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Boot problem with Win XP Home Edition - Need Help!!

By roberob23
Mar 17, 2006
  1. Ok, this is a bit lengthy, so please bear with me.

    Dell Dimension Desktop 4700
    3.20GHZ/512Mb DDR2
    C:\ 160G SATA HDD (NTFS)
    D:\ 120G IDE HDD (NTFS)
    E:\ DVD-CDRW Drive
    F:\ Dell Restore Partition (FAT32)
    G:\ Dell Utility Partition (FAT16)
    H:\ 250G LaCie USB2.0 Ext. HDD (FAT 32)
    Windows XP Home Edition

    I purchased a USB2.0 External HDD to use as a backup and to xfer files between home & work computers. Upon installing, it became the H: Drive. After a period of time, I began to notice that the drive (after being added and removed a bunch of times) had now become the I: drive, and there was an H: drive listed but was not accessible thru Windows, so I assumed it was a ghost of sorts. Also, the E: drive has become the M: drive (got me on that one)??

    I also noticed that the DVD Burner was acting funny because the D: drive had become set to PIO mode not Ultra DMA, so I was getting alot of buffer underruns, it was taking hours to burn 1 DVD. So I went in to the Device manager, and saw that there were 2 Primary IDE channels, hence the conflict and PIO Mode. I removed one Primary IDE channel. Problem 1 solved.

    While I was at it I figured I would remove the H: Drive that was a ghost, so the next time I plugged in the USB Drive, it could reclaim the H: Designation (some programs are programmed to look for the info on H: not I:, and were having problems.)

    Still with me? OK, while in Disk Magement, I clicked on the drive (what I thought was the D: drive, because it had no letter designation, weird) and selected to change it to D:. Here's where the fun begins...

    As soon as I exited the program, and went to open IE so my wife could check mail, Double-click on the IE Icon was met with a "Choose Program" dialog box, with no programs on it. I thought that was weird, so I rebooted the machine and realized that the drive I must have renamed to D: must have been the C: drive, but I thought that Windows XP would not allow you to change the Boot Partition's drive letter designation. SO.....

    When I boot the computer up, it goes thru the whole boot process, it gets to the screen in XP Home where the User Icons would be to click and logon, but the user Icons are no longer there. I have booted in Safe Mode, to no avail, ran the Dell Utilities, and they say the disk is fine, So my guess is that somewhere, Windows is looking for the User accounts in the wrong spot?? I am 99.9% confident, that if the User Icons were there, I could log into Windows just fine. So here's the dilemma...

    Dell tells me to do the windows XP repair, and if that doesn't work , they can send out a tech to do a parallel install to try to access the data, but that costs money. If the Win XP repair does not fix the problem, do you think it will be possible to access my data if I remove the SATA HDD and install it in SATA-2 in another machine running XP and just copy the data, wipe the original HDD and re-install Windows XP?? Are there any downfalls of working with XP/SATA as far as not being able to access my data if a certain step is overlooked?? I appreciate any help that you can give. I will be working on this problem over the weekend, bringing a work comp home to have internet access and DL drivers, utils, create floppies, etc.

  2. wlknaack

    wlknaack TS Rookie Posts: 143

    You believe that you have a drive letter assignment change. If all you have done is to change C: to D:, you can go to Bootdisk.com and download and create a Win98 Boot Disk. Boot to the Win98 Boot Disk and at the command prompt run fdisk /mbr, remove the disk, and reboot. This will zero-out the partition signature and force WinXP to create a new partition signature, and assign it a drive letter starting with C: (provided C is now available). The partition signature and drive letter assignment is stored in the registry, and if you changed the drive letter it no longer matched the one stored in the registry with its corresponding partition signature.

    You also state that you had some other, prior drive letter changes. So if there is more going on than just that one drive letter change, the above approach may not solve the problem, although it is certainly worth the try. What you can do then is to go to the following link and get savepart, a utility which will enable you to edit the registry directly, without booting to WinXP.


    The registry key where the partition signatures and drive letter assignments are stored is HKLM_SYSTEM_MOUNTED DEVICES.

    The values look like this:

    \Dos Devices\X {Disk ID + Starting Partition Sector, in hexadecimal}

    where X = drive letter assignment

    Using savepart, you can change the drive letters to point at the correct drive. In other words, let I = H, let M = E, & let D =C.

    Good luck, its worth a shot before you bring in Dell Support and/or do a backup and clean install.
  3. kirock

    kirock TS Rookie Posts: 1,221

    Hopefully wlknaack's suggestion will work. In the future make sure you use the toolbar utility Safely Remove Hardware when removing the USB HDD, I think this is where the prob started. H: being left active then reattaching the USB HDD and it going I: etc.
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