No boot device available

I have an Dell Inspiron 531 2GB RAM 250 GB hard drive running Vista. Yesterday morning the power had gone off in the house. I don't know for how long, but it was long enough that the APC battery my desktop was plugged in to must have run out of power because my desktop was off. I turned it on and instead of booting up it gives me this message

No boot device available
SATA 0: Installed
SATA 1: Installed
SATA 2: Installed
SATA 3: None

I had to go to work so i turned it off and it sat for about 4 hours till i got home for lunch where i tried it again, still same thing. turned it off, another 4 hours later came home from work, turned it on (yes wishful thinking mostly) and to my surprise it gave me the screen that says windows didn't shut down properly etc and gives the options for safe mode and normal mode. I chose normal mode and it acted like it was booting up, but then restarted itself and it's back to the no boot device message.

On the advice of a friend I tried booting it with the windows install CD. It boots from that and takes me through the install screens, but it will not repair anything, and if i try to install windows, the only "drive" it comes up with is 7.5 GB which i think is the backup partition. It should be a 250GB harddrive.

After awhile of giving up I turned the thing on and it came to the didn't shut down properly screen this time presenting me with the option to run startup repair or run windows normally. I did the startup repair and it worked. My computer booted up, everything was there and seemed to work perfectly for about an hour i even restarted it just to be sure. Then the whole system froze and I had to do a force restart. Now Its right back to square one, where i was before with the no boot device available, install disk is no help, and i can't figure out how to get it to the screen that actually fixed it before, though i suppose it didn't really fix it since it later crashed and came right back to where it was before.

I tried again later and managed to get back to the screen that allowed me to run the startup repair. Again it worked for about an hour before freezing and back to square one again. So it seems I can get it to work for about an hour at a time, after turning it off and on a few times and letting it sit, it seems to eventually give me the screen that asks about startup repair. After maybe an hour of normal use, it just completely locks up. stops working all together, i hafta force reboot and it's back to saying no boot device. Is the problem the hard drive or is it something else like a short in the motherboard? (i have very little knowledge of how the hardware works in a computer, it just seems odd that i can get it to work fine for short periods)

Also I checked inside to make sure no wires were loose, the fans are working etc. Nothing seems physically amiss.

Any ideas or help would be greatly appreciated.
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This is just a hunch...this COULD be something wrong with the if it's a dell laptop, you could get into the cmos/bios setup by pressing F2 (i think) at the logo...try restoring all the settings to default and see where that takes you.
You have a hard drive failure. The easy option is to replace the hard drive & reinstall your operating system & data. More difficult would be to attempt to repair the hard drive, the first attempt would be to boot to a DOS prompt & run "chkdsk /r" without the quotes. This will attempt to locate any hard disk damage.

As long as you do not reformat your hard drive, or re-install Windows, then your data (but not programs) is most likely safe & recoverable onto a new system disk.
Maharet83Author Commented:
vidularandunu: I have already tried resetting everything to default in the bios. unfortunately that didn't do me any good :(

Mr Grumpy: i'm not really concerned with the data, i have backups of everything important on an external hard drive. While I'd hate to have to go through setting everything up again, it's really the least of my worries. What I'm trying to ascertain is if this is a fixable issue or if I should just look into getting a new desktop. I will try the chkdsk and see how that goes. Thanks! :)
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To be sure, when you first turn on any dell computers, it should give you the options, at the top, to press F-12 to go to diagnostics, you want to run hard drive diagnostics, it will tell you if there is anything wrong with the drive.
Windows Vista is different from windows XP in that it does not have a repair install option, so if you run through with the install disk, the only thing you can do is reinstall the operating system
-vidu might be on to something about the Cmos being messed up, we might need more details to give you a good direction to go, like how many cd-rom drives do you have? do you know how many hard drives you had?
To get the startup repair to come up, tap F8 while the computer is first turning on, and it will give you a few options, you can try last know good configuration, if that doesnt work, try startup-repair option again, if you do get the computer to boot up, please backup any important data.
Maharet83Author Commented:
one hard drive with two partitions, and 2 cd roms. Also F12 takes me to the boot menu, but not diagnostics. I can't get into any kind of diagnostics, and right now I can't even get into DOS.
usually at that boot meniu you should get a few options, two of them hopefully are hard drive diagnostics or boot to utility partition, either will diagnos a hardware problem, you are not going to be able to get into dos without a boot cd, if you use your windows vista cd to boot up the computer, there is a command prompt option, instead of install you can use that, and try to run the chhkdsk /r
Unfortunately I've had the same thing with my customer. I ended on installing the system on another drive (you can make a bootable USB drive with system - it is possible -, that copy all my important things, installers, docs and whole Doc&Set folder to USB then format whole drive and install there new system.
Maharet83Author Commented:
at the boot menu the options i get are the hard drive, the 2 CD rom drives and the utility partition. i tried the utility partition and it got me nowhere just a black screen.

Also tried dos from the windows install cd, no go wouldn't run the chkdsk. doesn't recognize that there's a C drive at all from there.
sounds like, it may just be a hard drive failure, or a really messed up hard disk partition, best way to determind it would be to put the hard drive in another computer, use a hard drive enclosure, to see if another computer can read the data, but you probably are going to have to reinstall everything unfortunately, unless you have a backup clone of the drive.
sorry couldnt be more help

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At the risk of sounding too simplistic, it oculd be a bad power supply. next guess would be to follow stokerbritt's advice.
that boot CD is ILLEGAL!!!    you should NOT recommend it here !
what i would do, is test the disk drive first. you find all diags on the ubcd :      

it can also be your system is overheating, so install speedfan to monitor cpu and disk temps :

post back results !

and another command from Windows recovery console...

Restore the partition table and this should work.

however, works 4/5 times, sort of a gamble. If nothing else, reinstall on another drive, recover data from there.
nobus, [Admin Edit] is a widely used CD

Also,, just read teh Vista difference.

I will investigate and get back to you. You may be able to anyway via xp disk.
webbbster - it contains pirated software - cannot be recommended or used here.
all references to it will be removed !
just a friendly warning !!  you ARE supposed to read EE's rules before posting !

All -
I deleted a reference to a certain well-known CD
It contains pirated (stolen) applications and we do not allow any reference to it on our forum.

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