A client reported that his computer (a Gateway 550GR w/ P4, 512RAM, 200GB SATA I Drive, WinXPHome) would not boot; the computer would boot into the 'Choose Startup Mode' screen, attempt to boot Windows and then spontaneously reboot.
When I arrived onsite, I started it up and found that it wouldn't even go that far. The first time I tried, I got a 'Missing or corrupted NTLDR' error. The second time, the machine displayed the 'Choose Startup Mode' screen, then froze.
Fearing that the drive might be at fault, my first thought was to backup the data, so I brought it back to the shop, removed the drive and installed it as a slave in my office machine's PCI --> SATA card (and connected to power using a SATA power connecter). When I started it, I found that the office computer would not boot from a cold-start with this drive connected. I also tried starting the office computer and then hot-plugging the drive in (power-up first, then connect SATA power and data cables in that order); this caused the machine to periodically pause as it tried to access the drive. It couldn't. I couldn't access the drive in the 'My Computer' window or see it in 'Device Manager'.
I checked the specs of the drive and my PCI card and realized that the PCI card was a 150Mbps card and the drive was a 300Mbps drive. I reset the drive's jumper to 'Force 150' mode and tried again. The results were the same.
In an effort to see if the drive would function at all, I put it back in the client's computer and tried to start it, but got a 'S.M.A.R.T. Command Failed' error, followed by a 'Disk Read Error', if I attempted to continue the startup process.
I had read a number of online articles that suggested that SATA I is a hot-pluggable technology (which agreed with what I thought I knew) and that compatibility should not be an issue between SATA I devices (though readability would be problematic, if the data rate wasn't set properly). For this reason, I felt comfortable attempting to hot-plug the drive.
I am inclined to think that the drive was failing already and that my initial failure to detect that the card and drive functioned at different transfer rates, though an oversight, didn't contribute to the drive's failure. On the other hand, I have seen some threads, on various forums, that suggest that not all SATA devices are hot-pluggable or compatible. If I have, in some way, damaged the client's drive, I would feel responsible for making the client as whole as the situation permits.
If anyone has any suggestions as to how the drive might be made accessible (at least long enough to copy the data) I would be very grateful. Beyond that, if I have done something that contributed to the drive's failure, I would like to know that, as well, so that I can act with integrity and responsibility toward my client in this situation.
I'd also like to know what limitations, if any, there are in terms of 'hot-pluggability' and compatibility between SATA devices. I did a considerable amount of reading on the web, but have found little in the way of 'rules of thumb' in this regard.
Thanks much for your time, energy and help.