We had a Dimension 4600i donated to our organization, minus the original IDE HD.
I purchased a Western Digital WDBAAX5000ENC 500gb HD and connected it to the SATA 0 port on the motherboard.
When I try using the Dell Operating system CD to install the operating system on the new HD, I get the message:
"Press any key to boot from CD." I press the return and there's activity on the CD-ROM drive. Then I get the message:
"Setup is inspecting your computer's hardware configuration.." which is promising, but then the message "NTDETECT failed" flashes on the screen and the process cycles. The next time I get the message: "NTLDR is missing. Press Ctl+Alt+Del to restart"
I can't get any further. I've searched online and some folks say the SATA driver is missing and I need to make a floppy with the drivers, but I don't have a floppy drive on my working computer.
I've tried running the Dell diagnostics from the Drivers and Utilities disk and the drive is seen and tests okay.
The Dell article # 52068 makes it look like the install will start automatically with the Reinstallation CD in the CD-ROM drive.
And in this article: http://en.community.dell.com/support-forums/disk-drives/f/3534/t/19465922.aspx Vikram suggested resetting the BIOS, by pressing F9 in the system setup to reset the BIOS, then F10 to save, but that doesn't seem to do anything. I can't find a way to reset the BIOS to the default settings.
The Dimension 4600 is basically a Parallel ATA/IDE machine having two PATA IDE channels and two SATA channels. A bridge is used to avoid the necessity of using SATA drivers for this machine. Start the computer, press F2 during the self test to reach System Setup to see how the BIOS has been configured. You should see that you have a DVD/CD drive on Drive 0 of the secondary IDE, and nothing on Drive 0 or Drive 1 of the primary IDE. Since nothing is connected to the primary IDE you should set those ports to "Off". Look for the primary SATA port and set that to "On". Your Windows setup disk should now find the hard drive and begin to load things properly.
There are two pages that may be of help to you. First, Dell has installation instructions found here (Use Step 4): Restoring or Reinstalling Windows on a Dell. Second, fellow forum member natakuc4 has a page here that goes into greater detail: A Clean Install of Windows.
P.S. Forgot to mention that you must connect the hard drive to SATA 0 if you want to boot from it. The BIOS will not look for boot code on the second SATA port.