The HDD is Seagate ST9408114A....
As you mentioned in your first post - it's an IDE, (Parallel ATA), drive.
ST9408114A Momentus 5400.2 ATA notebook hard drive
Part # ST9408114A
Key Specifications Seagate Momentus 40GB Hard Drive
Manufacturer Part # ST9408114A
Interface Connectors 44 pin IDC
A couple of things to try:
1) Go into the BIOS and reset it to Safe defaults if possible.
2) Grab Darik's Boot And Nuke
and if it finds the drive, let it run for about 5-10 minutes - long enough to destroy any existing MBR or partition table. Then see if the XP installer finds the drive. NOTE:
This will effectively destroy any
data on the drive if you let it run over the whole drive.
What model laptop?
There's also MHDD
which you can use to check for errors, (if it can see it of course).