The hard disk drive industry is transitioning to larger physical sector sizes called Advanced Format. The default sector size has been 512 bytes since the advent of the personal computer. Advanced Format sectors are also called 4K sectors because each physical sector now holds 4096 bytes. While the physical size is 4K, the disk drive processor presents the data over the cables to the computer as ordinary 512 byte sectors. This is called 512 byte emulation, or 512e. Sometimes Advanced Format drives are shown as 4K/512e, comparing the physical and logical sizes, where eight 512e sectors are sent for each 4K sector.
Understandably, the operating system and important disk device drivers are also receiving updates to reflect optimization for Advanced Format drives. Both Windows 7 and Windows Vista detect Advanced Format drives out of the box. Windows XP, however, does not detect the new format. Fortunately, because the drives send their data to the computer in the same ways they always have, Windows XP and even old DOS are unaware of any differences and communicate with the drive the same as before.
Seagate Momentus drives released since 2011 utilize the Advanced Format.
A Device Driver Problem
Device drivers for disk drives are also changing to accommodate Advanced Format. Because the controller chipsets for disk drives are embedded within the motherboard, these device drivers are optimized to support features like RAID options and they are supplied by the chipset manufacturer or OEM. Current Microsoft operating systems also use a default device driver that supports standard installations.
Unfortunately, the Intel device driver (Intel MSM 18.104.22.1683) bundled with the Windows 7 Installation CD may get confused by the Advanced Format. Most often, the installation process selects other drivers for use with the system configuration resulting in error-free installation of Windows 7. However, in some cases, where the notebook hardware specifically requires the Intel MSM driver, a RAID mode is chosen, or a manual installation is forced with the driver, an error can occur and the installation halts.
The error displays the message “Windows Setup could not configure Windows to run on this computer’s hardware”.
Windows 7 Service Pack 1 has the new the Intel device driver which operates correctly with Advanced Format drives.
For more information visit the Microsoft Support article: "Windows Setup could not configure Windows on this computer's hardware" installation error on a Windows 7-based or a Windows Server 2008 R2-based computer http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2466753
Intel recommends the installation of Intel Rapid Storage Technology (RST) driver v9.6 and above. End users who encounter this problem should use options described in the attached link in case repeated attempts of Installation fail.
The Intel instructions explain how to start a Windows installation and, depending on the version of Windows, how to introduce the replacement driver at the beginning (either by pressing F6 or selecting “Load Driver”) of the operating system setup procedure.
Other possible workarounds to this issue (dependent on notebook hardware configurations):
- Toggle AHCI/IDE/Compatibility mode before installation of Windows 7 by selecting the option in system BIOS. This causes the default Microsoft driver to load which supports Advanced Format.
- Toggle the RAID mode in System BIOS while installing the Operating system. RAID Mode can be enabled after the installation of the Intel Driver.
- Copy the Installation CD to a bootable USB drive – using Microsoft’s CD/USB tool or literature widely available on the web. Change the file in the installation source with the Intel iRST driver ver 9.6.
Partition Offset Information - Alignment Checker for Disk Drives with Large Physical Sectors (Advanced Format) and 512 Byte Emulation
Storage Innovations – 4K Sector
Seagate also recommends that you review the Windows 7 4K Hot fix for optimum performance of the hard drive. For more information visit the Microsoft Support article: An update that improves the compatibility of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 with Advanced Format Disks .
Remember to always make backups of your most important data, especially before making changes that affect system device drivers. Read all warnings about any tasks that might cause data loss.