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WinXP fails to boot: reports HAL.DLL corrupted/missing

Discussion in 'Windows XP' started by rdanner3, Jan 31, 2009.

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  1. rdanner3

    rdanner3 Thread Starter

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    After a repartitioning, WinXP (on an eMachines T6420 running Windows XP MCE 2005) refuses to boot. I keep getting the dreadfully unhelpful error "HAL.DLL file missing or corrupt. Reinstall." (or something to that effect; not in front of the machine to check.)

    I have several related problems here:

    1. System only came with System Recovery DVD, not XP CD
    2. Said DVD can either destructively reinstall (via reformat) or non-destructively reinstall.
    3. No option is given to boot to Recovery Console (or whatever it's called) to run FIXBOOT and FIXMBR
    4. Would vastly prefer doing a repair install, to avoid fouling software licenses.

    Attempting to not have to reinstall the OS, I've tried things that worked in the past, but this time, XP's not wanting to cooperate. Having had to rewrite the OS four other times (all for this same problem) and knowing the HDD is fine (I'm using the System Recovery partition rather than the DVD; it's faster) I've tried reextracting HAL.DLL three times, copying the thing from the System Recovery partition's minint\system32 directory, and so forth with no result.

    Boot drive passes CHKDSK /F /R with no problems. To say I do not want to have to reinstall all my apps (which would take literally days to correctly do) is rather an understatement; also, the kind folks at eMachines inflict crapware out the aha on the user (AOL 9.0, Adobe Reader 6, Office 2007 trialware, McAfee Internet Security (90-day trial) just to name a very few) and I do not want to go through the absolute h*ll of uninstalling McAfee again. Have had to do it several times already, and it is very stubborn.

    Anyone have any ideas here? Partitioning software used is EASEUS Partition Manager 3.0 Home; a similar repartitioning using the same program worked great on the laptop I'm working with right now (albeit with Vista Home Premium as the OS)
     
  2. fgdn17

    fgdn17

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    the non-destructively reinstall will leave all your software intact...go for it

    Good Luck
     
  3. rdanner3

    rdanner3 Thread Starter

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    I wish! :eek: What happens with the non-destructive System Recovery is that it backs up your data (ok, the whole shootin' match) by moving the entire drive's content to a new directory, then reinstalls the image in the System Recovery partition, after which all apps must be reinstalled, although the programs are indeed still intact in the "My Backup <datestamp> folder. It's a royal pain, and I'm trying to figure out a way to emulate the in-place repair-install with my current system limitations. (not having an XP boot CD is a pain in the rear!) :( To complicate matters even more, my entire network is limping because this one machine is down, because I don't (yet) have NAS, just direct-attached storage on that machine..

    This would mark the fourth or fifth time I've had to do this sort of reinstall since I bought the machine, and I have programs that have multi-PC licenses...that I don't want to use up simply because the OS is being a PITA.

    Appreciate your encouragement, though. ;)
     
  4. padutch

    padutch

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    before you do a repair go here and read. It is a site that deals with nothing but hal.dll. I found it very usefull
     
  5. fgdn17

    fgdn17

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    must be an emachines proprietary recovery disk cause I've done the non-destructive on may dell/hp/etc. machines and never had that issue...it is simply a repair-reinstall of the OS....no special folders are created and no files are moved, and all installed software still works...so much for emachines...LOL and if it's the 4th or 5th time you've had to do this I'd say/bet there are other more serious issues...

    Good Luck
     
  6. cornelp

    cornelp

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    One thing to consider: I got the same problem a couple of times due to an external USB memory stick (which I forgot to remove from the back....) and an external USB HDD. Check for any peripherals and BIOS boot sequence. Make sure you are trying to boot from the partition that contains the actual XP installation...
    If this fails, see
    http://www.kellys-korner-xp.com/xp_haldll_missing.htm
     
  7. rdanner3

    rdanner3 Thread Starter

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    Not sure if this is going to make matters better or worse, but FIXMBR (yes, found my XP Pro CD) reports that the partition table is "nonstandard"...

    Now, given that I can read the HDD all day long, just not boot from Windows, I gotta wonder what the blazes is going on, and how I can repair the partition table without risking losing the whole thing. (BTW: Getting into the System Recovery partition (powered by PC Angel) is a no-brainer; just the OS can't be booted from, due to the HAL.DLL issue. Wondering now if it's just WinXP being an absolute pain.

    And still wondering how to solve this problem. I do, however, know it's not an actual hardware fault, at least with the HDD or any of the on-board stuff.
     
  8. rdanner3

    rdanner3 Thread Starter

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    OK, yes I am attempting boot from the correct partition, and according to FIXMBR (yes, found my retail XP Pro SP2 CD) the partition table is "non-standard". (also: CHKDSK on the XP Pro CD flags three "is doing additional checks or repairs" with 2% or less completed without anything apparently changing; true in both /p and /r modes,) What these two things mean escapes me. Anyone know of a freeware or Open Source util that is reliable enough to repair the darn thing? (doesn't matter if it takes 6-10 hours...just want my desktop machine back in running shape without data loss; the USB drives are all disconnected for safety reasons ATM)
     
  9. TheOutcaste

    TheOutcaste

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    If you system has a recovery partition, which lets you do a Factory Restore from the hard drive, it will have a Non-standard MBR. Running FIXMBR on a system that has that feature will render it unusable.

    The special MBR checks for the proper keypress to start the Recovery and/or run diagnostics. It does this by changing the active partition, and possibly changing the partition ID byte.
    If the Keypress is not seen, it then continues with the "normal" boot process.
    The FIXMBR command will overwrite the code that checks for that keypress.

    As this happened after repartitioning the drive, either the partition table didn't get updated properly, or the boot sector may have gotten corrupted, or who knows what.
    I have seen chkdsk /r take over 36 hours to complete. Granted this was on an older ATA33 drive, and it had lots of errors, but even on new systems it can take quite a while for the % complete to change.

    Some ideas:
    Have you tried undoing the re-partitioning?
    Have you run the Bootcfg command?
    For example, adding a single space in front of the [boot loader] section in the Boot.ini file will cause the hal.dll error.
    Have you run FIXBOOT?

    You might try TestDisk, see if it finds anything wrong with the partition table. Follow the link under Documentation for TestDisk and Live and Rescue CD

    HTH

    Jerry
     
  10. rdanner3

    rdanner3 Thread Starter

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    It does indeed, and I suspected that might be the cause of the "nonstandard" warning, so didn't commit to the correction. Thanks for confirming my suspicions. ;)
    In order of your suggestions,
    • CHKDSK /R returned no errors at all. Or at least, none that it corrected.
    • No, I didn't try undoing the repartitioning.
    • Yes I did; BOOTCFG /REBUILD returned an error rather than attempt a rebuild
    • FIXBOOT worked with no errors, as I recall.
    OK, was going to try TestDisk, but since I'd never seen the program before, needed someone to recommend a suitable program. Whilst I do have a copy of SpinRite 5 (and 6) available, those two do not do partition-table repair. Sadly.

    Pity that machine won't do USB boot for whatever reason. I have a USB stick with Ubuntu Linux on it; adding in TestDisk would be relatively trivial, I expect. (for some reason, the machine recognizes booting from (of all weirdnesses) a Secure Digital memory card, but not from a USB flash drive.)
     
  11. TheOutcaste

    TheOutcaste

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    This would make me think of a disk problem, but chkdsk didn't seem to find any.
    I believe /add, /rebuild, and /scan all do the same disk scan, but you might try the other two, see if you get the same error or not.

    Is the error immediate, or does it seem as if the disk is scanned for a bit first?

    Does bootcfg /list also give an error? This just reads the boot.ini file.
    If this gives the same error, it may just be a corrupt boot.ini file.
    The other options may also read this file first, so if the error is immediate that would again point to boot.ini.

    But then, bootcfg is supposed to fix this kind of thing:confused:

    You can try renaming the boot.ini file, see if you can make bootcfg create a new one with bootcfg /add.

    Or just rename it. If Windows doesn't find a boot.ini file, it will attempt to load windows from X:\Windows, where X is the same partition that ntldr is on.

    You can also see if the diskpart command can read the partition correctly, and shows that it is active. That might give some clues.

    HTH

    Jerry
     
  12. rdanner3

    rdanner3 Thread Starter

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    Takes a while for /rebuild to throw a fit.
    As I recall, it shows the boot.ini as nothing. OTOH, it may also do that if you're in the wrong partition (i.e.: in the one with a MiniNT directory). Will have to make sure I'm in the primary boot partition next time.:D
    DISKPART does seem to see the partitions properly, as I recall. (also: Same sort of weirdness happened on my Vista-equipped laptop after using the same partitioning program to (also) recover space from the system-recovery partition (which in both cases was oversized). When I bypassed the error (i.e.: hit cancel, not OK) it booted fine and has done so ever since. Vista did something right? :rolleyes: Apparently so... :D

    When I get a chance, will try deleting/renaming boot.ini and try the rebuild again. (besides, I wanna install the Recovery Console to the HD.) Pity there's no equivalent to VistaBoot(Pro) for XP...

    [UPDATE]
    I'm back on the desktop machine (renaming Boot.ini did the trick, though I sure can't see an error in it (see attached) and all utilities still show an error in the partition table. Color me :confused: though :D also very relieved.
     

    Attached Files:

  13. TheOutcaste

    TheOutcaste

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    Glad it's back to being accessible. Here's the problem with the boot.ini file:
    Code:
    [boot loader]
    default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)[COLOR=Red][B]\WINDOWS[/B][/COLOR]
    [operating systems]
    multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)[COLOR=Red][B]\WINNT[/B][/COLOR]="Windows XP Media Center Edition" /noexecute=optin /fastdetect
    
    Folder names are different. If XP is actually installed in the WINNT folder, the default will fail. And with only one OS listed, you never get the option to chose the correct line.

    If XP is in Windows, I'd think it should have still worked. Unless it just fails if it doesn't find a match. Hmm, I feel an experiment coming up:rolleyes:

    What is being shown as the error in the partition table?
    If the table is reporting a partition larger or smaller than it actually is that can eventually cause problems. Most likely why bootcfg eventually failed.

    Might be a good time to image/backup that partition, before something else happens. Just hope the error won't prevent a successful backup.

    Jerry
     
  14. rdanner3

    rdanner3 Thread Starter

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    It's working, that's the important thing. Yes, I get a fuss-at every boot, but hey... LOL Actually, I've even solved that recently.

    I think the error was simply the nonstandard code that allows access during boot to the System Recovery partition; the machine works fine. However, if I can find an imaging software on Sourceforge, will go for imaging ASAP.

    Now, if Microsoft would simply do things right, they'd not kpanic (ok, I know Microsoft utils never actually throw a kpanic!) at something not being absolutely Microsoft-expected!

    Had another issue right after fixing the problem I reported here (where drive letters for my external HDDs and the card-reader were all over the place) but after a bit of investigation, downloaded USBDLM, installed and configured it. That problem has gone away. (thankfully)

    Current boot.ini (that works!)
    Code:
    [boot loader] 
    timeout=1 
    default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS 
    [operating systems] 
    multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Windows XP Professional" /fastdetect
    Considering adding the System Recovery partition to the boot list, so that if someone fouls the MBR's custom coding, it would still be accessible. As far as I understand, it lives at "multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(0)\minint" (and is via PC Angel). I've gone into the SR partition several times rather than Safe Mode in order to do certain actions (such as running CHKDSK on the Windows partition) since it works simply, and doesn't take nearly as much time as XP's Safe Mode does to load. (although remembering how to get a command prompt in the System Recovery partition is a bit of a trip!) But then, still not sure if that's a good idea. (Sure do wish I could figure out how to edit the recovery partition where it doesn't dump all that garbage (AOL 9.0, Office 2007 Trialware, and several other time-and-space wasters) to the HDD. Problem is, they seem to be doing the recovery in some oddball, non-standard way that doesn't lend itself to being edited to eliminate the undesired bits.

    If I needed to do a in-place update, could I use a WinXP SP2 CD to do so?
     
  15. vistajames

    vistajames

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    Feb 20, 2009
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    [​IMG]
    yes you can use it
     
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