Still Recovering Broken Computers

Several years ago in college, 2 of my best friends and I started an IT consulting company to help small businesses with technology. This ranged from desktop and network support to web design. A fair number of the calls ended up in some sort of “my computer is broke, can you help.” In an age when Geek Squad didn’t exist, we were the best house call you could get. When we dissolved our company 5 or 6 years ago (because we also had day jobs), I thought I was done “fixing” computers. However, I forgot there was still one part of the population I would always be obligated to… family.

This weekend, I hit my second family “computer problem” in the last 2 months. The first one was a fried motherboard and involved me assisting in the purchase of a new computer. The latter, I am in the process (as I blog) of retrieving data off of the hard drive as the BIOS isn’t recognizing it at boot for some reason. So, rather than throw caution to the wind, let’s back up some data before proceeding. If you have a lot of family members or friends calling you about computer problems (and you have a hard time saying “No”), do yourself a favor and invest in an adapter that goes from USB to SATA/IDE for both 2.5″ and 3.5″ hard drives. I purchased this model from Amazon last year and have had good success: Vantec CB-ISATAU2 SATA/IDE to USB 2.0 Adapter Supports 2.5-Inch, 3.5-Inch, 5.25-Inch Hard Disk Drives It’s pretty straightforward…

  • Remove hard drive from affected machine.
  • Choose appropriate SATA or IDE adapter for your 3.5″ or 2.5″ hard drive.
  • Plug USB end into your good laptop, desktop, etc.
  • Your machine should recognize the new device and quickly install the appropriate drivers.
  • Then, you have access to that hard drive just like it’s a giant thumb drive.
  • I usually go through and copy My Documents, and any Favorites, Desktop icons, etc. in addition to any specialty program data that may be in other folders.
  • If you have someplace else to store your data rather than your own machine, I highly recommend it.
  • To protect you and your customer (user), always purge the data you have backed up after you have completed your service.

Now, you’ve at least done your due diligence and backed up their data before you embark on fixing their machine.

I’m now in “live mode” with this blog as I troubleshoot

As for me, the data is backed up and I’m now it’s back to troubleshooting why the drive isn’t recognizable by the BIOS. I was able to read the data just fine when I backed it up, so I’m fairly certain nothing is wrong with the drive itself. I’ve re-seated it twice to make sure it has a good connection, and tried it without the battery in the laptop. Now, it’s on to the Thinkpad SATA HD Update Utility to see if it can recognize the hard drive and/or update the firmware for the device controller, if needed. After downloading the ISO and burning to disc, that led to nowhere.

This Lenovo Forum suggested changing the hard drive setting in the BIOS to “compatible” from AHCI. That didn’t seem to get me anywhere. Press the Thinkvantage button, then F1 on boot.

I tried updating the BIOS next. I’m at 2.24 right now on this Lenovo Thinkpad T61 and 2.30 is available. here. Download another ISO to burn to disc so it’s bootable. Make sure you have a fully charged battery and the power adapter is firmly plugged in. The last thing you want is the power to go out during a BIOS update. If it fails, you essentially have a corrupt ROM. The BIOS update went just fine with no problems, but still no progress.

I’m starting to lean towards a faulty controller on the motherboard. Which, if that is the case, I’ll be recommending a new purchase on this laptop. It’s 5 years old and has probably served its time relative to most hardware life cycles.


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