Booting from IDE drive when there are SATA drives

This is a generic sort of article… I have only tried it on one type of machine but this advice may prove useful in other situations.

As regular readers know, I volunteer at an educational non-profit organisation every Friday as a systems administrator.One of the privileges is I get to borrow a computer every so often for one of my projects. In this case I had a computer I was using as a file server (using FreeNAS v7.x). Since I had it for over three years I figured it was time to get something a little newer. A client returned a Dell GX 270 because he no longer needed it. I asked and was granted permission to replace the older machine with this one.

At first I only had two hard drives to work with. The first was the hard drive from the old computer and the second was the drive from the new one. I was able to boot from the old drive with no problem. Adding in the new drive so it would be accessed over my LAN was also easy. I had a third drive. It was a 500GB SATA drive. I had everything but the power adapter so it took a few days to connect.

The SATA drive was one I had in my Linux box before the motherboard died. It still had all the information as well as the master boot record intact. Once it was added into the 270 it wanted to take over. Like Macs there is an option which allows the user to select which drive to boot from. For a file server that’s not an acceptable solution. In this case it didn’t work very well either. The boot process was hung for 15 minutes…

After a bit of research on the net I found the solution was to boot from a rescue CD/DVD and toggle the bootable flag on the first partition on the hard drive to off. From that point things worked fine. I don’t know if the hard drive works or not since it was only yesterday I added it to the machine. Assuming there are no hardware problems I should be able to do a bunch of neat things like create virtual machines which are stored on  the LAN, set up a private iTunes server, and back up the Mini I am using at the moment…

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About the Author


Mike Pfaiffer was President of A.P.P.L.E. and also the president of Digital Civilization magazine, a monthly UNIX magaine. Mike wrote a number of articles for A.P.P.L.E. and sadly passed away 19 July 2013 at age 54.