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Missing Operating System after improper shutdown

Posted on 2006-07-23
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Last Modified: 2013-12-29
Thanks to MASQUERAID for all of their help so far :-)

On this Dell Windows 3.1 machine, I loaded some program in DOS from the File Manager in Windows (to see what it was, I haven't been on this system in 10+ years), and it was some sort of loop that I couldn't close out of.  So I turned off the computer with the power switch.  Now when I start it up, it does its POST then says "Missing operating system."

I make sure the hard drive is auto detected through the BIOS, but no go.

Before, it would start to load, and load SCSI controller drivers then CD-ROM drivers, then load the AUTOMENU program I was using to choose either Windows or DOS.  Not having the SCSI controller or CD-ROM drivers loading isn't a problem at all, in fact it would be good if they didn't because I don't use the drive anymore and now it just complains it can't find it and I have to press Enter to continuie.

Anyway, I _can_ get into Windows by booting with a DOS 5 bootdisk, then just loading either AUTOMENU or Windows through the command line.  And I think I remember the bootdisk saying something about HIMEM.SYS, so I believe that's being loaded too.

Is there a way I can fix this though?  I've tried SYS C: from the A: drive, it completed but complained that it couldn't copy COMMAND.COM, so I used attrib to take the read only off of it and it copied over fine, and then put it back on, but that hasn't done anything, still the same error.  I made sure in FDISK that it was the primary partition, I did FDISK /mbr, but no go either.

I would just like it to boot like it did before, but if that's not possible, is there a way to modify the bootdisk (I'm using the DOS 5.0 bootdisk from bootdisk.com) so that instead of dumping me just to the A: prompt, it'll load AUTOMENU?  That would just be a simple thing of adding in a line, but I don't know where.

Any help is greatly appreciated!  Thanks!
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Question by:christo87
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by:☠ MASQ ☠
ID: 17175068
>>Thanks to MASQUERAID for all of their help so far :-)

& thank you :)

>>I haven't been on this system in 10+ years
Is the CMOS battery OK?  Missing operating system errors on old machines are often CMOS problems & on 486s this is often because the wrong HD disk type is selected.  After that consider HDD failure (or impending failure) itself  might be worth running "chkdsk C:"

When the PC has finished booting to DOS from the floppy, which version of DOS is in C:\DOS?  (The timestamp shows the version number) You may have a conflict between COMMAND and IO.SYS & MSDOS.SYS versions.  Do you have the original DOS/Win3.1 disks?
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by:christo87
ID: 17187826
I just replaced the battery (I wanted it to keep the correct time) and it still gives the missing OS error.

I don't have the original disks, I just ordered DOS 5 and Win 3.1 but if I can just get it to do everything automatically with the boot floppy I'll just leave it as is because I don't want to keep the client waiting :)

Is there a way I can modify the boot floopy to run a certain command?  All I want it to do is when it gets to the A: prompt, have it automatically enter "C:\automenu\auto" and press Enter.  That'll load the program I want which is just a loader and lets the user choose DOS or Windows (or anything else you have in the config file, but this is all I have there).

Thanks again!
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Expert Comment

by:For-Soft
ID: 17221770
The most possible cause of the "Missing operating system" message is not proper BIOS disk setting. The message comes from MBR bootstrap program. What the program does is searchimg for an active partition using BIOS and partition table settings. The settings in the partition table and BIOS have to match each other. If something is wrong the boot strap loader program displays the "Missing operating system" message.
Probably, the disk was partitioned with different disk setting. In most BIOS versions it is possible to chose from LBA support, large (bit shift) or CHS (Normal). Changing this setting after partitioning disk drive, will cause the "Missing operating system" message to be displayed.
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Author Comment

by:christo87
ID: 17308447
I really don't know what it is at this point.

I bought MS-DOS 5 and Win 3.1, prepared to erase everything and start from scratch.

After installing MS-DOS 5, I still get the Missing Operating System message, leading me to believe it's the BIOS.  MS-DOS can run on its own without Windows, correct?

I checked everything in the BIOS, even updated the BIOS to the most recent version, and everything looks good, but still no go.

Any other ideas?
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Expert Comment

by:For-Soft
ID: 17308467
Well. Did you erased the partition, then created a new partition.
 Because that would be from a scratch.

If the patrition was created with different BIOS settings, system reinstalation is not enough to make the disk bootable.
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Accepted Solution

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For-Soft earned 500 total points
ID: 17308475
You should:
- erase the partition.
- restart the computer (not necesary, but additional caution just to be sure)
- create a new partition
- restart the computer
- format partition
- install DOS
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Author Comment

by:christo87
ID: 17319953
That's what did it.  I wished I could have gotten by without doing a reformat (I was able to configure the bootdisk, but I just wanted it to boot directly from the hard drive), but that's OK, I backed up what I needed.

Thanks!
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