written by: Finn Orfano•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 5/6/2010
Suppose you are installing either a new hard drive or motherboard, and after booting up your motherboard won't recognize the drive. Here are some things you can try to fix the problem.
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Check the Cables
If your motherboard does not recognize the hard drive, the first thing you should do is check the cables. It could be something as simple as a cable being unplugged. The hard drive should have two cables connected to it – one for power and the other for the motherboard. Check to make sure both cables are pushed in snugly, then check where the other end plugs into the motherboard to make sure it is in place. You should also visually inspect the cable for any damage. If you have an extra power cable coming from the power supply, try it and see what happens. It could just be that you have a bad connector coming from the power supply.
The easiest way to see if a hard drive is getting power is to listen for the motors to spin up when you turn on the computer. Leave the computer case open and put your ear near the hard drive and you should hear the little motors inside come on and perhaps a grinding noise as the drive loads. If you’re not hearing any sound from the drive, that may be an indication that it is either not getting enough power or something may be wrong with it. Do not adjust the cables while the computer is turned on, as this can damage the drive or other components.
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BIOS Updates and Motherboard Drivers
I have run into issues where the BIOS needed to be updated in order to add a new drive, so this is something you should consider. Not all motherboard support more than a few drives, so it could be the limitations of your system is why it is not recognizing the hard drive and nothing you are doing wrong. Check with the manufacturer’s website or documentation to make sure.
Some motherboards require special drivers in order for the operating system, such a Windows, to interact with the hardware. If you are building a system, the manufacturer of your mother should have provided you with a CD full of drivers, but you can also download them from the company’s website. There are far too many to mention here, but Google is always a good place to start. Just search for the name of the company plus the word drivers and you should find what you need.
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Operating System Issues
Don’t get mad at me for writing this, but not everyone is as computer savvy as they think they are. It could very well be that your motherboard isn’t the problem at all, but it’s Windows that isn’t recognizing your hard drive. That’s right, blame Microsoft.
If you bought an OEM hard drive, which is a pretty common thing found on sites like Newegg and TigerDirect, then the usual plug-and-play methods won’t work. The reason is that the drive is not formatted for the Windows operating system, or any other operating system, so a couple extra steps are needed to make the computer recognize the hard drive. It just so happens that I’ve written an article called How to Install and Initialize an Unformatted Hard Drive and the instructions cover both Windows Vista and Windows 7. Check it out.
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I have seen hard drives be DOA in brand new computers, so if all else fails the problem could just be that your hard drive is damaged in some way and that's why the motherboard is not recognizing the hard drive. Perhaps it was rough handled during the shipping process, or maybe it got dropped at some point. Hard drives are mechanical devices filled with very sensitive moving parts, so they are susceptible to damage just like any other electronic component. Be especially wary if the drive makes a steady clicking noise when it powers on, as this is commonly referred to as the ‘click of death’ and means your drive is on the blink.