boot up problem

I have a laptop which is running Win98.
It is a Compaq Pressario 1200.
I left it on and went to get something .... on my return I found that the machine had hung and on trying to restart I was flashed the message "operating system not found".

I checkec the boot sequence and made hard drive primary slave but even after this I get 2 options
                           1) Boot From Hard Drive
                           2) Boot From CD Drive

WHat should I do Please advise .
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welcome to ms world.
and i hope you have backed up your data.

get yourself a windows startup disk, and boot using diskette (if no friend around, try www.

after booting, while still in diskkette,

sys c:

this will transfer the system files from the diskette to hard disk, and make the system boot.

at this point, you should be able to see the hard disk by going to c:\
if you can't see c:, your hard drive might be corrupted by either virus or just bad hard drive.

if everything fails, you will need to use compaq's rescue disk. remmeber to use the rescue disk, not restore. restore will wipe out all your data.

good luck.
remember to backup everything next time.

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That's indicative of a problem accessing the hard drive.
As it was just sitting there when it happened I'll skip the checking for loose connectors though you may want to check anyway.

To check the drive........

Aquire a Win98 startup disk (floppy)
Make sure the file "scandisk.exe" is on it.
Boot from the floppy.
At the prompt type in { scandisk C: /autofix /surface } and hit enter.
This will check both the file system and the physical condition of the disc.

[ If your CD has scandisk.exe on it you can also do this by booting to the CD. ]

I'd start with that same boot floppy and add fdisk to it and see if any partitions exist.  Common problem with presario is the diagnostic partition that holds the bios gets trashed by 3rd party disk utilities.  If that is the case you will need a rompaq for your specific model from Compaq.  The other option with a compaq of that age is the drive could have just lost its fat32 partition info in the MBR.  There are several MBR repair tools out there the one I use is disk patch by DIY, but I wouldn't do it if I was a rookie.  If the data is important it may be time for a tech.
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as for your data, the easiest way to recover it may be to slave the drive to another system, and copy what you need.
Then you are free to partition, format and install or repair whatever you want.
You may want to use one of these manufacturers utilities to test and format your drive :

you can test your memory with memtest 86+ from :      but in most cases, it will be a disk issue, so i suggest if you get it running again, to test it with a scandisc for errors, or one of the above.
I'd just turn off the PC and let it sit there, unpowered, no powersupply connected, the battery removed, for maybe half a day or longer. Then try rebooting. This type of malfunction just appears and then disappears again...
Try adding "path=C:\Windows" to the autoexec.bat on your boot floppy. As I recall, the older systems sometimes had to be reminded where to look for their OS
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