troubleshooting Question

Apparently complex HDD failure under XP, but good old FDISK saved the day - why?

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crnz asked on
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Hi.  I got this XP Home system that would ang during a reboot, sometimes it would get as far as showing a desktop.  However, the more I tried, the less it progressed, to the point where it wouldn't do much at all.  None of the F8 boot options would work either.  Safe mode, last best config, and so on.  BartPE/UtimateBootCD... hangs.  To take the data off, I slaved it off another system.  As soon as I plugged in the drive, the other system wouldn't boot.  Huh.  I then plugged the drive in as a master into another system, still no booting...  As a master drive in the system, decided to boot the XP CD into Repair mode.  It got as far as it detecting the drive and the system froze again.  Huh.  In a last ditch effort, I boot off a win98 floppy and start win98 setup.  It comes up with the drive containing an unknown operating system, do I want to erase it and continue.  yes I do.  Do I want to reboot, then format?  yes I do.  And lo and behold, the drive is back.

Ok, my question:  What could the problem have been, and could there have been a better way to solve it?  We lost some data this way, and I have this feeling that if I had known what to do I could probably have restored access to it.

I realise it's hard to theorise after the fact, but I'm interested in your opinion of my process and any I-should-have's I can learn from for next time.
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