Q: I have recently purchased a system that has an unsupported IDE CD-ROM drive. How do I install Windows NT from an unsupported device?

Excellent question! Many folks seem intimidated by the installation process. In all cases, the easiest installations are the ones that occur from the hard drive rather than the CD-ROM. (On RISC platforms the CD-ROM must be supported; you can't install NT any other way.)

Copy the I386 directory from the Windows NT CD to the local hard drive from within DOS. This assumes that you are setting up a dual-boot system. Go into the I386 directory, and run winnt.exe/b. The /b switch eliminates the need for the first three floppy disks. (After you install NT, the IDE CD-ROM drive will still be unsupported; check with the CD-ROM vendor to obtain the appropriate drivers.)

Q: I have a mirrored system--duplexed--and the primary drive has failed. No matter what I try, I can't get the fault-tolerant boot floppy to work.

The following information applies to Windows NT versions 3.5 and 3.51. In the setup process, the second drive is on a controller whose BIOS has been disabled, but due to a change from "SCSI" to "Multi" in the boot.ini file, the boot process needs to read the controller BIOS.

Reboot the system and enable the BIOS on the secondary controller. Edit the floppy boot.ini and make sure that "Multi" is used on the floppy. When you reboot, the boot process will read the controller BIOS and locate the correct drive.

There are also two other approaches:

  • Move drive 2 to controller 1.
  • Edit the boot.ini and change all "Multi" references to "SCSI." Copy the SCSI driver (e.g., Arrow.sys for an Adaptec 2742 controller) to the floppy, and rename the driver NTBOOTDD.sys.

Unless the drives involved cannot handle BIOS booting (e.g., if they exceed 2GB), I would use the primary method shown above.

Q: I recently attempted to install Windows NT 3.51 onto a new system that has a 1.2GB EIDE drive. The install fails with an "inaccessible hard drive" message. What's wrong? Can't NT handle new drives?

Windows NT detects hard drives by reading the BIOS of the drive with an INT 13 call. This call is limited to 1024 cylinders.

For most SCSI controllers, this is not a problem because the controller translates the drive into an extended type which uses 1024 cylinders. IDE and EIDE drivers are BIOS-resident, which presents a problem.

To solve the problem for EIDE drives, enable LBA (Logical Block Address) in the system or controller BIOS. Then, use fdisk to format the drive and reinstall DOS (if needed).

Q: I'm considering buying a new system, and I see constant references to the HCL. Can you tell me what HCL means and why it's important?

The HCL (Hardware Compatibility List) is a list of machines that Microsoft has verified will run Windows NT. Most important, Microsoft has access to all the testing data that was used if a machine should start to fail. It's always to your advantage to buy a machine that's on the HCL.

There are several factors you need to know to understand the HCL:

  • Being on the HCL has no relation to performance.
  • If a machine is on the HCL for NT 3.5, that doesn't imply that the machine will run later versions of NT.
  • If a system is popular, the vendor frequently changes components, depending on availability, to keep up with the demand. In these cases, the vendor will tell you that although the system is on the HCL, NT is not supported. Popular or not, I wouldn't buy such a unit.

Q: I have a dual-Pentium motherboard with one CPU installed. When I attempt to update an existing Windows NT 3.5 installation, I get a message that the system has the wrong Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) and needs the one for the Advanced Programmable Interrupt Controller (APIC). How can I resolve this issue?

Actually, this is an easy problem to fix, but the underlying cause is bothersome. Let's deal with the cause first. According to the Multiprocessor Specification (MPS) from Intel, the system is supposed to write a CPU table into CMOS. When NT boots, it reads this table to determine the number of CPUs present. If no table is found, NT notes the appearance of the APIC logic and assumes that two CPUs are present--in fact, this is not true. It's a CMOS/BIOS issue, and you should contact your hardware vendor.

To fix the problem: Boot from the NT Setup floppy, or begin the winnt.exe /b or winnt32.exe /b procedure. When the screen showing "Setup is inspecting your computer's hardware configuration" appears, press the F5 key. This will give you the standard Windows NT Executive setup mode which lets you choose the Computer Model, etc. Pick "standard computer;" you can load the new HAL here.

Q: I have a dual-processor board and have added a second CPU. How do I get NT to recognize it?

Believe it or not, this is easy. There are basically only two files that are different between a uni- and a dual-processor system. These files are ntoskrnl.exe and hal.dll. By far the safest method is to update the install. There's a utility in the Resource Kit, called uptomp (uni- to multi-processor), which you can use. For experienced users, you simply change the files and reboot. However, I typically don't recommend this method unless you are very NT-aware.

Q: I used the winnt32.exe /b method to install NT. How do I make a Repair disk after the fact?

You need to run the utility rdisk.exe in the windows\system32 directory. It will create the Repair disk.

See the sidebar "Registry Editing".