The Dell BSOD Runaround

By exxpi · 4 replies
Apr 24, 2007
  1. I'm pretty decent with computers and do some freelance tech support here and there, so I'm not a real stranger to this sort of thing. Among their many complexities, girlfriends are also incredibly good at providing me with a steady flow of computer problems ... so far this one takes the cake.

    She has a Dell laptop with a long history of being a complete piece of crap (Dude, we didn't get a Dell... we got a POS). It overheats, has random BSOD's and crashes, and all kinds of other Dell'ish goodness.

    Last week she turned it on and got the fabled UNMOUNTABLE_BOOT_VOLUME BSOD. Sure enough, booting to Safe Mode caused the same problem, after hanging on MUP.SYS for a couple of minutes.

    So I've had this problem before and the usual fix is the load up Recovery Console and do my thing with it. So I pop in my XP Home cd, boot up to it, and hit R.

    Usually what happens is you get a blue screen where it says:

    "examining disk at blah blah" for a moment, before actually going to the recovery console. This screen lasts for about 5-10 minutes on her PC, then jumps me to a black screen that says: Please insert the Windows XP Home Service Pack 1 CD and hit enter to continue.

    Clearly to get this far, the CD must already be in the drive! So I hit ENTER, and without even making an attempt to read the drive, it says it's a bad CD and to hit enter to continue. So I hit ENTER again and it tells me to insert it again. I can hold down ENTER and it will toggle back and forth between these two screens without ever once trying to read the drive.

    I've booted up to a Ubuntu LiveCD (it's all I had handy, and I like the GUI) to try to back some files up off of her laptop before having to format it. With NTFS enabled I can see some of her files (other directories like MyDocuments, however, come up empty for some reason? -- my linux experience is limited). This tells me that the directory structure is in tact, but I'm unable to backup the directories that really matter (MyDocuments, Desktop, etc.) because they appear to be empty.

    Anyways, I tell her the bad news and say we should just try formatting it. So again I boot up to the XP CD and this time press to install a new installation of windows.

    Again I go to the blue screen that says "examining disk at adfasdfadsf" for 5-10 minutes, before this time going to a blue screen with the same error message: Insert the CD.

    Sorry I type so much... I'm a talker, not a typer :)

    Long story short:

    - Unable to boot to Safe Mode/Normal Mode/Last Good Config
    - Able to boot to XP CD but not run Recovery Console
    - Able to boot to XP CD but not run XP Installation
    - Able to boot to Ubuntu LiveCD; able to view the mostly in-tact directory structure; unable to back up the files that matter as they don't appear to exist (entirely possible I mounted the drive wrong, etc.)
    - The CD is NOT faulty; I have gotten into recovery console with it flawlessly on 2 other desktops

    I'm not very experienced with laptops, but I've taken hers apart, reseated the hard disk, reseated the CD/DVD drive, to no avail. It's an inspiron 2200 if that makes any difference.

    I found a site via google that purported to make a boot CD with JUST recovery console on it and w/o all the extra windows garbage. But it ended up giving me the same problem... it boots up and then tells me to insert the CD.

    Would really appreciate some insight here. I can't even reinstall windows at this point. Should I get her to buy a new CD-ROM and try that out? Maybe USB? External HDD? Can I take her HDD out and set is as a slave in my desktop (I'm not really sure how laptop HDD's work)?

    I don't want her to have to pay some $200 "GeekSquad" fee for the convenience of having some guy behind a counter tell her "you need a new computer."
  2. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    Why do you think this is a Dell problem?
    You did not mention the model, age, and configuration.
    It appears you have a failed hard drive.
    You can put the hard drive in your desktop as a slave but you need an adapter for it... usually $4 to $8 at computer parts places and at The adapter allows you to connect to a regular EIDE cable or a Sata cable.
    You should be able to repair this computer for $60 if you have her original Dell disc set.
  3. exxpi

    exxpi TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks for the advice.

    I'm not sure how you came to the conclusion that her HDD has failed though. If that were the case, wouldn't nothing work? As it is now it gets to the screen to start in Safe Mode/Last Good Config/etc. and then shows the Windows XP splash screen for a moment before going to BSOD. I thought it was just a problem with her MBR or something along those lines, which, typically is fixable w/o a complete format (unfortunately I can't even do a complete format/reinstall at this point, since the XP install process doesn't work).

    Regarding the 'Dell' stuff ... I've just noticed that the overwhelming majority of Laptop support "requests" that I get happen to be with Dell laptops and BSODs. Could be just because Dell has a majority of the market :) But typically when I see 1 problem on a Dell laptop, it means there are 5 or 6 smaller problems behind it :( Just personal bias I guess.

    I said the model was an Inspiron 2200, however. I'm not sure of its age (less than 3 years), although I believe it's in its original manufactured state.

    She no longer has her original Dell discs (which is why I've been having to use my XP CD).

    You mentioned being able to resolve the problem for ~$60. Buying an adapter and backing up the files on my PC could solve one problem, but she'd still be stuck with her unresponsive HDD, unable to be formatted. Is buying a new HDD from Dell the only way to get around her problem? And is there a 100% way to find out if the HDD has indeed failed (as opposed to just having corrupt partitions)?

    Appreciate your help!
  4. Ididmyc600

    Ididmyc600 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,415


    Like he said use an adaptor to slave the HD to your machine, then download the manufacturers test tool and test the drive, if it comes up clean then the fault lies with the laptop.

    In your first post you said "examining disk at adfasdfadsf" this sounds typical of an IDE control failure either on the laptop or on the drive but again your going to need to test the drive before you can be sure.

    If the Drive is faulty then you can buy any standard laptop drive from off Ebay, I have sold 40Gb drives for as little as £23 and 80GB drives go for about £60.

    Good Luck and keep us informed.

  5. exxpi

    exxpi TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks for the quick reply, that's exactly what I needed to know. Time to tinker :)
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