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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 ]

There appears to be a failure or problem with a hard disk controller

Explanation: There appears to be a failure of some sort with the hard disk controller. On modern systems the (IDE) hard disk controller is built into the motherboard; on an older system it is typically found as an expansion card. It is easy to tell which type you have by looking to see where the IDE cables go that are connected to the hard disk.

Diagnosis: Actual failures of the hard disk controller are relatively rare; usually the problem is either one of configuration and installation, or is actually the hard disk itself that is causing the problem.

Recommendation:

  • If your PC uses a separate hard disk controller, check all the connections to it. Try removing it from its slot and reinserting it; sometimes the card may not be seated properly and this will fix it. If possible, try switching the controller with another one and see if that fixes the problem.
  • If you just installed an add-in controller, make sure that it is jumpered correctly and set up to control the correct IDE channel. For example, you may have the add-in controller set to act as the primary, secondary or tertiary IDE channel. If you installed it into a PC that also has integrated controllers, make sure that those controllers are disabled or you may have a conflict if they both try to operate the same channel number.
  • Check for resource conflicts with the controllers on a built-in PC. They usually use IRQ 14 and IRQ15, and some devices may conflict with these, such as SCSI host adapters and network cards.
  • Watch out for sound cards that have built in IDE controllers that may be enabled even if you don't want them. Read the directions and make sure that the controller on the sound card is disabled so it does not conflict with other hardware, if you are not using it. Most Sound Blaster and compatible sound cards do have these controllers.
  • Bus mastering drivers can cause problems with older controller cards. They just may not work properly at all. See here for more on IDE bus mastering driver problems.
  • It is possible that there is a configuration or jumpering problem with one or more IDE devices that is causing this problem. I would follow this troubleshooting section that talks about how to diagnose a hard disk that cannot be detected, because many of the causes of that problem and this one are the same.
  • If the IDE controllers are built into the motherboard, there is a possibility of a motherboard problem (this is unusual, but could occur). You might want to troubleshoot the motherboard.

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