Windows XP boot partition is no longer recognized

By JMMD
May 10, 2010
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  1. Friend has a Dell laptop that refuses to boot into XP Home with the error OS not found. I took a look at it and the drive appears to be fine as all the diagnostics I ran against it came back as "passed".

    I tried chkdsk which would not run due to a problem with the partition. I tried fixboot and fixmbr, those say they are successful but the machine still won't boot.

    I'm unable to browse the partition using various utilities. I can see the partition but most utilities identify it as unrecognized partition type. The drive does have a second small partition that I can view the contents of.

    Other than doing an XP repair install is there anything else I should try?
  2. stevem5000

    stevem5000 Newcomer, in training

    Do you get any error messages when it posts...???
    Perhaps a vital file became corrupted...
    the message will usually show as "Windows was unable to find "xxxxx" in
    C:\windows\system32...or verbage to that effect...

    If you have an XP cd, try a repair install...this will allow you to save your data...
    Note, using the Dell reinstallation usually does not allow you to do a repair install...

    If you don;t have one, pick up a SATA or IDE, depending on which kind of HD you have....to USB adapter...usually around $15.00 or so...Now you can attach your HD to another comptuer...then run error check from the second comptuer on your HD...

    If your comptuer is over say 5-6 years old, then I would venture a guess that the HD has shot craps and will have to be replaced...which does not mean that a 2 year old drive should not shoot craps., but less likely to do...

    Good luck...
  3. raybay

    raybay TechSpot Evangelist Posts: 10,716   +6

    Despite what you believe, you have the signs of a failed or damaged hard drive.

    Reset your boot order in the BIOS from the choices you get when you first start up... usually by depressing <F2>, <F5> (rare), <F10>, <F11>, or <F12> depending on the brand and model of computer.

    Then again attempt to boot to the restore or recovery CD. If that doesn't work, you may have a scratched CD, or a bad optical (CD or DVD) drive...

    When you get to this stage and you have the partition error, or other freezes or failures, your hard drive is damaged or defective... This will require a full reformat, if that is even possible.
  4. JMMD

    JMMD TechSpot Chancellor Topic Starter Posts: 1,177

    Booting to CD works fine. I'm not having an issue with that. I was just trying to find a way to restore whatever partition information is damaged without having to do a repair install of the operating system.

    I've got an external enclosure on order so I can try and access the files that way just to get to the important documents. From there we can do repair to see if that fixes things or go with a fresh install if that's needed.
  5. raybay

    raybay TechSpot Evangelist Posts: 10,716   +6

    What we described will repair the main partition, but you will have to repair any other partitions separately, in most cases.

    We would not risk our data on a hard drive that has partition damage... I would do as you suggest... install a new hard drive, then set it up partitioned as you chose. Then rescue your data from the problem drive using the enclosure...

    Once all the data has been recovered safely, you can reformat and partition the hard drive for the next big event.
  6. JMMD

    JMMD TechSpot Chancellor Topic Starter Posts: 1,177

    I got an external enclosure and can see the files with GetDataBack, nothing else seems to be able to find the files. I'd love to find a free alternative but a lot of them don't work since there's a problem with the partition and/or file system.
  7. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,275   +280

    that's correct; if the partition structure is damaged, then EVEN if it can be corrected,
    most of the time, the files are scrambled so you're force into a destructive repair.

    imo, doing a repair install is a poor choice. I would perform a fresh install and let the installer reformat the drive --
    use the complete choice and not the quick format --
    you want every sector on the HD to be rewritten.
  8. LookinAround

    LookinAround TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 8,358   +167

    @jmmd

    1) I agree 110% with jobeard. You don't want to run a repair install. (Actually, you can't run a repair install anyway since the repair install operation must first be able find a valid partition with Windows installed for it to "repair")

    2) Suggest you try using TestDisk. It's a freeware tool that many have used successfully to recover and repair damaged partition/filesystems and data files. Hope you have success with it as well!
  9. JMMD

    JMMD TechSpot Chancellor Topic Starter Posts: 1,177

    I'll give testdisk a shot and see how that works. I really just want to save the important files for them and then either use the HD again or toss it out.
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