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Do IDE boot drives need to be on the end of the cable?

Posted on 2003-03-13
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Hi,

After three months of rolling error messages and successive Windows (ME) installations crashing in flames we finally took my son's Duron 800Mhz machine back to the shop.

They said the problem was that we had put the boot drive (with Windows) at the MIDDLE of the IDE cable (these are ATA66/100 Seagate drives) and the extra drive at the END of the cable.

All jumpers had been set right. That was not the problem.

They charged us though for reinstalling Windows (again, which we could have done), having formatted the drive without asking (oh God ALWAYS backup everything important before handing your drives to these people!)

I eventually dragged a work warranty out of the manager.

I need to know is there any truth in this "the boot drive must be at the end of the IDE cable" story? I have never heard it before, and the computer looks as unstable as ever after an evening wrestling with it

Daniel
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Question by:danw95
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stevemjp earned 1000 total points
ID: 8127839
No he is talking bollox. I have built 100's of PC's and am currently Senior Network Support on a large company n/w and have never come across this.

If it is true then I'd be amazed.

If you jumper the drives as master/slave the psoition doesn't matter. If you jumper them as CS (Cable Select) then the position does matter, but only to determine which one is the master and which one is the slave.

No - it really doen't make a difference which position it's in as long as the BIOS sees the drive you wish to boot from as the Primary master. You can check this in the BIOS.

Also make sure that the BIOS was set to the right type of HDD. I always set mine to Auto.

Finally my advice would be (and possibly the real cause of the problem) Get rid of Windows ME as soon as poss. Get yourself something reliable, supoorted and stable such as 2000 or XP.

I have only ever come across problems with ME. Urgggh - it's horrible.


Hope this helps.


Stevemjp ;)
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Expert Comment

by:Covenant
ID: 8127879
Agree with stevemip - Even Win98SE is better than WinME in reliability terms.

Bite the bullet and buy some extra ram and WinXP and you should never look back.

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by:stevemjp
ID: 8128041
hear hear Covenant - I'd rather use win95 than ME. Come to think of it I've never come across any operating system as quirky or unstable as ME.

There, I'll get down from my soap box now and get back t work!!
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Expert Comment

by:aLk0
ID: 8128175
Depends on BIOS. If your bios have a selection between a number of hard drives to boot than there is no reason for any special connections, if you are not using UDMA66 or greater mode. But if you are using UDMA66 then master must be on edge and slave on the middle of the cable. Also it can be motherboad BIOS version misfeature.
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by:Adam Leinss
ID: 8128782
It depends on what type of jumpering was used.

If master/slave jumpering was used, then no, it doesn't matter where you put the drive on the cable.

If cable select jumpering was used, then yes, it matters where you put the drive (see http://www.pcguide.com/ref/hdd/if/ide/confCS-c.html)

I find it hard to believe they would use cable select jumpering, so it's more likely that stevemjp is right and they are talking "bollox".

Also, in terms of the backup, most shops have you sign off a disclaimer stating that you do not want the system backed up.  Regular rates are ~$60/hour, so you probably would want to back up your important data yourself rather then have them do it any ways.
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by:stevemjp
ID: 8128866
sorry - i disagree with alk0. i have a udma133 drive on the middle position and it works fine.
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by:fmkjr
ID: 8129473
the boot drive (master for that channel) should be at the end just because its the right place for the drive in the chain as per the spec on cable select jumpering. However the shop could be right depending on what type of hd you have because certian older seagates and western digitals dont play well with others. I have seen both of these drives act in odd ways when combined with some one elses drive example (have an older 15 gig wd and a 30 gig maxtor which would not run correctlly until i made the wd master and placed it last on the cable) this has as much to do with the drivers as it does the controller. Moral of the story is place the drives on the cable correctly all the time and you eliminate one more thing that could be a strange prob.
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Expert Comment

by:Adam Leinss
ID: 8129602
Placing the master at end is more convention then anything.  However, if you open any PC, it's usually setup that way.
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by:Baddog
ID: 8130315
The theory of master end/slave middle came with the advent of the ATA-66 controller and the ATA-66 (80-pin) cable.  Have several of these cables laying around where the end connector says "master" and the middle connector sats "slave". Granted, this is based, as stated above, on the drive jumper setting to the CS (cable select) positon. Most of the drives that I have purchased lately, have had the jumper set to CS by default. So I wonder if this how they test them. Anyways, I always set the master on the end (if a 1 drive configuration) and master/slave based on drive position in the case. So, in short, the master drive will work whether in the middle connector or the end connector, if master/slave jumpers are correctly set.


Note:  I did come accross a couple of systems (this goes back several years though) where even with the jumper set to correct master/slave relationship, the middle drive showed as slave (even though I had it set to master) and vice-versa on the end drive.  This may have been an early glitch as I have not seen this on newer boards.

Just did a little test on a PC I am putting together. Have W2K loaded on Master drive (middle connector) and another drive at the end connector (Slave). No problems booting.....will run some diagnostic tests to see if it locks up....more to follow....

BDog
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Expert Comment

by:rid
ID: 8130410
I think most things are covered here, but I'll throw in a comment anyway:

Having the Master or single drive at the end of the cable is not necessary, as far as I know (support from other experts here), but it may be sound cabling technique in a general way. The unused part of the cable that will just hang about if you have a single drive in the middle, is not a preferable situation in high-frequency circuits. It amounts to a length of unterminated cable, and can cause signal deterioration due to reflection phenomena and unsuitable damping characteristics. If other negative factors are present, this could, just possibly, have an effect on stability for high speed drives.

Regards
/RID
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Author Comment

by:danw95
ID: 8133378
Well thankyou for all the comments & opinions,

There DOES seem to be some conflict as to whether drive position matters with ATA66 drives, though the majority seems to tend to wards the "bollocks" phenomenon (BTW never use that term with mad Welsh ex-coalminer types, as you may know it has a literal meaning as does "fanny" in Britain and they can use such retorts as an excuse for some very crazy threats. Luckily these computer people aren't Welsh Coalminers, as the word "bollocks" did come to my own mind when they were talking to me).

Some clarifying data:

Yeah we tried the added RAM and go to Win XP route. We went up to 512Mb. But that was when the problems STARTED. Famously rock solid Win XP started going all flakey and blue screened itself so much we went back to Win ME!

This was also the time we added the 56Gb Seagate drive (bought c October 2002) to the 20Gb Seagate boot drive (bought c January 2001).

So this gives an idea of the ages of the drives.

I never use Cable Select on my drives. Just Master & Slave & set the jumpers & make sure BIOS recognises them, which is automatic in this case.

Is it possible 512Mb is TOO MUCH memory for Win ME to handle? Certainly the troubles seemed to have begun with the upgrade of memory and added HD last October, which was done for more power and not more stability. But the problems were first noticed with Win XP.

Well I'm doing yet another wipe reinstall today and we will see.

The shop (which up till now has been reliable) says they did full diagnostics on the memory, motherboard & CPU. It's very hard to find good hardware diagnostics outside professional circles. Rather like a closed secret.

I'm going to cross examine the actual tech who did the work again today.

I'm starting to think I should have paid by cheque so I could have stopped it. (Trouble is most of it would have gone in bank fees anyway!)

all the best

Daniel

 
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Expert Comment

by:Adam Leinss
ID: 8133549
Sounds like you got a bad memory stick.  This usually manifests itself more in 2000/XP then 9x.  Try switching out the memory.
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Author Comment

by:danw95
ID: 8133601
Good idea
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Expert Comment

by:robjob
ID: 8134987
try www.memtest86.com to test your memory although be sure to make the boot disk it needs in dos not windows as this can cause problems
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Expert Comment

by:ryanthemadone
ID: 8136153
STOP PRESS

I'll admit I haven't read all the way through this article yet, but, and it may have already been said, if a drive is the only drive on a cable and it is in the middle and there is definitely no drive on the end then signal reflection can occur, normally this will result in transmission retrys and will just slow the system down.

If it is a single drive it should be on the end of the cable, the new serialATA standard does away with such worries.

Ryan.
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Expert Comment

by:PHOENIX
ID: 8136253
It has been my experience that the positioning of the drives on the cable is more a function of their physical location in the case and the ease of routing, rather than whether the drive is master or slave.
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by:Covenant
ID: 8136281
WinXP is much more sensitive to hardware faults than Win9x - if you had constant blue screens trying to install WinXP this could be symptomatic of an underlying fault.

Also WinME does not handle memory of 512mb or more very well at all.
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Author Comment

by:danw95
ID: 8141278
The problem with Win XP was long after installation. It ran fine for a few weeks.

Last night I took out the 512Mb extra memory, formatted the C drive and reinstalled Win ME using the original 128 Mb stick.

What occured was rather spooky.

A VERY UNEXPECTED TWIST:

The installation went fine and I thought all had been fixed - faulty 512 Mb stick (I had the memory wrong above- the system had 512 + 128 = 640Mb).

Installing & updating Norton AntiVirus went fine. I wanted that running before any surfing with the CABLE MODEM.

I did all the MS upgrades of Internet Explorer and the "critical updates." No error messages.

Then I went to the Winamp site

and got a "Windows Explorer has casued an error and will now close" but there was none of the usual signs of Windows Explorer crashing (like losing the Systray and problems navigating).

My son and I considered it a false message emanating from the net. But maybe it was shot #1.

Then soon after an "MSGRV3232 has caused an error in KERNEL386.EXE." error. Several of them.

I think that is Messenger (?). I has installed that about ten minutes before and it was loaded but not connected. That error message was common before past crashes.

Then a new one to me: error messages about VERSION.DLL.

Within about ten seconds every module of Windows ceased operation claiming they were "The wrong Windows version"

On restart windows scan disk failed to work - "wrong version."

It seemed to me someone through the cable modem attacked the computer and very effectively destroyed the Windows system.

I also realised that my son HAD made some enemies on-line in the last year, some were very definitely hackers.

I'm going to run that memory test programs on both memory sticks (thankyou robjob), but I more and more suspect there is a cyberattack by someone possibly using his own Java rather than known viruses.

We trialled several firewalls when we first went over to Cable two years ago and they all caused too many problems.

Looks like we will have consider them again, or what?

Daniel



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by:ykchick
ID: 8141467
What firewalls have you tried? I've been using ZoneAlarm and been happy, but then I don't have any hacker enemies.

I was reading a computer mazagine sometime in the last couple of weeks and it had a comparison/review of 5 firewalls. Unfortunately, it's at work, but if you want the name and issue I can get it for you when I'm in over the weekend or else Monday morning.
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Author Comment

by:danw95
ID: 8141643
Thanks ychick, info on the magazine would be much appreciated as well as any pointers to good firewalls (ones my son can play games through??? if they exist).

In any case the discussions in answer to this question have thrown up several new lines, which I will need to pursue with separate questions.

One of the most urgent as far as I can see is does Win ME really have problems with so much RAM - 612Mb.

Meanwhile I'm going to do another format - reinstall (Ughh Phew, must be the 13th in four months!) with the internet cable unplugged for a few days during torture testing.

Then we'll see.

Daniel

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Author Comment

by:danw95
ID: 8142578
And NOW:

I don't live with my son. I spend huge chunks of time over there (often on this darned computer recently) but get news sometimes a bit late.

Well the morning after the above described crash and burn of the Windows OS on his machine - which left it unbootable and I had to go home (at 1:30am) he booted it up and it worked fine on the net for an hour until he simply ended his Windows session & turned the machine off. NO error messages, nothing wrong.

Before I go out to look for a young priest and an old priest :-S - can anyone suggest how a machine of LOGIC (ha!) can act this way?

It's this sort of intermittent crazy behaiviour of the computer that has led me to discount the cyber-attack theory for so long.

Well the tests mentioned in the last comment disconnected from the net may tell something...

Aghhhhhh......

Daniel
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by:Adam Leinss
ID: 8144001
Hmm, this is an interesting one.  I would think it could be a flaky motherboard, power supply or the power itself.  Buy an outlet tester and test your sons power outlet.  Here's an interesting story from Upgrading & Repairing PCs by Scott Mueller:

"Once, while running one of my PC troubleshooting seminars, I used a system that I literally could not approach without locking it up. Whenever I walked past the system, the electrostatic field generated by my body interfered with the system and the PC locked up, displaying a parity-check error message. The problem was that the hotel at which I was giving the seminar was very old and had no grounded outlets in the room. The only way I could prevent the system from locking up was to run the class in my stocking feet because my leather-soled shoes were generating the static charge."
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Expert Comment

by:robjob
ID: 8144051
Dodgy motherboard is certainly possible. I also suspect a possible overheating problem... do you come across more errors/crashses after the computer has been on for a while? If so check the heatsink and fan on the processor are mounted properly as well as the system fan.

Rob
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Author Comment

by:danw95
ID: 8145079
Yes the motherboard is the main thing I asked the shop to run a diagnostic on and they swore it was all OK. Since the computer is out of warranty it would be in their interest to sell me a new motherboard.

Well I have many hours of testing to do.

Daniel
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by:ykchick
ID: 8164331
It sounds like this isn't going to help your current problem, but here's the information on the firewall article I mentioned:


Network Computing
Feb 20, 2003
www.nwc.com (from their cover - don't know if the article is available on their site)

Article: "Defense Starts Here" by Michael DeMaria, pp 57-66

Reviews the following 5 desktop firewalls:

-Sygate Technologies Sygate Secure Enterprise 3.0
-Zone Labs Integrity 2.0
-ISS RealSecure Desktop Protector 3.5
-Securitae CMDS 2.2
-Symantec Security Center

Sorry it took me so long - I was at work twice on the weekend plus yesterday, but I kept forgetting to grab that magazine.

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Author Comment

by:danw95
ID: 8164663
Thanks ychick,

This computer utterly baffles me. It's going to take some time to isolate the cause of the odd behaiviour.

Daniel
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Author Comment

by:danw95
ID: 8251049
Thanks to stevemjp and all the many other experts who contributed to this question.

After many diagnostics drew a blank for the cause of the problems my son installed Win 2000 very late at night and while very tired (normally not a good time!) the system installed Win2000 onto drive D, leaving the Win ME on drive C.

So far the system has been OK. TOUCH LOTS of WOOD. Though I think we'll reinstall on C as there is a problem with the on motherboard sound which seems to have gone back to the installation method of that device.

The boot files are probably still on the C drive but it's very clear the "boot drive position must be at the end of the IDE cable" proposition from the shop is bollocks.

Daniel
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