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Getting SATA and Windows XP Installs to Play Nice Together

Before the end of last year, I undertook an interesting project.  One of my coworkers—actually, one of my team members—wanted to downgrade his laptop from Windows Vista to Windows XP.  He had complained about the speed, even with SP1 installed.  I took a look, and I immediately thought the culprit was the onboard graphics and chipset—an Intel 945GM Chipset.  Of course, as the press discovered and class-action suit disclosed, emails sent within Microsoft complained about the performance of this chipset with Vista, but I digress. 

I had thought I blogged this topic, but I had only twittered my victory apparently.  I was contacted by David Bradley via Twitter asking if I was ever able to get this working.  Thus began an email conversation between the two of us concerning this.  I also admonished myself and promised to post my solution to this problem as I recollected it. 

Given the rebuild task, I did some research before starting to grab the drivers I needed and see if there were any other potential issues to be wary of.  I soon discovered a pretty big one.  Windows XP SP2 does not have native Serial ATA (SATA) hard drive support.  In other words, unless you have a floppy with the drivers or have a USB key handy, the installation disc does not contain the appropriate drivers. 

I initially tried to burn an integrated disc, but I was met by a BSOD when the machine rebooted.  I burned a new disc with Windows XP SP3 integrated, and that also resulted in the same “blue” results.  I opted to do a bit more Googling, and I turned up the following two articles concerning the “downgrade” of HP laptops to Windows XP from Windows Vista. 

An Up to Date Guide to Reinstalling WinXP to DV6000T

HP dv8000t Reinstallation Guide

The takeaway from both of these articles and what I learned when I rebuilt this machine—I got it right on the third attempt—is that there is a delicate dance required to get SATA support to work with a new Windows XP installation.  At a very high level, here is what is required to get this installation routine to work:

  1. Make sure to download the appropriate chipset drivers—in this case the Intel 945GM chipset. 
    (If you have any question as to what to install, download and run the Intel Chipset Identification Utility on the machine in question.  Be sure to install the version appropriate to your OS.) 
  2. Extract the SATA driver for your chipset.  This varies based upon the method you can get the storage driver, but in my case, it involved the use of a virtual floppy tool to trick the driver install into believing my PC had a floppy drive. 
  3. Disable Native SATA support in the BIOS. 
  4. Boot from your installation media and proceed with your operating system installation. 
  5. When the installation is complete and you boot into Windows, open Device Manager. 
  6. From Device Manager, select your IDE ATA/ATAPI Controller and select Primary IDE Channel
  7. Choose the “Update Driver” button, and be sure to not search for the driver and instead specify the Intel SATA driver. 
  8. Continue the installation of the drivers, clicking through any security prompts. 
  9. Reboot your machine once complete.  As the machine boots, enter the BIOS and re-enable Native SATA Support.  Save your BIOS changes and reboot. 
  10. Enjoy Native SATA support for your machine, and continue installing the other drivers on your machine as required. 

Now, this procedure will vary depending upon the hardware manufacturer.  Nonetheless, the way to get around the initial install problem is to disable native SATA support, install your OS, install the correct SATA driver for your hard drive interface, then reboot. 


  1. Heh, this sadly sound like the linux world 10 years ago when you ad to worry about stuff like this. I thought Windows was supposed to be better.

  2. Actually, XP is a nine-year-old OS, so it makes sense that it doesn’t detect SATA drives. My problem was that I could not integrate the darn drivers into my disc. Even after following instructions.

    Screw you and your Windows mockery! 😉

  3. I’ve been using native SATA support on install for a few years now with an nForce board I used. The trick is to set build your own XP CD using nLite. Integrating drivers in nLite is a breeze, and it make it possible to set up a bootable XP CD which ships with all of the drivers necessary on a system, so you never run into the problem of booting up a fresh install and the monitor is at 640×480 and there is no ethernet or USB support.

  4. @mokiejovis: I am all too familiar with nLite, but apparently I did not integrate my drivers correctly. Nonetheless, I may have to play with it again for future endeavors. nLite, though, is awesome.

  5. It was indeed a worrying tale of woe, Jason. I never did get things to work that way despite trying all the various hacks.

    Instead, as you know, what I did in the end was to get hold of a “special” slipstreamed iso with WIndows XP SP3 on it (I do own a legitimate copy of XP, by the way) and burned that to a boot DVD. I enabled SATA in BIOS booted from the DVD, installed XP and away we go. SATA enabled and truly faster than when the machine was knew.

    It went swimmingly (so far), the only time consuming bit was restoring data backups and installing all my software.

  6. @David Bradley: You cannot say I didn’t give it a valiant effort. 😉 I am just glad you were able to get back up and running.

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