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Fdisk shows 'Unknown' in system

Posted on 2001-06-26
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Last Modified: 2010-04-27
I went to work one morning to see that the PC had frozen. Win 98SE.  Had to reboot and system showed No operating system.  Booted with win98 boot disk and ran fdisk.  The 3 partitions were there but under the heading System each displayed 'UNKNOWN'. Spoke to a friend who said that the partitions had probably sneaked across each other and to try Norton Disk Doctor which I did and it fixed it.  Got everything back and installed new HDD and copied data across from old HDD to new one.  Now I have a spare
The question is "What could have caused this"?  My boss was not impressed with the down time and would like to know so that if it could have been a human messing around with it someone will get there a..e kicked.  Not me: someone who works on the night shift.
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Question by:weeph
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LVL 17

Expert Comment

by:rayt333
ID: 6229520
Probably something corupted the FAT, what did Norton's disk doctor say the problem was?

Without knowing what the problem actually was then no way to say how it happened.
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Author Comment

by:weeph
ID: 6229605
Maybe the question should have been, 'could a human messing around with the pc have caused it.  eg resetting, turnong pc off and then on'?.
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Expert Comment

by:fonetik
ID: 6229608
This is usually a corrupted master boot record, and it's quite common.  Anything from magnetic/electric interference to solar flares can be to blame.  Show your boss the MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures) for the drive, and explain that it's the same reason anything fails, and humans have better ways of messing with drives to make them fail, usually in ways that cause the data not to come back.  This should be less of an occasion to find someone to blame, and more of a reason to get a backup solution in there if the data is that important.  You are quite lucky that the data is there at all.
-Tom
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Accepted Solution

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Otta earned 50 total points
ID: 6229750
If the _THREE_ partitions were "sized" correctly,
then the "partition-information" (at the start of the physical disk)
was still OK, i.e., it was not overwritten.

But, the "partition-information" also contains a one-byte flag, per partition,
to indicate the formatting-method (FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, HPFS, NTFS, et cetera).
If all three bytes were overwritten, then the partition-flag could be interpreted as "unknown".

Note that this "partition-information" record
is adjacent to, but separate from, the "master boot record".


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Expert Comment

by:fonetik
ID: 6230107
This is usually a corrupted master boot record, and it's quite common.  Anything from magnetic/electric interference to solar flares can be to blame.  Show your boss the MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures) for the drive, and explain that it's the same reason anything fails, and humans have better ways of messing with drives to make them fail, usually in ways that cause the data not to come back.  This should be less of an occasion to find someone to blame, and more of a reason to get a backup solution in there if the data is that important.  You are quite lucky that the data is there at all.
-Tom
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LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:Otta
ID: 6230154
FONETIK -- try to avoid pressing the 'RELOAD' button in your web-browser -- it causes a re-transmission of your message to the E-E system.

Instead, click the 'Reload Question' hyperlink at the top-right of the web-page.
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LVL 32

Expert Comment

by:jhance
ID: 6231171
This certainly could be the result of a virus attack.  Do you have up-to-date virus scanning on this system?

Perhaps your "night shift" person is not practicing "safe-computing" and downloaded some virus infected files.
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Author Comment

by:weeph
ID: 6232922
My boss accepted this.
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