Computer startup question: Primary hard disk not found

I’ve been living with this problem for quite some time but I would like to get rid of it if possible. I have a Dell Optiplex GX1P and am running windows 98. When I startup I get the following error message:

Primary Hard Disk Drive 1 Not Found

Strike F1 to Continue or F2 to run Setup Utility.

I hit F1 and the computer starts normally from there but I would like to get it to not do this.

I don’t know if this is an easy thing to fix or not. I’m fine at using the computer in a Windows environment but I’m not too experienced with using the setup utility. Any help you guys could offer would be great!

Have you had this system for quite some time? It sounds to me like your CMOS battery has gone dead. This is the little coin-cell somewhere on your motherboard. When you hit “F1” during boot to get into your BIOS Setup Menu and do an Exit & Save, these settings get saved in CMOS. Don’t ask me why this name is used, it’s just a small area where your Setup selections are “remembered” by the system. This area of memory (not your system memory by the way) is powered by that coin-cell, and things like what kind of hard drive you have is stored there. If the coin cell goes dead and your CMOS gets wiped, your computer can’t remember how to “talk” to your hard drive in order to boot from it. Try replacing the coin cell, go into Setup, go to the section that deals with identifying your hard disk, make sure the system sees it (if it doesn’t, do an Auto-Detect if your BIOS supports that) then Exit and Save. Everything should be fine after that.

The battery on my motherboard is also used to store the time and date on my computer when the power is off right? That information is correct when I startup so I don’t think that could be it.

I had this problem once because of unseated PCI cards. I wasn’t able to get to the OS at all though…

But if what Rob V says doesn’t work, try my WAG by removing all your cards and booting up, then re-inserting them one at a time. My brpblem was that the NIC I was using had to be held up just right by the card below it to work! Go fig.

Incidentally, most modern BIOSES dispense with using CMOS for anything other than the clock (which has to keep time even when the computer is off) - the settings are usually kept in flash memory nowadays, which requires no current to maintain information. However, if your motherboard is old enough to have a battery-dependent BIOS, it’s quite possible for it to have failed (erasing any of your custom setings) if you have never replaced it.

If it really is that old, then as a practical matter, it’s probably a better idea to replace the processor and motherboard (assuming that you can afford to) with something more recent, rather than just replace the battery.

Many modern PC BIOSes have the abilty to “skip” the first hard drive if it interprets it as being incorrectly configured and look for the boot drive elsewhere. I suspect your drive jumpering or your IDE cabling is not quite correct. If I set my primary drive(s) on the second, instead of the first IDE channel connnector on the motherboard, it might give a similar message to the one you are getting and then look for the boot disk on the second channel - find it and boot at that point.

Might be something to check.

In the CMOS settings, is the Primary Hard Disk set to “Auto” or is it manually configured ? If it’s on “Auto”, try manually entering the settings for the Primary HDD in the CMOS settings.

Other things that might not help :

Check the jumper settings on the hard disk. Change them to other working settings and see if it makes any difference.

Change the IDE that the Primary HDD is connected to; from Primary IDE to Secondary IDE.

If all this doesn’t work, and you still wish to get rid of the message (and assuming that the other suggestions in this thread don’t work), update your BIOS to the latest version. Look up your motherboard manufacturer’s website for a BIOS update file. Be careful while updating, as an incorrect ROM image or a power failure at the time of update may render your system inoperable.