cable determines who is the boss. This is called Cable Select. Either Cable Select or Master / Slave modes are fine, but the drives must be set up one way or the other.

Hard Drive Troubleshooting

If this is a new installation of a hard drive, check the power and jumpers setting first. If the hard drive is not showing up, confirm it is getting power and that the Master / Slave / or Cable Select jumpers are set properly. If you are using a Serial ATA drive, jumper setting are not necessary.

hard drive troubleshootingContinue hard drive troubleshooting by checking the BIOS. You will need to tap a certain key to enter the BIOS settings. This is normally either the ESC, F1, F2, F10 or Delete key and is usually indicated on the very first screen when booting the PC. Once in the BIOS make sure the drive shows up in the appropriate place. If this is the Primary drive, is should show up under the Primary Master position. If it does not, then it could be connected to the motherboard incorrectly or the jumpers may be wrong. Also, while in the BIOS, make sure it is set to Auto Detect the drive.

Check the IDE Cable

If you’re using an IDE drive, it can be possible to connect the ribbon cable incorrectly. The ribbon cable will usually have a red or dotted line down one side. This line indicates Pin 1 on the cable. One the hard drive end, this line needs to be closest to the Hard Drive’s power connector. On the motherboard side, this line needs to be at Pin 1 on the motherboard (you may need to look close, but it should be printed on the motherboard).

Drive Making Noise? Hard Drive Troubleshooting

A defective drive will often produce unusual clicking or scraping sounds. There are a lot of moving parts inside a hard drive, so if the read / write head, platters, spindle or actuator arm becomes defective it can produce noise shortly before complete failure.

Does the Hard Drive Spin Up?

If the hard drive is not spinning, then it may not be getting power. Hard drive troubleshooting by listening real close to hear it spin, or touch the side with your finger to feel any vibration. If the drive is not spinning, test the power dongle with a multimeter, or try a different power connector. A power supply will often have several molex connectors not being used. If the hard drive still does not spin up, the drive may be dead.