June 27, 2007

New Hard Drive Follies

I decided yesterday that I needed to add a new hard drive to my workstation. On all past computers I would keep a large C: drive for system, program files, etc. and keep a very large D: drive for data (pst files, code, databases, desktop & "my documents", and other general crap). This seemed to work well and when it was time to move to the next computer all I really needed to migrate was the stuff from the data drive. This made it easy to do backups as well - everything was in one place.

My new workstation, however, came with only one 80GB drive and I knew it would suffice for a while so I did not immediately add another drive. I'm starting to run short on space, though. I have about 10GB free, but you know how quickly that can get eaten up. Additionally, I need to get a working copy of a 13GB database setup and working locally for some debugging and development. I didn't look forward to running it on an external USB drive so I made the drive to MicroCenter last night to buy a new drive.

Folly #1: I found a pretty good deal on a 200GB EIDE drive for about $60. I know I could probably get a better price online, but I needed the drive sooner rather than later. This morning I took the cover off my PC and realized my first mistake. I had not even thought to consider that this computer used SATA. Looking back I should have, it's just that this is the first time I've actually ever had to buy and install a SATA drive. The last computer I built from scratch was a few years ago and SATA was just on the horizon. I rebuilt a computer about 8 months ago after a motherboard failure, but it used EIDE drives and I didn't see a need to buy a SATA controller to "upgrade" - it's just a secondary pc anyway.

So after another trip to MicroCenter to exchange the EIDE drive for a 250GB SATA drive I was in business again.

Folly #2: I installed the new drive, opened up Computer Management - Disk Management to initialize, partition, and assign a drive letter and the new drive did not show up. I re-scanned the disks, rebooted a couple of times, etc. and still nothing. My next thought was that either the hard drive was bad, the SATA cable was bad or the #2 SATA port was bad. I have never seen a drive DOA and it was spinning so I thought I could rule that out. My next try was to swap the SATA cables to make sure the new one wasn't bad. 

The new hard drive, a Western Digital, came with a funny SATA cable with some weird plastic dongle on the end. Because of this dongle it would not fit my original Seagate drive. I was not going to make another round trip to MicroCenter just to pick up a cable so the only other option was to remove it. I didn't feel like pulling out the rotary tool for this little job so I grabbed a small hacksaw. Trying to hold onto the small adapter and saw a tiny quarter-inch by quarter-inch thing off of it was dangerous at best. Within minutes the inevitable happened: the hacksaw slipped and I sawed a nice little chunk out of one of my fingers. Eh, just a scratch really, but it was definitely worth the choice language that I yelled.

Eventually I got the cables swapped and the new one worked fine.

Folly #3: I started worrying that the SATA port was bad. I had a motherboard in the past where the secondary IDE channel did not work. It sucked because I could only run one hard drive and one CD drive. That PC eventually got fired.

Before even considering returning the drive I realized that I had better take a look at BIOS to make sure that the second SATA port was enabled. You already know what the answer is, don't you? Of course you do. After enabling the second port and rebooting, Windows found the new hardware and I finished setting up the new drive.

I hate hardware.

Note to self: check the BIOS first, dummy.

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  1.  avatar Jose Lema says:

    Too funny! Hope the finger is okay. Glad to see I'm not the only one that hates hardware... :)

  2.  avatar says:

    Thanks, Jose. Yeah the finger is fine. I didn't need the tip of it anyway!

  3.  avatar James Shaw says:

    hahaha. Why do I see Mr. T calling you a fool after reading this? :)

  4.  avatar says:

    James, I can see it now, too. I pity the fool who doesn't check his BIOS first!

  5.  avatar says:

    I'm glad I'm not the only one. The honorable Phil Haack ran into a couple of the same issues recently:

    http://haacked.com/archive/2007/05/09/comedy-of-errors-bringing-a-server-back-from-the-dead.aspx

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