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Reviving my P4 desktop after HD corruption


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#1
rch427

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First, let me get this out of the way: I'm stupid when it comes to complicated matters like computer hardware and software. I've been lucky sometimes, but not so at others. More on that later.

My computer is a put-together desktop based on an Intel P4 (1ghz) with a 160gb HD, 512mb of RAM and running XP Pro. It was mostly put together by someone who knew what they were doing, from bits and pieces that were lying around, who gave it to me when he moved. One of the odd components was something called a "CoolDrive", a sort of aluminum heat-sink housing for the HD, with a built-in fan. When I got the computer, the HD in there was a 60gb Seagate.

A few months after I got it, I got a SMART failure on that drive, and had to buy a new (160gb) Seagate, and hired a tech to swap out the HD, install the OS and migrate my files (most of which were able to be salvaged). Then, a couple of months ago, I started getting what I called the "red stripe of death": a 60-pixel (or so) red stripe across the top of the screen, and the computer locking up. Nothing would restore it except being rebooted. Sometimes it would just spontaneously reboot without the stripe.

Admittedly, I tend to run a lot of apps at the same time, or use Firefox with 20 or more tabs open. Anyway, last week, I got a "disk failure error" at boot, and I've been unable to get past that. I came to the conclusion that the "CoolDrive" device must not be working properly, thus causing both HDs to fatally overheat. And so today I bought a new Maxtor 120gb HD.

But while I was talking to the salesman, he asked how much RAM I had. He seemed quite sure that the problem was not the HD or the CoolDrive, but that I had insufficient RAM. He said that the shortage of RAM was causing my system files to become corrupted, and that I might be able to install the OS on the new drive and get it to work for a while before it also started getting corrupted by too-little RAM, but that inevitably, it too would go bad.

1. Does any of this make sense? Insufficient RAM causing HDs to go bad?

2. How much RAM does a 1ghz CPU and 120gb HD need?

3. The two sticks of RAM that I have in there are Kingston "KVR800X16/256" that are marked with stickers that say "evaluation". According to my Googling, these are 184-pin RAMBUS memory, RIMM, with a 800mhz memory bus speed. Are these 16 or 32-bit, single or dual-channel modules? The tech who fixed my system last time seemed to think that they were appropriate for my system.

4. I'm not in a position to spend a lot on another 1.5gb of RAM right now. Until I am, I would dearly love to be able to get my computer to work again (going easy on stressing it now!). How could I go about installing the new HD, installing the OS and migrating the files? (Yes, I'm kicking myself for not taking notes from the last time it was done by the tech.)

5. When I am able to buy more RAM, what are the variables I need to keep in mind? For example, the RAM I already have is "PC800", which I presume is the bus speed. If the additional sticks I buy are faster (such as 1066mhz), will that cause incompatibility problems?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

-- Robert

Edited by rch427, 25 November 2006 - 08:41 PM.

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#2
austin_o

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Hi and welcome to Geeks to Go. First, I think the salesman is just trying to sell you some RAM. While 512 megs of ram is not great, it is sufficient for WXP to run. It is not likely the cause of your hard drive problems. If you have sufficient case fans for cooling, the "cool drive" attachment to the hard drive is not necessary. It may well be as you suspect, that it is not working properly and is causing your hard drive to over heat and fail prematurely. I would suggest replacement of the hard drive, without the "cool drive"attachment. You can always add case fans if you need more cooling (they cost less than $20.00). Do you need more ram? Well, it is good if you can max out the motherboard ram slots if you can afford it. Do you need to? No. What will your motherboard support? You can find out by running some programs that will tell you all about your system components. Belarc Advisor is a good one. Search google for it. It is free. Everest Home is another one. You can get it at majorgeeks.com. Both of these will tell you the motherboard make and model. With that information, you can find out what type of and how much ram is supported.
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#3
rch427

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Thanks for the reply, Austin.

I have (had?) Everest on my computer, and used to use it, although I can't access it (or anything else) right now. When I manage to get the computer going again, I'll consult it for more info on RAM capabilities.

Yeah, I figured I didn't really need that CoolDrive unit, and have binned it. The case has two rather large fans (in addition to the CPU and PSU fans), so I doubt it was doing anything necessary for my HD; more likely preventing the case fan air from reaching it.

Now then: is this the correct forum to ask about how to install the new HD, install the OS and migrate my files? Or should I go to another forum?

Thanks again --

Robert
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#4
austin_o

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This is the place for your hardware questions. Installing a new hard drive is easy to do. I suspect you have an EIDE hard drive (it has a 40 pin flat ribbon cable). Open the case and take a look at the failed hd to make sure you get a replacement that will work. Set the jumper on your new hard drive to master (with no slave present, assuming you only have one hard drive). The hard drive will probably have a chart or diagram on it that tells how to set the jumper. Take the old hard drive out and install the new one. Before installing the os, you will need to access the bios and change the boot order to boot from cd first. Access to the bios is usually accomplished by pressing the del key as you boot up. Some systems use one of the F keys instead of the del key. Check your system or motherboard documentation to see which key to use. Once in the bios, change the boot order to boot from cd first, then save changes and exit. Put your windows install cd in the cd drive and reboot. You can the proceed with installing windows.

Edited by austin_o, 28 November 2006 - 07:58 AM.

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#5
rch427

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Austin --

Thanks for the additional info; I'm pleased to say that it worked. Now I need to try to put my old HD back into the case so I can migrate my old files over.. Is there anything I should know before I do this? I've set the jumper on the back of my new drive to "master", and removed the jumper from my old drive, which supposedly sets it to "slave".

Given the way that my old drive behaved up to the end, do you have any advice, or should I just plug-n-pray? Do I need to change the BIOS settings? Any other suggestions that might contribute to the success of the project?

-- Robert



This is the place for your hardware questions. Installing a new hard drive is easy to do. I suspect you have an EIDE hard drive (it has a 40 pin flat ribbon cable). Open the case and take a look at the failed hd to make sure you get a replacement that will work. Set the jumper on your new hard drive to master (with no slave present, assuming you only have one hard drive). The hard drive will probably have a chart or diagram on it that tells how to set the jumper. Take the old hard drive out and install the new one. Before installing the os, you will need to access the bios and change the boot order to boot from cd first. Access to the bios is usually accomplished by pressing the del key as you boot up. Some systems use one of the F keys instead of the del key. Check your system or motherboard documentation to see which key to use. Once in the bios, change the boot order to boot from cd first, then save changes and exit. Put your windows install cd in the cd drive and reboot. You can the proceed with installing windows.


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#6
austin_o

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Set the old hard drive to slave and then install it on the slave connector of the same EIDE cable that your master hd is installed on. If you look at the ribbon cable (EIDE cable) you will see it has three connectors of different colors. The blue connector is connected to your motherboard. The black conector is the master connector and goes to the master hard drive. The grey connector is the slave connector and can be used on your old hd when it is set to slave. Give that a shot. You may be able to recover files off of that drive. It is certainly worth a try.

Check the jumper setting on your master hd as well. It may have two "master" options, one master with no slave present, and the other master with slave present. If you install a slave, it needs to be master with slave present.

Edited by austin_o, 30 November 2006 - 07:46 AM.

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#7
rch427

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Well, I tried this, but unfortunately, after going through the first part of the boot-up process, it never made it as far as the desktop. After the blue WinXP screen, it went black. After about a minute of "thinking" sounds, the pointer appeared, but it would not move from the mouse. After a few more minutes of activity, and not responding to CTRL+ALT+DEL, I unplugged it and rebooted. This time, I went into the set-up menu and checked the hard drive settings. It was correctly configured, but it still wouldn't boot up any further than last time.

Any suggestions?

-- Robert



Set the old hard drive to slave and then install it on the slave connector of the same EIDE cable that your master hd is installed on. If you look at the ribbon cable (EIDE cable) you will see it has three connectors of different colors. The blue connector is connected to your motherboard. The black conector is the master connector and goes to the master hard drive. The grey connector is the slave connector and can be used on your old hd when it is set to slave. Give that a shot. You may be able to recover files off of that drive. It is certainly worth a try.

Check the jumper setting on your master hd as well. It may have two "master" options, one master with no slave present, and the other master with slave present. If you install a slave, it needs to be master with slave present.


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#8
austin_o

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It may be that there is just no hope for that old hard drive. You checked the bios and it is detected, so there is probably nothing wrong with the cable connections. Double check the jumper settings per my last post. If those are correct and it won't boot with that hd connected, try removing it and see if the system behaves normally. If the data on the old hd is important, there is the possibliity that a data recovery service can recover it for you, but that will cost you some money.
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