Question Brand new SSD seen in BIOS, but gives “Hard Disk error” in post and can’t install Win 7

Jul 25, 2020
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So, for some background, I bought a brand new SSD (SK Hynix Gold S31, SATA3) that I’m trying to install Windows 7 on. It will basically be taking the place of the current HDD that still has a working Windows 7. Trying to do this before the hard drive dies, particularly with how old it is (I’ve backed important files to an external drive).

The computer is one I built about 10 years ago, and all parts in it are just as old except the video card and SSD. I’m connecting the SSD to a SATA2 port with SATA2 cables.

After putting it in, I run into three issues I haven’t been able to resolve:

  1. BIOS POST takes a long time. When I have the messaging up, it appears to hang at “auto-detecting SATA 4” for about 30 second when the SSD is connected.
  2. At the end of POST, the message “3rd Master Hard Disk Error. Press F1 to Resume” appears.
  3. When doing a clean install of Windows 7 from boot, it initially installs (one reboot), but then fails to load, with an error “failed to start windows”, and calling out the file path “/Windows/system32/winload.exe”. If installing within the working Windows 7 from the HDD, it will also install, except at some point gets to a Windows 7 setup screen that says “the installation was not successful. Changes made during the installation process are being undone.” (Side-note: Windows 7 install disc is from around 2010).
Note that the BIOS itself shows the SSD in the list of SATA devices, and the working HDD Windows 7 can see the SSD and use it. But the issues present slow down boot-up at the POST level, and prevent me from installing Windows 7 on it.

I’ve performed the following troubleshooting methods:

  1. Switched from IDE mode to ACHI in BIOS, as suggested by other posts I found (this also caused Windows 7 to no longer even do initial phase of install on SSD).
  2. Physically disconnected all other SATA drives and external drives from their SATA ports.
  3. Switched SATA ports SSD was connected (error would change number and Master/Slave designation afterward, but otherwise act the same).
  4. Switch to different SATA cables (the ones from the HDDs that aren’t having any problems during POST).
  5. Ran an SSD diagnostic tool while Windows 7 HDD was loaded (SSDLife). The info was... strange. The main page said it couldn’t display health and lifetime values, or throughput info. When clicking the SMART button, literally EVERY row’s name lists “Unknown Attribute.” NOTE: my HDD can only boot into Windows 7 with SATA set to IDE mode, and that change applies across all SATA ports at the same time. Not certain if this would mess up the reporting or not.
I did consider updating motherboard firmware, but the current build is from June 2010 while the latest is from July 2010. Not sure it would do much of anything.

I’m stumped what to do next to clear the issues. Any ideas? As a side-question, would I be correct in assuming the Win 7 install issue is likely related to the POST errors for the SSD?


Other relevant computer specs:
ASUS M4A79XTD EVO motherboard
Phenom II X4 965 3.4GHz Black Edition
Corsair 750W PSU
8GB RAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800)
 
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Grobe

Distinguished
It doesn't sound like a software problem in my ears (even thought w7 isn't supported any more) since you've seen various problems getting s.m.a.r.t. data from the drive.

I notice that the mainboard is aging, especially if you've used the computer on a daily basis. That may contribute, so I need to ask if you have observed other problems regarding stability before you tried to install the ssd ?

What about the PSU - is that very old too? Maybe the ssd is more sensible to bad voltage regulation than the other components (speculation).
 
Jul 25, 2020
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It doesn't sound like a software problem in my ears (even thought w7 isn't supported any more) since you've seen various problems getting s.m.a.r.t. data from the drive.

I notice that the mainboard is aging, especially if you've used the computer on a daily basis. That may contribute, so I need to ask if you have observed other problems regarding stability before you tried to install the ssd ?

What about the PSU - is that very old too? Maybe the ssd is more sensible to bad voltage regulation than the other components (speculation).
As far as I can tell, there’s only two points of stability, both of which suggest issues elsewhere:
  • Blue screen error with IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL (this has occurred rarely a few times a year. Suspect it’s related to Wi-Fi USB adapter, since it only appeared after I got one, and the port/adapter become unusable for 5-10 minutes on new boot).
  • Some games that the computer can typically handle well on fresh boot get somewhat stuttery after waking from sleep-mode (example: Spyro Reignighted Trilogy)... but this feels more like a Windows-level issue with possible resource hogging
The PSU is also 10 years old like most of the parts. Not sure how to check if there’s any issues there.

Side note that I am able to load data onto the SSD and run from it. Tested it with and old game I bought from GOG. So it’s usable, but the BIOS and Win 7 installer really seem to hate it for some reason. Only other thought I have is retrying the Win 7 install from within Windows with the option to apply all updates first. Wouldn’t do anything for the POST issue, but if that install method works it would least be some form of improvement.
 
Jul 25, 2020
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The new attempt at installing Windows 7 with the installer downloading updated files failed. Same rollback error as before. Granted, I don’t think it did much in the way of updating.

I also grabbed a newer revision of the Win 7 install and put it on a USB drive. Errors changed a bit and actually flat-out prevented initial install in any situation and even got a new error when trying (windows is “unable to install to the selected location 0x80300024” or “setup was unable to create a new system partition or locate an existing system partition”).

I noticed the BIOS doesn’t even see the SSD in the boot list. Literally any other drive (flash, DVDROM, or HDD) connected will show up, but even without any of these present the SSD remains conspicuously absent.

I did end up trying to upgrade the BIOS due to other topics saying that could be an issue, but no luck. It was already on the latest version.

I don’t think I’ll be able to get the BIOS issues dealt with. Worse yet, they seem to be feeding into the install issues. Researching the install errors either lead to methods that are beyond the scope of my motherboard (doesn’t have UEFI), or methods that don’t work due to the boot option not showing (for the partition error, a method had the Windows 7 install being placed on and booting from the SSD... which doesn’t work here with it missing in the boot list).

I may just have to replace the computer outright instead. 10 years is easily longer than any of my other computers lasted. I’d call that a good run. :p
 

Grobe

Distinguished
I noticed the BIOS doesn’t even see the SSD in the boot list.
So it's clearly a hardware related problem her. The sata ssd should in theory be backward compatible to any sata port, or there may be exceptions - but none I know about, maybe this is a first.

One thing I noticed - tried to google up some hints about your MB. It does support RAIT, doesn't it? Have a look in bios (or a sata raid menu that appears after, but before OS boot) and check that raid is deactivated. Should be deactivated.
 
Jul 25, 2020
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So it's clearly a hardware related problem her. The sata ssd should in theory be backward compatible to any sata port, or there may be exceptions - but none I know about, maybe this is a first.

One thing I noticed - tried to google up some hints about your MB. It does support RAIT, doesn't it? Have a look in bios (or a sata raid menu that appears after, but before OS boot) and check that raid is deactivated. Should be deactivated.
It supports raid, though only as an exclusive option (e.g., can only choose IDE, AHCI, or RAID). I only tested IDE and AHCI.
 

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