Unable to run most programs

Posted on 2014-03-18
Last Modified: 2014-03-31
A customer computer was turned over to me after other techs gave up.  The issue was that data could not be transferred to a new computer.  I removed the hard drive and my first attempt partially succeeded, but before I had captured everything the transfer failed.

Subsequent attempts resulted in being unable to access the drive t all.

I moved the drive to a computer where I had "GetDataBack" from Runtime Software installed, intending to scan the drive for data.  Before I did that I was able to read the drive and capture the data on the second computer.

Now I want to repurpose the old computer - a laptop.  I put the drive back in the computer, and it boots, but I can't run most things.  MSConfig and System Restore won't run.  Task Manager runs, but I don't see anything suspicious.  Malwarebytes, Windows Repair (from, and Superantispyware won't run.  And when I try to run Word, MSOffice tries to install and fails.  Word then launches.

Things work in Safe Mode for what it's worth, but a clean boot did not help.  Malwarebytes in Safe Mode (I know, don't do it) turned up some problems, but Superantispyware in another computer reported only tracking objects.  Running Windows Repair in Safe mode didn't do any good (expected, but worth a shot).

Am I at the point of starting from scratched, or is there a potential solution that I have missed?

The message that I get is Windows cannot access <path>\<filename>.
Question by:rhavey
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Expert Comment

by:John Hurst
ID: 39937118
From your description (Subsequent attempts resulted in being unable to access the drive at all), the drive is bad. So no wonder, just putting it back into the computer, you can't run things.

Get the vendor's disk test software to test the drive, but at this point, if you wish to re-purpose the computer, get a new hard drive for it. That will be fastest.
LVL 52

Assisted Solution

by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE
Joe Winograd, EE MVE earned 250 total points
ID: 39937129
My opinion (and that's all it is!) is that I would buy a new hard drive (a 500GB laptop hard drive is $50-60 these days), download all of the drivers from the laptop manufacturer's website, and do a bare metal install on the new drive. Will likely take less time than figuring out what's wrong with the old drive. Regards, Joe

Author Comment

ID: 39946094
I'm reasonably certain that the problem is with Windows, not the hard drive itself.  I can't explain why I was unable to read the drive in one computer.  It may have been a problem with the adapter that I was using.

If I boot to Safe Mode, things work that did not work in Normal Mode (MSCONFIG in particular), I can also run virus cleanup utilities in Safe Mode, but they are extremely limited in their effectiveness.

I was really concerned because I thought I had a second one with the same behavior, but it turned out to be a bunch of Conduit Garbage that was gumming up the works.

I have to get a set of installation disks from Dell.  I have plenty of Dell XP disks (from throwaways), which are now pretty useless, but I have not been able to capture Vista or Windows 7 disks.
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LVL 92

Accepted Solution

John Hurst earned 250 total points
ID: 39946126
If you do a disk test and are sure that the drive is OK, then image it with recovery disks. So long as they are true recovery disks, they should format the drive for you and eradicate all viruses.  You might wish to delete all partitions on the drive so that the recovery works correctly (that is like a new drive).

Author Closing Comment

ID: 39967491
Reformatting and reinstalling Windows will almost always work.

Dell would not talk to me about an out of warranty drive.  Someone had put a Windows 7 Pro 64 Bit on the computer (originally 32 Bit Vista).  The computer was apparently purchased 2nd hand.  I was able to get the Product ID of the installed OS, but I tried several Windows 7 disks, and I kept running into the error "A required CD/DVD drive device driver is missing..."  I know that it is the AHCI driver that is the problem, but Dell does not support 64 bit on that model, and the Intel drivers were no help.

I am closing this question while I wait for the customer to come up with the Vista disks (she says she has them) or for a Dell Vista or another Windows 7 disk to appear from a different customer.
LVL 92

Expert Comment

by:John Hurst
ID: 39967501
@rhavey - Thank you and I was happy to assist you here
LVL 52

Expert Comment

by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE
ID: 39967601
Thanks for that final post — very helpful! Regards, Joe

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