Help needed to recover other boot partition

By aSchwarzie
Mar 20, 2007
Topic Status:
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  1. Hello,

    I have been searching and googling somewhat before I decide to dare raising my question here. Despite I've read quite a few approaching things, I found nothing similar tomy actual issue. So please let me describe the context.

    My friend's computer "crashed" at a power shut down. As a result the PC would no more boot normally, hanging with a corrupt registry and some DLL required at very early boot phase.

    The PC is equipped with
    1) a small partition (3GB I believe) which contains installation CD images and a software called Acronis True Image (if I remember right)
    2) the big partition (150GB or so) with Windows XP+SP2 in French (this detail matters)

    When trying to recover the PC, Acronis would only offer to reinstall a NEW WinXP FR installation -- which would mean loosing all personal data.

    So I decided I would use the WinXP BOOT CD (available only in UK version) and boot from it and try a REPAIR installation, that would not destroy all personal data, then copy all the personal data to CDs then do the full reinstall again (with Acronis) and re-loas the saved data. I thought this was the clever way to approach it.

    I instructed WinXP to only "recover" the existing installation, which worked fine: I could back-up all personal data to CDs. So far so good.
    I then needed to resintall WinXP from the Acronis partition for two reasons:
    1) the re-installed XP was in english (my friend is french speaking only)
    2) and the installed environmental software were no more working (sound sw, video sw, printers, etc etc)

    However each time I reboot there seems to be NO WAY anymore to provoke the boot via the Acronis partition/boot selector menu. It would appear that the WinXP reinstall "decided" to redirect the boot process straight to the big WinXP disk, no more allowing me access to the other partition.

    I *guess* that I would need some trick or utility to "reset/restore" the boot process to go to the Acronis parition first (I hope it wasn't corrupted by the WinXP UK reinstall !!) and *hopefully* use it to reinstall a full clean Xp FR installation + all environmental software ? Is that presumably going to work as I hope ?

    Does such a utility exist ?
    Do I need to do further data gathering/analysis before proceeding ?
    How can I check the Acronis partition is still valid ?
    Would a dump of the boot.ini file or any other file be useful ?

    Thanks for your expert advice and guidance !
    I sincerely hope this issue isn't a duplicate of a yet reported problem...

    Regards,

    Arnie
  2. aSchwarzie

    aSchwarzie Newcomer, in training Topic Starter

    Hi all,

    I know you must be pretty busy and stuff so as I started to worry when I noticed that my post was moving to the next page and maybe falling into some abyss of unnoticeness (I like neologisms), I dared to also open a similar post in usenet via google group "microsoft.public.windowsxp.general" under the following discussion thread: Help needed to recover initial boot partition after XP re-install.

    So far I was advised to look at the computer manufacturer's website (which doesn't exist) or Acronis support (which is pretty poor/limited).

    I'll keep you posted of any progress... but don't hesitate to throw your own dime -- (is that the right expression ?). Thanks !

    Cheers,

    Arnie
  3. rf6647

    rf6647 TechSpot Maniac Posts: 931

    edit boot.ini

    As a first choice, I suggest that you edit boot.ini and add a line that offers the partition containing the recovery software.
    multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition" /fastdetect /NoExecute=OptIn
    multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="recovery partition" /fastdetect /NoExecute=OptIn
    At least 1 blank line needs to appear at the end of the file.
    This will force offering a menu on restart.

    In the existing XP partition, MY COMPUTER should confirm the existence of the recovery partition. Often the recovery partition is assigned as D: for the drive designation. However, recovery partitions are usually assigned to partition 1 and formatted FAT32.
    I have used recovery software on 2 occassions from different OEMs. Both are ruthless. Once going down the path, all existing data is overwritten in the XP partition. Furthermore, the recovery software will ignore any extra partitions that have been created. When completed, the drive will contain the recovery partition and the re-constituted XP partition as shipped way-back-when-you-first opened the box.

    Boot.ini can be edited in notepad. Right-click MY Computer; select properties; select Advance tab; select settings (startup & recovery); select edit; make edits; save; exit.
  4. aSchwarzie

    aSchwarzie Newcomer, in training Topic Starter

    Hi, thanks for the reply.

    I notice in your edit of boot.ini that:
    you gave the WinXP partition a number "2" and the recovery partition the number "1". Is that intentional and what are the consequences, if any ? I guess those statements both belong to the "[operating systems]" section of boot.ini ?

    On my own PC (which is not the one in trouble), I also found a the following statement in "[boot loader]" section:
    default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS
    Does that partition index number need to be changed too ? What is the effect of that parameter ?

    If I understood it all right, what you're suggesting is to KEEP the partition boot order to WinXP (by default) but XP should now prompt a menu to use the "recovery partition" ?

    Thanks for your complementary explanation, I need to be sure what I'm doing before I reall start to screw things up... :D
  5. kraft

    kraft Newcomer, in training

    Boot Partition Work Around

    Hi aSchwarzie

    You can boot this way assuming the small 3gb partition is the first and the second is the 150gb partition with XP residing on the this second partition. If there is no OS on partition 1 (which I suspect), then you can't boot into it..

    However, I would first suggest that you use the orignial XP disk (french) and insert it into the CD drive.
    then restart the computer. Enter into your BIOS and ensure that boot from CD is set as one of the boot options. Exit BIOS and the computer should boot from the CD. When asked do you want to repair XP answer no to the first prompt and continue carefully. After a few more screens you will be presented with another option to install a new version or repair an existing version The existing version should be displayed on the lower screen. Click the repair option and follow prompts as requited when presented. This repair function is different from the repair console and should reinstall all missing files etc. while keeping all the previous settings and preferences. Have your XP rego key handy & select french when prompted in regional settings. If this doesn't work I suggest you try a second option.

    A little background:
    The lines in boot.ini are a different way of presenting the location of XP boot files using the ARC path naming convention (Advanced RISC Computing) Using bootpart to achieve the same thing is OK if you wish to try.

    My boot.ini file reads as follows:-
    [boot loader]
    timeout=15
    default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS
    [operating systems]
    multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="XP Pro SP2 C:" /noexecute=optin /fastdetect
    multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(1)\WINXP="XP Pro SP2 D:" /noexecute=optin /fastdetect
    C:\BOOTPART\bootxand.lnx="Xandros"

    This shows the options screen for 15 seconds and boots automatically after this into first operating system on the first partition on the first hard drive (HDD 0). the 2nd OS is on the first partition on HDD 1 (2nd hard drive) The 3rd Os is Linux "Xandros" which windows does not recognized without a work around. I always use XP OS as if one gives trouble you can use the other to troubleshoot. Also Linux "Xandros" as with some other distros can view and manipulate windows file system.

    Unless you have a version of XP installed on your first partition you will be unable to boot into the Acronis "partition". I suspect that the 3gb partition is unable to be recognized by windows or may just contain image files which should not be corrupted.

    The solution I would use is to use the small free boot manager (Bootpart.exe) and then find out what file system is on the 3gb partition 1. Bootpart should be run from the DOS prompt in XP as follows.

    (a) In the DOS prompt window use the following command: C:\bootpart\bootpart This will display all the partitions on all drives your computer. Write the numbers on the left down. The one you are looking for is the first.

    (b) Now to create the boot.ini entry type C:\bootpart\bootpart ? boot****.lnx name (observe spaces both sides of ? and after lnx). Replace ? with the desired partition number found above and replace **** with 4 lower case letters to indicate what you are booting and replace name with a description of your choice. Eg C:\bootpart\bootpart 4 bootxand.lnx Xandros (you don’t need quote marks before/after your description as bootpart auto inserts them. There are dozens of file systems so replace .lnx with the appropriate file system 3 letter ident.

    When you get everything up and running again I suggest you do a "system state" backup using XP's internal backup program.

    It appears your MBR is OK but also suggest you backup your master boot record using the small free program Mbrwiz153.zip

    There is also a free program called Bart PE which allows you to create a boot CD with a cut down version of XP running purely from the CD in what is called the "Preinstall Environment". It is a good program just type Bart PE into Google.

    Hope this all helps.

    Good luck
    kraft
  6. rf6647

    rf6647 TechSpot Maniac Posts: 931

    Direct approach is often the best choice

    Arnie,
    Kraft suggested using the restore cd supplied by the oem vendor for the computer. If you have it, this will get you back to "out-of-the-box" conditions. Computers pre-loaded by the vendor rarely come with a cd of the Windows XP software.
    Since you have an operational XP environment, some vendors supply a utility to create a complete set of "restore cd's" - as long as the computer can burn cd's.
    Yet another avenue is to order a set from the vendor.

    If none of the above is doable, then we need to figure out how to use the recovery partition. An early post in this thread gave me the impression this partition exists on the hard drive and it was bootable.

    How many hard drives are present on My Computer?
    Start ! My Computer ! views ! icon ........ this is my notation for needed mouse clicks to obtain results I am seeking.

    The display should indicate (C:\) and (D:\).

    Next determine the physical layout of the hard drive.
    Start ! Control Panel ! Administrative Tools ! Computer Management ! Disk Management

    The right-hand panel will show the order of the partitions on Disk 0. It will probably show (D:\) fat32 followed by (C:\) ntfs - see attached jpg file.

    Now we need to construct boot.ini to address this configuration. If you can find an old copy of boot.ini in the Recycle Bin, it can save a lot of effort.

    Here is my boot.ini (I don't know how to be fancy to show this better)
    [boot loader]
    timeout=8
    default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS
    [operating systems]
    multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition" /fastdetect /NoExecute=OptIn
    C:\CMDCONS\BOOTSECT.DAT="Microsoft Windows Recovery Console" /cmdcons
    multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Windows XP Safe Mode" /fastdetect /safeboot:minimal /sos /bootlog
    multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Safe Mode COMMAND Prompt" /fastdetect /safeboot:minimal(alternatsheel) /sos /bootlog

    Of interest is "C:\CMDCONS\BOOTSECT.DAT............."
    This is partition 1. Bios designates this as C: The jpg image shows what Windows does to the drive labels when the XP partition is active.

    My earlier post used ARC notation followed by \windows. From my actual boot.ini it is obvious that the Recovery Partition does not have a folder "windows".

    Now the challenge is to construct the path with proper names and switches to access the Acronis recovery software. On my Compaq computer, Windows Explorer is blocked from examining the files in each folder. However, using the CMD window and DOS commands may help.

    Start ! run ! type 'cmd' in open box - do not use single quotes
    In Command Prompt window enter commands

    d:
    dir /p
    cd [directory name from the list]
    Note: we used d: because we are in the Windows environment.

    In order to know more about Compaq recovery, I will visit hp.com and search the site. When you find corresponding software on your system, Google search or visit the vendor web site for more info.

    Now I have you hanging out there. I just do not have the info to help construct the command with switches.

    Please advise me how much further you want to go.
    Rich

    P.S. My Google searching suggests to me to enter the following line ( & shown above) into boot.ini
    C:\CMDCONS\BOOTSECT.DAT="Microsoft Windows Recovery Console" /cmdcons
    If it does not exist, just boot again & select a valid choice.
  7. aSchwarzie

    aSchwarzie Newcomer, in training Topic Starter

    Hi rf6647, Hi kraft,
    Thank you very much for your replies. :)
    I will read it very carefully and make sure I understand what I'm doing before I try anything. I'm supposed to see my friend this week-end and your help just came in the right moment !! I'll keep you posted :)
    Regards,
    Arnie
  8. rf6647

    rf6647 TechSpot Maniac Posts: 931

    Save track 0

    Follow Kraft's suggestion to save track 0 if at all possible. I use a Win98 Startup floppy with an added program. The program is 'wrprog.exe' and I believe I found it @ support.microsoft.com; the track is saved to floppy.

    If you go this route, boot from floppy; ignore the verbage on the screen.
    command-> wrprog /bak track0.dat
    remove floppy; restart; resume what you are doing.

    Good Luck
    Rich
  9. aSchwarzie

    aSchwarzie Newcomer, in training Topic Starter

    Argh. The involved PC has no floppy drive. I guess a boot CD will do but I need to make the CD bootable ??
    Thks for the suggestion, Rich.

    Hi Kraft !
    I understand but in that case how was it working all "before" ? At boot time I had the opportunity to press a function key (F11 maybe) and it would redirect me to the Acronis True Image application. Was that by booting on my big XP drive ?
    Ahhhhh, if that only was possible ! I'm in all those troubles now because the system was (as wanted) installed in French from disk images on the Acronis partition (I never had to provide any of my CDs), HOWEVER the WinXP CD provided in the package was NOT the FR one, but a UK one !
    So this track I used to reinstall actually the WinXP in UK language. But I did answer yes to the first repair question... and probably did override many personalised settings and configuration information for many previously installed software. That's why I'm now seeking to kinda simulate a full blank (hopefully automated) re-install from te Acronis partition where supposedly everything is still available and in french !

    Thanks for your help Kraft, I'll now dive into that other path of your explanation and try to understand...
  10. rf6647

    rf6647 TechSpot Maniac Posts: 931

    Ignore extra protection

    Saving track 0 is a protective measure. The restore from the recovery partition should not cause a disaster of this type. Ignore the advice.

    Other threads in forums here talk about bootable CDs such as Bart PE (freeware) and one from Spotmau.com for purchase (via another link)http://www.technipages.com/article22.html

    I am cheap, and I am wrestling with my decision to spend $40 usd for a new tool/toy @spotmau.com.
  11. kraft

    kraft Newcomer, in training

    Hi aSchwarzie,

    It appears you have 2 main problems

    If the problem machine is a laptop then the first partition on the HDD is probably using FAT 16 which cannot be seen by XP and I do not believe it has been damaged by the meltdown. However, your MBR was probably altered with your previous install when you entered "Repair" at the first prompt occurrence.

    Your friend should nave been prompted to make a recovery CD upon first use. This would restore the computer to the time this backup was made.

    I would go to the Acronis web site and download all (repeat all) the drivers for that machine model. If they are in zip format, extract them and then burn to CD (have each driver in a separate named folder).

    Next, I would reinstall XP using your UK version of windows (remember not to use the first recover option as I stated previously). The second recover option will reinstall (repair) XP but maintaining settings & preferences. During this reinstall you will be prompted for your rego key and then the languages setting page. Select French and the type of keyboard (this can be fine tuned later when XP is up & running). Once XP has completed its work and restarts (again) have the Acronis CD handy for when the new hardware wizard prompts for drivers.

    There is a DOS based program called fdisk which will fix MBR errors but unless you made a backup the original one is gone forever and you are stuck with the new one. The MBR resides at the very beginning of the first HDD (0).

    Windows 98 can read Fat 16 which would you to copy all the files from the 3gb partition. However, so can DOS and you will be able to get a DOS boot disk files from the net. This presents another problem as if the problem unit is a laptop then it may not have a floppy (A) drive so you will need to create a boot CD which emulates a 1.44 floppy. Instructions for this are also on the net. I have an ISO copy for this cd and will look to find it and enclose as attachment if you need.

    Kraft
  12. aSchwarzie

    aSchwarzie Newcomer, in training Topic Starter

    1) No it's not a laptop, sorry I wasn't clear about that.
    2) Indeed, I don't think either the Acronis partition was damaged and I'm rather SURE of that, as AFTER the crash, I still COULD switch to Acronis (i.e. the main XP partition was still partially bootable) but it would ONLY offer me to wipe the big disk all out an resintall everything from scratch -- so I thought I'd first try to save some data. Hence the interim XP (UK) re-install move I did... maybe too quickly
    3) Am not sure of the role of the MBR but indeed at boot time AFTER re-install I'm now not offered that access to the Acronis boot anymore.
    I fully agree with that. And I agree am probably the culprit... as I installed the machine at purchase.
    I might be stupid but, I found *nothing* that would even come close to such files. Their website support and resources pages only points at their software and I see no reference to any computer type whatsoever :-O
    But, Kraft, sorry to say it again : I *already* installed the XP UK version by using the FIRST recover option (before coming to this forum) and it helas *did* overwrite the customisations. Would reinstalling XP UK once again via the second recover menu option be of any use ? Did it not write those files back ?
    Or do you recommend me to STILL use this second recover option because it WOULD offer me the FRENCH installation while the FIRST would not ??
    As said earlier, I wouldn't know which files to put on such a CD, but I'll check tomorrow and see if there isn't an original Acronis CD provided -- despite I don't know when I would use it, as it probably is the Acronis software installation program.
    I understand what you're saying here, but even this desktop has no floppy drive.

    Let me gather some more information over the week-end and see what I can see about the partitions, how access them etc.

    I'll first try by editing the boot.ini and see if I can point at some Acronis software on the other partition and point at it via the boot.ini

    If that doesn't help I'll get back with more info, hopefully...

    Thanks a lot for your dedicated help Kraft, sincerely.
  13. rf6647

    rf6647 TechSpot Maniac Posts: 931

    Here is the link to http://www.acronis.com/oem/products/pc/. It claims that depressing f11 during boot bypasses the Window OS and initiates automatic recovery of the pre-installed software. The recovery partition is HIDDEN.

    If f11 does not launch Acronis, then I would guess that earlier repairs of Windows tampered with the boot code on the drive.

    The above url is a general description and it has links to support & forums.

    Here is the manual: http://us2.download.acronis.com/pdf/trueimage.oem.guide.en.pdf

    Executable activf11.exe may restore the boot loader program if key f11 does not function.

    The manual confuses me. It sounds like the OS was not save in the Recovery Partition (at the end of the disk).

    Could it really be that applications are restored first; next the OS is added to the hard drive? Can Windows really register all the applications it finds? This is way beyond me!

    The Control Panel should be able to address the language problem. Look for a label similar to title.

    Also while there, look for anything that sounds like a name associated with Acronis or its software. They could have put control here.

    I'm gone for the remainder of the day (12 hours following this post)
     
  14. aSchwarzie

    aSchwarzie Newcomer, in training Topic Starter

    Good Lord, this sounds so much closer to what I intuitively believe to be the case (i.e. loss of the F11 hotkey feature to activate Acronis software). Thanks so much for finding this link, I didn't think at all at going to the "Acronis for OEM PC vendors" -- makes so much sense.

    Ehhh, did you find the activf11.exe codefile somewhere on their website ? I've read the page you referred to but no codefile.

    About the part that confuses you, maybe Acronis starts by Copying all installed sw by the OEM builder into that hidden partition, THEN uses an ISO image of WinXP for installation in the requested language while retaining settings of other sowftare ? No idea, just a clue...

    I've now read the Acronis PDF info (3 pages) and would now like to find that utility to recover the F11 hotkey to Acronis -- it would seem like a true lifesaver.

    I'll keep you posted, Rich !

    Isn't it that just changing the language version in Regional Settings is completely different (and way below the impact) of installing WinXp in FRENCH (where not only all menus are in french, but you wouldn't believe how many DLLs are different!) ?

    Thanks again for your sustained support (from you and Kraft), I suddenly feel less lost, I confess.
  15. rf6647

    rf6647 TechSpot Maniac Posts: 931

    no support for end-user

    Statement of non-support Contact the OEM vendor instead.

    sample from kb keyword 'boot' in search window finds other related articles. These articles will not solve your crisis.

    Their forums have been sanitized. No hits for 'oem' or 'oem pc'.

    CD's from the vendor is your best bet.

    I would have trouble giving you clear instructions to use 'Recover Lost Data' by Stomp, clone present hard drive to new hard drive of sufficient size, and resurrect 'bootwiz' & the hidden partition. The addition of files to the present drive steadily reduce chances to recover files under the new format in the XP partition. Additionally merely having the files may not be as effective as being 'installed'.
  16. kraft

    kraft Newcomer, in training

    Hi aSchwarzie,

    So not a laptop. Good!
    Partition 1 is not needed to get XP up and running again.

    First you need the CD that came with the computer that will have drivers (chipset, LAN, VGA, Audio etc.) and any other that are built into the motherboard. If you can, copy to a new folder in your partition 2 (big one). Also copy any PCI card, Video card Sound card etc.drivers to that folder. If you can't create a folder you will need to do a bit of CD swapping later

    Then: Edit your boot.ini and make line 2 timeout=30 (this will show the boot options for 30 secs.

    Then: just insert your CD (UK XP version) and boot into it.

    Always read the blue screen carefully and don't rush.

    Don't press R on the second screen but continue on till the 3/4 screen where there is a choice. Ensure the correct XP version is highlighted (U should have only 1) then press "R" as presented (top selection from memory). This will reinstall all missing drivers etc. as I said before. Your original settings will be maintained (apart from any damaged in the crash which is not a problem as they can be regenerated).

    The rest is strait forward (have your rego key handy. Select french or english to continue as U wish (this can be changed later via the control panel (regional & language settings also amend the keyboard type here if not US standard )

    If there are drivers that are required and are not auto detected just browse when prompted to the new folder U previously created or insert the necessary CD. (answer yes to ignore MS digitally signed rubbish). If U can't locate drivers it is not a problem, as they can be installed/updated later. (go to the MB manufacturer's website and download the latest for your MB model).

    When all the dust settles see if you can copy those images from the 3gb drive. If you can't then forget it. Reformat it and use it for your page file. You can boot quite well via XP boot loader (boot.ini).

    When all is running backup by
    1. create a system restore point. Program location:- %SystemRoot%\System32\restore\rstrui.exe
    2. Backup your Documents & Settings plus system state (backs up all your drivers etc. from the system. Program location:-
    %SystemRoot%\system32\ntbackup.exe
    3. Back up your registry separately. Program Location:-
    %SystemRoot%\system32\regedt32.exe

    Good luck
    kraft
  17. aSchwarzie

    aSchwarzie Newcomer, in training Topic Starter

    Hi Kraft,
    Thanks for your instructions! It seems that that is the most comprehensive recovery process in case of the most desperate situation ?
    Can I frankly ask you your opinion about Rich's recommendation which I was going to follow ? It seemed pretty close to what I needed to solve to access the Acronis partition ?
    Thanks for your advice !
    Arnie
  18. rf6647

    rf6647 TechSpot Maniac Posts: 931

    Whoa!

    I am not sure what recommendation you're speaking about. Here is what I think I know about your present circumstances.

    Original hard drive
    WinXP - UK restored to Partition 1; provided with the owner's computer
    Acronis OEM PC has compressed data in Partition 2 (hidden) to be used to recover pre-loaded applications.
    No applications recovered so far
    No software available to reach Acronis oem pc to restore applications.

    Where are we headed?
    Restore French language
    Restore pre-loaded applications

    Analysis - restore French language. You indicated that this is more complex than using the Control Panel.

    Analysis - restore pre-loaded applications. Several possibilities.
    Use Acronis oem pc (aka True Image) - not feasible; application missing; does not display on initial boot screen.

    Obtain set of recovery/restore CDs from oem vendor - no status

    Hack our way to partition 2 - use boot.ini to add selection; Use recovery console or some other means to select the most likely folder in this partition that qualifies as the system for this partition; this piece of info needed to properly add to boot.ini; try to find executable that will launch the recovery/restore; Unknown if the partition must be made visible.

    (if the above attempt wrote to the original drive, it may invalidate this effort)
    Recover Acronis oem pc (aka True Image) - preserve original hard drive; use additional hard drive & install XP; install file recovery software (see today's post in another thread for suggested program; copy partition 2 of original drive to other drive; copy "recovered" contents of original drive to other drive; transfer "recovered" files back to original drive; make original drive master; cross your fingers;

    Meaning of 'cross your fingers' - this work could have been all for nothing. A recent thread uses Bart PE to recover registry hives so that hopefully a system will access any application that was recovered. One of them could be Acronis oem pc (aka True Image); Perhaps activf11.exe was recover & it magically restores F11 to the boot screen with complete functionality.

    I have trouble with the KISS concept. I always tend to complicate things. I may already be lost in the forest and can no longer see any of the trees.
  19. kraft

    kraft Newcomer, in training

    Greetings Arnie,

    Rich posted some interesting info. If it works that may solve your problem, and you may be able to restore the computer to the state that existed when Acronis made the backup image. If your Acronis partition (I assumed it was Number 1 on HDD 0) is not FAT 32 or NTFS then XP will not recognise it, nor will other programs operating within the XP shell. I would be interested to see what info you are entering into the boot.ini file. Be careful using XP recovery console that may write to the MBR which is the cause of the original problem. If possible copy (see link below for other image program) the Acronis partition before doing anything.

    As a matter of interest, I went to Acronis site and could not locate the activf11.exe file. Can you read the Acronis (3g) partition and find the the extension (mask) of the image file? If u can, see if there are other programs that can read this file. Go to http://filext.com which will give you more info on this file type.

    There is no substitute to installing XP with the original french version but if it is unavailable you are stuck with your UK version.

    You can get a full copy of XP Pro SP2 (French) via the bit torrent network at the link below. If you haven't used this network then you will need a client program to download the torrent. I prefer the free Bitcomet program from http://www.bitcomet.com.

    Link to obtain the torrent: http://isohunt.com/torrents/?ihq=XP Pro French (select the sixth one down that has been available for 47 weeks and is 590 MB size). This is a small file (25kb) with .torrent extension. Just drag it into the top pane of Bitcomet and your download will start. Hope you have broadband, otherwise it will take ages with dial-up (full resume is available as with all torrents).

    I also suggest using the free image generating program http://selfimage.excelcia.org to copy the Acronis partition before you start fiddling with it. There is also a free and very good program for mounting and reading the contents of most images called Daemon tools from http://www.daemon-tools.cc

    Good luck and let me know how things go.
    kraft
  20. aSchwarzie

    aSchwarzie Newcomer, in training Topic Starter

    Update on situation

    Hi Kraft, hi Rich -- thanks to both for the sustained help !

    I confess I had some troubles identifying how your both recommendations/ suggestions/ advice were merging or aligning together, but I think the picture is getting a bit clearer now.

    I could finally get hold of my friend's desktop PC and collected some interesting information (hopefully) which I'd like to share with you and maybe focus on the concrete next steps.

    1) Acronis Partition
    It is true that what you suspected earlier was right : I erroneously named "Acronis partition" the hard disk portion set aside by Acronis for OEM installation. It is obviously not a bootable partition and is highly unlikely to carry any OS. I took a screenshot of the disk management like you did and here it is:

    [​IMG]

    As you can see, the main (and only) disk has indeed a HIDDEN partition, which is being recognised as "ACRONIS SCV" and would supposedly be healthy.

    2) Acronis files on C: disk drive
    I did the best I could to locate any files or folder belonging to Acronis True Image software, but was hopeless to find anything, with THIS exception:

    C:\WINDOWS\Prefetch\ACRONIS.EXE-0C3E7736.pf (35 KB)

    But no folder, nor any other file on the C:

    3) Acronis files on OEM CD disk
    Browsing into the available "OEM CDs" I could find a "Utilities CD" which DOES contains Acronis installation software. But guess what (just to make things even more easy): that CD is in German :mad: !! No way I would install German software on her PC, not even mentioning the noticeably different keyboard layout and alphabet ! And even if it *was* in french, it would probably simply do the process to CREATE the "ACRONIS SVC" partition (i.e. screw up the existing and supposedly correct one ??).

    However, I then *DID* find a file named "activf11" (with no extension). I so thought I was getting much closer to the problem resolution !

    I copied "activf11" to C:\ and renamed it to activf11.exe maybe with the naive hope that trying to run it would recreate the "link" to the Acronis OEM partition.

    Unfortunately, trying to run it in a CMD dialog prompts the following error message immediately after pressing "Enter":

    Program too big to fit in memory (!!??!!??)

    The file is actually 1,4 MB big -- which didn't seem such an excessive size for an executable file, provided it actually is an executable file (the renaming to .EXE was just a guess attempt...)

    I tried to play with the program properties (it created a MS-DOS shortcut icon) to increase the memory parameters (in the Memory Tab) but nothing worked. Here are clickable links to screenshots of the different tabs of the program properties:

    General tab -- Program Tab -- Memory Tab -- Screen Tab -- Miscellaneous Tab -- Compatibility Tab -- Summary Tab

    Question: Should I have tried to request the program to run into some compatibility mode ??

    4) Boot.ini file
    The boot.ini file appears exactly like the one here below (I forgot to hard copy it for you, but this is what I remember :blush: : )

    [boot loader]
    timeout=30
    default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS
    [operating systems]
    multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition" /fastdetect /noexecute=optin


    Funny enough, despite the "30 seconds" boot loader time, I *NEVER* can get any menu allowing me to select some boot options (not even the safe mode one which I tought would always be possible ?).
    Is it because this boot.ini contains only ONE OS option to boot from ?

    5) Next step(s) ?
    I am more and more convinced that if I only *could* instruct the system (via an edit of the boot.ini file ? but which edit and pointing at what codefile ?) to hook onto the "Acronis SVC OEM partition", I should be able to use its OEM pre-built installation scripts and re-install everything again -- or maybe am to naive. :rolleyes:

    I unfortunately could not "run" activf11 or simply turn it into an executable code file.

    What are the next steps you guys would suggest me in trying to make those apparently near-close ends meet ?

    Kind regards,

    Arnie.
  21. rf6647

    rf6647 TechSpot Maniac Posts: 931

    Random thought

    It is beyond my abilities, but there may be a difference between "run" from the 'start menu' versus "run" from the 'command prompt' window. Having given ms-dos property to activf11.exe may affect its ability to launch from the start menu. I do not know this to be a fact.
  22. aSchwarzie

    aSchwarzie Newcomer, in training Topic Starter

    The activf11 executable code was never in *my* start menu.

    When I double-click on activf11.exe on my Desktop where I saved it for convenience (or Windows Explorer) I can just see during a tenth of a second that a black box/window is flashing open and closes immediately, making me think it is a non "Windows" program.

    When I first open a CMD dialog and CD (change directory) to the Desktop folder then execute activf11.exe I simply have the time so see the immediate response : "program too big to fit into memory"... then I exit the CMD dialog.

    If there is a difference between those two modes to launch a EXE program, I wouldn't know where it is :-(

    I tried to Google around this "Program too big to fit into memory" and most posts refer to rather old problem submissions.
  23. rf6647

    rf6647 TechSpot Maniac Posts: 931

    Run from start menu

    Apparently you use the 'start menu' to select 'run' on the right-hand side of the menu. In a pop-up window, you then type 'cmd' with causes another window to open with 'c:\windows\system32\cmd.exe' appearing in the banner.

    In the same manner, when presented with the pop-up window, use the 'browse' button; then act upon the 'use in' window to change to the desktop and select the activf11.exe file that was placed there.

    This program will change track 0 of the hard drive in that it will change the small boot loader program to display a different boot screen and the ability to respond to f11. All this is supposition.

    The only example that comes to mind it 'msconfig'. Try it in both manners of using 'run'. That is: enter it directly in response to 'open' for the first example; the other manner would be to respond first with 'cmd' and then enter 'msconfig' at the subsequent prompt.

    Another example: ipconfig /all . It seems to respond as you described. Which means that the command prompt window (cmd.exe) is the correct usage.

    In this case, see if the command offers help : activf11 /?
    The switch /? will display 'help' if the command was programmed.
  24. aSchwarzie

    aSchwarzie Newcomer, in training Topic Starter

    Hey Rich,
    As you may imagine, I tried the /? or /h or /help switches right from the start and... nothing worked : same answer "Program too big to fit into memory".
    I suddenly wondered if my bet was right about renaming "activf11" to "activf11.exe", i.e. if it really was an executable code file. I looked again at the "IMAGE" folder where I found "activf11" and noticed the following:

    28/03/2006 13:19 1.474.560 activf11
    29/03/2006 08:48 1.474.560 fdisk
    03/05/2006 09:37 1.474.560 ts281oem

    Isn't it just curious that all 3 files were excatly that precise and same size ?
    Do these file size not *exactly* match the size of a HD floppy disk ?? Would those files not be something like a floppy disk image, like the folder name would point at ? I guess those floppy disks would be bootable ? Now I'm not sure this is a relief as the desktop has no floppy drive either...

    I'm now completely left out in the blue...
  25. JesseM

    JesseM TechSpot Enthusiast Posts: 258

    I didn't read all of the replies, but all I can offer you is a really handy little tool I used in a similar situation called TestDisk (freeware). If you want to give it a try their website is http://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/TestDisk
    I successfully have recovered 2 HDs using this tool, and re-installed a German Windows XP after recovering the data from one of the HDs. Hope that hepls!
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