Windows 8 Boot Problem

I have three internal and one external hard disks in my Dell Studio XPS 435T/9000 running Windows 8.1,. No problems until yesterday when I had to reboot the system. I received a message that the machine cannot find the operating system. I disconnected one drive at time and the problem was caused by one of the internal SATA drives. Computer performs flawlessly now. I ran a Check Disk routine which resulted in a no problem report and formatted the “guilty” drive to no avail. It seems as if the system is looking at that disk for the OS. However, the boot sequence shows the correct drives in the BIOS. I am completely confused as the computer worked for this long and out of nowhere this problem pops up. I would like to identify the cause to ascertain that it is not a system problem. If it is the disk, fine, I just trash it. Any idea would be welcomed.

Wolfgang W. Stachel


Fantastic Member
Premium Supporter

It sounds like you may have reconnected one of your internal drives to the wrong SATA port on the Motherboard. Since we can't see the exact components you have connected in that system, it would be helpful if you ran the free SPECCY progam. Available at Download and run the program, and post the exported file back here for us to look at.

I would make sure that whatever drive you were or are using as your 8.1 boot drive (the C:\ drive), is connected to the SATA 0 port on the Motherboard. On my Dell Studio540 desktop I have 5 SATA drive ports; SATA0 - SATA4. If you connected a DIFFERENT internal secondary drive that was not originally a 8.1 windows boot drive (say on SATA1 for example), this could account for this type of problem. On my setup, I have 2 500GB SATA drives. The windows boot drive is on SATA0, and the secondary backup drive is on SATA1; I regularly make image backups using Macrium Reflect from my windows boot drive on SATA0 port to the secondary backup drive on SATA1 port. When testing my backup, using Windows Vista, I disconnect my 500GB windows boot drive, and let my system attempt to boot from the secondary backup 500GB drive on SATA1 port. This does not work in Vista, at least with my Dell BIOS, in an automated fashion. I have to tell Windows boot manager to manually boot from the secondary backup drive, which sits on SATA1 port. Once I do this, while simulating a boot drive failure, my secondary backup drive boots up to Vista and all my programs/data are there and I get on the Internet etc.

While playing around with this configuration, I discovered that in order to have my Dell BIOS automatically boot from the secondary backup drive with the Macrium image of Vista boot drive, I had to power off the PC and MOVE the drive cable from the SATA1 port to the SATA0 port on the Motherboard. Once I did this, the automatic settings in the Dell BIOS allowed the system to boot normally using the cloned image on the secondary backup 500GB drive! This required a power down and cable move which takes all of about 3 min. or so. My goal with this setup of course was to minimize the downtime of my system when I installed a new program or I got a nasty virus that was uncleanable, and my PC required a 1-2 week or longer rebuild process.

So, in a real emergency, and my primary windows boot drive failed or I got hit with a virus that locked me out of windows, I can reboot my PC and use Windows boot drive manager to select my secondary backup drive with my boot drive image on it manually and be backup with 99% of my stuff working online in just a few minutes; 5 or less. If I need to make it more permanent, while I repair or replace the damaged boot drive windows or replace that drive, I power down the PC and do the above SATA drive cable move and plug in the SATA0 port cable into the secondary backup drive. Windows boot manager then recognizes that drive as the primary C: boot drive, and next time I shutdown, it comes up and works exactly like the original damaged windows boot drive in less than 10 min. 5-10min. to be backup and running with a minimal of missing data (from the last image backup I made; maybe a week or two) is pretty good. Not quite RAID; but works almost as good.;)

I laid this out for you to try and explain what I think is happening with your system and it's multiple internal drives. Now, Windows 8.1 has some significant changes on the copy protection they install on track0 and track1 of each windows boot drive. I haven't yet tested the above configuration on 8.1 with my PC, as I don't have the $$ for legit 8.1 licenses. However, it should work the same way. The one thing I can tell you, is that if you intend to CHANGE one of your secondary internal drives to be the 8.1 boot drive from the one you had originally on your SATA0 port, you'll have to completely re-format that secondary drive with something like DBAN to zero out the drive before you attempt a 8.1 OS reinstall. Using native windows utilities will not fix your 8.1 boot problem; you must use Linux to format the drive first. If you attempt to re-attach the original 8.1 boot drive to a secondary SATA port (SATA1-4), the BIOS and windows boot manager may run into a conflict, as your BIOS will only allow 1 8.1 boot drive per Motherboard. That means that you could no longer run the original windows boot drive on that PC as it would prevent the new 8.1 boot drive from working. *unless you completely low-level wiped the drive and reinstalled it as a secondary drive with NTFS*.

I hope this may explain what you ran into. You'll need to carefully re-examine your drives and label them with sticky notes as well as the SATA cables to sort this out. Running the SPECCY will tell you and us exactly how you DO have your drives hooked up versus how you THINK you have them hooked up. Win8.1 does some different things with AHCI BIOSes; which my Dell does not have, but yours may have. I suggest you go back to the 1-drive setup and get that booting in an automatic mode correctly, and then test each of your secondary drives with SEATOOLS to make sure none of those drives has an actual failure or not. If SEATOOLS reports a failure on any of those drives, it must be replaced of course.



Thanks so much for your reply (and the solution) to my problem. Your first paragraph nailed it: the SATA connections to the motherboard were, indeed, incorrect. Paragon Hard Disk Manager helped me to rectify the problem and all is well in my bit buckets. Also, thanks for putting me on to SPECCY; I downloaded it and like it very much. Excellent, informative write-up!

Thanks again much, Wolfgang


Fantastic Member
Premium Supporter
Hi Wolfgang,

You're very welcome, and thanks very much for sharing your final outcome with all of us!:D Glad we could help.
And yes, SPECCY, is a terrific program. I now use it regularly as part of my troubleshooting regimen.


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