No hard drive detected during Windows NT install

by Wayne Maples [Published on 20 April 2004 / Last Updated on 20 April 2004]

Scenario: you are installing NT. But NTs install program says that no hard drives were detected. OK. Whats going on? This PC has a new SCSI controller and you HAVE the NT drivers for the scsi controller. Or you have a new IDE driver? You reboot and when the installation gives you the opportunity to give it mass storage drivers, you do so. No problem. OPPS! The installation program still says that it can not detect any hard drives. What gives?

I have run into this situation most often with RAID controllers or newer scsi adapters. I have seen the same problem reported for new drivers of IDE controllers. The Windows NT drivers for this kind of hardware must be loaded very early in the driver loading sequence of the installation process. The normal point where NT setup asks for additional SCSI drivers is appropriate for updating existing drivers, but if the NT installation media does not have compatible drivers for the hardware, its "reboot and try again" time.

OK. You have the drivers on a diskette or CD. Restart the installation process and when you see the message at the top of the screen:

Setup is inspecting your Hardware....

press the F6 key several times. This signals to NT setup that you want to manually install a SCSI driver. Unfortunately it is very easy to miss the moment (as in the stock market). Only a little delay in pressing F6 and its too late in the loading sequence, again. You must press F6 as soon as the Setup message appears.

This frustrating sequence of events usually happens when installing or upgrading using a bootable CD. If you use boot installation diskettes and present the new driver at the normal location, you will be OK. But, even in the boot diskette environment, if you do not provide scsi drivers for new scsi cards, you get the same missing hard drives message. (new in the sense of newer than the version of NT setup used to generate the bootable diskettes)

To catch the moment in the bootable CD world, I place the driver diskette in drive A:, the CD in the CD drive, and boot the box. After the BIOS loads, it will detect both the bootable CD and the diskette. When it discovers that the diskette is not bootable, it will ask you to remove the diskette. Pop the floppy disk drive door open (do not remove the disk). Press enter or other key and NT will begin loading from CD. Since there is a delay as the code on the CD begins to load, you have time to push the driver diskette back into the floppy drive and press F6 a few times before Windows NT setup gets very far along.

Windows 2000 has the same F6 issue with its own twist. If your are running the setup from the 4 setup boot disks, once you are prompted and load the additional driver, you click on Next for the installation to continue but instead, Windows 2000 reboots instead. Whats happening is that Windows 2000 wants disk 3 to be in the floppy drive at this point. To avoid the frustrating reboot, put disk 3 into the floppy prior to clicking on Next .

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