Dell computer - dead drive

I'm helping my friend.  He has a Dell Optiplex GX620.  It was running Windows XP pro until the drive died.

He doesn't have his rescue cd.  He has a Windows XP pro cd. It is not from Dell.

He purchased a new Seagate 500 gig SATA hard drive. When the Windows XP cd is booted, it examines the hardware successfully.  Then comes the question about what partitions to create.  This dialog box states the drive it sees is 131000  megabytes.  I expected to see something like 495000 megabytes.

So, I suspect a driver needs to be installed at the point where Windows XP install says to press F6.

But what driver?   I looked at this web site:

I don't see anything there which seems appropriate.

 1.) What must be done to enable Windows to see the disk drive appropriately?

  2.)  Dell service is most unhelpful.  I suspect my friend needs some kind of Dell cd to enable the operating system to load.  If so, what web site sells a legitimate Dell cd ?

3.) May be you have more suggestions?
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
The spec's available for this machine are all around 2005. It came with a much smaller drive and XP Pro.

So my suggestion is to get a PATA drive for it. Search eBay for good used drives (vendor guarantee to be good) and go that route.

The machine is old enough that your friend may be wiser to consider a new machine.

.... Thinkpads_User
Michael CarrilloInformation Systems ManagerCommented:
That is a really old system to be supporting that type of drive.  Although I did find that Dell did provide some support for SATA drives it is limited to Maxtor with a maxium capacity of 250 GB. The problem is the BIOS of that system is not set up to support that type of drive. To see if you there are newer BIOS updates available you would have to connect to Dell and allow Dell to exam your system for the appropriate BIOS update. The only other thing you can do with this drive is partition it into 4 partitions of about 125 GB a piece. Then you would have 4 drives (C, D, E, F). Most people don't like dividing up their hard drive, so I don't know if you would want to do this.  

So if you can switch out the SATA drive for a PATA then that is the path I would take. If you can't switch out the drive, then you may have to partition it into smaller drives to get its full capacity.
>>  1.) What must be done to enable Windows to see the disk drive appropriately?   <<  check in the bios if it is seen as 500 GB - if not, check if there is bios update to correct this problem
if it sees the 500 GB, check on the Dell site for the latest drivers

>>  If so, what web site sells a legitimate Dell cd   <<  Dell should be able to provide you the CD  -if you provide the necessary credentials  -normally a low price  

>>  3.) May be you have more suggestions?  <<   yes -  these systems suffered of bad capacitors, so before investing more $ and time, check the mobo for leaking or bulging capacitors :
here they even sell the caps as a kit for that model :

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Which Windows XP Pro CD were you using? Did it have any service packs?

You can get a Dell XP CD all over the place. You might even have a friend who has it. I even have two of them myself, and no longer need one of them. I'm getting rid of a Window XP Pro SP2 Disc from Dell.

Did you try setting the PC to have the hard drive behave as an IDE? That might get you around the issue as well.

Your other option would be to download and save the SATA driver onto a separate disc and loading the driver at the start of the installation. (This of course assumes that there is a second optical drive for you to use. But maybe a USB flash drive would work too)
I have had great luck ordering replacement recovery disks for oldeer systems at  The typical costs is approximately $27.  Hope that helps!
donpickAuthor Commented:
I have heard of SATA drives and IDE drives.  What is a PATA  drive?  Never heard of them.
SATA = Serial Advanced Technology Attachment or Serial ATA (thin cables)
PATA = Parallel ATA or EIDE commonly just referred to as IDE (flat ribbon cables)

It is probable that you will actually now pay more for a larger hard drive with an IDE interface than for the equivalent capacity with a SATA interface, so be prepared for that.  It's the same when it comes to buying older SDRAM memory modules compared with the lower price for newer DDRAM.
any comments on my post?
If the drive is dead then its dead. No way you will get the data back unless you take it to a specialized company for these things. Specialized magnetic readers are required to the job.
Which companies do this can be found on the internet.
donpickAuthor Commented:

Thank you for your info.  My confusion is the bios for the Dell GX620 shows a SATA controller is installed.  The bios shows the opportunity of installing 3 SATA devices.  Let's call these 3 opportunities as ports.  SATA port 0 is the only choice which is highlighted.  The rest are grey which I am guessing means they are unavailable.

With the newer Dell's , the bios shows a picture of the motherboard and what drive is connected to which SATA port on the motherboard.  Also the manuals of the newer Dell machines tell me how to check on all installed SATA devices.

I don't have an official Dell diagnostic disk.   The bios on the 620 does not tell me if it recognizes a drive.  I'm used to seeing the bios of a pc showing me the model number of the installed drive.

I searched the web and Dell's site for  a manual for the 620.  I found a supposedly advanced manual .  No where does it tell me where the model number of the installed drive will appear.  The manual doesn't tell me how to verify a drive exists on a SATA port.

So, I am frustrated, not sure how to proceed.

1.)  How would you solve this drive situation?  How would you verify a drive is connected to SATA port 0?

2.)  I don't have an official Dell Windows XP cd.  I have an authentic Windows XP cd.  When I install Windows XP, it asks me how I want to partition the drive.  I accept the size it reports.   I tell Windows to format the drive as NTFS.  The horizontal odometer appears but no action occurs.  I waited an hour and nothing happened.  So, obviously, Windows cannot communicate to the drive.  i assume some driver is missing.  What driver is missing?  I have looked at the Dell support site for the 620, no disk driver seems to exist there.  

3.) This pc has 2 open pci slots.  A thought I had was to purchase a SATA controller and insert it into a pci slot.  But then, how would Windows see this controller when I do a fresh install of Windows?  When I install Windows, I assume I'd have to have a driver on a diskette, then press F6 and install the driver so Windows could see this non native SATA controller / drive.  

What are your thoughts about installing a non native SATA  controller board?

ok - chekc ithe four lights on the back if some are lit -more info :
do you have the Dell utilities CD ?
1- it looks ok - from what you posted
2-"it asks me how I want to partition the drive.  I accept the size it reports"  --what size it shows?
3-no need for sata controller

all info needed should be here : (see system setup)

other idea : download Bootit-BM (free for your use) and make the cd - boot from it
do NOT install it on disk - hit Cancel, and select now Partition Work
here you should see your disk, and be able to partition it as you want, before installing XP
donpickAuthor Commented:

1.)  Yes,  a restore cd exists for the GX620.  The restore cd:   Does it contain a valid copy of Windows XP pro on it?  Or do I have to have a valid Dell Windows XP cd in addition to the restore cd?
    I'm skeptical for $30 the cd has a valid copy of Windows XP on it.

2.)  I have never ordered from this company.  How many times have you ordered disks from them?
>>  Does it contain a valid copy of Windows XP pro on it?   <<   if that was the original OS, yes it has that
>>    I'm skeptical for $30 the cd has a valid copy of Windows XP on it  <<  that is because you have already paid for it

>>   I have never ordered from this company  <<  which one are you talking about?
Thank you donpick
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