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I have four IDE hard drives connected to a motherboard through two IDE ribbons. On each ribbon, a drive is jumped as master and the other as the slave. When I have all four drives hooked up, the system will not boot. The BIOS freezes right after it auto-detects all four of the hard drives. Strangely, if I unplug the secondary master and slave the system will boot. It seems like anytime even one of the drives from the second ribbon cable is hooked up, the boot process freezes. Do I have a dead hard drive or is it something with having four hard drives together? How can I narrow down what my problem is? Thanks.

problem components:
MSI RD480 Neo2 motherboard
Seagate ST340015A (40GB primary master)
Maxtor 4D080H4 (80GB primary slave)
Seagate ST380013A (80GB secondary master)
Western Digital WD2500JB-00REA0 (250GB secondary slave)

Edit: Problem Solved. It turns out that two of the hard drives I was using, had died. I tried each one seperately and two were unresponsive. Thank you for the troubleshooting help.

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You need to do way more troubleshooting. Grab a notebook. Label the cables A and B. You could label the hard drives. Note down which hard drives are on which cables. Take the 2 hard drives that were on the primary, and the 2 hard drives that were on the secondary, and swap them over. Test. Swap them back. so you're back in the original failed state. Now swap the cables over, so unplug the primary and secondary and swap them. Basic troubleshooting. You could then edit your post and describe the results. – barlop Dec 20 '10 at 6:03
You may find you can cause a crash in other ways than having all 4. And you may find some combinations of 4 that don't crash. You will then have a better idea where the problem may be. – barlop Dec 20 '10 at 6:03
Have you tried on the "secondary cable", after you got a crash, switching around which hard drive was master and which was slave? If you have another hard drive, then you may be able to swap it for each hard drive on the secondary, and find one hard drive in particular that is picky.. and how it is picky. Once you find that, you can then put a label on it as to how it is picky. It also helps to have different IDE cables to try. – barlop Dec 20 '10 at 6:07
Another factor, is, and my memory may not be right on this, but sometimes a hard drive has one jumper option for "master", and another option for "master with a slave".. and of course no jumper in has a meaning too, a meaning specific to the drive. – barlop Dec 20 '10 at 6:10
@komidore64 Thanks for letting us know. But the system considers this question open -- could you add an answer of your own, and click the checkmark next to it to "accept" it? This will mark this question answered. Thanks! – Daniel Beck Mar 14 '11 at 21:58
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Turns out it was a bad hard drive. they were all quite old. I isolated one that was having read/write errors and removed it.

My apologies for leaving the question unanswered.

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