Have I got one weird trick for you. I spent most of a night fighting an SSD not detected in BIOS problem, and the answer was simple. But weird. Even for a guy who once recovered the data off a broken USB thumb drive with two clothespins.
But my clothespins trick was temporary. This is a long-term fix, even if it lacks something in the professionalism department. MacGyver-style computer fixes can be fun.
Try this first if you have a laptop with SSD not detected in BIOS
I ran into this problem on a Dell Latitude laptop I was fixing up for my son. I picked up a cheap $22 120 GB SSD from Micro Center. I don’t normally recommend off-brand SSDs, but at that price, I’ll bite.
I popped in the drive, and nothing. Windows didn’t detect it. I rebooted, mashed all the function keys to get into the BIOS, and didn’t see it there either.
So I grabbed an old 2.5 inch hard drive I had laying around. I plugged it in, and didn’t have any problems. The laptop happily booted off the drive. When I pulled out the drive, I noticed it was a bit thicker than my hard drive. I grabbed an old Ebay gift card I’d spent but hadn’t thrown out yet and held it up against the drive. It seemed to make up the difference. So I taped the gift card to the top of the drive, on the side nearest the SATA ports. Then I popped the drive back into the laptop. It seemed to seat much more smoothly in the laptop with the gift card-turned-shim in place. Then I turned the computer back on, mashed all the function keys (it seems to be either F2 or F10 that does the trick) and looked in the BIOS. There it was.
So then I booted off my Windows 10 USB stick and Windows recognized it. I installed Windows without a hitch and it’s worked ever since.
Why this works to fix an SSD not detected in BIOS
Some laptops, especially Dell laptops, have a bay in the side that the hard drive slides into. That bay is designed for 2.5-inch hard drives. Since SSDs are a bit narrower than conventional hard drives, they don’t fit quite right. The gap can keep the SATA and power connectors from making good electrical contact. The result is an SSD that doesn’t detect in the BIOS or the operating system, or perhaps even worse, a drive that works intermittently.
In laptops where the drive plugs in under a hatch in the underside of the laptop, this might not make any difference.
Dell ships laptops with SSDs from the factory, and has been doing so for years. I know I’ve seen Latitude E6420s and E6430s with factory-installed SSDs. I’ll bet they shim their drives to make them fit correctly.
You don’t have to use a gift card of course. An old hotel key card or any other piece of cardboard or plastic about the thickness of a credit card would work. I secured it with a bit of electrical tape to make it more likely to stay in place with the passage of time. I was careful where I stuck the tape so I wouldn’t damage any labels.
That’s not it. What else can you do to fix an SSD not detected in BIOS?
When I realized this, this was actually my second SSD of the night. I’d already been back to Micro Center once to exchange a bad drive. One bad drive I can believe. Two, not so much.
The difference is, I knew that first drive was bad. Here’s what I did to determine that.
Check the SATA configuration
First I checked to make sure all the SATA ports were enabled and in AHCI mode, The drive should function in ATA mode too, but AHCI gives better performance and new drives have advanced features that require it, so it’s what the manufacturer recommends. When things are going wrong, always go with what the manufacturer recommends.
If your computer has the option, load the setup defaults. Not all computers do. But starting over from the factory defaults can help solve a myriad of weird problems.
Try another computer
I pulled the drive out and put it in a desktop computer. That other computer wouldn’t recognize the drive either. Sometimes the computer refused to even power on correctly with the drive plugged in. It would start up, spin its fans, then shut itself back off.
When a drive causes a second computer to act up like that, it has something going on.
Try different cables
If you’re having problems in a desktop computer, try swapping your SATA cable with a spare, and try a different SATA power connector. It’s unusual for cables to go bad but not unheard of, and it’s easy to try. Swapping cables didn’t help in this case but that doesn’t mean it never will.
Try the power cycle trick
So I’m pretty confident that drive was bad. Had I not just bought the drive and purchased the $4.95 3-year replacement plan on it, I would have tried the power cycle trick.
Since it was a new drive, I wanted to get off to the right start, so I exchanged the drive for another one.