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  1. #1
    2 Star Lounger Diogones's Avatar
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    (SOLVED!) Gateway M-Series won't boot to Windows

    I'm working on a used Gateway M-Series laptop, model number: W650I. The laptop runs fine, but whenever I try to boot into Windows with the hard drive that came with it, I get a BSOD! It essentially reads:

    A problem has been detected and Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer. Check for viruses on your computer. Remove any newly installed hard drives or hard drive controllers. Check your hard drive to make sure it is properly configured and terminated. Run CHKDSK /f to check for hard drive corruption and then restart your computer. Technical info: STOP: 0x0000007B, 0xFFFFF880009A9928, 0xFFFFFFFFC00000034

    Thinking that it could be an issue with the drive, I took it out and put it a drive from a Linux machine, and the Gateway booted up normally. I also took the Gateway drive and put it in the Linux box, and the computer gave me an endless reboot cycle of "Windows is loading files." So the Linux drive works in the Gateway and in its own computer, but the Gateway drive works in neither. Simple, right? Just fix the drive; problem solved. Not so fast.

    Now I know for a fact that the prior owner of the Gateway infected the machine with all kinds of malware, and a lot of it was never removed. Since Windows was compromised with so many viruses and other nasties, I simply decided to start with a clean slate. So I formatted and reinstalled Windows 7 on the drive. Knowing that formatting doesn't remove all malware, I also hooked the drive up to other computers and ran:

    1.) An Microsoft Security Essentials scan. Results were clean.
    2.) An AVG Internet Security version 9 scan, twice, and results were clean.
    3.) Kaspersky Virus Removal Tool, which took over two hours. Results were clean.

    I ran CHKDSK twice on the drive, once from another installation of Windows, and it did report that it had repaired some bad sectors. I used EASUS Partition Manager to run a surface test on the drive, and it came back with a couple of bad sectors. So it would appear that the drive may have been damaged by too many incorrect shutdowns or malware, and wouldn't work at all.

    Not true. Normally I would have thought that the drive was toast, since it didn't boot up into either computer. However, I hooked it up to my own custom built computer. . . and it worked! Windows booted normally, installed updates normally, ran its programs correctly, all without error messages. So why isn't it working in the Gateway laptop?

    I thought it might have something to do with the Gateway's RAM. So I ran Windows Memory Diagnostic twice, and it did not report any errors. The BIOS recognized all the RAM on its summary page, and emitted no error beep when the system started. The Linux drive also booted up with no problem. Just to be sure, I checked the RAM, each stick in a different module, while booting up from the Gateway hard drive, but still encountered the BSOD. The RAM looks fine, and the contacts were not dirty or damaged. I reseated the memory, just to be sure nothing was loose, but to no avail. Therefore I think the RAM is exonerated as a possible culprit.

    Windows also would not respond to any of the F8 commands. If I told it to boot into Safe Mode or Last Known Good Config, it would still bluescreen. I ran startup repair on the drive after one such failed attempt, and I did get an error message explaining why Startup Repair couldn't fix the drive, but I don't remember what it was.

    Since the Gateway drive is from Western Digital, I downloaded and ran the WD Data Lifeguard Diagnostic program. The drive passed the SMART test and the WD quick test without issue. I was going to run the extended test, but after I saw the estimated time sitting at 19 hours after running it for 120+ minutes, I decided to stop the test. For what it's worth, it didn't report any errors during the first two and a half hours I was running it.

    I'm wondering if the BIOS on the Gateway is infected somehow. Sure, I can access it without issue, but maybe it has some sort of malware in it that could be interacting with the Windows 7 bootup sequence, which is causing the BSOD. Remember, the Linux drive booted fine on it, because Linux wouldn't get infected with a Windows BIOS virus. I could try resetting the motherboard, or flashing the BIOS, but since I can't actually boot into Windows, I'm not sure how I'd do that.

    The one thing I don't understand is that the hard drive works in my computer, but bluescreens in the Gateway. I've checked to ensure that the drive is properly attached and secured in the laptop before I boot the computer. In fact, Windows gets as far as the startup splash graphic before the BSOD hits, so I don't think it is a bad or faulty connection with the laptop's SATA port.

    Maybe there is some malware in the drive that is eluding my AV scans? Is there a really thorough virus checker that will scour deep down into the sectors, where a rootkit or something could be hiding? And can anyone recommend any effective third party disk checkup and repair utilities? Maybe the built in Windows features aren't telling me the whole story.

    I've exhausted all of my tricks, so anyone else here is welcome to try their magic and find a solution to this Gateway dilemma!
    Last edited by Diogones; 2011-10-22 at 17:43.
    "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." - Issac Asimov, from his novel "Foundation"

  2. #2
    Super Moderator jwitalka's Avatar
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    You can try the Microsoft Standalone System Sweeper and or TDSSkiller to search for rootkits but I would be surprised if they find anything. I would still suspect ram or a heat problem. If you have more than one stick of ram, try booting with only one Ram stick at a time.

    Jerry

  3. #3
    2 Star Lounger Diogones's Avatar
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    Hey Jerry, thanks for your reply! I agree with you: I'd be pretty surprised if either of those programs found a rootkit. I've decided to go with a full blown extermination plan. I've deleted the Windows partitions, I'm writing the entire drive with a 1-pass zero wipe, and then I'm going to do a low level format, rebuild the MBR, and reinstall Windows. If the problem persists, then we can at least establish that it isn't any malware.


    However, new developments have come to light. I hooked the drive up to my Linux box, and ran a short and extended SMART test on the drive. It failed both. The SMART status reported that the drive was good, but with one bad sector in the reallocated sector count.

    I hooked the drive back up to my custom computer, but this time I did a test. I have a hard drive enclosure that has both eSata and USB. When I booted from eSata - just like booting from SATA when the drive was inside the computer - Windows booted normally. However, when I booted from USB, I got the exact BSOD as the Gateway! I find that to be very interesting, don't you?

    I'll keep posting with further evidence from my investigation.
    "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." - Issac Asimov, from his novel "Foundation"

  4. #4
    2 Star Lounger Diogones's Avatar
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    Well I ran the format, rebuilt the MBR, and reinstalled Windows. However, I still got the exact same BSOD, at the exact same moment: right when the Windows logo splash graphic appears. The drive did pass both SMART tests after I reinstalled, so maybe that helped to fix some drive sector errors.

    I ran Memtest86+ several times on the Gateway, and it always crashed during the 6th test. I think that it might be an overheating issue, because the fan is running at full blast during the test, and even though I cleaned the fan and the heatsink, there could still be some build up of dust that could prevent it from venting properly. I tested each stick of RAM separately, and it appears that both of them are good; I still got the BSOD off of the drive regardless of which stick I installed.
    "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." - Issac Asimov, from his novel "Foundation"

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Diogones View Post
    I could try resetting the motherboard, or flashing the BIOS, but since I can't actually boot into Windows, I'm not sure how I'd do that.
    Diogones,
    Hello... Just power down and remove the small coin sized battery for a few minutes ...If it's an old PC just replace it ... and try to re-boot... If still no go (BSOD) try to boot into BIOS Boot Menu... You hit "Esc" or F-10 whatever your PC splash screen ask's Then select the HD you want (up or down arrow) and hit enter... If your lucky it will boot Regards Fred
    PlainFred

    None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free (J. W. Von Goethe)

  6. #6
    2 Star Lounger Diogones's Avatar
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    Hey there Fred! Thanks for your suggestion; I'll definitely give that a shot. I guess I didn't explain my problem clear enough, so I'll try to be more specific: I can actually reach the BIOS menu without issue, and I can select whichever HD I want. I just wasn't sure if the BIOS was infected with some sort of malware. I doubt it, because that is extremely rare, and I'd probably not even be able to access the BIOS if that were the case. I just thought that could be a possible theory, because I only get the BSOD when I boot with a Windows drive, not a Linux drive. The Linux drives boot fine.
    "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." - Issac Asimov, from his novel "Foundation"

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    WS Lounge VIP Browni's Avatar
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    A quick google on "STOP: 0x0000007B" brings up a number of posts, most of which point to the SATA mode in the BIOS. Changing this from AHCI to ATA or IDE mode seems to work for most people.

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    Diogones (2011-10-22)

  9. #8
    2 Star Lounger Diogones's Avatar
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    Cool Got it working!

    HOORAY!!


    I got the computer to boot! No more BSODs! It was your suggestion Browni that started me on the path that eventually led to me fixing the machine. I decided to take a page out of your book, and run a search on the "STOP: 0x0000007B" error. After consulting the official Gateway support page the possibilties were, and I quote:
    • The hard disk is faulty.
    • The hard disk cabling is faulty, or the hard disk cabling is not connected correctly.
    • The computer is infected with a boot sector virus.
    • The computer BIOS or the disk controller firmware are incompatible with Windows Vista.
    • Another program is using the master boot record.
    I knew that the disk wasn't faulty, because it booted up in the other computer. and I also knew that there was no virus, because I had totally annihilated the drive, as I stated earlier in this thread. I also knew that the cabling wasn't faulty, because I had booted up from the Linux drive. And what sort of program would be using the MBR? None that I could think of; it was a clean Windows install! So it had to be some sort of BIOS incompatibility.

    The Gateway website was kind enough to link the Microsoft KB article, so I downloaded and ran the MS Fix It 50470 on the drive while it was hooked to the PC, and it worked! I put it back into the Gateway, and crossed my fingers. Sure enough, the Fix It did the trick. Apparently the Fix It repairs an issue with Windows in which:

    During the Windows 7 or Windows Vista installation process, any unused storage drivers are disabled. This behavior speeds up the operating system's startup process. When you change the boot drive to a driver that has been disabled, you must enable the new driver before you change the hardware configuration.
    I think I know what happened. Since I installed Windows on the drive while it was attached with the eSata docking station to the PC, Windows disabled the other storage drivers. Therefore, when I tried to boot into Windows after directly connecting it to the SATA connection in the Gateway, the drive would not start.

    Interestingly enough, I don't think that the BIOS had an option to switch between IDE, SATA, or AHCI. I tried fiddling with the BIOS' settings with the drive installed, but it still would not boot. So it was a problem with where and how I was installing Windows, which disabled the driver by default. The actual Gateway is up and running, and it appears fine now; it had better! After testing the memory and cleaning up the laptop, there should be no problems with the machine.

    Thanks again everyone for your helpful support. I'm marking the thread as solved!
    "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." - Issac Asimov, from his novel "Foundation"

  10. #9
    WS Lounge VIP Browni's Avatar
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    Glad you got it sorted and thanks for posting back with your resolution.

    My guess is that the Fix-It tool enabled the AHCI drivers within Windows.

    This Windows 7 Forum guide gives a bit more information.

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