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Compaq Laptop wont boot off HD when cold

I think this is a hardware question so starting off here...

I have a Compaq Presario, running WIndows XP Sp2. Over the last few weeks, on booting, it's failing to find the hard drive with following message:

****
first screen displays this

                   Initializing MBA
                   Press Ctrl-Alt-B to configure

after a couple of other screens does this

                    Non-system disk or disk error
                   Press any key to continue
*****

If you escape to the bios, it shows no hard drive present.

After umpteen ctrl-alt-deletes or switch off/ons or (more recently) escaping in to bios set up, getting a cup of coffee and rebooting, Windows starts ok. So it appears that whatever the problem is, the machine is fine once warmed up. When XP is up, successive reboots always work.

I've tried the following which makes me think the hard drive is ok:

1. Moving Hard drive (30 gig Hitachi with single partition) to top of boot order
2. Physically removing hard drive & replacing it as firmly as possible
3. running chkdsk. This produces 'CHKDSK discovered free space marked as allocated in the volume bitmap' which don't appear to be cleared when doing chkdsk/f. I read somwhere that this could be a feature of XP SP2.
4. doing a detailed physical disk scan with the on-track product - no problems
5. defragged disk/registry

Does anyone have any ideas what may be causing this. Any other tests I can do. Reading a similar posting suggested the clock battery may be going. If this IS a possible cause, any way I can check it?

Grateful for any help. Rob
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sajarojo
Asked:
sajarojo
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3 Solutions
 
davidis99Commented:
When a clock/CMOS battery starts to die, typical symptoms include completely losing time settings and losing drive settings.   If the laptop remains plugged in, this shouldn't be an issue, but could be a problem if the laptop has/had been unpowered for an extended length of time.  The simple way to check this is to go into the BIOS when first starting the laptop to see whether the fixed drives are visible and the time settings are correct;  if there are problems with either, you should check the HP/Compaq  website or your laptop's documentation to find the appropriate replacement part for your CMOS battery.
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sajarojoAuthor Commented:
The laptop IS always plugged into the mains and primarily hibernated when not in use. However, when the box is cold (i.e. not used for a few hours), if I go into the BIOS, the HD is not recognised. Not sure if the time setting is duff? Will check this when I get home.

Rob
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ridCommented:
I suspect a hard drive problem insofar as the HD is not detected when "cold" but works OK when having run for some time. This might be a temperature-related problem with the mechanics inside the HD and my suggestion would be to do an immediate backup and get a new HD.
/RID
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sajarojoAuthor Commented:
Yes I already backed the HD up a while back in anticipation.

Apart from replacing it, is there a simple way I can eliminate the RTC battery theory before homing in on the HD. Trouble is, the laptop is under warranty, but the company are saying windows is corrupt so to reinstall from discs. Which I'm loth to do cos I don't think this is the problem.

The RTC battery is still my favorite at the moment not least cos it means I don't have to get a new drive & reinstall everything. But also a friend had a similar experience with a PC RTC battery. Also I've given the HD a thorough testing when booted up & it never dies once booted. One other thing maybe of note, there have been no error messages in the event log relating to HD problems.

Rob
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ddrdanCommented:
Give us the notebook model number and I can give you the service manual (hopefully a PDF) for battery replacement.
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ddrdanCommented:
You said it stays pluged into the wall continuously. Is the battery in the notebook all the time too? This can be bad for the battery life span and create complex issues with power. Shut down and remove the battery if its in, wait for at least an hour and try a startup and see what happens. Try different time scenarios for boots.

How full is the hard drive in %? How much "unused" space is left?

Here's a few KB's from Compaq:
http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/document?lc=en&cc=us&docname=c00039054&product=95519&dlc=en&lang=en

http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/document?lc=en&cc=us&docname=c00035814&product=95519&dlc=en&lang=en



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nobusCommented:
normally you have to open the laptop, and will find the cmos battery (button like) wrapped in an isolation plastic, and 2 wires leading to a connector; it should read 3V.
some are accissible from the hard disc section.
For your harddisc problem : check out  the laptop for dust (fans, harddisc connector, vents) too.
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mysticaldanCommented:
Looks like imminent Hard disk failure to me. Thsi will keep working till the time a bad capacitor or cirvcuit on the hard disk gets cooked and then even after a coffee, a lunch and a dinnner it wont start. Right now it indicates that something on the hard disk controller card is going bad hence when u run diagnostic utils they dont report anything on the surface of the hard disk which is what they check.

A bad battery will give other hiccups on the BIOS status like a laggin clock and other problems. It will not remeber the exact cylinders and sectors ofthe hard disk and even then after restarting abt 10-15 minutes will not make any difference to the battery, so i dont think it cud be the reason. You can try changing it though. Wouldnt make a difference IMHO.

There are no utils to check the hard disk controller so what u can try is to put in another hard disk and then check if that starts from a cold boot. Once warmed the capacitors hold charge for a few minutes and after that they again die down leeading to the same problem. Warm reboots can be done any number fo times without any problems and the system will work perfectly. However leave it for a few minutes and then it wornt start. There will always be a threshhold time for this. You can check for urself. Try times frames of 5-10-15 minutes. It will fail within this time for sure. Usually a 8-10 minute break will suffice.

My reccomendation wud be to make sure ur data is backed up and then replace the disk.

Dan
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sajarojoAuthor Commented:
Sorry for the silence, been away over the weekend. Thanks for all the answers. I want to try another laptop HD to sort this out once & for all. Are laptop HD connectors compatible? Can I just bung an HD from a friends laptop into mine to see if it finds the hard drive when cold?

Rob
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nobusCommented:
yes, that is possible; but be aware if you let it boot up it will try to change all the drivers, if it comes from a different laptop, or bluescreen on you
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ridCommented:
Usually the tray for the HD includes an adapter to sit between the HD's connector and the motherboard's connector. The HD's are all the same, but the mobo's aren't.
/RID      
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sajarojoAuthor Commented:
Unfortunately can't do this till tomorrow night. Let you know how I get on.

Rob
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mysticaldanCommented:
Yes you shud do that in fact. Insert a laptop hard disk but make sure that its not from a working system. I mean that its not being used. Try and see if on loading it gives an error of any kinds like not getting detected or some kind of error message related to hard disk failure like the one ur getting now.

If you are not getting any error message then u know that the hard disk is failing and rest all is well and u wud wnat to change the hard disk ASAP.

Good Luck
Dan
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sajarojoAuthor Commented:
I can only get an HD from another working laptop. Dont have the luxury of a spare one! What harm could I do to the test one if I  just tried to boot then shut down?

Rob
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nobusCommented:
you can startit, and go in the bios to see if the drive is recognised well. That does not change things
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mysticaldanCommented:
yes all u need to see is if the error gets duplicated else u can just press F8 atthe boot screen and select reboot. You just wanna make sure that its not a IDE problem. So that shud suffice. Give it a try!

Good Luck

Dan
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sajarojoAuthor Commented:
It's the HD all right. After much fiddling, swapped them over and his came up with 'operating system not found' mine could immediately see his from the bios. Amazing the HD has lasted so long?

Thanks a lot for your help everyone.

Rob
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mysticaldanCommented:
You are welcome. I know abt disks enuf when i saw the error. One last thing u might wanna do is use Spinrite on ur disk and it might recover it for you. Get it from www.grc.com , amazin program though u need to check for Laptop support.

If that doesnt work you can try other HDD regenerators but getting a new hard disk is the best option as i mentioned earlier. Get ur backups in order and your set. You can use Norton Ghost to clone ur system if u wanna restore it back or maybe do a clean install.

Dan
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sajarojoAuthor Commented:
Great I may give spinrite a go, but probably get the disk replaced seeing as it's under warranty.

I have already 'Ghosted' to an external USB HD (tried to Ghost to external DVD writer but got fed up with USB driver incompatibilities). Assuming Compaq return the laptop with a standard system build and don't clone the drives, do you know if it's possible to restore from the external HD from windows. It's not clear from the documentation & it's not the sort of thing you can easily test!

Cheers, Rob
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