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Motherboard/SATA controller help. Please!

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I have an off the shelf HP machine with an Asus M2N78-LA motherboard. (just out of warranty of course) Yesterday, out of the blue the machine quit responding. I contacted HP support and the tech determined I had a hard drive failure. I immediately went out and bought a new Seagate SATA drive. Now the fun begins....
What the tech didn't realize is that my optical drive was also not detected in the BIOS, and being a relative beginner, I didn't know it should be. So after calling tech support back they are indicating I probably have a mother board failure of some type. This morning I checked the BIOS listing and both the new HD and my optical drive were listed. So i tried reinstalling Vista with a CD. No deal. I immediately went back to the BIOS page and only the HD was listed, not the optical. After powering down and back up again, neither drive was listed.
At this point I am thinking there may be a problem with the SATA controller on the motherboard. Is this a reasonable assumption?
Also if this is the problem can I use a pci based SATA card to reconnect my drives and get working again without a significant loss of performance?
Any help would be greatly appreciated.. Thank You!!
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