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Community Newsletter: Q&A forum: 6/10/05 Trouble accessing old hard drive in new computer

by: Lee Koo (ADMIN) June 9, 2005 9:24 AM PDT

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6/10/05 Trouble accessing old hard drive in new computer

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) ModeratorCNET staff - 6/9/05 9:24 AM

Thank you everyone for your great submissions this week! Wayne I hope these members' answers to your question give you some direction to help solve the mystery of accessing your old hard drive. If you have a moment please swing by and tell us exactly what solution worked for you, so that others in the futureif and when they do encounter the same type of scenario you have, they will have at least some sort of idea of what solution to go on.

Members, if you have additional advice for Wayne, please feel free to post them in this thread below. Have a great weekend!

-Lee Koo
CNET Community


My old computer died, so I bought a new one. I took my old hard drive out of my old computer to use it as a second hard drive in my new computer and to access the data stored on my old drive. After installing the old hard drive on my new Windows XP Home edition computer, I find that the only task the Disk Management feature will let me do is format my drive. Can anyone help or tell me how I can access the information on my old hard drive? My old drive had Windows XP Home edition on it also. Could this be the culprit?

Submitted by: Wayne S.


Wayne, let's not jump the gun and blame the folks in Redmond so quickly! In all likelihood, you are dealing with a hardware issue.

Windows XP's Disk Management utility is designed to enable you to perform disk-related tasks such as initializing new disks, and creating and formatting new volumes. Having said that, you should have been able to open or explore the contents of the drive through it, just like you would through My Computer. If the only option you were given was to format the old drive, your operating system might be detecting the hardware but not recognizing it correctly. Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell from your description whether the drive is being detected at all. What you are experiencing might be Windows XP's way of letting you know about an incorrect hard disk installation or some other hardware problem. For now, I will assume that your old hard drive is functional--a risky assumption given your first four words: "My old computer died."

The first thing you should do is visit the website of the manufacturer of your new computer, and look for a document discussing how to add a second hard drive to your system. You should find this information in the website's Support Section or Knowledge Base, or in your Owner's Manual under "Adding Parts" or "Upgrading Your Computer." In all likelihood, the document will feature illustrated, step-by-step instructions on how to add a drive. Just as important, it might alert you to potential issues you might encounter and suggest troubleshooting steps. Even if you consulted such a document while installing your drive, it wouldn't hurt to double check to make sure you did not skip any steps.

Hard drives are not exactly "plug-and-play" devices, and adding one requires a bit more work than merely plugging it in. Your computer might be failing to recognize the data present in your old drive if the drive jumper settings are incorrect, you failed to configure the system's setup (BIOS) after installing the second drive, or the latter is incompatible with the IDE data cable in your new computer. Let's examine these possibilities.

Drive Jumper Settings: There are two protocols used to determine the order in which IDE devices (such as hard drives and optical drives) attached to a single data cable are detected by the motherboard. The first protocol is known as the Master/Slave relationship, in which the position of jumper blocks adjacent to the drives' IDE connectors designate one device as the Master or Primary Boot Drive, and the other as the secondary or Slave drive. When you start your computer, the operating system in the Master drive will be loaded by default.

The second protocol is known as Cable Select. It assigns Master or Primary status based not on jumper block position, but rather on the location of a hard drive along the IDE data cable. The device plugged at the end connector of the cable is the Master drive, whereas that on the middle connector is the Slave drive.

Chances are your new PC supports the Cable Select protocol. But your old, defunct computer might have not, in which case the jumper setting on your old hard drive might be the cause of your present problem. If this is the case, visit the website of your old drive's manufacturer to find out the appropriate jumper configuration, and reposition the jumper block. Often times, the different jumper settings will be labeled on the drive itself.

Just as incorrect jumper settings will prevent your motherboard from detecting your drive, so will incorrect cable connections. Make sure your old drive is compatible with the data cable being used in your new computer, that the cables are oriented properly, and that they are securely in place. Again, the drive's manufacturer should provide the necessary information in its website.

If you rule out both drive jumper settings and incorrect connections as culprits, check your computer's BIOS. Configuring your BIOS (Basic Input/Output Service) is often, though not always, a necessary step when adding a second hard drive, and one that can be easily overlooked. Consult your computer's documentation or manufacturer's website for information on how to enter setup and configure your BIOS. I know I am being repetitive, but there is a good reason for my not providing step-by-step instructions here: The BIOS is critical to your computer's performance, so you need to carefully follow the instructions for your specific computer and BIOS version. Generic advice in this area might leave you with another dead PC!

If everything else fails, consider the possibility that your old hard drive is defective - that the reason your old computer "died" was that your old hard drive kicked the bucket. You might be able to obtain diagnostic tools from its manufacturer's website to corroborate or rule out this conclusion. You might be able to salvage most (if not all) data, though you will require the services of a company that specializes in that sort of thing. It might be easier - and considerably cheaper - to restore your data from your back up discs. You have been backing up your data, right?

Hopefully your old drive is fine and you will be able to access it after tweaking the jumper blocks or performing another of the aforementioned troubleshooting steps. I would strongly suggest that you copy its contents to the newer drive, especially since it is likely to be larger and faster. Then use your old drive as a place for backups (though you should still consider removable media for this task), or as a dedicated drive for storing multimedia files or pictures.

Good luck!

Submitted by: Miguel K. of Columbus, Ohio

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