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Compaq Presario 900 can't find hard drive

I've got access to a Compaq Presario 900 through work, an AMD
Athlon-based machine.

I've got around a couple of problems, I have to boot with ide=nodma and
nomce according to various web sites.

So I can get right to the start of the installation procedure, but both
fdisk and cfdisk say "can't open /dev/hda" 

The drive is an 18 Gb Fujitsu 2.5" drive on an ALI controller, and it is
visible in the dmesg output.  However, if I reboot from there and let it
start the other installed OS then it sais "NO OPERATING SYSTEM FOUND"

It seems that something is shutting down/spinning down the IDE drive or
the controller so that a power off is required to reset it.  

Anyone got any ideas?

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