Hard Drives in Windows 7 Randomly Appear and Disappear

Long-time readers will understand immediately that this is not a post for regular readers but is meant to be found on Google by people with similar problems.

I installed Windows 7 home premium 64-bit on a new Asus motherboard with an Intel Z97 chipset.  I have a couple of hard drives and a couple of RAID's connected by eSATA.  Once the installation was complete, I noticed one of the hard drives was missing from the drive listing.  Not only was it not recognized by Windows, it was not recognized by the Windows disk management utility or even by the BIOS.  So I rebooted, and found that this drive now appeared but another disappeared.  This kept happening over and over.  Some reboots I had them all, and some I did not.

I did all the usual stuff.  I swapped cables, swapped drives, etc.  I even RMA'd the motherboard when I got desperate, thinking there was an issue with the drive controller.  But it kept occurring on the new board.  I considered switching the drives from AHCI to IDE in the BIOS, as some people reported this fixed the problem for them, but I really wanted to avoid that**.  I updated the chipset drivers and all the other drivers (sound, graphics, etc) in case there was some IRQ conflict, as some people have reported that this fixed their problem.

I finally found a fix, and thought I would share it.

  • Check your power plan in Windows control panel.  Even if the computer is set never to sleep, your hard drives may be set to sleep (this is in fact the default in windows 7).  Go to the power plan advanced settings, look for hard drives, and set the time to sleep to 0 which causes them never to sleep.  I am not sure this is necessary but others report some success with this.   I may go back later to see if I can change it back -- I don't necessarily need my hard drives spinning all day.
  • It turns out that installing the Intel chipset driver is not enough.  I had thought that since the SATA controller is part of the chipset, the chipset driver would cover it.  However, once I installed the Intel chipset driver, when I checked the SATA / AHCI controller in device manager, it still showed the driver to still be a Microsoft driver.  Turns out this is the problem.  You need this to be an Intel driver
  • The drivers I wanted for the Z97 were right there on my motherboard support site and were called:
    • Intel AHCI/RAID Driver Path for Windows Win7 32bit & Win7 64bit & Win8 32bit & Win8 64bit & Win8.1 32bit & Win8.1 64bit.
    • Intel Rapid Storage Technology Driver software V13.1.0.1058 for Windows Win7 64bit & Win8 64bit & Win8.1 64bit---(WHQL).
  • I had originally thought these were some sort of utility (and a utility is included) but these are essentially the eSATA drivers I needed.  Once installed, checking device manager now showed an Intel rather than a Microsoft driver.

And that fixed it.  Ugh.  Hours and hours of frustration.  My apologies to Asus who got a returned board that was probably just fine.

 

** By the way, the reason switching to IDE probably fixed the problem is that it is a different driver.  But one gives up capabilities and a bit of performance going AHCI back to IDE.  Also, the switch is not entirely straightfoward and the switch back, if one ever wants to make it, is complicated.

  • Brad Warbiany

    Warren,

    As you know, I work for WD. If there's any support you need, let me know.

  • Matthew Slyfield

    That's the sort of headache you have to be prepared to deal with if you want to build a DIY computer from base components. If you don't want the headaches, there are probably local shops that will do it for you at reasonable costs and have the knowledge to do it right the first time.

  • glenn.griffin3

    Windows is getting worse, these days. Used to be, there were all different viruses that would mess up your computer, now it's the windows updates. Just today I was called into a business to troubleshoot a Win7 Home Premium edition running a Quicken POS for a beauty shop: apparently a particular hairdryer was blowing the circuit break over and again. Near as I can tell, some number of incomplete boots in a row, and windows decides something has gone wrong -- and performs a factory reset. OR Asus BIOS did. Or something. I could not even credit such a thing happening, but I searched google and immediately got 5 hits for "My Asus just did a factory reset by itself, help me!" The response, pretty much, was "hope you have a backup."

    I'm going to try Recuva in the morning, and/or see if there's any hope of piecing together her quarter's sales from paper records. Considering the 2 of the last 4 business machines I've worked on have been user accounts deleted by some Microsoft push update, I'm wondering why anyone credits Microsoft with any reliability these days. Backup, backup, backup ... you're not running linux, so you just better EXPECT it to randomly hose itself some day.

  • sch

    Bought a Dell 8100 in 2014 with an mSATA 200+ GB SSD. Would not boot. 6-8 hours on phone with endless retries, finally consultant
    says change HD Bios from AHCI(or similar) to RAID. Computer booted and Win8.1 comes up and all is good. Computer not supposed
    to have a RAID set up but as long as BIOS thinks it is it works.

  • epobirs

    The Intel Rapid Storage Manage wants RAID even if it isn't implemented. This is because it uses some functions of the RAID support for things like the SSD caching functionality.

  • epobirs

    It's called an Uninterruptible Power Supply. Any business system should be on one, regardless of OS. You attribute the problem to Windows Updates but offer nothing in the failure that relates to WU at all. Instead you describe a scenario that is well known to clobber systems with repetition. You then later claim user accounts have been erased by updates. I've never encountered this or ever heard of it happening.

    Also, Quicken is in general garbage on the coding level. They have a long history of ignoring Microsoft recommendations for coding for data integrity and security. When Windows XP shipped MS released a set of guideline for proper coding techniques which would assure long term compatibility if followed. These guidelines included rules for how the Registry should and should not be used. The OS, however, did not rigidly enforce these rules as it should have, instead leaving developers free to make bad choices and allow compatibility with existing badly coded apps. Intuit was one of the companies that chose to completely ignore these guidelines because they saw a cheap way to create a system for linking third party add-ons to QuickBooks. Thus Quicken and QuickBooks became notorious for trashing machines and requiring backup discipline.

    Microsoft came to realize that the policy of letting developers do whatever they wanted was doing more harm than good for their reputation. At long last, when Vista came out it included enforcement of the guidelines for using the Registry. Quicken and QuickBooks users were forced to upgrade but the frequency of systems being trashed by Intuit products was greatly reduced.

  • Brad Warbiany

    "Backup, backup, backup."

    Completely agree. HDDs fail. SSDs fail. Software corrupts things even when the underlying storage is fine.

    If you have critical data of ANY nature, you don't trust that data to one fallible location. *EVEN* if you're running Linux.

  • ErikTheRed

    My rule has always been to avoid motherboard RAID like the plague - you're asking for problems with sketchy drivers and sketchy migration capabilities if you have to suddenly move to a new motherboard if there is a hardware failure. Either use a well-established NAS vendor (I prefer Synology, but there are other good ones out there), or if you really need the performance of locally attached RAID use a proper RAID controller that can be upgraded, replaced, moved to another system, etc. without risk of data loss. Here I prefer Areca because they have decent driver support and I love the out-of-band management available via the on-controller Ethernet port. LSI is also a pretty decent call. I would avoid Adaptec - they have a well-deserved reputation for sketchy drivers, their Linux/BSD support is terrible, and even for systems like VMWare where you would expect a solid effort... they still suck horribly. There are also a million and sundry el-cheapo RAID controllers out there that should also be avoided - they're basically the motherboard problems on a PCIe card.