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Why is a functioning PC disk drive not visible in the BIOS setup boot order?

Posted on 2014-03-07
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Last Modified: 2016-11-23
Hello all. I'm trying to bring an old Dell PowerEdge 840 server that used to run Windows Server back to life as a Linux machine (Ubuntu Server, specifically).

The computer was mothballed because the controller card for the RAID array failed, and then the replacement controller card failed.

So we've removed the RAID drives, as well as the dead RAID controller card, and installed an IDE hard drive. The Ubuntu Linux server installer properly found the IDE drive, partitioned it, and installed the operating system without error.

The new drive is properly listed in the BIOS setup screen (i.e. what you get when you press F2 during the boot), correctly showing the model and drive capacity. However, it is *not* visible in the Boot Sequence list (where the CD-ROM and "Embedded MBA v8.3.9 Slot 0400" are listed as options).

The machine does not boot.

If the "Embedded MBA" is enabled in the BIOS boot sequence, the computer halts during boot-up saying "PXE-E61: Media test failure, check cable". I assume it's looking for the RAID.

If the "Embedded MBA" is *disabled* in the boot sequence, the boot fails with a message saying no boot device is available.

Does anyone know if it is possible to get the computer to boot from this new drive? Or is a BIOS upgrade likely to resolve this? (The machine is using BIOS version A01 -- while the latest I've found on the Dell website for this machine is version A08.)

Thanks much!
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Question by:ckryanco
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:David
ID: 39913841
It could be a lot of things.  
 * Just because a drive shows up, doesn't mean it can spin up or boot.  A HDD that has a platter that won't spin up will still report make/model.  So maybe the HDD is bad.  Run diagnostics on it by booting the system to a LINUX USB stick and trying to use dd to read the physical device.  
* Some BIOS will not boot an IDE drive that is larger than a certain capacity, or there has to be a legacy IDE, or SATA emulation IDE BIOS setting.    Read up on such things for your motherboard.

But I'll play the odds, I think your HDD is bad.  So do diagnostics first.
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Accepted Solution

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Kimputer earned 2000 total points
ID: 39913855
Apparently the IDE chip is meant for optical drives only (maybe cutting costs), meaning the IDE chip IS able to query a device for information, but can't actually boot an IDE hard drive from it. The only solution seems to be an ATA to SATA converter so you can connect your IDE drive to the SATA ports.
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:David
ID: 39913900
You have another problem.  Most RAID controllers put metadata starting at physical block#0 on the HDD.  So the boot partition might be at physical block 100 as example.

Even if the BIOS was not an issue, it would never boot if your drive used metadata at the beginning, because the boot block would be at the wrong place.

So before you go further, you should boot that system to a USB stick or CD and do a hex dump on physical block 0  (use the od command in linux to see if it has the partitioning data.  You'll know it if you see it.  There will be something like NTLDR in the first 512 bytes.
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Author Comment

by:ckryanco
ID: 39914265
Thank you, dlethe and Kimputer!

I made a Linux USB boot stick using a Ubuntu desktop computer, but it only got as far as the purple screen with the two icons at the bottom, and then a black screen with a blinking cursor in the top left. So I'm not sure what's wrong with booting from the USB thumb drive.

However, I did remove the IDE drive (which I suspect is good, since the Linux installer did not complain while writing the OS to the drive).

I replaced the IDE drive with a brand-new SATA drive, connecting it to the first SATA port on the motherboard -- and behold, the BIOS found it and offered it as a boot-sequence option. I successfully installed Ubuntu Server on the drive and the boot process runs perfectly.

So I have a live, working Ubuntu server!

Thanks very much!
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