Trying to help fix my brother's computer. I can come back later with better HW details, but it's an Athlon 1800+, the mobo is an all-USB/Firewire type (no standard kb/mouse conectors). In addition to the two main IDE channels (black), there are an additional 4 (yellow) on the MB. I can get the make & model later. There are 2 drives on the machine, a WD 30 gig drive (primary master) and a WD 120 gig (primary slave), in addition to 2 CD roms on the secondary channel.
The system has been running WinXPHome (I know, I know... But that's what he has). He has been running this setup for several months without a problem. Broadband, multimedia, apps, the works.
The problem is this: after what appeared to be a normal shutdown the previous night, startup now fails just after the initial WinXP splash screen (the black background, big WinXP logo, blue scrolling "led's" below). That screen shows for about 5 seconds, then the screen goes black, and stays that way for good. Sometimes, instead of black, an error message would come up: "windows failed to load, file missing, c:\windows\system32\hal.dll.
What I have tried, in order:
1) Iserted my copy of XP pro, booted off the cd, and ran the Recovery option. Chkdsk initially reports no need to check the disk, but then chkdsk /p reports to the effect of "there appears to be one or more unrecoverable problems with the drive" (no additional info).
2) ran extract g:\i386\hal.dl_ c:\windows\system32
but it complains that the drive is not accessible (access denied).
3) Rebooted into a cd of ERD Commander, which shows the c drive as an unpartitioned area with no accessible data.
4) Threw up my hands, and reinstalled WinXP on the drive. The install appears to go smoothly -- all the way to the reboot and initial startup of the actual gui, at which point the exact same problem occurs -- splash screen for a few seconds, then black.
5) Decided the drive must be bad (forgive me, I'm not an expert, but this was the most obvious next step to me). Instructed my brother to buy another drive. He came back with a WD 160 gb 7200rpm 8mb cache ATA drive.
6) installed the new drive as master, ran WinXP setup, partitioned and formatted the new volume, and ran the install of WinXP. Again, all smooth until the final setp - loading the actual GUI. Splash screen for a few seconds, then black screen.
Now I'm stumped. Other than trying a different IDE cable (which to me is rediculous -- Windows setup seemed to run fine), I have no clue what could be the problem at this point.