How to make a HDD bootable on a Dell Desktop Computer

By rcs_mky ·
I am working on a Dell Dimension **50 and I have to install the original HDD as a second Sata drive and install a new drive as the first drive with windows XP on it.

I discovered a when I attached the original drive to my computer and viewed the partitions in partition magic 8.05, that the Dell HDD has a small boot partition created by dell, I think this is what is needed fore the bios to see the HDD am I correct?

If so, is it possible to copy it to the HDD that I am installing as the windows drive so that I can boot it up and install windows?

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Depends on the size of that Small Partition

by OH Smeg Moderator In reply to How to make a HDD bootabl ...

If it is about 8 MEG's it is the space left over from the Partitioning of the HDD. If it is considerably bigger it is the Recovery Partition.

Shouldn't be a Partition that contains the BIOS files as now these are included in the actual M'Board. Though you may not see the SATA Drives in BIOS itself depending on several things but the most likely is that the BIOS doesn't Natively Support SATA HDD's so you have to load a SATA Driver allow Windows to install.

Ideally you should fit the Old HDD to a USB Enclosure and use it from there to recover your Data or clone off that Drive. Depending on what it is you want to do here to replace the HDD.

You can use Ghost to clone the Drive if you have a copy or you could use the Trial version of Acronis True Image Workstation


To clone with but this is Time Limited so you need to make sure that you have everything finished in a reasonable time or buy the product. It is worth the price and works very well.

Ideally you should remove the SATA Drive as a Slave as it does have Boot Data on the Primary Partition which will want to boot off that drive even if you where to install Windows again to the New HDD.

If you remove this drive from the Boot Order it saves potential problems so fitting it to a USB Enclosure is probably the best alternative.


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Dell Boot partition

by rcs_mky In reply to Depends on the size of th ...

Actually it has nothing to do with that at all, I know that there is uaually about 8 meg or so left over from partitioning I partition drives all the time I run my own Mobile Computer biz with a home based lab.
Now I cam accross this strategy by Dell about a year ago when my client first brought his Dell Dimension **50 to me for a service and ask me to wipe his drive as he was returning the Computer to the company he purched it from because he was going Bnkrpt any way he also asked me to rget his data off the drive.
While I had his drive hooked up to my lab PC I viewed it through partition magic and noticed a partition about 500Mb Fat16 at the front of the drive within the bootable area in front of C so I went in for a look and it was full of dell files I noticed some MBR files I had suspitions from past experiences with Dell PC's that it might be that the hardrive has to have this partition and files for the Dell BIOS to recognize the drive, we know that the next step the bios makes after POST is to look for the MBR to boot into windows.
So I copied it and stored it on my last HDD that died only two months after installation and lost it the same occured on a new dell laptop a client brought to me shortly after bying it because He ordered XP Pro installed but it came with Vista on it instead when I tried to install windows XP after going through the basic setup booting from the XP CD it said it could not find any formattable hard drive installed I did not have the answer but had a suspition that when I deleted the partition and created the new one when it went to format the new partition that is when the message was displayed.
He needed it urgently so took his laptop to another Technician who was stumped as I was but after some research found that he had to create this fat 16 partiton first and copy the dell files to it. before installing it back into the dell laptop and running the installation CD. What I am trying to find out is how to get those files, I think dell has done this to make money from aftermarket repairs and support.
I remember during the IT hardware classes back when I studied IT reading about Dell ATX power supplies and motherboards made after 1998 might not use the standard P1 Pinouts for ATX although the Power Connectors look the same, for this reason the A+ Guide to Managing and maintaining your PC 4th Edition warns against plugging a non Dell ATX PS to a DEll Motherboard this was the Hardware text book we used for IT Cert II and III.
Although these days judging by the Dimension Tower design a standard PS would not fit properly anyway.
Getting back to the point, does anyone out there have any helpful info, like where to find the DEll files used to make a hdd bootable in a dell machine?

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No that Partition is the Recovery Partition

by OH Smeg Moderator In reply to Dell Boot partition

You can rebuild the System to As New by entering the correct Key Combination at the POST Screen and the system will effectively reinstall th OS, Drivers and all of the Software that came bundled with the system new.

These Recovery Partitions have to be on a FAT16 Partition at the Beginning of the Drive. If there are on any other Partition Type of place on the drive they can not run to rebuild the system. While it will render the Data on the drive invisible with a rebuild of the OS and Software it doesn't actually delete this data which could be recovered if the owner was willing to spend the money to do so.

So it is useless to Wipe sensitive Data off a HDD and if there was any suspicion of Criminal Activity the Authorities could easily recover all of the Data on this drive and even recover up to 24 Layers of Data with a high % recovery Rate. If the Data was buried Deeper than this they can still recover most of it but the accuracy is not as high.

Did you think to download the Dell Service Manual for this model? They have most of them available On Line and they do cover replacing the HDD and what is required. :)


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Look I know all these things already!

by rcs_mky In reply to No that Partition is the ...

Just for your info, I know that technically you cannot wipe a drive clean, the only way to, if you really don't want anyone to see what is on there is to destroy it.

anyway that had nothing to do with my problem. but thanks for trying anyway.
By the way The partition I was talking about does exist it is actually a DELL Utility Partition that is 31MB on this drive anyway and has typically 10Mb of files in it, the site where I found what I needed says that they are between 30 - 60Mb this is the link for the details if you are interested in this topic. http://www.goodells.net/dellutility/index.htm


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go to new drive mfr's website for utility to copy

by sgt_shultz In reply to How to make a HDD bootabl ...

you can usually get a neat utiltiy that will copy the harddisk and make it bootable. Try to get it from the website of the manufacturer of your new drive (look specifically for the one that help you upgrade to a new drive), if you can't find it there you may be able to use a utility from the old drive manufacturer. Such a utility will make the drive bootable and copy all the utility partitions currently on your old drive

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Thank's for the Help!

by rcs_mky In reply to go to new drive mfr's web ...

Hi, Thank you for your help your suggestion helped lead me to the right place.


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Try the suggestion

by Jacky Howe In reply to How to make a HDD bootabl ...

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