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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | The Troubleshooting Expert | Troubleshooting Specific Components | Troubleshooting Hard Disk Drives | Booting or Operation Problems ]

The hard disk won't autodetect at boot time

Explanation: The hard disk is supposed to be dynamically autodetected by the BIOS when the system boots, but the system does not detect it. It either hangs the boot process at the stage where the IDE drive should be autodetected, or it says that there is no disk connected (possibly after a long pause while it searches for the device.)

Diagnosis: One possibility is that the BIOS settings to enable boot-time autodetection are not correct. If the settings are correctly entered, then there is a problem either with the hard disk or with its connection to the hard disk controller or motherboard. (Note that some older drives will not autodetect properly at all, but we're talking very old equipment here.)

Note: SCSI hard disks are detected and set up differently. You will need to consult your SCSI controller documentation for help with problems related to SCSI devices.


  • Enter the BIOS setup program and attempt to manually autodetect the hard disk in question. This will test to see if the hard disk can be seen by the hard disk controller. If the disk cannot be autodetected using the autodetect feature in the BIOS program then you should continue here for more troubleshooting of the disk and controller themselves.
  • Assuming that the hard disk will autodetect in the BIOS, and you want it to autodetect at boot time, make sure that the disk type is set to "Auto" (the actual settings and values may vary by system, but this is the most common).
  • Make sure that the disk really isn't being autodetected at boot time. It is possible that the BIOS may autodetect the drive but just not report what it finds when the system boots. Check the system configuration summary that prints when the BIOS boots. If the disk is listed there correctly then even if there is no report about the detected drive at boot time, it is being detected (assuming that the BIOS setting is correct.)
  • It is possible that if the hard disk is being sought at boot time too quickly, the hard disk isn't ready when the BIOS tries to access it.
  • If the system will still not autodetect the drive at boot time, I would suspect a problem with the hard disk controller and troubleshoot it.
  • It is possible that there is a more general problem with the motherboard, but that is unlikely.

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