HD with XP checks ok but no boot

Hi all,
I have a 30GB Hitachi hard drive that had XP+data on it when it wouldn't boot one day.
Ordered replacement HD, fixed some grounding tabs (in notebook) and installed XP on
new one. Recently, I have tried to reinstall the old 30GB. Upon installating and booting,
received 'A Disk Read Error Occured. Press CTRL+ALT+DEL to Restart'. Goes through
same loop ad infinitum. So put Win XP disk in CDROM drive and booted (Floppy, CD, HD,
NET in BIOS). Received the 'Press any key to boot from CD...' so do and receive 'Inspecting
hardware configuration...' and then nothing. The CD stops. Screen is blank. Ran Hitachi DFT
Utillity and reports nothing for Advanced search. HDD recognized in BIOS properly.

A little more history on the 30GB HD. Ran fine. Installed Acronis OS Sel 8. Created FAT32
partition within OSSel8. Tried to install Win98SE but couldn't find certificate after starting
(process..thought I had it). Removed FAT32 partition and resized to full size NTFS. Soon
thereafter, the not able to boot problem started . Since 2 other friends had their notebook
hard drives go, just figured it died and didn't attempt any fixes at that time.

What made me try it again? The replacement HD also exhibited this unable to boot/not be
recognized problem recently after OSSel8 was installed on it for a Win95OSR2 FAT32
install and then uninstalled. This led me to think that the previous problem wasn't really
the hard drive mechanicals. I am going to try to get to the System Recovery Console w/in
XP for the new one and run fixmbr C: routine from LucF in WinXP forum, but as inferred
above, I would really like to get this old 30GB up and running with the old data intact. It
was working with a good copy of updated XP when it 'stopped.'.

Is this really 'just' a MBR corruption problem? If I can get the MBR restored/replaced, do
I lose the data? How can I get to the fixmbr utility when I can't get it to boot from CDROM
with this drive?
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Adrian DobrotaNetworking EngineerCommented:
<< How can I get to the fixmbr utility when I can't get it to boot from CDROM with this drive? >>   download a win98 bootdisk floppy image from www.bootdisk.com and start from that diskette. fdisk /mbr should flash the mbr record, it won't erase your data but I doubt you'll solve any problem with that.
regarding the new drive, since it doens't contain any valuable data, I'd suggest you to use killdisk to wipe all the info on it and start from scratch w/o using OSSel8.  The win98 disk should be enough to create your FAT32 partition(s).
regarding the old drive, after you've granted the new one working, just hook it as a slave to the notebook and see if you can access the data on it, or you might want ot use a tool from that list to recover the data to the new drive. After that, do the same thing with killdisk with the old hdd too.
here's the list in case you haven't seen it till now: http://www.experts-exchange.com/Storage/Q_20649105.html#8729544

COGuy6Author Commented:

I have seen that post about bootdisk.com while lurking before posting my question. I guess
I should have stated that the hard drives are NTFS formatted and not FAT32. The FAT32
partitions were only created on each drive to install the Win9x OS on that drive. If I use the
98 bootdisk.com utility, won't I only be able to format the drive in FAT32 and lose all of my
data? From what I remember, I would need to be able to boot from CD with WinXP to get
to the recovery console and I can't get the system to boot with the old drive and the WinXP
disc in the CDROM.
Adrian DobrotaNetworking EngineerCommented:
COGuy6 .... there's no problem in formatting the NEW drive as FAT32 since you have no data on the current NTFS partitions. Just wipe them out and create a fat32 partition where you'll install winXP. I personally use NTFS ONLY if I have a strong reason regarding security. Otherwise I recomend you using FAT32. So, after you'll have a working winXP you can hook the second drive, boot the existing XP installation and analyze old disk's content. Hopefully you have access to a second IDE entry on the cable so to have both drives attached.
COGuy6Author Commented:
kronostm...I apologize again for not being clearer. Both drives have XP+data. I have used the
new drive for the past year plus and it has only been in the last month that it started hiccuping
over booting after I removed OSSel8 and the FAT32 parition. It still works - I just have to cycle
it on/off a couple of time for it to finally boot.

How can I attach the old drive to this notebook while having the new drive in the HD bay? I only
have one HD bay. Is there a cable adaptor that I can attach the old one as a slave or get it in
through the USB/PCMCIA ports for the 2.5" drives? These drives are attached to the notebook
through some metal railings that contact spring loaded metal tabs so as to provide a ground
enclosure for the HD. I don't envision I could use a standard HD ribbon cable since both drives
would be sitting outside the notebook and not grounded. Or is this not an issue?

Because then, I think the following is possible: New drive in HD bay as primary. Old drive attached
however it takes. Boot into recovery console. Fixmbr on new drive. Pull whatever data I didn't have
backed-up off of old drive. Run fixmbr on old one or just reformat to FAT32 and install both of my
old Win 95/98 OSes on it. Also, add XP to the old one. So it would be tri-boot.
Ok, if you have a working machine with XP, you can create a set of XP boot disks, you will require 4 blank 1.44MB floppy disks.  Booting from these takes an age but it should get you up and running, if you use the recovery console mode it will dump you at a prompt, you can use fixmbr from there on your disk, the winxp version will handle both fat32 and ntfs partitions.

As for your drive being recognised in bios, bios only uses the electronics on the drive when querying to get the parameters so this can be misleading.  Also, most notebooks don't have 2 eide ports for you to examine one hard disk after the first is working.

One thing you can do if you have a desktop is purchase a 2.5" to 3.5" eide cable, then you can install the laptop hard disk in a desktop pc that works and check the disk.  From the problems you have had, i'd do this, backup your data and format the disk from the desktop PC, then try reinstalling your stuff after the disk is back in the laptop.  The conversion cable should only cost a couple of pounds or dollars and is certainly worth the money to save hard disks.

Hope this helps
COGuy6Author Commented:
Thanks Phil. I will try to create the bootable floppy's from XP. I have thought
about purchasing a SFF to do what you are saying. Probably cheaper than
recovery services plus you have a cool media cube. I will try the floppies...may
take a couple of days to post results.
COGuy6Author Commented:
Okay...I made it a priority. Downloaded WinXPSP1a bootable floppy creator from MS.
Everything installed okay and ran fixmbr. Received comment that it was a non-standard
MBR and that I should only proceed if I am sure I want to install a new boot record. I
entered Y and it said it created a new MBR. Exited out of shell and rebooted. Received
same old 'A Disk Read Error Occured. Press CTRL+ALT+DEL to Restart' error. What
Next i'd definately fit your hard disk into a desktop PC and try recovery that way, as you can't boot from CD we are really limited on options.
Adrian DobrotaNetworking EngineerCommented:
COGuy6 .... if your laptop doesn't have a second entry on the IDE cable then you should take Phill's advice. The adaptor is cheap and a PC to work on for one hour shouldn't be so hard to find.  Good luck.
COGuy6Author Commented:
Here's the update. I got the adaptor and installed the hard drive into a desktop. 2 drive letters
were assigned to the drive and when attempting to open, received 'Drive not formatted. Would you
like to now?'. Properties showe 0MB of space/size. Nex ran PCI FileRecovery. Nothing. No files were
listed/findable (but received several errrors about # of sectors> x for both drives). Then ran
TestDisk 5.2. Drive was listed and 3 partitions were found (1 NTFS, 1 FAT32, and 1 FAT 16) which
is exactly what OSSelector does and did. That is, it takes control by creating a FAT16 partition for
it's code and redirects/edits the MBR table to that partition for information. I created the FAT32
partition from OSSelector and the drive was already formatted NTFS. So, apparently 'uninstalling'
the program doesn't erase/reformat these partitions it creates and hence a good reason for Windows
to get confused moreso than it is. Also, TestDisk showed sector errors/# of sectors too large errors too.
So now what? I can see all 3 partitions with TestDisk and Win2k reports the drive as unformatted. PCI
FileRecovery couldnt' find anything (then again, I may not be running the 'right' part of the program or
the right command although I did tell it to look in the Root and Lost for different file extensions e.g.,
*.ppt and it came back with nothing). Should I just reformat and learn my lesson (not to use OSSel8
and buy an old notebook to make dual boot 95/98)? Speaking of which, the new drive is now having
boot issues too and it seems very similar to what happened before.
Adrian DobrotaNetworking EngineerCommented:
To begin with the end .... I don't see the reason for a win98/95 dual boot, but if you insist, then find a more decent boot loader.
Second, I wouldn't abandon my files if they are so important, till the last try. I say you should try EVERY piece of software from the list I provided, cause it often happens  for one to work in a certain case and another not to. I say give it  a few more tries.
COGuy6Author Commented:
Thanks Kronos. I'll be back at this later today. I will try another piece of software.
I had most of the data on the hard drive backed-up. There were a few presentations
from others that I didn't have but 95+% was backed up. Since then, the new drive
is backed up weekly or when I did something important. The biggest pain is downloading
and installing all of the Windows patches. With the new drive, I created an image using
Acronis' other program TrueImage so I have almost all of the patches included in the
image since it does OS+data.  The data is also backed-up separately too so worst case
scenario is reformat, reinstall OS, update OS, reinstall programs, reinstall data. More
COGuy6Author Commented:
Update. Tried PCI File recovery again and still nothing at all. Went and got the demo
version of Hard Drive Mechanic. During Phase I, Partition Testing and Assignment,
both Static Tests and Calculated Tests were listed as 'Failed.' During Phase 2, Boot
Record Typing and Testing, the drive was assigned a FAT16 moniker for drive Type
and then received a message "File system is so damaged that HDM Deluxe cannot
determine cluster size. Exiting." Shouldn't the MBR and 'partition' #1 be NTFS?
Adrian DobrotaNetworking EngineerCommented:
Hmm .... the fact the data wasn't completely recovered doesn't means all help possible wasn't given. As you all know, sometimes the good answer is not the one you expected, but unfortunately it still is the only answer.

I'm asking Luc to reconsider, however I won't make any further comments.
COGuy6Author Commented:
LucF, kronos, and all,

Thanks for all of the help and suggestions. Since my last posting, things only went downhill. The notebook decided it didn't want to live any longer and started to freeze up during loading WinXP
(that is if it made it past BIOS post...I reflashed the BIOS with a freshly downloaded clean copy
when it first started to acting up in BIOS and loading XP). I took it apart since it was out of
warranty and a new system board was $400-$600 depending on whom I was to buy it from. It
did go back together just fine after I reapplied thermal paste between the processor and heatsink
(has built in diode) and cleaned some minor arcing deposits from around the hard drive cage
area and it booted on the first application of power. I thought life was going to be good again!
However good it was, it was short lived. Less than 2 weeks later, no matter how many times I
tried, it wouldn't boot because it wouldn't even read the BIOS (no COMPAQ splash logo). Other
times, when booting with the WinXP logo, the LCD screen would go dim. So all of this points to
an electrical problem with either: a) voltage regulator board/power electronics board (it is much
cheaper than a new system board), b) system board, or c) electrical short. The new notebook
has just been finally configured to my liking with software, etc and I am ordering the external
USB/firewire enclosures for the old drives to start sorting through that entire mess within the
next week or two. IMHO LucF, I do think kronos and Phil Upson do deserve some points. Why?
Because without their knowledge, help, and insight, I wouldn't have gotten as far as what I did
when trying to recover that data from before. The bad drive's MBR has been reformatted after
using the WinXPSP1 rescue floppy routine these guys had suggested after Hard Drive Mechanic
demo couldn't read the MBR. That is where it it is along the path to recovery. Now all it says is
C: whereas before it wasn't even that. This isn't all that far, but it's further than I would have
gotten without their help.
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