View Full Version : Computer (Windows) help needed. It's a toughie!
2003-01-17, 06:32 PM
This isn't a computer forum, but I thought I'd give my friends in unicycling a chance to help.
I have Windows 2000 Pro on my home machine. Main hard drive is working fine, Windows boots fine, software works. Problem is with all the other drives. Second HDD, which is supposed to show as three partitioned drives, shows in Windows Expolrer as one, unrecognized drive. Both CD-ROMs spin, but I can't read any disks I put in. My USB Iomega Zip drive spins, but won't read either. Lastly, my USB-connected camera, with IBM Microdrive in it, won't read.
All this hardware works, and has worked fine the way it's set up. Device Manager says all devices are "working properly."
Computer will boot from CD-ROM, and before loading Windows reads the CD just fine.
So all the drives work, but Windows is having trouble seeing them. I tried the Microsoft Knowledge Base, but so far no luck. Usually it's pretty good for such things. Any suggestions?
2003-01-17, 06:36 PM
Do you have all those externals connected through a USB hub?
Try just unplugging and re-plugging the USB hub at the main USB port.
2003-01-17, 06:53 PM
If you're using a USB hub, that might be the problem. I've noticed that the instructions for many USB peripherals tell you not to use a hub. The manuals for both of my digital cameras, my USB LAN card, my Sidewinder, and my track ball mouse all recommend against using a USB hub. I do anyway, but every now and then, the hub doesn't wake up when I start up the PC.
Device Manager lies.... hardware can be either faulty or not set up properly to cause problems it won't detect.
Does it work in safe mode? Press F8 right after the BIOS screen and choose it from the menu. USB devices may not work in safe mode, but your other hard drive should.
2003-01-17, 07:12 PM
No external USB hub. Two built-in hubs, presumably one for the two plugs in back and the other for the two in front. I can try more variations on un-plugging and re-plugging stuff, But I don't think that's the problem. My USB-connected printer seemed to be fine. I don't think it's the connection, it's Windows having some problem reading or displaying drive contents. Plus this doesn't help on the CD drives...
Device Manager lies? Apparently. I will try more experiments in safe mode and see if that gives me any clues. But later, after I get home.
Thanks, but keep those suggestions coming!
I doubt it's anything to do with USB... that wouldn't stop the disks working.
I assume the digital camera is one where it acts like a normal drive so you can get at the pictures? In that case it sounds like something is going weird with accessing drives.
Does the floppy drive work? More specifically, does any drive with a letter higher than those on your second hard drive work?
Try temporarily removing that drive; it could be confusing the allocation of drive letters, for some reason.
2003-01-17, 07:54 PM
Originally posted by gluteous maximus
If you're using a USB hub, that might be the problem. I've noticed that the instructions for many USB peripherals tell you not to use a hub.
The issue with USB hubs is with the non-powered hubs. The powered USB hubs that are powered by a wall wart are fine.
USB ports don't have a lot of power to spare to begin with and sharing several ports in a non-powered hub can cause problems. No such problems when using a powered USB hub.
2003-01-17, 08:09 PM
Originally posted by phil
I assume the digital camera is one where it acts like a normal drive so you can get at the pictures? In that case it sounds like something is going weird with accessing drives. Yes, that's what it sounds like. The camera (normally reads like another hard drive. Does the floppy drive work? More specifically, does any drive with a letter higher than those on your second hard drive work? I forgot to mention that. My floppy drive (A:\) also does not read. But the bad HDD is the last letter in the chain, with the Zip and camera drives having letters in between. The camera's drive letter is assigned dynamically, and disappears when you disconnect it.
2003-01-17, 08:13 PM
I lied. My main HDD is partitioned up to H:. Currently, the bad HDD shows as K: the Zip is L: and the camera pops up as M: or N:
But the CDs are both lower drive letters.
I'm beginning to wonder if it's some kind of messed up registry problem. I have Service Pack 3 installed. Latest new software on the machine is Norton SystemWorks and Norton Personal Firewall.
2003-01-17, 08:21 PM
The first thing I'd check is the IDE cables inside the computer. Make sure they are all still plugged in all the way, both on the motherboard and on the drives. They can work themselves loose.
Other possibilities are a faulty IDE cable or a failing power supply. Both those failures are hard to diagnose at home. You need to have access to known good parts and swap them into the bad computer and see if that fixes the problem.
Does the BIOS see the hard drives? If the BIOS was unable to recognize your drives it can sometimes go into autodetect mode and try to guess the number of heads and cylinders for your drives. If it reset to the wrong settings then Windows is not going to be able to see your drives. The number of heads and cylinders for the hard drives should be on a sticker on each drive.
Are your drives all FAT32 (no NTFS partitions)? If they are all FAT32 you could try booting with a WIN98SE bootdisk and see if DOS is able to see your drives and partitions. The Win98SE flavor of DOS can read and write FAT32 while Win98 and Win95 are not able to see FAT32 partitions. You can find bootdisk images at <http://www.bootdisk.com/>
Is the Disk Manager in Windows 2000 able to see the partitions?
Control Panel >> Administrative Tools >> Computer Management >> Storage / Disk Management.
My guess is that an IDE cable connections got loose or one of the IDE cables went bad.
2003-01-17, 08:36 PM
Originally posted by john_childs
The first thing I'd check is the IDE cables inside the computer. Make sure they are all still plugged in all the way, both on the motherboard and on the drives. That was the first thing I checked. "Old" cable is 3 years old. Other cable is about 1.
Besides, if connections were bad, the drives wouldn't show up at all. It's there, and it seems willing to be formatted. I just don't want to. The other drives won't tell me what's on them, but they're all there.
Does the BIOS see the hard drives? If the BIOS was unable to recognize your drives it can sometimes go into autodetect mode and try to guess the number of heads and cylinders for your drives. If it reset to the wrong settings then Windows is not going to be able to see your drives. Nope, Windows sees the drives. Though my second HD may have croaked, or at least lost its MBR or partition information, it doesn't explain all the other non-reading disks. I'd like to figure them out, since I know they work, before taking the plunge and formatting that one.Are your drives all FAT32 (no NTFS partitions)? That's an idea. I may try that.Is the Disk Manager in Windows 2000 able to see the partitions? I just learned about Disk Manager today (hey, I'm only a know-it-all on unicycling). I'll try it when I get home.
2003-01-18, 04:54 AM
i don't know if i'm spitting in your face by suggesting this, but. are all of your drives set to the right setting. are they all set to primary, or all to slave? does your cable select whether or not it is a primary? i've had many headaches about these problems. onther question, why the smeg is your second hard drive partitioned so much? it makes no sense, set up the computer with just the bare minimum. no USB no second hard drive. just get it to see all the drives, then slowly work them all in, one by one. i wish you the best of luck.
most especially in computers i have noticed that logic gets it's but kicked by reality. like when YOU know it should work and it doesn't.
2003-01-21, 12:47 AM
Thanks again for everyone for taking the time to reply. Here's some further info:
All drives work. The configuration has been the way it was for about a year. The funny thing is, the drives all still work, just Windows can't seem to read what's on them. I was able to almost completely format a floppy, but the process only failed at the end. I was also able to burn a CD, but not to see if the burn process had worked.
This weekend I played around in Safe Mode. Forgot to do that until John Childs reminded me. In safe mode, everything works fine. All the hardware is fine, and I'm pretty sure the IDE cables are fine. The CD I had burned in regular mode worked fine.
The second hard disk appears to have croaked. It wants to be formatted. Norton Disk Doctor can't even handle it. It keeps telling me to restart my computer to finish the process on it, but that's all it tells me at this point. I may have to write that one off, but I'm not going to worry about it until I fix the more major problems. Then I may try some disk repair software to see if I can get at the data on the old HD.
So, the Windows guru here at my office suggests my BIOS may be bad. Problem is I have a Compaq which came with no information about the bios. I even had to call their tech support (a long time ago) to find out how to access it. How am I supposed to guess F10? The next computer I buy will be from a company that doesn't hide this info from their customers. I'll see if there are any updates for this BIOS. But remember the machine was working fine before, for many months.
The most recent big change on the computer was the update of my Norton System Works to the 2003 edition (from 2002), and the new addition of Norton Personal Firewall, replacing the free version of Zone Alarm. I will try uninstalling both of those to see if anything changes.
Any other suggestions from all you smart people?
2003-01-21, 01:20 AM
I know this was said, but I would also like to say that Device Manager is evil. My bro had to uninstall and reinstall his video card about 8 times before it would recognize it properly, and THEN it wouldn't let him change the driver. Microsoft said that its default drivers were better than the ones that he downloaded, and they weren't. And this guy knows computers. It was just Windows being a pain. A testament to Device Manager. Stupid, crappy Device Manager. It doesn't even deserve capitals.
Zone Alarm and Norton Anti-virus install filters that check for viruses before any data is allowed to be used by your computer. It is likely that one or the other is the culprit, so uninstalling them is a good thing to try.
Also, I would run msconfig (Start->Run msconfig). Then click on the "services" tab and click the "hide microsoft services" checkbox. Scan the list looking for insidious services. When you uninstalled Zone Alarm, it is possible that the service wasn't removed properly. If you you can identify the service from zone alarm, then you should be able to disable it and the problem should go away.
Originally posted by johnfoss
Problem is I have a Compaq which came with no information about the bios. I even had to call their tech support (a long time ago) to find out how to access it. How am I supposed to guess F10?
Usually a good way of getting to the BIOS without knowing which key to press is just to press them all... mash the keyboard until it starts beeping, then it may pop up the message "Keyboard Error" and let you in to the bios.
(Or if the keyboard isn't plugged in at all: "Keyboard Error: press a key to continue"... :))
2003-01-23, 09:56 PM
Last night I uninstalled Norton Personal Firewall (and rebooted). Problem still there. Then I uninstalled Norton SystemWorks 2003 and wala (how do you spell wala?), everything works fine!
I did not have time to try to reinstall my computer's protection software. Hopefully tonight. Thanks again for everybody's help, I'll keep you posted!
2003-01-24, 03:20 AM
Originally posted by gimp
Also, I would run msconfig (Start->Run msconfig). Then click on the "services" tab and...
You would if you were in some other OS- msconfig isn't native to 2000 -you have to import it. ;)
Funny how the problem worked backwards from the hospital to the car wreck (Norton and Zone Alarm, both great products that can hose things up. I love them.)- sadly, this is usualy the case (who wants to be told that the new toy is the problem?). If Compaq is Prig-ish about providing drivers, you might try Googling the numbers on the motherboard- worked for me. Dell/Gateway/Compaq/and Packard-Hell all have custom-bios writen for them- so even if you can find a bios elsware, it may not be the same (but just might work- what fun!).
Safe mode is a great way to determine if a post windows boot conflict is present. Something else that may have helped at that point is the command "scanreg /restore" for loading the 'last-best' version of the registry- it may even prompt for a restore date to choose from. You can also say good-bye to any data you may have aquired in the interval- so export it first.
Multiple drive partitions can be usefull for assigning volitale data pools to- such as Temp Internet files or as Scratch Disk space for Photoshop- which may greatly lessen fragmentation of relatively immutable stuff, like programs, and thus decrease access times. They may also be usefull on a system shaired by multiple users, where individual logical partitions may be devoted to different projects or departments with access rights for each. Often they are just high in the giggle factor. :)
Anybody have a confilict between Jabber, Norton 2001 and Computron Visual Basic, and find some way around it besides rolling back the registry or turning off Live Update or re-installing NAV... or crying?
(not very constructive) Christopher
2003-01-24, 03:40 AM
I too use System Works, BUT NOT installed. You can run the diagnostics from the CD without mucking up your system. I tell customers (I work on computers part time) to uninstall or not to install the works in the first place. I stick with Antivirus only. Run the works when there's a problem. Windows will already scan your hard drive and defragment. Just another opinion.
2003-01-25, 12:10 AM
Originally posted by trsrdr
You can run the diagnostics from the CD without mucking up your system. Unfortunately, the problem at the moment is Norton Personal Firewall, which obviously needs to run locally. Good suggestion for the utilities though.
I'm waiting now for an email response from Symantec to see if this is a familiar issue. Don't want to go mucking with my BIOS if it works fine. At the moment, the problem seems to be something the Norton stuff is doing to a "working" machine...
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