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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 is an apparent failure of the hard disk; the hard disk is not bootable nor accessible at all

Explanation: There is a general failure of the hard disk. Either an error message is being displayed indicating a failed disk at boot time, or some other wholesale problem is either preventing access to the hard disk, preventing it from booting, or making it impossible to detect the drive in the BIOS setup program. If the drive won't boot but is accessible after booting from a floppy, look here.

Diagnosis: There are many different causes of apparent hard disk failures. Sometimes the problem is the disk itself, but just as often it is a configuration or other problem.


  • The first thing to check for is whether or not the hard disk can be seen by the hard disk controller; usually on a true hard disk failure, the disk will not be detectable by the controller (but this is not always the case). Assuming you have an IDE hard disk, enter the BIOS setup program and use the IDE detection facility of the BIOS to see if the disk's parameters can be detected. 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. Failure to detect the disk usually implies immediately some sort of hardware problem. Note that SCSI disks are set up through the SCSI controller, but here again, you need to see if the disk is recognized.
  • If you can see the hard disk when you autodetect, the problem is more likely to be software than hardware. Remember that you cannot usually boot a brand new hard disk until it has been partitioned and formatted.
  • See if the disk will boot up. If it will not boot, then boot from a floppy boot disk and then use the FDISK command (or other partitioning software) to see if you can see the disk. If you can see the drive, continue here.
  • If the drive will boot up, then you should be getting a more specific error message of some sort, or a more specific failure mode that you can use for troubleshooting. Look here for error messages.
  • If the drive is detected in the BIOS setup but cannot be booted or accessed when booting from a floppy disk, then there is a good chance that the disk itself may be bad. I would, if possible, try connecting the hard disk to another system and see if the problem is present there as well. If so, I would contact technical support for the hard disk, because the drive may be bad. If the problem goes away, then there is something wrong with the setup in your PC that is causing the hard disk to misbehave. If you've exhausted other options, you may want to read through the troubleshooting section for when the drive cannot be detected. Some of the problem causes here can also be responsible for problems even when the drive can be seen by the BIOS, though they are less common in this situation.
  • If the hard disk is dead and you have a concern about data on it, look here.

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