Hard Drive Failure

NO ROM BASIC, 
Or ONLY ROM BASIC In Actual IBM Systems
COPYRIGHT 1996

Anthony Olszewski

Last modified:

On some systems, this can show up as a Disk I/O Error or a Non-System Disk message. Older systems showed a No ROM Basic error.

If the drive's just been installed , see INSTALLING A HARD DRIVE.

Generally, the cause is either that the system files have been erased or corrupted. The other common reason is that the hard drive has been defined improperly in the CMOS SETUP. Investigate the second possibility first. If you start reading and writing to a badly configured hard drive, you'll louse the data up, but GOOD! If you need to determine the settings for your drive, take a look at THE REF 4.3. THE REF 4.3 is a collection of text files of specs for lots of different catagories of hardware, hard drives included. THE REF has even more information at their Web Site.

Try booting from a floppy. If you use any drive compression utilities, then you need the proper rescue disk. If you can get to the C drive, and all your data is recognizable, TEST FOR VIRUSES!

If the virus test is negative, try FDISK /MBR from the A: prompt. You'll have to have the FDISK program (it's part of DOS) on the boot floppy. This re-writes the master boot record. If that does not help, the run FDISK. IF YOU'VE GOT ANY DATA ON THE HARD DRIVE THAT YOU HOPE TO RECOVER, AT THIS POINT, MAKE NO CHANGES IN THE PARTITION SIZE!!! CHANGING THE SIZE OF A PARTITION DESTROYS ALL THE DATA!!! DELETING ANY PARTITIONS WILL DESTROY ALL DATA IN THOSE PARTITIONS!!! For now, go to PARTITION INFORMATION. Look to see if the first (probably the only) partition on your fixed disk is defined as a DOS partition and is set as ACTIVE. If it's not ACTIVE, then switch it to ACTIVE in FDISK. If it's NOT defined as a DOS partition, try the following suggestions, but your situation is starting to look grim.

If your hard drive still ignores reveille, next use SCANDISK to look for any scrambled sectors. If this does not show any house of horrors, you will need to use the DOS SYS command to shoehorn in the system files. SYS must be run from the boot floppy. DISKTOOL will do the trick in some cases where SYS fails. On an older drive, MFM or RLL, try NORTON's CALIBRAT to "tune-up" the drive. The last resort, in any case, is a low level format. For the MFM and RLL drives, you can use DISK MANAGER. HARD DRIVE DIAGNOSTICS is a shareware collection of utilities for older hard drives. HARD DRIVE DIAGNOSTICS will do low level formatting on MFM and RLL drives. For IDE units, a low level format program is built into most newer motherboards. SCSI adapters generally contain a low level formatting utility. After a low level format, except with DISK MANAGER, you will have to run FDISK and then FORMAT /s.

If the system still will not load, better get used to it! The early tracks are screwed up. Either completely replace the drive, or set it as SLAVE and install a new master hard drive to act as the boot drive.

For a discussion of boot problems specific to the IBM PS2 55SX see PS2 55SX FAILS TO BOOT in the PS2 section of COMPUTERCRAFT.

No ROM BASIC or ROM BASIC
The original IBM PC, half to have an operating system built in, half to satisfy contractual obligations with Microsoft, had a version of BASIC "burnt" into a ROM chip. If no boot disk was inserted in a floppy drive at system startup, BASIC would load from the ROM. To keep on the good side of Bill Gates's attorneys, Big Blue kept this ROM BASIC in the XT, AT, and even into the PS2 line.

The clone makers, to retain compatibility, kept similar error catching routines in their BIOSes. If no boot files are detected on the hard drive, the NO ROM BASIC error message is displayed in big blocky, really shocking, letters.

This is often good news, in a way. The system recognizes the hard drive, so it is not likely to be a drive crash, or other hardware catastrophe.