Cannot access C: drive to reinstall Windows 7

I have a client's Dell Inspiron 1564 laptop. Laptop boots to a blank windows desktop, no icons, no start button.

Safe Mode and the rest lead nowhere, cannot access the drive no matter what tricks I try.

I have followed several forums and have tried everything that everyone has suggested to no avail.

I have tried to 'restore' the OS by using the hidden partition, but that fails as well.

I put in a full copy of Windows 7 Pro [this laptop was running Windows 7 Home Prem]. This is the only full copy I have on hand of any Windows 7 OS. After long pauses between screens, I have gotten to the 'Where do you want to install Windows?' screen. It shows"

Name                                               Total Size         Free Space         Type
Disk 0 Partition 1                            100.0 MB         90.0MB               OEM (Reserved)
Disk 0 Partition 2: Recovery               9.8 GB            5.1 GB              System
Disk 0 Partition 3                               58.6 GB          58.6 GB             Primary
Disk 0 Partition 4                             229.6 GB         229.5 GB             Logical

Selecting any of the above gives me the following error:

Windows cannot be installed to Disk 0 Partition # (show details)

"The selected partition requires at least 8224 MB of free disk space.

Windows cannot be installed to this disk. The disk may fail soon. If other hard disks are available, install Windows to another location."

I have tried all 4 partitions and get the same error message.

Is it possible that a virus has infected the boot sector or other corruption has occurred?

I would prefer to resolve the problem with the current hard drive. There is data on the hard drive that I would like to recover. I have removed it and used a simple USB adapter to connect it to my PC. It comes up that it needs to be initialized.

I have the time to play with this laptop as the customer would like their files back. If the hard drive has gone south then I will buy a new one.

My questions are, what utilities can I use to discover if there is a virus or other corruption on the boot sector and remove it?

What utilities can I use to rescue the data.

Thanks in advance.
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Elton PascuaCommented:
I've had this problem before where Windows would not read the drive (when connected to a working installation). Download and run UBUNTU LIVE, it should allow you to mount the drive so you can copy all data.

If that's a Seagate drive, they have a utility called SeaTools that can do a low level format on the drive and do a SMART scan. Should you pass the SMART scan, the low level format will allow you to hopefully still be able to reinstall an OS to the drive.
Can  you boot to the command line?  Maybe you can run fixmbr but I don't think that's it.

Can you run F8 before your Windows boot's up and choose either 1, Safe Mode, or 2.  Last known Good configuration?
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
I would be inclined to see if a local professional disk service can recover the data. Since the drive does not seemed to have had a hard crash it should not be too hard for them to recover.

SpinRite ( is a good disk recovery tool but there are never any guarantees with this route.  

.... Thinkpads_User
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David Johnson, CD, MVPOwnerCommented:
partition 3 is where you want to restore

The factory installed O/S is located at Disk 0 Partition 2: Recovery

have you tried the f12 on boot??
RSchiererAuthor Commented:
Thank you all for your responses and here are my answers:

No I cannot boot to a command line.

Pressing F8 brings me to the startup menu, I can select anything I want, but the same thing happens and that is that I get a windows desktop with no icons and no start button. Control Alt Del does nothing.

The client does not have the money for a professional recovery.

I will check out Spinrite and UBUNTU LIVE

F12 will bring up the menu asking what I want to boot from. I can select the CD or DVD and it will boot to it but then we go to either the windows desktop, no icons or start button or to Start Windows Normally or Recover. Recover does nothing.
David Johnson, CD, MVPOwnerCommented:
Disk 0 Partition 1                            100.0 MB         90.0MB               OEM (Reserved)
Disk 0 Partition 2: Recovery               9.8 GB            5.1 GB              System
Disk 0 Partition 3                               58.6 GB          58.6 GB             Primary
Disk 0 Partition 4                             229.6 GB         229.5 GB             Logical

It does look like partition 3 and 4 are empty!!  Try putting the drive in another computer and copying what you can from those 2 partitions
If partitions 3 and 4 are empty, where is the customer's data? It's very unlikely to be on the recovery partition because that's not normally visible to the user.

It looks as though the partition table has been modified, possibly by previous attempts at repair, and is now showing those partitions as unused.

Try using Ubuntu Live, as already suggested, or Knoppix Live CD (which is similar) to see if you can see any file system information on the laptop hard disk. If these don't work, there are utilities available which may help, such as:

I haven't used this particular product, but I've found their partition management tool to be very effective. When you say that no money is available to pay for a professional recovery, I assume that you're talking about companies such as OnTrack that provide a very good service, but at a high price. If no money means no money at all, Easeus also offer a free version of the product which functions the same as the paid version, but limits data recovery to 1GB...

Hope this helps.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
If the client cannot afford recovery and the other methods fail, then the data is gone. You may wish to get another hard drive so as to continue work on the present one (hard drives are quite inexpensive today). That way you can get your client up and running.

... Thinkpads_User
Since "free space" on partitions 3 and 4 are about the same as "Total Size" then the partitions were probably erased. And the data may already be lost.

Ontrack EasyRecovery is a program that may be able to recover some of the files.
If after mounting it in linux you determine malware (or something) has deleted all the user's data, here's a link to step-by-step instructions for restoring the factory image from the Recovery partition.

But rather than ubuntu or any other distro, I would suggest using a Live disc especially for this situation. e.g. System Rescue CD.
Once you're booted to System Rescue CD's desktop, run "tesdisk" in the terminal... if it doesn't find any problems with the partitions or boot records, run "photorec" and see if it can recover the client's data files (to another drive!) before restoring the factory image.

It's sad how often the lesson to make full and incremental backups of data files is learned in this manner.  :-|
RSchiererAuthor Commented:
I ran Ubuntu Live on the laptop and it came back "disk failure imminent".

I tried to format it using Ubuntu and it came back "Hard disk problems detected. A hard disk is reporting health problems."

I believe we have hit the proverbial wall here and I called my client with the news that the hard drive needs to be replaced.

Thanks to everyone for the great responses!
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