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Dead Computer

Updated on November 11, 2009
The Dead Computer. A sad little Dell.
The Dead Computer. A sad little Dell.

Raising the Dead Computer

This sad little Dell lost power at a very bad time. The hard drive was corrupted just enough to prevent booting into Windows XP.

Sometimes power goes off without too much apparent damage. A file may be corrupted or unsaved data may be lost. In this particular case the machine suffered a corrupted boot sector on the hard drive. It wouldn't boot at all. It may be repairable or it may obligate a reinstall of Windows XP. Everything may be lost (unlikely, but it's always nice to build a little suspense).

Is it truly a dead computer? A Dead Dell? Read on to find out.

It tried to boot

Windows knew it was in trouble. Instead of booting normally it dropped to the Windows  Boot Menu. None of the boot options worked, but it kept asking.

At power-up the system dropped to the Windows Boot Menu

The Windows Boot Menu.
The Windows Boot Menu.

The BSOD

Any attempt to boot resulted in the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD)
Any attempt to boot resulted in the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD)

Unmountable Boot Volume

Unmountable Boot Volume - there's something seriously wrong with the hard drive. Perhaps this really is a dead computer...
Unmountable Boot Volume - there's something seriously wrong with the hard drive. Perhaps this really is a dead computer...

Our Strategy

To heal this dead computer we need to boot from another drive. We insert the Windows XP Installation CD into the CD-ROM (or DVD) drive, change the boot order, and start the system from the CD.

Keep in mind that many manufacturers don't ship an installation CD anymore. They create a second partition on the primary hard drive and store Windows installation files there. That saves them a few pennies, but it puts the customer in a hole. How do you boot without a boot disk? Read your documentation carefully to learn how your vendor has solved this problem. Don't wait until you're un-bootable!

We need to boot from the Windows XP Installation CD

We need to change the boot order.
We need to change the boot order.
Press F12 to access the boot menu in the BIOS. This is Dell specific. Other computers may require a different key.
Press F12 to access the boot menu in the BIOS. This is Dell specific. Other computers may require a different key.

Change the Boot Order

Boot from the CD-ROM drive instead of the hard drive.
Boot from the CD-ROM drive instead of the hard drive.

Boot from the Windows Installation CD

Insert the Windows XP Installation CD, restart the computer, wait for this prompt.
Insert the Windows XP Installation CD, restart the computer, wait for this prompt.

Windows XP Setup begins to load

Windows XP Setup begins to load. Don't worry. It's not doing anything destructive, yet.
Windows XP Setup begins to load. Don't worry. It's not doing anything destructive, yet.

Windows XP Setup Screen

The Windows XP Setup screen eventually loads.
The Windows XP Setup screen eventually loads.

Start the Recovery Console

Press R from the Setup Menu to drop into the Recovery Console.
Press R from the Setup Menu to drop into the Recovery Console.

Run the chkdsk command

Run chkdsk /r (put a space between chkdsk and /r) to initiate the repair sequence on the hard drive.
Run chkdsk /r (put a space between chkdsk and /r) to initiate the repair sequence on the hard drive.

Wait and Wait

This process could take hours. Be patient. Do not turn off the computer!
This process could take hours. Be patient. Do not turn off the computer!

Cross your fingers

When the chkldsk command completes, remove the XP Installation CD from the CD-ROM drive and power off the system. Cross your fingers. Power it up; hopefully it will boot properly.

This one did! After running chkdsk, Windows booted properly and all was well. The Dead Dell was resurrected.

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    • profile image

      Doreen 7 years ago

      wow that was a dell E521? Im on one now!

      i mounted it myself an it feeeeeeeels goooooooooooood

    • PB_Smith profile image

      PB_Smith 7 years ago from Southern California

      Good info. I have also used Acronis Disk Dr and Acronis Disk Director to recover corrupted boot sectors. Sometimes they are easier to use than windows recovery console and faster. I also had to recover an XP system after a virus attack by copying the file ntldr.sys from another install, boot from the Acronis cd, then in DOS mode manually copy the file onto the HD. After all that then ran the repair console and it checkdisk and it worked.

    • psychicdog.net profile image

      psychicdog.net 7 years ago

      Very useful hub, pray we will never need to do this!thanks Nicomp.

    • nicomp profile image
      Author

      nicomp really 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @The Old Firm: Thanks! I often ask customers to be patient when a computer is not responsive. Sometimes a diagnostic will pop up if you wait long enough.

    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 7 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      Another hub for my save file. I better do this one in hard copy!

      Thanks my friend,I've had this problem on old towers and only got part way through the recovery. The hang in there bit was probably the missing link.

      Cheers.

    • nicomp profile image
      Author

      nicomp really 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Looks like the stats are diflugled again... Hit counts are not updating on the stats page. This page has 9 comments and zero visits.

    • nicomp profile image
      Author

      nicomp really 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @Aya Katz: You can't comment on your own hubs? I am just blessed I guess. Perhaps the HubPolice feel guilty for banning me without cause or explanation.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

      Nicomp, good tips for blue screen problems.

      BTW, how come you can still comment on your own hubs? All the rest of us are blocked this morning. What's your secret?

    • jiberish profile image

      jiberish 7 years ago from florida

      I'm bookmarking this, thanks!

    • nicomp profile image
      Author

      nicomp really 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @50 Caliber: All in the name of a few pennies. Then we find out the hard way.

    • nicomp profile image
      Author

      nicomp really 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @Adam: I didn't know that. The Linux chkdsk will repair NTFS and FAT32 windows partitions? cool.

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 7 years ago from Arizona

      A good hub! but a gruesome thought, at least for me. With out being able to access how to, like this I will have to send it out or start learning how all this works now, before a failure.

      Thanks for the heads up!

    • profile image

      Adam 7 years ago

      If your computer didn't come with a Windows CD you can always order a cheap copy of Linux or download and burn a free copy. Chkdsk is included in all major versions.

    • nicomp profile image
      Author

      nicomp really 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @Dave: 3 months! I'm in the wrong business!

    • profile image

      Dave 7 years ago

      I had this happen with an HP Mini (they don't have CD/DVD drive and a USB versions don't boot too well) and after days of trying to get it to boot and run the same think from a flash drive, HP told me I had to send it to them to be reformatted.

      It took them 3 months to get it back to me.