Article

How to troubleshoot SATA hard drive connections and issues

Antony Adshead, UK bureau chief, storage

Computer troubleshooting techniques identify troublesome components in a system through trial and error. A best practice is to use a methodical approach that starts with the simplest system features and moves to the most complex ones. With any hard drive, the place to start is with its most basic requirement: power. If all is well, you can then check connections and software.

 

  • Start with the simplest thing to do. Determine whether the power light is on. Ensure the device is plugged in and listen to make certain the power-supply fan is spinning.
  • Does the drive spin up? Can you hear the drive spin and the head move across the platters? If the drive isn't making noise, check again that the power and interface cables are properly connected.
  • Is the drive recognised? Go into the BIOS and check whether it recognises the drive. If not, use system setup and run auto detect. If this fails and the drive still isn't recognised, ensure the computer has the most up-to-date versions of controller firmware and BIOS. If it does and the device still won't recognise the drive, there's a very good chance that you have a defective drive. Try the drive in a different device to see if that's the case.
  • Does FDISK find the drive? Use the FDISK/STATUS command to find out whether the operating system can locate the drive. If not, this often means you need to update BIOS and firmware.
  • Is the disk healthy? Use ScanDisk to check for problems on the drive, such as bad sectors or clusters that may cause it to malfunction.
  • Run system diagnostics. Hard drive manufacturers usually make diagnostics packages available on their websites that can check for problems with a specific drive manufacturer.

SATA hard drive connections

 

  • Make sure you have the correct cables. Most SATA drives don't come with interface cables. Remember that a SATA interface cable should be a maximum of one meter in length.
  • Is the power connector properly attached? SATA drive power connectors are of a unique design, although they will accept an ATA-style interface.
  • Is each SATA hard drive properly connected to the controller? SATA drives don't connect in a "daisy chain" topology. Each one requires a separate data connection to the controller. Connectors should be tight-fitting and clean.
  • Leave the jumper switches alone. SATA drives – unlike ATA and SCSI drives – don't need you to set the on-drive jumpers for ordinary operation. Jumper switches on a SATA drive enable functions such as advanced power management and are usually left on their factory settings. Consult the documentation that came with the drive if you need to change jumper settings.

Operating system and BIOS

 

  • Check that you have the most up-to-date version of the drive BIOS.
  • If the system thinks your new drive is SCSI, it's no cause for concern. Some operating systems recognise SATA connectivity.

Cache settings

 

  • Some SATA drive users report that turning off the drive's cache makes the drive more stable and prevents read-and-write errors.

 


Find more information on SATA hard drive connections

 


 

 


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