Build Notes..

While my case was away, I looked for replacements which had an external SATA drive bay incorporated into the top panel. It was this feature which attracted me to the CM6790 II originally. Coolermaster and Thermaltake both produce cases with the facility, but having the external bay is only the first step.

BIOS is generally configured these days for AHCI. This facility allows for two functions

  1. More efficient reading of the hard drive, a double edged sword for laptop owners as it consumes more power and resources.
  2. Hard drive hot plugging..

It is the hard drive hot plugging which we will look at here.

So, assuming that you have your new case c/w the external SATA port, and all of the internals are installed, start the machine and go into BIOS settings.

For the AWARD BIOS, but all others will be similar, maybe F2. The clue is generally found at the base of the initialisation screen.

  1. Press DEL when the initialisation screen appears
  2. Scroll down the list of sections to ‘Integrated Peripherals
  3. Scroll down to ‘OnChip SATA Port as ESP’
  4. Enable the ports which you want to be hot pluggable
  5. Save and Exit the BIOS

If you now place a hard drive in the port and press it home, Windows will instantly recognise it and put up Windows Explorer on the screen for whatever partitions are on the drive. Remove the drive, and Windows instantly forgets about it.

OK..  While we are in the ‘Integrated Peripherals’ section..

You should have a setting which allows the last two SATA ports to be set for ‘Legacy IDE’. This is an extremely important setting when it comes to installing your operating system from a DVD drive.

In normal SATA mode, when you place your OS installation disk into the drive and boot the machine, it will be totally ignored. The secret is to set the last two ports as ‘Legacy IDE’. Your installation disk should now be read and you will get the message to press a key to load the contents.

If you don’t get it, the reason will be that your DVD drive is not plugged into one of the last two SATA ports. When putting together any SATA PC, I use different coloured SATA cables.

My case has red cables coming from its own SATA and eSATA ports, so I use blue cables for the primary and data drives, and a black SATA cable for the DVD drive. 

SATA 0 and 1 are blue, SATA 2 and 3 are red, and SATA 4 is black.

So now when I set the ports to Legacy, the DVD drive will definitely respond.

One thing I can tell you, and hopefully before you make the error, NEVER EVER set the main ports out of AHCI. Your computer will NOT boot, even if you go back into BIOS and set AHCI again. Despite what you might read about an easy recovery for this situation, it rarely if ever works, and you are looking at a fresh install.. 

Now you know as much as I do about AHCI and a couple of do’s and don’ts.. Smile

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