I got a new hard drive for my Dimension 2400, and used Copy Commander to copy both the EISA partition and the NTFS partition with WinXP to from the old drive to the new drive. I know that it successfully copied the contents of both partitions because if I boot from a Linux live CD and mount the EISA partition I see a reasonable list of files there.
When I boot off the new hard disk, it takes a very, very long time for the BIOS to do its thing, and then I get the "Press F1 to Continue, F2 to run Setup Utility" message. When I press F2, I go into BIOS setup and everything looks fine. On next boot, the same thing happens.
However, if I attach the old drive as a slave, the boot process happens very nicely and quickly, presumably because the EISA partition on the old drive tells the BIOS what it needs to know. Also, when I go into the WinXP Disk Management tool and look at the partitions on the two disks, the EISA partition on the old disk is identified as an EISA Configuration partition, while the one on the new disk is just a FAT partition.
I see that there is a utility for Dell servers called the Resource Configuration Utility or EISA Configuration Utility which can be downloaded and run to handle this sort of situation. I don't see any such tool for the Dimension series. Is there any way to rebuild the EISA partition to match a hardware change?
(I saw stuff about the utility for servers at http://support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/dsn/en/document?c=us&cs=19&docid=B2ED888E1BBA454981099FC0B8D7116E&journalid=6F6A7274553B11DBA6B3F13EC484CB34&l=en&s=dhs )
That symptom kind of sounds like the bios is still looking for the second disk when it's not attached. Did you remember to go back into the bios and change that channel/device from AUTO to OFF in the drive configuration?
BTW, the Dell Utility partition is not really an EISA partition, it's an ordinary FAT partition with the partition table entry masked, which many disk utilities misinterpret as being EISA.
The second part of your reply might be a clue. (The answer to the first part is Yes.)
How is the partition table entry masked? I notice that when I try to use GNU parted (booting from a Linux live CD), to copy the utility partition from the old drive to the new drive, parted is unhappy with what it finds, and reports:
Warning: File system doesn't have expected sizes for Windows to like it. Cluster size is 2k (0k expected); number of clusters is 16009 (63666 expected); size of FATs is 63 sectors (249 expected).
Is there any sort of utility that can be used to copy the utility partition onto the new drive? You ( dg1261 ) say that "many disk utilities" misinterpret the partition table entry. Is there one (or more) that you recommend which can successfully interpret the partition table entry and make use of it?
You can learn all about the DellUtility partition from my website.
Any decent partition cloning/copying/imaging tool should have no trouble with the partition if you unmask it first. Download ptedit32 from here, then use it to change the 'partition-type' indicator of the first partition from 'DE' to '06'. Now retry copying the partition. After it's copied, change the type back to 'DE'.
(Ptedit32 will work from XP, while its companion, ptedit, works if you boot from DOS.)