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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | The Troubleshooting Expert | Troubleshooting Specific Components | Troubleshooting Hard Disk Drives | Windows Issues ]

I am having problems with the system after installing PCI IDE bus mastering drivers

Explanation: In an attempt to improve performance on your system under Windows 95, you have installed PCI bus mastering IDE drivers. After installation, problems are being exhibited ranging from hard disks not working correctly or being recognized, CD-ROM drives not working, general system instability, or other issues.

Diagnosis: In my opinion, setting up bus mastering IDE under Windows 95 has the lowest value (measured as the ratio of true performance improvement to implementation hassle and cost) of just about anything you can do to optimize your machine. There are so many different problems that they cause, and so many pieces of hardware and software they don't work with, that I no longer bother with them due to the minuscule improvements I see when using them. In short, if the problem appears after installing these drivers, I generally recommend uninstalling and forgetting about them. Below I list some specific gotchas and incompatibilites to watch out for. When you see how long it is (and I am sure that it is not comprehensive) you will know why I don't bother with these drivers any more.

Recommendation: First of all, read this section in the Reference Guide that discusses the requirements for running PCI IDE bus mastering. Then also read this section on IDE bus mastering in general. Then, consult the list below for possible specific causes of your problems; you may find something here that will help you fix the trouble, but it is just as likely that you will simply find confirmation that they just are not going to work with your PC:

  • Make sure that your hard disk is working properly before you attempt to install these drivers. This ensures making sure that it is virus-free and stable. Make sure the operating system and the PC as a whole are working well before you start, or you may end up with a confusing mess of symptoms, some of which may be driver-related and some not.
  • Bus mastering drivers are simply not compatible with many types of hard disks (especially older ones) and ATAPI devices such as CD-ROM drives. Check the "read me" file that comes with the bus mastering drivers and see if yours is listed.
  • These drivers will often not support non-CD-ROM ATAPI devices such as tape drives, IDE Zip drives, etc.
  • Bus mastering drivers generally do not work with hard disks using dynamic drive overlays to allow access to hard disks larger than 504 MB (these should not be necessary on most motherboards that will work with these drivers anyway).
  • Some drivers are not compatible with some motherboards, period.
  • Sometimes a newer release of these drivers will not work while an older one does. You may want to try restoring to the older set of drivers. Check your motherboard manufacturer's home page for possibly more information.
  • Look for a set of bus mastering drivers specific to your motherboard. These are often found at the motherboard manufacturer's home page. They may work better than the generic Intel drivers, under some circumstances.
  • Some CD-ROM drives will not work with these drivers installed if they are the only drives on either the primary or secondary IDE channels. They may have to be configured as a slave to a hard disk.
  • The bus mastering drivers will generally not work if there is an add-on IDE controller installed on the system. If you have a sound card for example with an IDE interface, you will need to disable it or remove the bus mastering drivers. If you have a third-party add-in IDE controller, it may not work.
  • You may need to remove any special device drivers designed for controlling IDE hard disks or ATAPI CD-ROM drives that are loaded in your CONFIG.SYS file. Note that this will make it impossible for you to use your CD-ROM drive after doing a "Restart the computer in MS-DOS mode". You will have to reboot the PC into a custom configuration and then reboot again (which is a pain in the butt). See here for more details.
  • The drivers may not function if the IDE cables used are too long. If the cables are near the maximum allowable length (18 inches) then try shortening them.
  • If you need to uninstall the bus mastering drivers, follow the instructions in the "read me" file that accompanied them. An uninstall facility may be included. However, in some cases you will be forced to reinstall Windows 95 to rid yourself of these drivers (another reason why I don't like them).

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