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  1. #1
    iNET Interactive
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    What to do when Windows refuses to boot




    BEST PRACTICES

    What to do when Windows refuses to boot


    By Lincoln Spector

    When Windows won't boot and you get on the phone for tech support, one of the most common solutions is to reinstall Windows.

    But that should be your court of absolutely last resort. There are many less destructive and less time-consuming techniques for getting Windows up and running again.

    The full text of this column is posted at WindowsSecrets.com/2011/02/24/06 (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

  2. #2
    New Lounger
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    another possibility

    My daughter's computer would boot to bios only after a storm dropped a tree limb on the power line and crossed both 110 legs while she was using the computer. She had important files but we found that her hard drive was no longer spinning up. I purchased an identical drive, switched out the circuit board on it and that had her back up and running. Needless to say, I had her immediately back up her files - which I hope she has continued to do.

  3. #3
    Lounger
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    FORGOT THE BIG FIX.

    In my repair experience, CHKDSK /F (or /P in the XP Recovery Console) fixes the majority of non-booting problems (unless a virus is responsible), and if it returns an error it cannot fix, then you most likely have a hardware problem.

    If you can boot into Safe Mode, open a Command Prompt (elevated prompt in Vista/7) and issue the command; if you cannot get into Safe Mode, use the "Repair Your Computer" option in Vista/7 (this might require the installation DVD if you have one), or use the Recovery Console on the Windows XP disc. There you can run the CHKDSK command. In Vista/7, if you can get to an Advanced repair option screen that gives you a Command Prompt option, type in there "CHKDSK C: /F" In the XP Recovery Console, type in "CHKDSK C: /P". Incidentally, if you go into XP's Recovery Console and you get only a "C:>" prompt instead of asking which Windows to log into, you definitely have a problem for CHKDSK to fix.

    I do also advise customers to use the /R option at some point to do the more thorough scan, but NOT NOW - until we've determined that there is NOT a hardware problem with the drive - a thorough CHKDSK on a dying drive can greatly decrease the chances of being able to keep the drive alive long enough to back up the data.

    I have lost count of the number of times people have brought unbootable machines to me, and we have seen it fixed quickly right before their eyes with CHKDSK, or at least fixed enough to boot back to Windows and I can then advise them about all the other things they should do (like updates and removing junk programs) to get their machine running well.

  4. #4
    New Lounger
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    Windows Repair Routine

    I think you should also have included the Windows Repair Routine (XP only). It can often fix many Windows problems including the inability to get into regular Windows or safe mode. You will need a copy of the Windows CD.

    Here is the instructions for the Windows Repair Routine. You must boot from the Windows CD to start the repair routine. Do not remove the CD until after it is completely finished. Remember when it is done to redo all Windows Updates.
    __________________________________________________ ________
    When all attempts to repair your system fail, you may be able to repair your Windows XP installation using the Windows Setup program. As a last resort, you can reinstall Windows over an existing installation and hope that the new installation will recover enough of your old settings to allow you to retrieve your data files.
    The repair option is quick and painless and typically does not adversely affect user settings. To exercise this option, start from the Windows CD as if you were going to do a clean install. Itís easy to become confused during this process, because the word repair appears in two different places when you start your computer using the Windows CD. At the Welcome To Setup screen, do notchoose the option to repair your installation using the Recovery Console. Instead, press Enter, which starts the Windows Setup program. After you accept the license agreement, Windows searches your system for existing Windows installations. When you reach the screen that lists your current Windows installation, select it from the list and press R to start the repair process. The remainder of this procedure requires the same steps as if you were performing a clean installation; when Setup finishes, your system files should be refreshed and your existing data and settings should be accessible again.
    In cases of severe disk damage or registry corruption, a repair installation will not be effective; the only alternative is to reformat the disk and install a clean copy of Windows.

  5. #5
    New Lounger
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    In 2003 I was reinstalling XP and when I was at the point where I had to choose which drive to install it to, I made the wrong choice - choosing the data drive instead of the drive I put XP and programs on (I have been using a separate physical drive for data for years). I am fairly competent with computers, have been using them since 1987 and build my own systems. But that day I was in a hurry and, well, I wasn't thinking. I realized what I had done almost immediately and turned off the computer within seconds. After unplugging the drives I then proceeded to install XP on an old extra drive. Once I got up and online, I started checking things. Couldn't access the data drive, of course. Tried all sorts of online and offline programs - no joy. Then I started looking for data recovery companies. The first one I contacted, they had a non-refundable fee of $750 just to look at the drive, even if they determined they couldn't recover any data; then their recovery prices STARTED at $2200 (the $750 was included) and could go as high as $14,000 depending on how fast you needed the data (from overnight to a week) and how much data there was to recover. I had an 80 GB drive at the time for my data (I'm now up to 2 TB data drive and it's 3/4 full). I don't recall the name of that data recovery company; it might have been DriveSavers. I then checked out OnTrack. Their price for checking a drive was $250; starting price was $750, including the $250, if they determined they could recover any data. Again, prices depended on how fast you needed it done and how much data there was to recover. I chose the week option, since I am not a wealthy person! They require you to end them ALL the drives that were in your computer when the "accident" occurred. A week to the day that I sent the drives by UPS overnight, the drives came back, with the data copied to a new hard drive (you can have them copy it to a new drive same size or larger, and they charged extra for the new drive). They managed to save everything. I had spent about a week trying to fix the problem on my own and then investigate the data recovery services, so I was without a computer for two weeks. Since then, whenever I reinstall Windows, I unplug the data drive before I start so I don't make that mistake again. An expensive lesson learned.

  6. #6
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    Original reply timed out and text lost; I'm not about to try and do it over.

    Essentially, if the drive powers up, then before the possibly drastic step of re-installing Windows, I suggest using Testdisk - I've used it to rescue my own and those of customers - fix boot sector, fix or make new MBR, recover data. It works - just really truly RTFM.

  7. #7
    New Lounger
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    Windows XP Boot problem!

    When I first got my Dell desktop (2 years ago) I had a boot problem, when you turned om the computer it would start the boot process and lock on the DELL logo and not go any farther. I called Dell, and After about an Hour of trouble shooting I was told to turn off my computer, unplug the power cord, then press and hold the power button down for 30 seconds, then reattach the power cord and turn on the computer normally.

    Believe it or not, this corrected the problem! over the last 2 years I have had the same problem twice and each time it occurred this procedure corrected the trouble...

    I don't know if this will just work on my Model of Dell or on other computers as well, I am just throwing it up for consideration. Good luck... Ray
    Graywolf

  8. #8
    New Lounger
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    Very informative reading and I learned a few things from your article. But there is another cheaper thing to try to recover the files from a hard drive that you can't using the methods you explained.

    QUOTING your paragraph "If you can't read the hard drive that way and there are files on it you really need, you'll have to take it to a professional data-recovery service. Ontrack (info) and DriveSavers (info) are the best known, but because I've never figured out a good, practical way to test these services, I can't honestly say they're better than their cheaper competitors."

    If you put the hard drive in another computer and can not get your data files or read them. You can try a free data recovery tool. I had a hard drive die on me and it had all my pictures and other data on it. I ran a free data recovery program on it called "MINITOOL POWER DATA RECOVERY 6.0" and was able to save all my data files and picture from the failed hard drive. Only a few of the pictures didn't fully recover but the rest of my data files saved problem free.

  9. #9
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    I've found that sometimes when a computer refuses to reboot using the install disk to drop to a "DOS" prompt I then go to C:\windows\prefetch and delete everything in that directory. That, I've found, often allows the computer to reboot.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbourrut View Post
    I've found that sometimes when a computer refuses to reboot using the install disk to drop to a "DOS" prompt I then go to C:\windows\prefetch and delete everything in that directory. That, I've found, often allows the computer to reboot.
    CCleaner does not clean out the Prefetch Directory by default, but that is an option which can be checked off when running CCleaner. My Windows XP laptop needs to have this done periodically, due to a poorly-written Wireless Networking Driver. So I just let CCleaner do the job automatically. I haven't tried this on the Portable Version of CCleaner, but I would guess that this setting can be used even there. No need for a DOS Boot, by any stretch!

    As for making a stand-alone Windows XP Recovery Console, I have been looking for a tool to do that for awhile now. It was very nice to read that the ISO exists and is so simple to put onto a bootable CD. That tip is a real gem.
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2011-02-25 at 16:45.
    -- Bob Primak --

  11. #11
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    I'm an IT professional, and rely frequently on Spinrite to scan and repair hard drives. This often will fix BSOD's and random freezing issues. It is a paid product, but worth every penny. Any IT pro worth his or her salt should have this in their toolkit, and any individual who suspects a hard drive issue (unreadable sectors) should consider it. Though you do have to buy it to use it, if it doesn't do the trick, you can request a refund.

    When a PC is behaving poorly, Spinrite is one of the first things I do, and certainly before a wipe & load. It has saved me and my clients loads of time, money, and most importantly, data.

    Google it, or listen to the SecurityNow podcast with Steve Gibson to know more.


    David Lee
    DigiVie Communications

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