Saturday, 2 February 2008

Installing Windows and SATA

I have recently had cause to reinstall windows on a couple of pc's, in order to run some software that wasn't supported on the version of windows i was running. This seems quite a simple thing to do, yes?
I checked the website and it seemed the os would run on my hardware. I expected to purchased the appropriate licenses for the version of windows i needed (xp 32 bit or x86, i was running the 64 bit eddition that came with the pc) then i thought i'd just start from the cd, select my harddrive, reformat and do a clean install, should be done in an hour or so...
Unfortunately it wasn't that simple. My Pc (as most modern pc's) has a SATA hard drive, and in fact mine had a SATA dvd/cd drive too, unfortunately the install cd that comes with xp and previous versions of windows only supports install to ata/ide drives. So you don't get the choice to install to it.
It would seem the manufacturers have had to create specific installer disks or restore disks that recognise the SATA disk, these are often specific to their hardware (make and model) so if you have a cd for an hp it don't work with a dell.
I tried several tricks like installing a second sata drive and running the installer from the running install which obviously has the sata drivers, and even tried starting from dos floppies and loading the sata drivers, but as the installer only looks for ata/ide it still greys out the option to install.
I could of course reinstall the existing os from the original install cd that came with the pc, but that still left be with the original problem the software i needed to run won't work with the 64 bit version.
What is more interesting is when i did a bit of digging around on the internet, i found that this raises some serious issues, firstly you have to have the specific installer disk for every sata pc you own, you can't rely on using a generic windows installer, secondly many of these manufacturers disks are very specific about the hard drive set up and partitioning so you can't create dual bootable os's and if you want to replace a damaged disk you have to ensure you get exactly the same size of disk, similarly you can't install a larger hard drive.
Luckily i'm an it manager and could swap some pc's around to free up a machine with the 32 bit processor. But it did raise some very ugly possibilities.
As far as i am aware vista does come with support for sata disks - so if you are happy to run with vista you may be lucky.