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Primary hard drive not found

normanml asked
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-05-18
On an XP Pro Dell Optiplex, I sometimes -- only sometimes --  get the bios messege "Primary hard drive 1 not found" etc. This usually happens on restart. Sometimes this happens after I have plugged in and removed a sandisk flash drive to a USB extension cord. Sometimes it happens troubleshooting other device problems. The possibilites: although I have not played with the HD cables at all, one of them may be lose and on checking I missed it; the machine I'm using I inherited, reformatted, reinstalled XP, updated all drives including the flash bios. Somewhere along the line the bios settings might have been...what...corrupted. But none of the above makes sense because, as far as I recall, I never get the messege on bootup. Only on restart. I don't get it. Any help would be greatly appreciated.  
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One thing you should check if you open the case. Look to the Memory area, please let me how many slots of memory there? Suppose to be 4 slots! and how many memory stick there? if you have two seating on 2 slots (next together), then move one to other available slot. Restart see if there is better? If work, I will let you know why.

You mentioned that you flashed BIOS! this is only last option in trouble shooting (my opinion) ... otherwise, should not.
This is something you will likely  have to live with for as long as you own this system.  Almost 10% of  older motherboards do not do a warm reboot correct, these kind of problems surface only on a reboot, not a shutdown.  We see many MBs that will not even warm reboot at all.  But if you shut them off, they work fine, and they always boot flawlessly.  This is a flaw in the BIOS, and Dell is famous for very bad, poorly tested BIOSes.  Yes it can be fixed, if Dell could be bothered.  Yes you might be able to fix it by flashing the BIOS to a newer version (make sure you know how to do this correct, before you try), but in the end, if they never fixed the problem, no, you cant fix it, just live with it.  Once you realize it is only a BIOS logic problem, you get used to just shutting the system off, and not worrying about it.  If you want to worry, look for a BIOS update for the MB, and NEVER press the power button during the BIOS flashing !!

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Also, I add, this is often affected by the OS.  Some boards warm boot fine with w98 or W95 but wont warm boot in XP, sometimes the opposite.  This is microsoft writing to a power management interface that is not adhered to by the MB chipset, or windows gives the wrong command for the chipset that is really on the board.  Still, it is left to the mfg, in this case, Dell, to fix the incompatibility.  You will never see microsoft coming out with a warm boot fix for any boards that dont work with their new OSs.  They leave that to the system mfgs, microsoft is too important to worry about hardware specifics like that.
Most Valuable Expert 2015

Things to try, change the power (molex connector) on the HD. These often don't make good contact, possibly during a reboot when the system is warm the metal contacts may be more loose while cold. Also press the metal contacts close together, that might improve the situation. Test the harddidk, particularly if it is a maxtor, using the manufacturer's utility, and if you get errors, copy the important data off and replace the HD, if possible don't use a maxtor HD as replacement.
Distinguished Expert 2019

could be a bad ide cable too; did you try another one yet?
you can also swap the power cable to the disk.
Check the BIOS settings. Set HDD as the primary booting devise.

Only sometimes? After a reboot ?

Check for "dead" memory chip !

Take out one by one and go trying them out, till you are sure which one is it !

Best Regards


I took scratchyboy's answer because it forced me to make tests I should have made in the first place: to wit, that USB extension cord. I put it in five times and tried to reboot, then removed it and everything was fine. Occured to me then, reading Scratcy's posts, that the USB ports were on the motherboard, which was reading the extension cord as a missing hard drive. Go figure. Thinking about all this some more, it then occured to me to get a PCI USB 2 card, which I'm betting, won't exhibit the same beavior when I plug the USB extension cord into it.
Gald you found the problem, first time I hear of USB stopping warm boot, but not impossible, because it is a systemboard-level serial device.  Even with new PCI-USB, still look if a BIOS update exists.  Good luck.


I was WRONG. Same thing happened this a.m. without the extension cord. And again, etc. I called Dell, ran their hardware diagnostics. No red flags. Tech support agreed with you, Scratchcyboy, sort of. Something with the motherboard, they said. Brilliant! Then the tech said the motherboard may "go." 'Bout that time I hung up. I know the case is closed but do I have anything to worry about. From your post apparently not. I inhreited this machine from my son. I reformatted the HD and reinstalled the OS. I updated all the drivers and the bios and chipset. Unless you advise otherwise, I'll just continue to continue. Let me know, please. Would appreciate it. PS: Doesn't setting the HD to primary boot device diable the A and CD-ROM drive, which you need to recover from a disaster?
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