Hard drive erased upon start up?

It's hard to explain what happened here because I have no real idea myself, only hunches. After patching my wife's pc with XP sp2 and Office sp3, I went and downloaded McAfee's virus scan, firewall, and security center programs from a link I had some time ago. This software was free to military individuals. Here is the link btw: http://us.mcafee.com/en-us/affiliates/dod/landingpages/?affid=106-01 As soon as installed the firewall program and rebooted, programs started crashing. Inluding the recently installed virus scan software. So after deleting all of the mentioned programs and reinstalling them, I scanned my pc and found it to be clean. This is where it gets fun. My mother-in-law was using the computer for work and was restoring information to the program she was using via a cd. The program would not show the cd-rom as an option to pull the backup information from, so she rebooted the pc. When windows came back up, it logged into the administrator account (all other accounts were gone) and from what I can tell at this point, all of the files on this harddrive are gone. Its looks as if I had formatted my harddrive. Checking the windows version even shows that I haven't patched windows with sp2 yet, which I know I did. So now I am at a loss. I don't really know what happened or how to correct it. I am not so much worried about this harddrive, however I have a second drive in the box that I use for pictures and such that windows says is not there. I plan to disconnect it and scan it for virus at a later time. The question is, what the hell happened and what do I do now?  I've run several online virus scans and even tried to fix the boot sector using the recovery console and the fixboot command and COPY X:\i386\NTLDR C: and COPY X:\i386\NTDETECT.COM C:  Still no luck, now what do I do?

       
solarhawkeAsked:
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CallandorConnect With a Mentor Commented:
If it can't be detected in the BIOS, no Windows program is going to be able to do anything with it.  Only an expensive data recovery company like OnTrack can get data off it.
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CallandorCommented:
First, since you upgraded to sp2, I would check the compatability list: http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;884130&Product=windowsxpsp2

Second, try a repair install to fix the disk (your programs and data should be preserved, but you may need to reapply updates)
http://www.dougknox.com/xp/tips/xp_repair_install.htm 

Third, learn from this and use Ghost 2003 to periodically make image backups - it will save you a lot of heartache and time.  If you get SystemWorks 2003 Pro, it comes with Ghost, and it's fairly inexpensive.
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solarhawkeAuthor Commented:
Update on the situation.  Tried the steps from Callandor, thanks for the quick response btw!  Here is where I stand now.  After messing around some, it looks like I am booting off the second hard drive in the box.  The problem is, I never installed windows on that drive!  Up until last night when I was following the above steps that is.  The bios is set to boot from HDD0 however when I tried to change it to HDD1 which was my data storage drive only (pictures and such, no OS).  It sat at the boot up screen with the message:  " Verifying dml data".  None of the programs I had installed were uncompatable with sp2.  And I have had the situation before where basically the computer just wouldn't start at all giving me the "non-system disk" error.  I had to do basically the same thing as Callandor posted and try a repair install.  Now it appears as if the secondary drive as taken over as master, (even though it is still listed as slave on boot screen) and the master drive no longer exists. I'm gonna open up the case now and check all the connections (should have done this before), but I'm still boggled as to how windows got installed on the slave drive.  I'm going to make it work if I have to beat it.  Ordered a new hard drive and power supply anyways.  I've supsected both as being problematic for some time now.  Thanks again for the response, and if anyone else has any ideas I will most certainly try them.
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CallandorCommented:
Check in the BIOS first, to see if all your hard drives are detected properly.  It is strange that it's booting off your second drive, but Windows seems to know where it is installed, so somehow, it was installed there.
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solarhawkeAuthor Commented:
Nope, it won't detect my primary master drive at all.  I suppose at one point I could have installed windows on the primary slave drive, or maybe it did it during the initial install.  So it would appear that the primary drive is dead.  Is there any hope of getting it back to any working order just long enough to make an image backup?
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solarhawkeAuthor Commented:
I should have added this as well before I submitted the last post.  I also tried swapping IDE cables and using different IDE connectors on the motherboard.  Either way it will detect the cd-rom drive (which is generally my primary slave) but it will not detect the hard drive at all.  So I guess now I'm at the point where I need to see if there is any way I can access that drive to try and recover some of the data on it.  If not, then I'm just gonna junk it and wait on the replacements to arrive.
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x86fixCommented:
It sounds like she reinstalled windows using a restore cd that wipes the disk before starting.
I have software that allows me to recover much information in cases like this but I have to put the affected disk in a good computer with the software installed on it.  The software I use can be found at http://www.r-tt.com/
If you don't have access to another computer it amy be worth contacting someone in your are to recover the data.
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