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Disk Boot Failure

Posted on 2010-09-03
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I’ve been optimizing a PC that has XP as it’s OS. I ran Defraggler and CCleaner to help. I also removed a few shortcuts from the Startup folder, including "hp image zone fast start". At this point I think it was still booting.
Then I was trying to figure out what type of motherboard it had to determine what type of RAM to get so I could upgrade it from 512 MB. I gently pushed aside a cable here or there, but, as far as I can tell, nothing came loose or was damaged. It occurred to me, I might find out what I need by just running MSInfo32. So I went to boot it up and got “Disk Boot Failure.” I booted from a liveCD and found that the hard drive is readable – I can see all the files, etc. – no errors.
It’s my guess that something corrupted the Master Boot Record. So I’m wondering if anyone might be able to confirm this likelihood or suggest anything else that might be the problem. I’m unclear about exactly how to use “fixmbr” and other tools I could use. I can’t get into the recovery console (from a recovery partition), as far as I can tell and can’t remember if the PC is running Windows XP Home or Pro. There’s no windows product key on the box – it wasn’t made by a large manufacturer.
I have a few liveCDs that I can use and am just starting to work with, including UBCD, UBCD4Win, Winternals Admin Pak, and Spotmau. They’re all really useful, but I don’t have enough experience with any one of them yet to be certain about how to fix this problem.
I’m concerned that just using one of the tools, like fixmbr, without knowing whether I’m using it right might cause more problems than I fix. It would be nice to be able to figure out if the MBR is corrupt (before trying to fix it) or whatever else could be the problem.
      I appreciate any suggestions on how to fix this problem.
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Question by:Concentus
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by:jorlando66
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fixmbr wouldnt cause you any problems and could be run from the recovery console or from several of the ultimate boot cd's.  Odd that it booted fine before.  Have you checked the bios to make sure the c: drive is set as the boot device?
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by:SysExpert
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CHeck that the drive is OK using vendor diagnostics.

Fixmbr and fix boot should not cause any issues on a machine with a single drive/ partition

I hope this helps !
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by:dbrunton
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You've got the UBCD so you can use that to check your partition table.

Use TestDisk on the UBCD to do that http://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/TestDisk

Tutorial http://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/TestDisk_Step_By_Step

As long as you don't save while using TestDisk you are OK.  That will verify the partition table which is one problem that can occur.
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by:noxcho
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This issue is caused mostly by the wrong HDD order or inactive system partition. First of all check via BIOS if the boot order is set properly.
You can call for boot menu by pressing F9-F12 key and tell it boot from HDD. Does it load then?
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by:Concentus
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Thanks for all the responses. I ran TestDisk and it indicates that the drive (with one partition) is bootable (having an asterisk beside it). I checked the bios and made HDD0 the first bootable device. Now when it boots up it doesn’t indicate that it tried to boot from the CD drive as it did before.  It only tries to boot from the hard drive and gives the “Disk Boot Failure”. It doesn’t seem to try to boot from the CD drive.
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by:dbrunton
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Try the fixboot and fixmbr.  The partition information looks like it is undamaged but the MBR code may not be OK.

Also open the box up and check all the cabling again around the hard disk and motherboard.  Wouldn't hurt to unplug and replug the cabling in case something is just almost not connected and you can't see it.  Power plug also.
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by:nobus
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i would firzst look in the bios, if the disk is seen !
you can always run a disk diag on it, from ubcd as well, to know it's status.
it may well be a dislodged disk cable - so remove and reseat ALL cables and connectors !
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by:noxcho
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If Testdisk showed it as bootable then BIOS could see the drive as well.
Now it looks as corrupt Boot Sector.
Try to download free Rescue Kit CD: http://download.cnet.com/Rescue-Kit-Free-Edition/3000-2094_4-10910591.html?part=dl-6312838&subj=dl&tag=button
It is self burning ISO image so you need just to execute the exe file and let it burn CD.
Then boot from it this PC - select Normal Mode - Boot Corrector. Search Windows installations to correct. Does it find any?
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by:Concentus
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Thanks for the additional responses. I will try these suggestions.
All cables seem to be connected properly. I disconnected and reconnected, and reseated them. The BIOS sees the hard drive.
I'm doing a DriveImageXML backup and downloading Rescue Kit now. This PC had become unbootable due to a problem with Norton 360 and I spent a couple hours with Symantec support to resolve it. They were very helpful, but I'm trying to avoid having to re-do it. I made a back up image before resolving the Stop Error it was causing so if I have to restore it, I'll have to fix it again.
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by:noxcho
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Interesting. Did you ever use Norton GoBack on this machine?
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by:Concentus
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noxcho,
I'm working on it for someone else and I don't think he's used Goback. That's a great question though. I tried to find a way to use a restore function. But when I try to boot from the hard drive it's not accessible and there's no recovery partition. The BIOS sees it when I go into the BIOS setup and it mounts when I boot from a liveCD. Kinda makes me wonder if the BIOS sees it, but doesn't read the correct settings.
Do you know if there is a fairly quick way to set up a spare PATA hard drive to boot the system - just boot the system to a command prompt or something?
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by:dbrunton
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>> Do you know if there is a fairly quick way to set up a spare PATA hard drive to boot the system - just boot the system to a command prompt or something?

If you're not concerned about which OS on it then DOS would do the trick.  Or even a Linux installation.

>> But when I try to boot from the hard drive it's not accessible and there's no recovery partition

TestDisk should have seen the recovery partition if it was there.

>> Kinda makes me wonder if the BIOS sees it, but doesn't read the correct settings.

That would be the partition table if it was incorrect.  But you can read files off this disk so that looks like it is OK.  Assuming you've done the fixmbr and fixboot that should mean this disk is bootable.  There may be settings in there for the drive such as Legacy, Large, LBA.  You could try those (note what it is set at - should probably be LBA).
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by:noxcho
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Did you boot the machine from Rescue Kit? Did it find any OS when you run Find Windows installations to repair?
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by:Concentus
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I might be a little over-precautious, but I'm backing up the image with DriveImage XML. Looks like I've got another hour or so before it finishes. Then I'm going to try the boot fixes.
I'm burning Rescue Kit now.
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by:noxcho
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ok, let me know if you need help.
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by:AwesomeMachine
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Try to reset the BIOS to default settings. There should a way to do this in the bios setup. Windows has the strange habit of changing the disk designation for no apparent reason. The error your receiving is from the bios. When the bios loads the bootstrap code from the MBR, there is a jump command that relocates part of the bios code. The bios then verifies this took place and the boot continues. If the bios code is no relocated, an error condition occurs.

If you boot with the Knoppix live CD and launch a terminal window, you can use this command to see the MBR:

dd if=/dev/sda count=1 | hexdump -C

You can also try one of my favorite old tricks;:

Take NTDETECT.com and ntldr from the \i386 directory on a XP CD and put them in the root of drive c;\. Sometimes when you mess around with a machine excessively, these two files are replaced with older versions that don't work. You can also verify that c:\boot.ini is present and has reasonable contents.
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by:EnriquePhoenix
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I would just repair your windows install after your back up.
Follow these directions:
http://www.windowsreinstall.com/winxpprox64/installxpcdrepair/indexfullpage.htm
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by:Concentus
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Thanks for the suggestions. So far, no luck. I had to temporarily discontinue work on the PC but will retry tomorrow.
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by:nobus
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>>  Do you know if there is a fairly quick way to set up a spare PATA hard drive to boot the system - just boot the system to a command prompt or something?    <<   if you boot to recovery console from the XP install cd.

you can use a bartPe or knoppix live cd also  :
ftp://ftp.kernel.org/pub/dist/knoppix/KNOPPIX_V5.0.1CD-2006-06-01-EN.iso           Knoppix      
www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/                               BartPe
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by:Concentus
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Hi,
I apologize for taking so long to get back on this. I've been trying all the suggestions and I've documented my results. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to make the disk re-bootable yet.
I recorded the main BIOS settings and placed them at this link: http://centusco.org/xt/JB_ExpExchBIOS.pdf
I tried the Knoppix and Rescue Kit suggestions and placed a link to the results here: http://centusco.org/xt/JB_ExpExchMBR.pdf
If anyone can look at these and give me any ideas about what the problem is, I appreciate it.
I’m pretty certain that this is fixable; I just don’t think I’ve come on to or properly executed the correct fix yet. It seems like some things weren’t accessible in Rescue Kit. Maybe I didn’t make some correct selections.
Also, I see in the MBR, there is text n the hexdump that says: “Invalid partition table. Error loading operating system. Missing operating system.....” This might be the problem or, I don't know, it might be a standard error message for some reason. It's not the error I get, I still get "Disk boot failure."
I know I might just have to reload the OS. I’m not sure what version of XP is installed so I’m wondering if anyone knows how to tell. I think it would be in the registry, but I don’t know yet. Also, I can get the Product keys of the major software installed but I don’t have the installation disk for MS Office. Does anyone know how to re-install Office when the CDs are lost? That’s the main obstacle for reinstallation. I believe it’s Office 2003.

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by:dbrunton
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>> Also, I see in the MBR, there is text n the hexdump that says: “Invalid partition table. Error loading operating system. Missing operating system.....” This might be the problem or, I don't know, it might be a standard error message for some reason. It's not the error I get, I still get "Disk boot failure."

Not the problem.  That is part of the MBR bootup code.

>> Does anyone know how to re-install Office when the CDs are lost? That’s the main obstacle for reinstallation. I believe it’s Office 2003.

You can't.

-------------------------------------

Suggestion only.

Disconnect the CDROM drive that is on the same cable as the hard disk.  Try rebooting.


Puzzling is that the BIOS seems to show Primary Master PIO and Primary Master UltraDMA.   Can you drop into these settings and see if they are duplicates of each other and the only difference is that one is PIO and one is UltraDMA?

And do you have a spare hard disk?
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by:Concentus
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dbrunton,
Thanks for the suggestion. I disconnected the CD drives and Floppy drive. Here are the startup readings:
http://centusco.org/xt/JBStartup090610.pdf.
Could the two Primary Master readings be that there are two CD drives? One is connected to the IDE1 mainboard connector port and one is connected to the IDE2 mainboard connector port.
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by:dbrunton
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Well, no.  See the picture below.

Your BIOS is duplicating the information about the disk drives.  See the boxes around the drives.  The only difference is PIO and UltraDMA.  Can you press Enter on the top Primary Master and bottom Primary Master and see what the differences are?  It looks like duplication is going on there.

>> Could the two Primary Master readings be that there are two CD drives? One is connected to the IDE1 mainboard connector port and one is connected to the IDE2 mainboard connector port.

No.  One is showing up as Slave on the Primary IDE and the other is showing up as Master on the Secondary IDE when you boot.  See your first PDF link and the last two pictures in it.

By disconnecting both CD drives we now have the BIOS reporting the hard disk error.  That looks like a read error.

You've got the UBCD so reconnect one of the CD drives and boot from it.  There is a Western Digital hard disk util on it you can use to test this hard disk.


BIOS.jpg
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by:Concentus
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Here are the BIOS settings now: http://centusco.org/xt/JBStartup2_090610.pdf
I think I realize what I did wrong when I disconnected the CD drives. I failed to change the jumper setting on the hard drive. It was set on Master with Slave present and one of the CD drives are set as Slave on the cable with the hard drive.
I have the UBCD ready to boot the system and run the diagnostic. I forgot to answer your question: I have an 80GB PATA spare hard drive I could probably use. It's a Western Digital WD800JD, Model WD800JD-08M8A1.
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by:Concentus
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That is truly weird. I was booting with the UBCD and was going to take another look at the boot fixing capabilities and without thinking a arrowed down to "Boot First Disk" (or something like that) and it booted from hard drive. I'm in it now.
Do you think there's a way to fix the boot from within (i.e. running XP)?
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by:dbrunton
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Ah.

That last PDF makes more sense now.  Each drive has settings for either PIO or UDMA.  You can tweak the PIO in one and the UDMA in the other.

That read error could have been the hard disk jumper setting not done properly.

OK, run the UBCD diagnostic.  If there is a quick option try that first and if the test is OK then do the long option if there is one.

And what are the hard disk cables in this machine, 40 or 80 pin cables?

If the disk proves bad you can probably clone it's contents to the other hard disk but we'll see how the testing goes.  Cloning is still an option even if the testing proves OK.
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by:dbrunton
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>> That is truly weird. I was booting with the UBCD and was going to take another look at the boot fixing capabilities and without thinking a arrowed down to "Boot First Disk" (or something like that) and it booted from hard drive. I'm in it now.

Try it a few more times.  If it works there is a timing problem between the motherboard and the hard disk.
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by:Concentus
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by:Concentus
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Yes, it launches Windows XP as long as I boot to UBCD first. But it still won't boot directly from the hdd.
Maybe I should try another fixmbr source.
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by:dbrunton
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>> Now, I get this: http://centusco.org/xt/newhdw.jpg

It has just determined that you don't have two CD drives anymore.  You can ignore that message.

Run the hard disk diagnostic anyway.  Won't hurt.

In your BIOS look for options to slow the boot down.  It does check the floppy disk and CDROM first before the hard disk but that might not be enough.  You might have options for memory checking.  If so enable this.

If the hard disk cable is a 40 pin try an 80 pin cable.

Try putting the hard disk and CDROM drive on separate cables (remember the jumper setting).
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by:Concentus
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Quick test completed without errors. I'm running the extended test now. I won't be able to work anymore tonight on this PC. I will pick it back up tomorrow.
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by:dbrunton
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No problem.

I suspect that the disk test won't find anything but it eliminates a possible fault.

Also check position of hard disk on cable.  

If the hard disk is a master and this is a 80 pin cable then the hard disk should be at the cable end which should be the black connector and the blue connector is plugged to the motherboard.

Do definitely try the hard disk and CDROM drives on separate cables.

Also for the WD hard drive try the Cable Select jumper setting as well.   WD drives can be fussy like that.
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by:nobus
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>>  Invalid partition table   <<   you can try this to correct it : http://www.ptdd.com/      
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by:noxcho
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>>Invalid partition table << is not important here if it is not showed during PC boot. It is common message stored in MBR of the HDD that should be shown when partition has bad table. And Concentus just opened MBR of the drive. So do not try to fix it.
The fact that your OS boots when you have CD in CD-ROM points us to the fact that Windows native loader is not working properly. It uses currently loader of UBCD to get to Windows loading stage. If you try to boot without CD now and it still fails then this suggestion is correct.
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by:Concentus
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Thanks for the comments. The only error message displayed to the user is "Disk Boot Failure." It will not boot without the CD. When I boot from the UBCD, there is a selection "Boot First Disk" (or similar wording). When I select that it launches Windows XP and I can login. I wonder if that bypasses the MBR and/or boot.ini file.

I've tried fixing the MBR with some utilities, but maybe it wasn't successful. I'm thinking I should try to run fixmbr from the recovery console, but I haven't been able to find a Windows XP Home version disk. I printed out the MBR ( http://centusco.org/xt/JB_ExpExchMBR.pdf ) but I can't tell if there's any errors in it.
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by:noxcho
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Did you boot to Safe Mode of the Rescue Kit and try to fix MBR and which is most important - Partition Boot Record?
Also, is the HDD set to boot as first device?
BTW, does your BIOS support calling from Boot Menu via F12 or similar key press? Look carefully when you are offered to press Del to enter BIOS there must be another key that calls Boot Menu. Enter it and select your HDD. Does it boot from the drive?
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by:Concentus
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It seems to me that if the mbr and the boot.ini file is okay, then, providing the motheroard is able to read the hard drive, the system should boot or give me an error message indicating a different problem (e.g. a Windows XP load problem). Also, does anyone know if there is a hexdump of a good working MBR that I could do a hexadecimal comparison with and repair with a hex editor.
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by:noxcho
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>>Also, does anyone know if there is a hexdump of a good working MBR<< not good idea as MBR could differ (has different values) because of different FS ID, start and end of partitions and size of HDD. So to get the "good MBR" you need install Windows from scratch to exactly same drive and partitions.
But still try to give answers to my questions. It seems to me that you need Boot Manager here.
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by:Concentus
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I did not realize there was a Safe Mode of the Rescue Kit. Maybe that is why some of the options were grayed out. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. I will check that out - it was confusing to me that some of the functionality appeared to be inaccessible. I will try Rescue Kit again when I get to the computer this afternoon.
I've tried placing the HDD as first boot device in the BIOS but it didn't help. I don't see a Boot Menu selection when it boots up. I recorded each change to the screen I noticed in this file: http://centusco.org/xt/JB_ExpExchBIOS.pdf. It's a kind of slow PC so I snapped a photo each time something changed so I caould go back and look at it. (The boot process is at the end of the file)
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by:Concentus
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Yes, I was apparently finishing  that comment as yours was posted. I will try Boot manager again. How do I get into Safe Mode with it?
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by:noxcho
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Yep, I see. No Boot Menu but still try to press F10-F12 keys in order it is hidden (at the moment you press Del key).
Also is there such option on Rescue Kit as Find OS on HDD? It is usually on bottom of the first menu you get (Normal Mode, Safe Mode etc).
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by:noxcho
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Boot from Rescue Kit - select Safe Mode - Boot Corrector. Find Windows installation to correct. There check if you are able to update MBR and partition boot record.
Also check if Find OSes on HDD option is available for you.
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by:Concentus
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Sounds good. As soon as I can get to the PC I will check these things out. Will be later this afternoon.

You can also see what I got with my original attempt with Rescue Kit here: http://centusco.org/xt/JB_ExpExchMBR.pdf
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by:noxcho
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Yes, I've seen this in your previous post thus I am suggesting Safe Mode.
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by:dbrunton
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Don't think there is anything wrong with the Partition Table as you are able to get into Windows XP through the UBCD.

If it is the MBR, then MBRWork on the UBCD may be able to install a standard MBR.

Also look at MBRWork and MBRUtility at http://www.terabyteunlimited.com/downloads-free-software.htm
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by:Concentus
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I tried the F10 and F12 keys to select boot drive. It didn't seem to register the key being pressed in either case.

I tried selecting Safe Mode in Rescue Kit. For some reason, I get a message on the screen that says "analog display settings are out of range" (or similar wording). I tried "Low-Graphics Safe Mode". When I select it before pressing enter, it reads " Try this mode if you have problems with the safe mode. This mode has simple graphics, simple menu. No partitions mounted." I pressed enter on this. The ability to correct the boot record is still inaccessible - grayed out - same as before.

I tried to use a Windows XP Home (Upgrade) version disk to boot to the Recovery Console and ran Fixmbr and fixboot. Neither helped.
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by:Concentus
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I just saw your post, dbrunton. Maybe that will work. I have to leave right now but I will try tomorrow. Thanks.
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by:noxcho
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I tried to use a Windows XP Home (Upgrade) version disk to boot to the Recovery Console and ran Fixmbr and fixboot. Neither helped.
-Did the FIXMBR run at all?
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by:Concentus
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When I ran FIXMBR, I had the impression that it ran and said that it repaired the MBR. Same thing for fixboot. Also, I put the hard drvie on it's own cable and changed the jumper to Master with no Slave. I still get "Disk boot failure."

One peculiar thing I noticed: I booted the system from UBCD and was able to run the XP installation and log in. I ran Winver to make sure I got the right disk for running the recovery console. I'm pretty sure it said "XP Home" version. I ran ERD yesterday and it listed the C drive installation as "XP Professional, Service Pack 2." I don't know if that's relevant or not.

With ERD I did a system restore to before the time it stopped booting. I still get the same - "Disk Boot Failure."

Also, I noted that when I put the Windows Upgrade installation disk in, it gives you the option to press a key to boot from the CD (press a key within 15 seconds or so to boot from CD). The first time I put it in I didn't realize it would ask and I wasn't watching. When I looked it had booted (as if there was nothing wrong with it) and was ready for me to log in as one of the existing users. So apparently, it used the CD boot files/boot record to boot the system and then launched the Operating System installed on the hard drive.

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by:noxcho
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Can you connect this HDD as slave to another machine and browse the C: partition so to check if it contains the following files:
boot.ini
ntldr
ntdetect.com
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by:Concentus
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Yes I can see the entire file structure when I boot from Knoppix or other liveCD. I will check for these files this afternoon as soon as I get there (where the PC is). Do you think I need to connect it to another PC or just boot with a liveCD and check it.

Do you know if there is a way to tell if any of the files are corrupted?
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by:noxcho
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I think booting from Knoppix will be enough. Just make sure that these files are there.
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by:Concentus
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I checked for the three files: boot.ini, ntdetect.com, ntldr. They are all there. This is the content of the boot.ini file:
[boot loader]
timeout=5
default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition" /fastdetect /NoExecute=OptIn

I'm wondering if there is a way to check what the boot.ini file should have. I wonder if it's pointing to the correct partition.
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by:dbrunton
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That is the correct partition.  See http://vlaurie.com/computers2/Articles/bootini.htm

I think this is incompatibility between hard disk and motherboard.  That incompatibility vanishes when another media is used to do the booting.

If you've got another computer then try the hard disk there.  It shouldn't boot but error out with a message of some type.  Not the "Disk Boot Failure" which I believe is the motherboard/BIOS but a Windows error of some type.
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by:Concentus
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I think it might be some kind of compatibility issue, too (at this point). This is not a new hard drive but is the same one that was there when it was booting fine. However, after I began optimizing the PC, it stopped booting. I'm sure it's something I did: I ran Ccleaner (cleaned up the registry, temp files, etc.) and defraggler (defragged the hdd), and I moved a few startup files out of the start up folder (I've since, placed them back). I may have looked at the BIOS for some reason (I've done so much now, I've forgotten what I did) and when I exited I could have saved the settings.   Then I was looking at the mainboard to try to figure out what type of RAM I might order to further optimize.

Then, because it was hard to get to the RAM, I said, I'll run msinfo32 to see if I can figure it out without poking around. And that's when it wouldn't boot.

I'm suspecting, now, there was some type of compensation in the BIOS that was done when the PC was originally set up.

I believe I have another PC I can test the hard drive in. I will try to do that. It will be tomorrow before I can get that done, though.

In the mean time, I wonder if I can compare the BIOS settings for the hard drive to what the manufacturer requires (cylinder, head, ...). Do you know if there are any other setting in the BIOS that are on Auto that could be affecting this?

Do you think an in-place upgrade might solve this problem? I would try "last know good configuration" but it doesn't seem to be available. Also, I wonder if I should disable Recovery Genius. When I tried to use it, it had a date back in 2007. Or should I try to recover to that?
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by:dbrunton
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>> I wonder if I can compare the BIOS settings for the hard drive to what the manufacturer requires (cylinder, head, ...). Do you know if there are any other setting in the BIOS that are on Auto that could be affecting this?  Probably

Probably everything was Auto originally.  I'd leave it as it is.  If you want to play change the Auto settings for the hard drive to either LBA or Large and see happens.  Shouldn't affect anything.

>> Do you think an in-place upgrade might solve this problem? I would try "last know good configuration" but it doesn't seem to be available. Also, I wonder if I should disable Recovery Genius. When I tried to use it, it had a date back in 2007. Or should I try to recover to that?

No.  Leave it as it is.

You've got a spare hard drive.  Consider cloning the hard drive partition to the spare hard drive and then try the spare hard drive in the machine.
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by:Concentus
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Yes, I will try that. Actually, though, I thought I had a spare hard drive. It's a WD800JD instead of a WD800JB. The JD is a SATA and I don't have an adapter for it (if that would work (?)). My other spare hard drives, that I can find, are all SATA, too. So I've got a WD800JB (and a SATA to PATA adapter) on order.
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by:dbrunton
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Wait for the SATA to PATA adapter before you try.  Don't try without.
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by:noxcho
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Do you have another PC to slave this drive to and work on this drive while booted into another Windows OS? We could try to update MBR of the drive as we did not prove yet that problem was not caused by boot manager of Windows on this drive. I will guide you though the process of updating the MBR of the drive with safe backup of current MBR before update.
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by:Concentus
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Yes, I have a PC I can try that with. I apologize for the delay, but the earliest I can do it is tonight. I don't have the PC with me now and I have an appointment this afternoon. I will get it set up and let you know. I believe that the PC I'll be using has XP Pro installed. Will that work?
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by:noxcho
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Yes. It will. Download and install either this free version of Backup & Recovery 10: http://download.cnet.com/Paragon-Backup-amp-Recovery-Free-Advanced-Edition-32-bit/3000-2242_4-10972187.html?tag=mncol
Or trial version of this: http://www.paragon-software.com/home/brh/
Then turn off PC - connect the HDD as slave and boot PC from its own HDD (not yours). Run Backup & Recovery - see if your HDD is detected properly. If yes then run backup wizard and image its MBR and first track to some drive (not to the slaved one).
After that right click on HDD - Update MBR. Does it apply this operation?
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by:Concentus
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I appreciate your help on this and I apologize for the delay. I had an important meeting tonight and couldn't get to the computer. If it's okay, I will try to get it set up tomorrow, around 5:30 PM EST.
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by:noxcho
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No problem. No need to hurry up. Plan your time as you want it.
Nox
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by:Concentus
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I got the replacement hard drive in today and figure I will try to write the image to that before going any further. Hopefully, that will solve the problem. If not I will have a full backup I can fall back on. As you probably know it takes a long time to clone it.

As soon as that's done I will test it out and let you know.
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by:Concentus
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I tried a disk-to-disk backup with DriveImageXML to clone the original hdd to the new one. It didn't seem to work so I tried an Image restore. It took me a while to realize why it wasn't booting - no error, just wouldn't boot. Finally, I realized that the partition had to be set to active. After that, it booted from the new hard drive. (!)
So I've tried to fix the MBR using Paragon Backup and Recovery of the original hard drive. Similar to Rescue Kit, it looks like the MBR tool is grayed out - http://centusco.org/xt/IMG_7623.JPG. It would be nice to fix the original one but unless anyone has any ideas (there may be something I'm missing with the Backup and Recovery program), I think I'll have to use the new hard drive.
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dbrunton earned 350 total points
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>> I think I'll have to use the new hard drive.

You've got dban on the UBCD.  Use it to wipe the original disk http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/dban.html

Then clone the new disk back to the original disk.  Cross fingers and see if that works.
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by:Concentus
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That's a great idea. I wonder if installing over the current OS would work, too?
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by:dbrunton
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Nah.

Wipe the disk with dban so it is totally blank.  Zero.

That way if the fault occurs again you know it is the disk being incompatible with the board.

If you install over the OS and the fault occurs you still aren't certain as to the cause if the fault occurs.  It could be either the remnants of the old OS or the hard disk.
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by:Concentus
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The version of dban I have on ubcd says beta and gave an error so I just reformatted the hard drive and made the entire disk an active partition. I'm still working on this - need to make an image of the working hard drive.
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by:noxcho
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I would like to have a look on the first sector of the HDD you have problems with. Is it still available?
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by:Concentus
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I placed the MBR in this file here: http://centusco.org/xt/JB_ExpExchMBR.pdf. It's at the end of the file.
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by:Concentus
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I finally got the image from the working hard drive and restored it to the hard drive that stopped booting. The files are there and the partition is set to active. However, when I try to boot it just hangs.
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by:dbrunton
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Same as before?

If so try the fixmbr and fixboot utils again.

No joy then treat the hard drive as suspect or not playing well with the motherboard.  Then I'd delete again with dban and format and use as a storage drive but not my only storage drive (because it has proved suspect).
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by:Concentus
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Actually, this time there's no error. Before, I got "Disk Boot Failure." What do you think is the best source for the fixboot and fixmbr utlitites?

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by:Concentus
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I wonder if I missed a step. I found this:
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Storage/Backup_Restore/Q_24332256.html

I found a version of dban that worked and I wiped the disk. Should I have formatted the drive after wiping it?
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by:dbrunton
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Hmmm.

Could be.  But try the UBCD again and see if it will boot from the first disk as you made it boot before.
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by:Concentus
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Thanks. When I select "Boot next device," I get "Cannot get disk parameters."
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by:Concentus
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I'm looking at the MBRWork tool on the UBCD. It's got an option to "Install standard MBR code." Do you think that would be worth a try?
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by:dbrunton
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Run TestDisk and see if the partition table has the correct settings.  Seems like that is what it is missing.
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by:dbrunton
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>> It's got an option to "Install standard MBR code.

Won't hurt.  Also use TestDisk.
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by:Concentus
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That's it! I used TestDisk to check it; then wrote to the MBR. Now it boots as normal. Thank you for all the help!
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by:Concentus
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I really appreciate all the help with resolving this problem. For me, this was one of the most difficult hardware issues I have ever had to deal with. Although I would really like to have determined why this hard drive would not boot when all the boot mechanisms seemed to be properly set up, I am still glad to have the system working properly, again. Also, it’s great to, at least, have a strategy for repairing such problems in the future.  

In the hope that it will be helpful to someone else who might have to deal with this problem, here is a synopsis of the problem and resolution:

The PC was, originally, working properly, and I performed some procedures to optimize its performance, including defragging the hard drive, removing files from the start up folder, and running CCleaner. I don’t believe any of these caused the problem. However, I did launch the BIOS setup to see if there was anything that might be helpful to increase the startup time because it was very slow starting up. I don’t remember actually changing anything, but in the hard drive set up section where it says “Press Enter” (I suppose for establishing Auto settings), I might have pressed enter. And I believe I saved the settings when I exited the BIOS. I’ve done so many things to this PC over the last few weeks I can’t be sure what I actually did originally, now. I would not have thought that anything I did would even be worth noting, but now, I’m somewhat suspicious about making even the most apparently inconsequential changes to the BIOS.

The system would not boot and displayed “Disk Boot Failure” despite the following appearing to be set up properly:

1.      The partition was set as active
2.      The MBR appeared to be uncorrupted (fixmbr and fixboot were run to ensure there were no errors)
3.      The boot.ini file appeared to be uncorrupted and to have the correct settings
4.      ntldr and ntdetect.com were present (no corruption appeared to be present - though file integrity was not checked)
5.      The hard drive appeared to be properly set up in the BIOS

I was not able to determine why the hard drive wouldn’t boot, but the following resolved the problem:

I created an image of the non-bootable hard drive with DriveImage XML and restored the image to a similar, new hard drive. I made sure the new hard drive booted properly and the file structure was in place and accessible (I had to make the partition active and I may have had to run TestDisk to correct the MBR). Then I made an image of the new hard drive and restored it to the original hard drive after wiping it with DBAN. I made this partition active when it was restored. It hung on boot up so I examined the disk with TestDisk to make sure the partition was active and repaired the MBR with the TestDisk utility. I then rebooted the system and it worked properly.

In retrospect, I could possibly have saved a few steps by doing disk to disk backups with DriveImage XML in lieu of backing up to and restoring from image files.

The Ultimate Boot CD (http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/) with TestDisk (http://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/TestDisk) and DriveImage XML (http://www.runtime.org/driveimage-xml.htm) were especially helpful.

Thanks again for all the helpful suggestions.
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by:Concentus
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It's probably important to note that I ran diagnostics on the system, including the hard drive, and there were no errors found.
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