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After talking with a tech support guy, he diagnosed the slow performance of my computer as being likely rooted in the fact that I was missing a driver (classic...). I opened Device Manager, and lo and behold, under "Other Devices -> Serial ATA Controller" I had a code 28 - driver missing. I clicked install driver, and Win 7 was unable to find the correct driver to install.

I don't know what sort of driver I'm looking for, let alone what a "Serial ATA Controller" is. I assume this is related to the SATA connections I plug into my HDs - but is this a problem with the HDs, or the motherboard? Device Manager says that all HD drivers are up to date...

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The SATA controller is part of your motherboard so you need to find out the manufacturer and the model of it. Then go to their website and you will find the necessary drivers.

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IF the driver of SATA is missing then the windows will stop at the "starting windows" screen. May be you had disabled the native SATA in your mainboard. Try to go to the BIOS setting and enable it.

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