Install XP: Setup did not find any hard disk drives installed in your computer

We’ve seen this question posted in our forum many times, so thought we should write an article on this problem. When users try to install Windows XP, they encounter the problem of not being able to find any hard disk drives installed as if they weren’t connected. The hard drive is detected with no problem in the BIOS and also on start up POST, able to boot up Linux Live CDs but the hard drive is just not being detected in Windows setup. Here is the exact error message.

Setup did not find any hard disk drives installed in your computer.

Make sure any hard disk drives are powered on and properly connected to your computer, and that any disk-related hardware configuration is correct. This may involve running a manufacturer-supplied diagnostic or setup program.

Setup cannot continue. To quit Setup, press F3.

Setup did not find any hard disk drives

This problem is quite a common one and is simply due to the fact that when Windows XP was created, the SATA chipset itself and SATA hard drives weren’t available to the masses, so support for it wasn’t included in the XP setup process. As most computers within the last decade or so have some form of SATA controller, if you try to install Windows onto a SATA drive, XP won’t recognize it because the drivers aren’t present on the installation disc, so they need to be loaded manually for the drive to be picked up.

Thankfully there are a few ways to get around this problem and enable Windows XP to be installed onto a SATA hard drive so you can enjoy the extra performance and other functions like hotplug/AHCI etc.

Setting the BIOS Correctly

The first and mos obvious method is to change the SATA Mode to IDE in the system BIOS. Most BIOS’s for several years have included a fallback mode to enable a SATA drive to behave like an IDE drive, and therefore makes it visible to XP during setup. The problem with this setting is it comes under several different names and can be found in different sections within the BIOS. It depends entirely on the computer or motherboard’s make, model and manufacturer to know which setting you have and where it is. If you have a manual, it’s certainly worth reading.

Install Windows XP on SATA

The most obvious thing to look for is a setting which can change the SATA controller to IDE or PATA mode, with options such as AHCI -> IDE or SATA/RAID -> IDE etc. Basically any option you come across to reduce the SATA/RAID mode to IDE/PATA should be the correct one. Don’t confuse this option with a similar one which will disable the SATA controller completely. Here’s some names we found it could be under in a few motherboard manuals we looked at:

Integrated Peripherals > SATA Devices Configuration > SATA Mode > [IDE]
Integrated Peripherals > Serial ATA Function > Base
Storage Configuration > SATA Mode Selection > Emulated PATA Mode
SATA Configuration > SATA Configuration [Enhanced] > Configure SATA as > IDE
Integrated Peripherals > South OnChip PCI Device > SATA Controller > IDE Mode


Using a Floppy Disk

If you’re unable to change RAID mode to IDE or disable SATA in the BIOS, then the next option would be to download SATA/RAID drivers from your motherboard manufacturer’s website, extract the drivers to a floppy disk and then insert the floppy into your computer during Windows XP installation. This method obviously gets around the problem of XP not having the drivers on the install CD by you providing them manually.

Windows XP setup won’t recognize USB flash drives, so you need to have an internal floppy drive available, many USB floppy drives will also work though. As you can see in the image below, it clearly states that the SATA RAID driver is for use on floppy drives. You need to make sure any drivers you download are explicitly designed for putting onto a floppy and not a generic driver, usually the file will be around 1MB or lower which is a good sign it’s likely to be the correct driver.

Download SATA drivers

Insert the Windows XP CD and boot it up. You should see a message that says “Press any key to boot from CD…” Simply hit any key and it’ll start to boot from CD. Pay attention to the next blue colored windows setup screen. When you see a message that says “Press F6 if you need to install a third party SCSI or RAID driver…” at the bottom, immediately hit the F6 key.

Press F6 if you need to install a third party SCSI or RAID driver

After loading some files, you will come to a screen that says the following:

Setup could not determine the type of one or more mass storage devices installed in your system, or you have chosen to manually specify an adapter. Currently, Setup will load support for the following mass storage devices(s):

< none >

* To specify additional SCSI adapters, CD-ROM drives, or special disk controllers for use with Windows, including those for which you have a device support disk from a mass storage device manufacturer, press S.

* If you do not have any device support disks from a mass storage device manufacturer, or do not want to specify additional mass storage devices for use with Windows, press ENTER.

Press S to specify additional SATA RAID drivers

Make sure the driver floppy is inserted and press S. It will present a list of drivers which it read from the disk earlier. Select the appropriate driver and continue the Windows XP installation. The setup will continue and this time it will recognize the SATA hard disk drive in your PC. This problem is quite common when trying to install Windows XP on newer computers because most if not all are using SATA hard drives. After installing Windows XP, you can easily and automatically install all required device drivers using the DriverPack Solution disc.

If you thought it wasn’t possible to use a USB flash drive instead of a floppy drive to load the drivers during the F6 phase, we have a solution that could help on page 2.

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