Hard drive does not detect and has disappeared?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader LaVerne B. writes:

" Approximately two months ago my computer suddenly stopped recognizing my D Drive. What should I do to correct this problem?? I have tried uninstalling and reinstalling the hardware; however, I still have the predicament! "

My response:

This sounds like it might be a hardware problem. What I am about to suggest may not be the most 'correct' answer, but will surely set you in the right direction. Having said that, here are some probable reasons as to why your drive is no longer working:

  1. The drive is not configured / plugged in properly.
  2. The BIOS needs to be adjusted to detect the drive.
  3. A cable connecting the drive to the rest of the computer may be damaged.
  4. The hard drive controller on your motherboard may be damaged.
  5. The master boot record on the drive is damaged / the head has crashed on the drive.
  6. The drive might be dead.


1. Ensure that the drive is plugged in and the cables are not backwards. Also check to see that the drive is properly configured using the Master / Slave / Cable Select jumpers. If you don't know how to jumper a drive, consider reviewing my guide on How to Install a Hard Drive.

2. Go into your BIOS and ensure that Autodetect is set for the I/O port the drive is on, or use the IDE hard drive detection utility. If you cannot get into your BIOS because it is password protected, you can reset it with the CMOS jumper (review your motherboard manual for details), or you can boot into DOS and run a utility called killcmos.com.

If your computer cannot boot into DOS from your hard drive, you will need to boot from floppy using a Startup Disk. In this case, you can download a Windows 98 First Edition Startup Disk from bootdisk.com.

Please also be aware that some virus scanners may falsely identify killcmos.com as a virus and may prevent you from downloading the file to your computer. To get around this, temporarily disable your virus scanner and extract the file to the Startup Disk (killcmos.com comes zipped).

Side Note: An I/O port is an "input output" port, which is where the hard drive connects to. Don't know what the difference between CMOS and BIOS is? Want to see what a CMOS jumper looks like? Read this Gazette article.

3. Try another power / hard drive cable.

4. Change I/O ports on your motherboard and re-detect the drive in CMOS. If the I/O port is damaged, you can buy an I/O card replacement from a local computer store.

5. Attempt to repair the Master Boot Record by booting from a Windows Startup disk and type in 'FDISK.EXE /MBR' (no quotes) from the command line. FDISK.EXE comes standard with Windows 98 (First Edition) Startup Disks; you can download a Startup Disk image from bootdisk.com.

If the drive you are attempting to recover was formatted using NTFS file system, you can boot from a Windows 2000 / XP install disc and enter the Recovery Console. When the Recovery Console appears, run the command FIXBOOT or FIXMBR.

If you cannot retrieve the master boot record using one of the above suggestions, you can try and low level format your hard drive using a utility called maxllf.exe (developed by Maxtor Corporation). Note: This program will overwrite the Master Boot Record [MBR], verify the drive's integrity, and completely wipe out all data on the drive.

If maxllf.exe finishes without any errors, the drive is (hopefully) usable again and you will need to define your drive letters (I.E.: drive partitions) using FDISK.EXE. If you don't know how to use FDISK, the "How to Install a Hard Drive" explains all of this in detail (in simple English). I also have a guide on How to Install Windows if you plan to install Windows to this drive:

6. Contact the manufacturer. The drive may still be under warranty and you should be able to get it replaced within a few days / week using an advanced shipment method (requires a major credit card).

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