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POST freeze on AHCI SATA Device Enumeration

The following has so far happened to two PCs that had different makes of motherboard and different Intel CPUs and different hard drives.

1. PC running Windows 7 SP1 x64
2. 1TB SATA Hard drive *using AHCI* partitioned as follows:
    - Windows 7 System Partition (Primary) - no drive letter
    - Windows OS Partition (Primary) - C
    - Apps Partition (Primary) - D
    - 3 or more data partitions (Logical) - E etc
3. Also a SATA DVD or BluRay drive.
4. Shrink some space off the front of the first logical partition using third party partitioning software.
5. Extend the apps partition into this now unallocated space using the same software.

On subsequent reboot, the PC freezes during AHCI POST and it is not possible to enter BIOS or bring up a boot device menu.
If I disconnect the SATA cable I can then get at BIOS etc.  If I then set the SATA mode to IDE instead of AHCI the system now boots fine but I've now lost access to AHCI on this system.

Please note the freeze is occuring before the drive even boots so this is not the issue regarding the MSAHCI service in Windows.

What can have gone wrong that causes the AHCI BIOS to freeze when querying this drive and yet in IDE mode the thing boots normally and the partitions look healthy (and resized)?

(I know I could just "diskpart clean" the disk and start over to get AHCI back but I don't want to do that.  I would though like to find out what has gone wrong here.)

Does the fault lie with the MBR or the partition table or elsewhere?  How can I look into this?  Is there a way to safely grab a dump of the partition table and/or MBR and would I stand any chance of debugging it at all if I could?  Thanks!
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cantoris
Asked:
cantoris
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4 Solutions
 
danleinCommented:
I actually had this issue a while back and bookmarked this site... I believe it resolved the issue.  Was a pretty simple registry change.

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/922976

Lemme know how it works out.. I'm pretty sure that's the one that worked for me.  I have a couple other bookmarked ones when I had the issue.
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cantorisAuthor Commented:
Thanks for replying.  The thing you've posted is the MSAHCI Service thing I referred to.  The BIOS doesn't even begin to boot the OS so registry settings in it are irrelevant.
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danleinCommented:
K.  Missed that.  What software did you use to resize?  This seems to be where your error is occuring, correct? After resizing?
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cantorisAuthor Commented:
Easeus Partition Manager

http://forum.easeus.com/viewtopic.php?t=21792

I'm going round in circles there...
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danleinCommented:
Let me think about it.  At dinner now and replying from my phone.  It sounds as though their software botched the partitions, but that shouldnt cause a system freeze.  Ill take a look when i get home
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danleinCommented:
Go back into easeus and make sure partition is flagged active/primary.  In addition, if thats set, see if ur bios has a "native" setting in the sata settings
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nobusCommented:
here they suggest bootit-BM to fix the problem :  http://andrewtrumper.blogspot.com/2008/10/ahci-and-freezes-during-startup-while.html

Bootit :  www.terabyteunlimited.com/       
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cantorisAuthor Commented:
I am currently running it in SATA Native IDE Mode where it works fine ... but I would like AHCI back.

BootIt does sound an interesting possibility although it's far from being freeware.
I'll see if the trial version will let me view the MBR (and hopefully offer to fix problems) on sunday night.
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nobusCommented:
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cantorisAuthor Commented:
it depends whether the trial version is crippled at all
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nobusCommented:
see details...
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danleinCommented:
What BIOS version are they running?
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cantorisAuthor Commented:
Both motherboards have their latest BIOSes.  The newer PC is about a year old.

I tried booting a BootItBM floppy against my laptop and PC here (the currently-faulty PC I won't get access to until sunday night).  

Interestingly for both, when viewing partition properties, it said.
"Invalid Head and SPT values exist in the BPB.  Fix it?"

I said "no" since those machines both work fine!  That's going to make me nervous about doing anything to the other PC ...
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danleinCommented:
When you are in IDE mode, does it give you the option to choose an OS to boot from?  Win7 has that tiny hidden partition that actually should be the active one.  When the partitions were resized, if Easus changed the flag on it, it could have put the drive off.  In that case, load up in IDE mode and remove the old entries (bcdedit) and fixmbr.  

The specific BIOS i was looking for that can cause this issue as well is Serial ATA AHCI BIOS 1.20, where the resolution is here: http://communities.intel.com/message/83109#83109
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cantorisAuthor Commented:
That is interesting.
That is the exact AHCI BIOS (1.20E) on my currently-affected computer and I too get a "23" in the corner when it hangs.
The resolution on the page there though is just a wipe and reload/reimage sort of job which I know would work (if I had an entire drive image anywhere).  Is there any documentation from Intel themselves admitting there is an issue and how to fix it?

I don't have multiple bootable OSs on this system - it's only ever had just Windows 7 on.  I have also tried a  bootrec /fixmbr  against the affected drive from within WindowsRE.

I see from here
http://communities.intel.com/thread/8299?start=0&tstart=0
that lots of people have had the exact same issue as me and have all ended up just repartitioning and starting again (which is what I did to my first affected PC).  It has to be something relatively small at the level of the MBR - but what?  Whatever it is, it's not making the partitions inaccessible over IDE mode.
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danleinCommented:
A bios checking issue causing the hang?  Try plugging the hdd into another controller and see if it works.
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nobusCommented:
look also what garycase suggested on a similar issue :  http://www.experts-exchange.com/Hardware/Laptops_Notebooks/Q_22079840.html

also  in this thread, they say that reducing the first small partition by 1 Mb fixed the problem :  http://community.norton.com/t5/Other-Norton-Products/Norton-Ghost-15-0-having-problems-detecting-C-drive-main-drive/td-p/275256
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cantorisAuthor Commented:
Some interesting links there.  I read the suggestion about the hidden Windows 7 partition elsewhere and someone else said altering it didn't work for them.
A lot of the suggested fixes involve imaging the existing drive - I don't have the luxury of that much spare storage elsewhere for my entire drive.

My motherboard does have a non-Intel SATA 6Gbs controller - I could see if that likes AHCI though whether that would muck up drive letter allocation in an otherwise working (but IDE) drive, I'm not sure.

I'm tempted to get an old small SATA drive, put Windows 7 x64 on it along with some other partitions, play with the partitions using Easeus again and try and reproduce the AHCI problem.  Then I can play with BootItBM against it to see what fixes it - and more to the point, what doesn't break it completely!!  Once I'm confident, I can apply that to my real OS drive.

I'll be back in touch next week!  Thanks for the help so far.
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nobusCommented:
enjoy it - and post results
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cantorisAuthor Commented:
Well I reproduced the problem and got some data out of BootIt BareMetal (which beeped at me for 30secs telling me it had expired despite only being downloaded on friday).

Rather than type it all again, the info is here:
http://forum.easeus.com/viewtopic.php?p=40030#40030

Given that BootItBM offered no easy fix, I'm tempted to leave well alone and stick with IDE until such time as I replace this drive ...
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nobusCommented:
>>  which beeped at me for 30secs telling me it had expired   <<  in such cases, verify DATE setting !
tx for feedback anyhow
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danleinCommented:
cantoris,

I think that's a good idea as it seems, as we have seen, to fall back on a BIOS/drive glitch when the modes were changed.  You may contact Intel directly to see if they have a solution, but that may be of little help.

Good luck with the issue and let us know if you wish to look into this further.
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cantorisAuthor Commented:
Not much luck yet with EaseUS.  They've so far asked me twice to check the registry setting which shows they've not really comprehended what I've told them.

Not sure what to do with this thread now.  I've put my PC back together and will have to keep it in IDE mode though  :-(  Anyone out there able to make sense of the data I posted to the EaseUS forum that I got from BootIt BM to tell what actually went wrong?
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nobusCommented:
i have a couple of questions from the easus psot :
assuming D: is the OS partition, - why did you install SKype to keep it busy?  i would just try to avoid that
also - were you running the easus from the same partition, or from a bootable cd?  that's what i would do
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cantorisAuthor Commented:
C: is the OS partition.
D: is a partition for apps
E: is for data

On my normal PC therefore, D: would be locked but E: would not.  Therefore to try and simulate this on the test machine, I put Skype on D: to try and lock it.
I was running EaseUS from within that OS which is meant to work!!  I know a bootable CD would be infinitely safer but that is not part of the free product.  And if the non-CD version isn't safe they shouldn't be producing it...?
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nobusCommented:
>>   And if the non-CD version isn't safe they shouldn't be producing it...?   <<   it is safe - but god knows what happens when you run it on and from a disk with problems...

FYI - i used acronis, but switched over to Paragon free soft  :  http://www.paragon-software.com/home/db-express/      maybe worth a try?
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cantorisAuthor Commented:
Well neither of the two PCs I'd run it against had pre-existing drive problems (I use Acronis Drive Monitor and had also run CHKDSK against the partitions first) and nor did the test system.
Paragon sounds interesting as an alternative for next time.  A bit late now though  :-(
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nobusCommented:
you can also redownload it - maybe it got corrupt?
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danleinCommented:
Hey.  Was just flipping through this again.  I noticed you did a bootrec /fixmbr when you booted from the DVD, etc..   did you try a bootrec /fixboot?
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cantorisAuthor Commented:
No I don't think I did but it does boot fine in IDE mode.  I'd thought it would be the MBR and partition table that was getting damaged in some way.  The partition that boots was not one of the ones being resized.

Not really in a position to test again without a spare AHCI machine around as I don't want to do any more dismantling of my two working ones.
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danleinCommented:
I'd try the fixboot option, then try to run the startup repair from the dvd a few times until it boots.  won't hurt anything if you have 15, 20 min
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cantorisAuthor Commented:
I can't boot any device at all if the system is in AHCI mode, DVD included - to do a Startup repair.  :-(
Could only try the Fixboot from IDE mode ... but boot already works from there so not sure whether that would do anything.
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danleinCommented:
yep.. go for it
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cantorisAuthor Commented:
Latest from EaseUS:

"Our development already tried to rebuild the environment like yours and also has found the issue. But we probably cannot solve it at present.
Perhaps the next version of EaseUS Partition Master will fix it."

Perhaps??

:-(
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nobusCommented:
so much for Easus -maybe time to try another?  paragon?
but it looks to me you have other problems on this PC...
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cantorisAuthor Commented:
Thanks for trying.  If I ever hear back from EaseUS about this issue, I'll add a further post.
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