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In the Trenches with LAROKE

Konsultant's Log, Cyberdate 04.09.1998 (Murphy is my co-pilot Part II)

    Situation Report
    Technical Intelligence
    Take Charge And Move Out
    United States of America
  • CM
    Configuration Management
    Mission Report
Previous Nemesis Articles:

Cyberdate 03.17.1998 Murphy is my co-pilot

Cyberdate 06.07.1997 a "Breach-birth" tape drive installation

Cyberdate 03.29.1997 a Windows 95 installation adventure

Other Sources:

Hard Disk Interfaces and Configuration Describes the different major interface standards currently used by hard disks (and other devices). Provides sections about the IDE/ATA and SCSI interfaces. This page is from "The PC Guide."

The Tech Page "Jumpers and Specifications for Every Drive Ever Made"


Insight Direct Mail order PC hardware and software

Microsoft Corporation Windows 95

Computer Shopper NetBuyer ZD Net's computer systems and components comparison shopping Web site

PowerQuest Corporation PartitionMagic, DriveCopy

Promise Technology, Inc. EIDE2300Plus VL-Bus hard drive controller

Quarterdeck Corporation WebCompass

Seagate Technologies ST 3660A 545MB hard drive

SIIG, Inc. "Fast EIDE" Enhanced IDE Master VL controller

Western Digital Corporation WD Caviar AC34000 hard drive


SITREP: In the last installment, I had left my client's computer "Nemesis" in a somewhat crippled condition. The new hard drive was installed but unconnected. The CD-ROM drive was nonfunctional and the old hard drive was working but a nasty, "HARD DRIVE FAILURE (20)" error would appear every time Nemesis was booted.

I wasn't sure, but my gut told me I had damaged the SIIG controller during the installation of the new hard drive and I planned to have a replacement controller with me the next time I opened up Nemesis.

TECH INTEL: 11:03 A.M. 10/22/97 I logged onto the Internet to search for a replacement controller. Since Nemesis was a 486/DX4 with a VL bus, my choices were limited. I found only one VESA controller listed at the Netbuyer Web site, a Promise EIDE2300Plus. I used Quarterdeck's Webcompass to search for Promise's Web site address, then went to that site to read the controller's specifications. Convinced the Promise controller would be a suitable replacement, I ordered it from Insight Direct and emailed a report of my activities to my client.

TACAMO: 10:06 A.M. 10/26/97 I arrived at my client's business location ready to do battle with Nemesis again. I carefully connected Nemesis to the UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) I had brought with me, this time avoiding the mistake I had made the last time I was here. I asked my client if he had performed the tape backup I had requested of him prior to my arrival and he answered in the affirmative.

I opened up Nemesis' case and removed the SIIG controller after disconnecting all the cables attached to it. The new Promise controller was much the same in layout as the existing SIIG controller it was replacing. After installing the Promise controller and connecting the same cables, Nemesis was booted up. AARRRUUGH! The dreaded "HARD DRIVE FAILURE (20)" error message again reared its ugly head. I reversed the hard drive ribbon cable on the controller connection just for giggles and tried again. The error message disappeared! I disconnected the old hard drive and connected the new hard drive and started Nemesis again . . . same results, the error message was gone. Did this mean the old SIIG controller was OK after all? Did I somehow get the cable connection messed up the last time I fought with this machine? I decided to leave the new Promise controller in place and test the SIIG controller at a later date.

Now that it had been established that both drives could be connected individually without conjuring the hard drive error message, I decided to tackle the master/slave drive configuration once more. I reinterpreted the "Rosetta Stone" diagram on the old drive another time to finally come up with the correct slave jumper settings. Nemesis was started up again and offered no complaints this time.

Since the BIOS in Nemesis would not handle the new Western Digital hard drive, I installed the EZ Drive overlay software that shipped with the drive. This would allow it to work with Nemesis (theoretically). By all indications the EZ Drive utility installed the new hard drive correctly.

After the EZ Drive installation, PowerQuest Corporation's DriveCopy utility was run from diskette after booting Nemesis with a bootable system diskette as instructed by the DriveCopy documentation. DriveCopy was being used to transfer all the software and data from the old Seagate drive to the new Western Digital drive which would then be the boot drive. The DriveCopy process appeared to be going smoothly until the very end when I received an ominous "BAD BOOT SECTOR" error message just prior to being blown completely out of the program back to the DOS prompt!

I decided to make sure I wasn't being thwarted by a one-time anomaly. The new drive was again formatted with the EZ Drive utility, and DriveCopy was run a second time, "by the book," with the same disappointing results. I then repeated the process a third time after removing the EZ Drive overlay software on the hunch it may be in conflict with DriveCopy . . . No joy.

For my next attempt, gentlemen and ladies, I will throw away the DriveCopy book. I reinstalled the EZ Drive overlay software, formatted the drive again and rebooted Nemesis off the new drive with the EZ Drive overlay installed. Then DriveCopy was run for the fourth time from diskette. This time it informed me it successfully copied the old drive to the new drive . . . Limited progress.

Time to reboot Nemesis to see if he starts in Windows 95 as he should . . . Part way into the bootup the following error message displays: "FATAL ERROR #3 During Initialization of the Microsoft 32-Bit Disk Driver (WDCTRL). Restart your computer by pressing CTRL+ALT+DEL" The suggested "three-finger salute" does not work. Nemesis is locked-up tight. It takes a reset button press to reboot him. SONOFA~!@#$%!

CM: Nemesis is restarted successfully in Windows 95 safe mode. Then a normal restart is tried again without luck. This very antisocial error message had me spooked. Every time I work on Nemesis, I am working against the clock. This machine is essential to my client's daily business processes. My other obstacle with Nemesis is his installed software for which my client was not given installation disks when he got the machine. As luck would have it, Nemesis' manufacturer is out-of-business and my client has taken a liking to the software. I am very sensitive regarding the loss or corruption of this software.

Due to the above restraints, I determined my best course of action at this point would be to backtrack to a working configuration. The old drive (which still had all the software and data on it as well as the new drive) was again configured as the master drive and the new drive was relegated to the role of slave drive. The new drive was reformatted with EZ Drive again, this time into four partitions of approximately 1GB each.

Nemesis was rebooted . . . I was not prepared to see the cursed "FATAL ERROR #3 During Initialization of the Microsoft 32-Bit Disk Driver (WDCTRL). Restart your computer by pressing CTRL+ALT+DEL" error message again! I had assumed, incorrectly I suppose, that a faulty DriveCopy operation had caused this error. Nemesis had me face down on the ground and he was going to continue kicking me in the kidneys until I peed red.

Now it appeared as if there were something about this drive setup that Windows 95 could not deal with. I was in panic mode again, as I had been the last time I was here, and, as a result, trying everything I could think of. I thought maybe the Windows 95 32-Bit disk driver was damaged, so I decided to reinstall Windows 95 (dumb move on my part). ~!@#$%^@@! I forgot the CD-ROM drive was malfunctioning. I decided to reinstall Windows 95 from diskette (an even dumber move).

The Windows 95 installation was started and the "Restore corrupt or missing files only" option was selected. This operation went OK right up to the "Starting Windows 95 for the first time" phase . . . Then the now loathed "FATAL ERROR #3 During Initialization of the Microsoft 32-Bit Disk Driver (WDCTRL). Restart your computer by pressing CTRL+ALT+DEL" error message.

Nemesis was restarted in Windows 95 safe mode and the "My Computer" Icon was right-clicked to display its context-sensitive menu from which "Properties" was selected. In the resulting "System Properties" Dialog the "Performance" tab was selected and the "File System" button clicked under the "Advanced Settings" Section. In the displayed "File System Properties" Dialog the "Troubleshooting" tab was selected. I disabled all six "Settings" Checkboxes and restarted Nemesis again . . . still the fatal error. I reenabled the "Settings" in the File System Troubleshooting Dialog and tried to think of what I could do next.

It was at this late juncture I discovered the new Promise EIDE2300Plus VL-Bus controller these drives were connected to had come with a supplied diskette of software drivers. Better late than never, I guess. I proceeded to install the controller drivers using the "Intelligent" installer utility. This utility installed the DOS and Windows 3.x drivers, ignoring the fact that this was a Windows 95 system. Nemesis was restarted to make sure there was no improvement in the error situation . . . and there wasn't. I rebooted again into Safe Mode and used Notepad to read the README.TXT file on the Promise driver diskette. No help there but I did see there was a "WIN95" subdirectory on the diskette with another README.TXT file within it along with Windows 95 drivers. The Windows 95 readme file did give instructions to install the Windows 95 drivers.

Next, the previously installed Promise DOS and Windows 3.x drivers were removed and Nemesis was restarted in Safe Mode again. The "Primary and Secondary IDE" devices were removed from the Windows 95 "Device Manager" as directed by the readme file. A normal startup was again attempted at this point to install the Promise IDE driver replacements for the just deleted devices. The error message stopped the process cold. Nemesis was rebooted in Safe Mode to install the IDE drivers. It was then I found out that Safe Mode does not allow installation of hardware drivers . . . Catch-22!

In desperation, I restarted Nemesis in "Command Prompt" Mode and used the DOS CD command to change to the C:\WINDOWS directory. Issued the WIN /? command to get help on the different parameters that could be used to start Windows 95. The "Help" screen showed that by using the parameter /D:F, Windows 95 could be started with the 32-Bit drive access turned off. I tried it. Success! Windows 95 started normally bypassing the dreaded FATAL ERROR message. Windows continued to trundle on completing the "Starting Windows 95 for the first time process" initiated earlier by the Windows 95 reinstallation. Afterwards, I continued to install the Promise IDE drivers that I had been prevented from installing in Safe Mode.

With the Promise controller drivers in place I tried to start Windows 95 normally without the /D:F parameter . . . the FATAL ERROR message was back. By this time it had been another long day here with Nemesis, going the full fifteen rounds. When I had viewed the WIN /? help screen it had provided the additional information that the /D:F switch had the same effect as putting the "32BitDiskAccess=FALSE" setting in the SYSTEM.INI file. It was obvious I had more research ahead of me, so I edited Nemesis' SYSTEM.INI to include this setting. My client could use his computer normally until I could figure out how to enable 32-Bit disk access.

MISREP: After bouncing off this machine all day, all I had accomplished was getting rid of the "HARD DRIVE FAILURE (20)" error. Not much progress for all that pain. The CD-ROM drive was still not working, either. What did I do wrong? Probably many things, but even if I did everything right I might still be in the same situation. I can't help but suspect that all those Band-Aid layers of software between Nemesis' now ancient BIOS, the newer controller, and the bleeding edge disk drive have unresolvable conflicts.

Be that as it may, I again found myself in retreat . . . slinking away to prepare for the next epic struggle with this cursed machine. I was not charging my client for all this confused wheelspinning I was engaged in. If I had been charging him, I could take that fee and purchase him a new PC. It would be worth it to gleefully take a eight-pound sledge to my good buddy, Nemesis.


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LAROKE Microcomputer Consultants
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Issued Thursday April 9, 1998

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