Hard drives gone wild!

Welcome to Just Ask Matt! – The IT industry’s answer to the help column, only slightly more medicated. Today, Nicolas writes:

I have an old Pentium that needs a hard drive and CD-ROM. I added both pieces and only the CD-ROM runs; though the (3)hard drives I tried are spinning, nothing shows up on the monitor. I have checked connections and the power, and do not have an idea. I would appreciate any advice.


The one thing I did not see in these comments is whether or not you checked the master/slave jumper settings. On the back of IDE drivers (optical and hard disk), you have little pins. Most of the time, you will find a little piece of plastic on them designed to distinguish if a drive is to operate as the master or the slave on an IDE chain.

What you need to do is figure out what brand and model hard drives you have. Then go to the manufacturers’ Web sites in order to find the proper jumper settings for those drives. (Check your IDE cables, too, while you are at it. Do not use those ultra IDE cables and be sure to make sure things are set to PIO mode, not DMA.)

Now for the BIOS settings. If you go into your BIOS, are you seeing them in there at all? Since this is an old system, it is likely you are going to have to do some research in order to find the right settings to help the BIOS see the drives. Also keep in mind that this is an older board. This means that you have a LOT stacked against you here. The board’s BIOS might not even support the size drive you are trying to use. In other words, check out the motherboard’s support site for drive support info. Hope this puts you on the right track, and remember, power supplies are cheap. Do not try to power all of that hardware with a weak PSU! Good luck!

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