XP laptop will not boot; unknown partition

canuckconsulting used Ask the Experts™
I have an Inspiron 1520 running XP which was running fine until last night.  Now when it boots just after the XP logo it presents me with the blue screen indicatiing " a problem has been detected and  windows has been shut down to prevent further damage to your computer".

When booting to safe mode it crashes after loading Mup.SYS.  We booted into the XP recovery console and noticed it came up to the F: drive instead of C:.  

Finally we decided to do a reinstall as we only need to recover data and aren't concerned about losing programs.  When we went into the XP installation screen prompting for a partiion we noticed the C: drive was list of type [UNKNOWN].  We only received an option to format the partiition for a new installation; no repair was given as it did not recognize the disk.

At this point we went back to recovery mode and ran a scandisk / r as well as a fixmbr with no changes.
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IT Product Manager
Top Expert 2009
Looks like either virus attack or file system damage (bad sectors).
What I recommend is, download rescue kit from here: http://www.paragon-software.com/home/rk-express/
It is free self burning tool. Boot from it and try to use File Transfer Wizard to copy out your data before we take any step to repair the machine.
When you complete copying out data find out the model of your HDD and try to find check tool on its vendor website. You need to test the HDD surface for bad sectors.
Report back after to take these steps so we could suggest further actions.
Do you still have the Dell Diag disk?  When you hit F12 there should be an option to test the hard drive and one to boot to diag.. try testing the hard drive.  It sounds like it is going bad which in that case you would be better off using a USB adapter to hook the drive to another machine to try and retrieve you information.

If you could boot into recovery console, use the recovery console commands:

to diagnose and repair errors relating to boot record, MBR, or windows installation startup configuration.
Top Expert 2013

i would first run a diag on the drive; best download ubcd, and run the tool for your brand :
this will shwo the drive status..


Tool was not able to recover drive but did allow me to offlload files.  No other method was able to even view the partition and browse the file structure!

After data recover hard drive replaced and all was well.

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