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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Edmonton, AB, Canada
    Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts

    Win7 won't boot: 'A Disk Read Error

    Good day to all.

    I spent an unpleasant 5 hours or so last night fixing an 'Oops'. Its a long story, but I'll be as quick as I can.

    My Win 7 Pro box has been stable for more than a year now. I purchased it as a complete machine (Intel quad core, 8GB RAM, single 1TB drive, DVD burner) just before Win7 was released - it came with Vista Home Premium. Even though the machine came with a voucher for Win 7 Home Premium, I had ordered several Win 7 licenses when Microsoft put them on sale back in July 2009 (months before the Win7 release date). And - I wanted to run Win 7 Pro on this machine anyway. Good thing I didn't wait for the Win 7 voucher to be fulfilled - that took about 14 weeks.

    Upon receiving my shiny new Win7 licenses in the mail from Future Shop, I shrunk the Vista partition down to 50GB, added another 50GB partition for Win7, then a 3rd partition ~900GB) for data. At the same time, I added another 1TB drive for media storage. Had some teething problems that vanished when Nvidia released better Video drivers.

    Basically hadn't touched the machine since then until a couple of month ago when I added a pair of 2TB drives (purchased just before the big price hikes). These are just a bunch of disks - no RAID. So: total of 4 drives in the box for a total of 6TB.

    I should also mention that I had set the machine up to dual-boot both Vista and Win7. Win7 was the default OS selected after a 15 second delay.

    Because the 1TB drive that I use to hold media was getting close to being full, I decided to move all that data to one of the empty 2TB drives. No problems at all.

    Meantime, I'm building another Win7 box from new parts and a recycled case / PSU. Bought a reasonable mobo / CPU / RAM during the Black Friday sale and was just shocked at how expensive hard drives are now. Hmm - I've got an unused 1TB drive sitting in my working Win7 box. And: I had just purchased a new blue-ray burner that I wanted to install into my main Win7 Pro box anyway. So: I powered the box off and proceeded to pull the now unused 1TB drive and install the new burner. The mobo has 6 sata ports, so no problem.

    Here's where I blew it (1st mistake of 3). The original hard drive (containing the OS) must have been plugged into the 2nd sata port rather than the first. I figured that out AFTER I got my machine running again. However, I didn't notice that at the time and plugged the OS drive into the 1st sata port. The original DVD burner had been installed in the last (6th) sata port when I rebuilt the machine originally - I added the blue-ray drive to the 5th sata port (was open). I pulled the extra 1TB drive out, then moved the 2TB drives down so that they were right next to the OS drive. That left the 4th sata slot open for future expansion.

    Upon powering the machine up, it sat and did some heavy thinking (I'm saying to myself: "That's odd"), then proceeded to boot into Vista. No boot manager, no option to boot into Win7.

    So: instead of just grabbing Easy BCD or even resetting the boot manager the old-fashioned way by booting into the Repair option from the Win7 installation disk, I did something really stupid. I went into Disk Manager (within Vista) and told it to set the Win7 partition to active.

    Upon rebooting, I got the infamous 'NTLER is missing - press Ctrl Alt Del to reboot' message. Oh, hell, sez me. This is going to be so MUCH fun. I've fixed these problems before and it truly was not a fun time.

    Booted into the Win7 Repair Console off the installation DVD. Tried the automatic repair option - it said that it recovered 2 Windows installations and did I want it to fix the problems automatically. Great, sez me. Maybe MS has automated all that stuff now.

    No help. Worse than no help - the problem just got worse. Now the message on the screen says "A Disk Read Error Occurred".Great.

    So: booted back into the repair console. Did all the bootrec stuff manually (fixmbr, fixboot, rebuild the boot manager). Nope - no change.

    So: I did what I should have done first: Google it. And found THOUSANDS of hits. Hundreds of thousands of hits. Here was a problem that I had NEVER heard of previously and now I get to fix it.

    However, there wasn't a real cure anywhere to be found. Lots of advice to just replace the hard drive (apparently that always fixes the problem), lots of things to do with bootrec within the Repair Console (I had already done all those) - not much real help at all.

    However, one fairly common suggestion seemed off the wall: take an image of the drive just as it sits, wipe the partition, restore the image.

    By this time, I had wasted at least 5 or 6 hours - much of that waiting for the machine to boot off that dammed Win7 Installation Disk. And I've got Acronis True Image Home boot disks hanging about (I own a whack of TIH licenses).

    So: what the heck. Got nothing to lose. Boot from the Acronis TIH boot disk, save the Win7 partition to one of the mostly-empty 2TB drives. Since I was doing this anyway, also took fresh images of the Vista partition and the factory-installed recovery partition.

    Powered the machine down and used a USB-sata adapter into my Win XP box to wipe the Win7 partition. Reconnected the drive to the mobo, powered back up into Acronis and restored the Win7 partition.

    Fingers crossed. Toes crossed. Exit out of Acronis - and the machine boots up into the boot manager just like its supposed to. Selected Win7 - it boots!

    Played with the machine for a while - its just like I hadn't messed with it (except for the missing 1TB drive). Yay!

    So - powered the machine back off, reconnected the OS drive back to the Win XP box and blew off the Vista partition and the Win7 partition. For good measure, blew off the Vista Recovery partition as well. I really can't see going back to Vista <grin>.

    Used Acronis TIH to again restore the Win7 image to the now double-size OS partition again and rebooted.

    Works perfectly.

    Summary: If you get an error message that says "A Disk Read Error Occurred" upon booting your Win7 computer, reach for your favorite Disk Image utility. Take an image of the OS partition, wipe the partition, restore the image. You will be finished fixing that problem 4 or 5 hours sooner than I was.

    PS - I had mentioned at the start of this message that I figured out later that I probably moved the OS drive to a different sata port on the motherboard (from the 2nd port to the 1st). Why I think that is that when I went into the computer's BIOS settings, I noticed that first boot drive was the second entry in the table. In other words, the hard drive list contained 4 entries - one each for the 4 hard drives that were in the machine. The boot drive was the 2nd drive.

    Had I noticed this BEFORE I had used the Vista Disk Management snapin to mess with the Win7 partition, I would have been done in 20 minutes. But I had booted the machine after messing with the drives and cables and it had booted straight into Vista. My big mistake was not just shutting the machine down and going into the BIOS to see what the computer thought the drive order should have been.

    I won't be making that mistake again anytime soon.

    Last edited by DwayneR; 2011-12-09 at 10:09.

  2. #2
    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Thanked 937 Times in 856 Posts
    Glad you finally got everything sorted out, Whew! Imaging (I use Acronis as well) has saved my bacon on any number of ocassions. It is such an easy thing to do, and even easier to restore that I have gotten to the point of shutting dowm the Win 7 System Restore all together. And yes Win 7 is particular on how and where you set it up, especially when moving multiple HDs around. I hope you have grabbed EasyBCD now. This little app makes fixing most MBR problems easy. Enjoy your 2 PCs and have a great weekend.
    Have a Great Day! Ted

    Sony Vaio Laptop, 2.53 GHz Duo Core Intel CPU, 8 GB RAM, 320 GB HD
    Win 8 Pro (64 Bit), IE 10 (64 Bit)

    Complete PC Specs: By Speccy

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