View Full Version : WD Hard Drive goes south with VA-503+

1st July 1999, 03:43
Hello everyone/anyone who answers my plea for help. This is my first post to the board since I begain lurking around when I purchased my G200 back in Dec 98.

I have exhausted all avenues that I can think of which includes Western Digital Tech support, their message boards, FAQs from FIC, etc. I just recently received a new HD to replace the one I suspected of being faulty. Same bad things still seem to happen which I will go into:

While using this 8.4 GB hard drive I have had the following symptoms:

1) Failed fresh installs of win98, msgrvd(sp?) page fault error or something of the sort.
2) When it successfully does install win98 which sometimes happens, it, within one or two reboots loses it's registry settings. Since win98 reboots after any driver install, such as the VIA irq routing or AGPvxd, I typically don't get very far before the registry checker comes in and resets everything. Sometimes it fails to boot at all and I get the blue screen of death.

The things that I have tried:

1) Using my trusty Seagate 1.6 GB, which I may add has never had one of the above issues, as the win98 bootable drive and the WD as a second drive to store applications. The WD HD inevitable loses data over time, ie apps just stop working when launched.

2) Partition the WD into two smaller partitions 4.4 & 4 GB

3) Buy the Promise ULTRA66 controller card with the 80 pin conductor which WD Tech support assured me was my problem.

4) Use all the latest drivers from WD and VIA.

5) Update the BIOS(s) where applicable

6) Disable UDMA and switch to PIO mode 2(very slow I might add)

7) Replace the drive with a new one from WD

Where I think the problem may lie:

1) BIOS settings. I really don't fully understand what all of the BIOS settings mean.

2) Bad motherboard (I hope not)

And before I go on I should state my system:

AMD K6-2 currently @ 300MHz
FIC VA-503+ rev 1.2a
AGP G200 v1.6 & 4.51 (when I get that far)
SB 32PNP ISA ( <- could this be a problem )
Promise ULTRA66 HD controller, specifically designed for WD drives
Seagate 1.6 GB
Western Digital 8.4 GB
64 MB of PC100, FSB is set at 100Mhz

I really would like any input/advice from anyone on this board. This drive is completely perplexing me.

1st July 1999, 04:11
The Seagate drive doesn't give you any problems? This is really odd. I don't think it's the SB32, I've had a SB16, and now an SB64, and no problems for me from them. I have a WD and a Maxtor HD, and they've taken turns being master & slave, never any problems.
Well, what BIOS are you using? And what are your settings?

This sounds like a really tricky one, but I (and others, I'm sure) will do what we can to help.


P.S "currently" at 300: were you overclocking?

503+ rev 1.2a, 128MB PC100 RAM, K6-2/350@400,Win98,G200 Millenium (SGRAM)

1st July 1999, 04:14
One other thing for now: have you tried using the WD drive by itself? I've heard stories of (specifically) Seagate drives not being able to "play nice", and have difficulty sharing IDE channels. Not my own experience, but just some other post somewhere.


1st July 1999, 04:36
A tricky one is right. Well I'll tell you what I have typically over the last twenty or so installs of Win98(I'm not exaggerating since I thought it was everything else before narrowing it down to the drive.)

I start with only the WD in the system. I boot off the EZDRIVE diskette with the latest and greatest from WD. Format the drive and partition to an 8.4GB with FAT32. I have tried multiple partitions as well. Then I turn the machine off. Re-attach the cables to the Seagate and boot to Dos. Then I copy all of the necessary drivers to the WD. Turn the machine off again. Then I disconnect the Seagate, and boot off of a floppy disk that has my CD drivers and lets me access the CDROM. This way I have the drivers and patches necessary on the WD HD when/if I get win98 up and running, particularily the VIA ones. I then begin the install of win98 which as of last night didn't work. Litterally there is nothing on the drive save patches and drivers and the dos boot files.

Also my BIOS is Award, I forget which version, and I am not currently OCing. I have in the past gone up to as high as 392 MHz with an FSB of 112, though only as a test. Since I have been trying to fix this, I have been running at the normal 300Mhz clock.

As far as the BIOS settings are concerned, I haven't experimented significantly with them. I am an electrical engineer, but for the life of me I can't figure out what most of them do. That's what happens write code for outdated processors that the government still thinks are worth something. Anyway I would love good documentation if you know where some is.

1st July 1999, 22:29
Hi Fillipi,
I wonder, does your BIOS propery support the WD drive? If so why would you be using EZdrive? Just boot off a normal Win98 Boot disk, Fdisk as normal and format away. I had somewhat similar problems with using the Linux Fdisk to create some FAT32 partitions (I tried to be clever and failed!), then let Win98 format them, just didn't work. The actual symptoms were the partitions I created (Fat32 had problems, Fat16 was fine) appeared fine, but when I copied files to them, nada, zip, no way jose. Errors were never reported just corrupt files when the copy had finished.

If I remember correctly there were 3 main barriers in Disk sizes 528Mb, 2.1Gb & 8.4Gb, but If your BIOS properly supports this drive, there should be no need to use EZDisk.

I know it can be frustrating, but hang in there. Fdisking, formatting and re-installing everything is a real nightmare at times.

Warning. I don't know if EZdisk will partition 'on the fly' but certainly if you use the correct Fdisk & format method you WILL LOSE ALL DATA on that disk.

Hope this helps


2nd July 1999, 01:47
Well to answer your questions, CraigS, I only used EZdrive to partition and format, not the EZbios option. According to WD, if your bios doesn't support the HD then load EZbios. Well I know that my board should support the drive, but after talking to tech support, they convinced me that there could still be bios mapping issues. So that's why I bought the promise controller card. It supports the ATA66 deal and removes any type of bios problems from the motherboard manufacturer.

I have tried using the straight fdisk and format route, but the problem with that is that (a) it took a hell of a lot longer (which is a pain after the 10th or so win98 install) and (b) it didn't map the whole drive correctly. It chopped off about 600MB or so which I didn't feel like living with.

Anyway last night was the 26th & 27th install of win98. #26 failed in the same way with the bios settings set to "bios default". For the 27th install I set the bios settings to "settings default". Bios default is supposed to be the more conservative. Settings default is supposed to be somewhat geared for speed. Regardless I also pulled the promise controller card out. Win98 during these installs was crashing during device initialization. I know that the card and win98 don't get along until after you install the promise device drivers. What is supposed to happen is win98 sees the card, can't figure it out and just disable it. That's what happened when the Seagate was the boot disk. Well install #27 without the card completed installation. After everything worked I then loaded the VIA stuff. Still no problem.

As of right now it appears to be working without a hitch. I put the promise card back in and put the Seagate on it. Eventually I want to tempt fate and migrate the WD to it as well so that I can get the 66MB/s burst mode. I have the card, might as well use it.

However, that doesn't mean that my problem is solved. With the original drive the registry corruption typically happens after a bunch of reboots or as late as the next day. Also I only recently purchased the controller card. The problems with the WD drive have been occuring since Feb when I bought it. If things go smoothly tonight then, I'll be 50% sure it's fixed and that the problem was a faulty drive.

BTW once I feel that I am hardware safe, I am getting redhat 6 going on my machine. I saw it demoed here at work on a 350Mhz PowerPC SBC. It looks pretty cool and I like Unix much more that Windows. If it weren't for the damn cool games, I would probably 86 the win98 monstrosity.

Thanks again for everyones help. I am actually surprised anyone popped on over here, with all the stuff relating to PD5 in the main forum. I also successfully downloaded that last night with the intent to install today.

2nd July 1999, 02:42
Here's a zany suggestion. Put your FSB down to 66mhz, and try all over again. I bet it'll work.

It's Only A Graphics Card!
(But a damn good 'un!)

2nd July 1999, 03:17
You know, I was considering that. I have some questions about the effects of Ocing the FSB, impacts to PC100 memmory, performance, etc. If it turns out that the current setup isn't stable, then I'll try a 66Mhz FSB.

I also just stumbled across some documentation that stated that the Promise controller can't live on an overclocked bus. Not that I am doing it now, but I had planned it for the future. Bummer.

I don't have my VA-503+ stuff handy, is it possible to up the FSB to 112 or 124 and keep the PCI bus at 66 Mhz? At what point to voltage settings become significant?

2nd July 1999, 15:14
Try using different RAM. The 503+ is very particular about its ram.

6th July 1999, 00:47
Well it's working. It was the original HD after all. It worked over the long weekend without any problems, even considering the 100+ degree temp in the computer room. I have a good cooling setup though. I take the case off and put a 3' 120 VAC box fan about six inches away from the open side and turn the fan on high. Works pretty well.

6th July 1999, 10:41
I also have a VA-503+ ver 1.2a. It gave me very similar problems with losing the registry. This may sound silly, but I remembered others saying that only the FIC supplied cables were stable. Sure enough, when I used their cables, things became much more stable. I had problems withthe hard drive not reading and those all went away. I would sometimes head the hard drive cycling on and off repeatedly and of course it was dead then. A reboot usually didn't help. Leaving the machine turned off overnight usually fixed it. Heat I assume. But again, I haven't had the problem since I put in the FIC cable and have no idea how a simple cable could affect heat. Extra capacitance perhaps? Don't ask why, the cable I was using came from the same manufacturer, but the one in the FIC box works better.

Its a fix that costs you nothing, so its worth a try. Unfortunatley, you can't use the cable on your Promise card since its not Ultra66 80 pin.