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Can't boot XP; HD seems okay

Discussion in 'Windows XP' started by radiocynic, Oct 14, 2008.

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  1. radiocynic

    radiocynic Thread Starter

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    Hi, folks -- Desperate for suggestions; need laptop quickly restored to functionality for work if possible!

    Dell Inspiron 6000 running XP Home. Recently (2+ months ago) replaced HD after failure. When the first drive failed I got bluescreen (unmountable), but now with the new drive (which had been working fine for two months,) I suddenly can't boot to the new drive's XP.

    No bluescreen. Simply hangs on black screen when trying to boot up; never seeming to access drive.

    Ran Dell diagnostics from CD. HD tests all pass. Ran recovery console and did fixboot. No change. Tried to run chkdsk /r from recovery console, but started going extremely slowly from 25% to just over 50%; I finally gave up on it.

    Currently running Dell's tests designed for "can't boot os", though they take a long time.

    Any clues? Could it NOT be an HD failure this time? Perhaps a different problem? Any insight appreciated.
     
  2. radiocynic

    radiocynic Thread Starter

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    Quick update. Did the whole windows repair routine from the original windows disk; no change. Upon bootup it does not seem to be accessing the HD at all. Just flashes on the initial Dell screen (w/ options for F2 Setup or F12 boot order) then goes immediately to sticking on black screen w/ blinking cursor. No activity on the HD's led.

    Ran many of Dell's tests on memory and hd; all passed so far.
     
  3. Elvandil

    Elvandil

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    How could you run the repair with no screen? There must have been some point in the repair process where you had to stop (By the way--stopping chkdsk in mid-stream can lead to unrecoverable file system damage. Never stop it.) because if it finished, that is itself a successful boot. What happened?
     
  4. radiocynic

    radiocynic Thread Starter

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    Thanks for the reply, Elvandil, and thanks for the advice on not stopping chkdsk. That of course is what I did, but upon running Dell Diagnositc tests again, everything on the HD still checks out as okay.

    To answer the "how could I run repair" -- From the initial brief Dell screen, I could F12 into choosing to boot from CD, so I'm able to boot to my Dell Diag disk, or to my original XP Home disk.

    Diag tests on internal memory, etc., have also passed, yet it seems like something in the laptop is making it not see the existence of the HD at all.

    Again, this was completely sudden; no prior indication of any problem with the drive or the system. (Other than the fact that I did need to replace the HD two months ago. THAT time, it had given me a BSOD "unmountable volume". But this time it just plain doesn't see the drive.)
     
  5. radiocynic

    radiocynic Thread Starter

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    Just on a chance, attempting to run chkdsk /r again from recovery console. Taking forever, but letting it run this time.

    There seem to be a few other unanswered threads bouncing around the internet about Dell 6000's with similar issues... perhaps motherboard problems? That's beyond my expertise, so does that make any sense?
     
  6. Elvandil

    Elvandil

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    Possible, of course. Good luck with your scan.

    If you get back in, take a look at Device Manager and update the major ones if updates are available.
     
  7. radiocynic

    radiocynic Thread Starter

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    Thanks for the follow-up. Here's the latest, in case anyone else has a similar problem. Still no definitive explanation for this; still can't boot.

    Ran recovery console's chkdsk /r to its hour-long conclusion; it did find and repair some errors, but still no success in booting. Ran ALL of Dell's diagnostics; everything (system, memory, drive, everything) checked out okay.

    So here's my only clue so far. Just as an experiment, I started to run fixmbr from the recovery console. It did tell me that the volume seemed to have an "abnormal or missing boot sector". Since fixmbr can sometimes screw up partitions, though, I'm waiting to run it until after I attempt to recover a couple of things from the drive (pending the arrival of a 2.5" usb enclosure I just ordered.)

    I'll try to narrow it down further then.

    Thanks again for the help so far.
     
  8. Elvandil

    Elvandil

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    Dell"s use a different MBR than other people, their own. Running fixmbr on them destroys it and makes the recovery partition inaccessible. Having it labelled as "unknown" is normal.

    Dell's MBR Code
     
  9. radiocynic

    radiocynic Thread Starter

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    Wow. There's one I never heard before at all, so thanks. Not sure if that would apply in this case, or on the flipside, whether it might begin to explain things...

    As I mentioned, the original drive in this Dell Inspiron 6000 bluescreened as "unmountable"; various other tools found a million bad sectors, etc.

    But when I replaced the drive two months ago, I set it up myself with an XP Home disc that I purchased separately, NOT the original Dell disc (which was XP MCE). (I wanted to eventually use this laptop with some pro audio outboard gear incompatible w/ MCE, so I opted to install the XP Home.)

    So now my question is -- Since it wasn't a Dell homegrown Windows installation (yet it was installed on a Dell machine), does that mean that recovery console's fixmbr seeing it as abnormal is really seeing an actual abnormality? Or otoh, does the Dell machine require Dell's own mbr, meaning I was lucky to even get two months out of it before it got goofy?

    Sorry to prolong this, but I hesitate to just go buying a third HD and proceeding the same way, not knowing what's causing the failures.

    Again, I appreciate the insight in the responses!
     
  10. Elvandil

    Elvandil

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    If the drive was partitioned and installed with a normal XP, then it should all be normal, incluing the MBR. there is nothing about Dell hardware that demands their MBR--that is their choice.
     
  11. radiocynic

    radiocynic Thread Starter

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    Thanks again for the additional info.

    Yes, it was partitioned and formatted normally w/ the XP Home disc I bought separately. So I take that to mean that fixmbr seeing it as abnormal might mean that the boot sector got corrupted somehow. At least judging from the Dell diagnostics, there don't seem to be physical errors on the drive.

    So I guess I'll still try to get the couple of un-backed-up files off of there once I receive the enclosure that I ordered, then attempt running the fixmbr. Then I may at least know better whether I'd need yet another new drive or not, but if that's the case, it still makes me nervous to have gone through two drive failures so close to each other.

    Thanks again for the continued help.
     
  12. Elvandil

    Elvandil

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    Yes, if it had a "normal" MBR, then that message must mean that it got corrupted. The fixmbr command works best when the installation is on the first partition of the first drive.
     
  13. radiocynic

    radiocynic Thread Starter

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    Hi. Sorry for the delay; the problem persists. I bought an enclosure; hooked the drive up flawlessly to another computer; recovered my couple of not-yet-backed-up files, so that's all nice and everything.

    But, then I put the drive back into the Inspiron 6000. Ran the fixmbr; ran the fixboot again just for good measure; still no boot.

    So as I stand now, I think I've done everything recovery console could do (except I've stopped short of completely reformatting the drive and reinstalling windows.)

    (I figure that's my next step, although I'm conjecturing that even that might help -- if not, I'd hate to have to needlessly reinstall all those programs to that drive if it ended up purely being a motherboard problem or whatever.)

    And again, I've run ALL of Dell diagnostics, and they ALL check out okay.

    Any other suggestions, or has anyone heard anything of an ongoing issue with Dell Inspiron 6000's? (Googling "Dell Inspiron 6000 won't boot" gets a LOT of hits, but none seem to have any solutions!)

    Thanks again for the ongoing help.
     
  14. Elvandil

    Elvandil

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    How far do you get at this point and what is the last thing on the screen?

    Do you have a floppy drive?

    Have you tried a normal boot with the CD in the drive, skipping the "Press Any Key..."?

    There is still a possibility of booting if boot files are located on a floppy or CD in case they are damaged.
     
  15. radiocynic

    radiocynic Thread Starter

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    When attempting to boot up and left to its own devices, it goes from the quick BIOS splash screen directly to the black screen w/ blinking cursor, which is where it sits. So that's the last thing on the screen.

    No floppy on this laptop.

    Yes, if you F12 from the BIOS splash and choose booting from hard drive, it's the same blackscreen w/ blinking cursor. If you choose booting from CD, it goes to the "press any key to boot from CD..." and if you don't press any key, it simply hangs there with the "press any key" showing.

    I CAN boot to CD (by pressing any key) -- though the only bootable CD's I have are the original XP Home CD and the Dell diagnostics CD, so I can't get to "regular ol' Windows" that way.

    Barring other suggestions, I suppose I'll give in and re-format the drive and reinstall XP to it tomorrow ... or fail in my attempt to do so, which either way I suppose would rule out a few more possibilities.

    Continued thanks for following along with me here.
     
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