Best Practices Question

Problems with multiple physical hard drives.

07/22/2015 2263 views
We use mostly Dell Precision laptops with a SSD for the OS, and a larger HDD for data files.  We are having a problem where our K2000 puts boot files onto both physical drives. I would like to avoid removing every HDD prior to scripted installation. Our Kbox is version 3.7, and the scripted install is WIN 7 Pro SP1.  Has anyone else seen this issue, or heard anything, search didn't bring anything useful up.
Answer Summary:
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  • Is this a Windows 7 installation? Are the drives formatted in any way before O/S deployment?
    • Yes, Win 7 Pro SP1. And we use preinstall tasks "create single partition" "format C as NTFS". We have tried several different scripts to single out the SSD, but none have worked.
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  • Do the pre-install tasks mark the SSD's partition as the active partition? If you boot up to WinPE and run diskpart, which drive comes up as the first disk?
    (From the diskpart prompt run LIS DIS )

    Is your build process using the correct Win 7 block driver for the SATA port used by the SSD?
    • The preinstall tasks do mark the partition as active.

      When both drives are in the machine diskpart lists the HDD as the first disk, we have tried to work around this but have been unsuccessful.

      I am unsure of where to look for the answer to your last question. Is the sata port guaranteed to be same for every machine?

      When we remove the HDD everything works perfectly.
  • If you do a manual install of any version of NT, then the initial load phase asks you whether you need to install a block driver for the hard disk. In the past, it was generally only needed for SCSI hard disks as all others were IDE which the bios natively supports. The arrival of SATA, pretty much the defacto standard these days, also heralded the arrival of many different chipsets, each with their own drivers. Generally, looking through the available drivers on the vendor website should reveal any available hard disk/SATA drivers they provide. That brings me onto another thought. Have you checked the BIOS settings for your hard disks? There is an option to allow emulation of IDE/PATA hard disks which also turns off AHCI support, but then should allow the hard disks to be recognised regardless of drivers. However, the drives will then be restricted to the limitations of CHS addressing rather than LBA. In the old IDE days, there was a hardware differentiation between disk 0 and disk 1, but with SATA I'm not so sure. You could try changing the bios setting and seeing if it makes a difference. The other thing worth trying is to wipe both hard disks in your initial scripts and then only format the SSD and set it active. I presume your scripts do not try to set both drives active as only the boot disk needs setting this way.
    If none of that works, I would recommend contacting DELL to see if these laptops have any way of setting the "primary" hard disk, or whether they are interchangeable internally so that the SSD can be the primary always.
    • Thanks for the info, and helping to solve this for us.

Answer Chosen by the Author

Turns out the problem starts in the Windows installer itself, to force the scripted install to install to the secondary partition you have to perform partitioning and formatting within the unattend file as well.  Our Kace follow up trainer got back to us with an answer.
Answered 07/28/2015 by: dlonghi
Senior White Belt

  • Are you able to post more detail for the benefit of others who might experience this problem?
    • That was all. The partitioning and formatting has to be done in the unattend file, as well as telling it which partition to install to. Once we build a new one and test it out I will post all the unattend answers here.
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