Win XP Crashed - has HD been erased?

By MCROZ · 16 replies
Mar 22, 2009
  1. New here but got the old problem - suddenly cannot boot WIN XP. I have tried reinstal and repair from WIN XP CD but it isn't finding previous/existing version operating system. I had kept it completely p to date with all patches, fixes and SP3, for example.

    When attempting reinstal or repair from CD I see only

    C: Partition 1 (unknown) 148625 mb <148624 mb free>
    E: Partition 2 <inactive> OS/2 boot man 4001 mb 180 mb free

    which implies my hard (160gb ?) disk is totally erased of all data ?

    I have a complete set of manufacturer (IBM/Lenovo Thinkcentre) recovery disks but these will restore to manufacturer original with loss of data. I do have a backed up copy of the "My Documents" folder on an external hard drive made 2 days ago so not all is lost (rprobably only my IE bookmarks and all my Outlook Express email history, addresses etc).

    Before I go for broke and simply recover from the recovery CDs - is it really likely that my HD is completely erased or is the "148624 mb free" message hiding the fact that my data may still be there and recoverable ?

    Have had this problem on other computers and have in the past gone for a complete recovery ..but if there's any chance to reinstal WIN XP this time without that pain I'd like to take it. I realise this might be a signal that the HDD is on the way out and I can deal with that if and when I can reinstal or recover ...

    All advice and wisdom welcome .....I'm communicating here from my office laptop as my home desktop is now unusable until I reinstal/repair windows ....I know it may be possible to download recovery software etc...but if I do that how do I transfer from this laptop to my desktop it possible to burn some of those helpful download routines on excutable CDs ?

    Thanks for any interest.
  2. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,431   +77

    One possibility is UBCD4WIN which though not trivial to prepare, eventually yields a bootable CD which runs a version of Windows XP (loaded via your existing install CD). You also find that the Windows environment contains just about everything you could imagine concerned with repairing a PC - including partition inspectors. for many others

    The likely possibility is your partition has been damaged, but can often be repaired by one or more of these packages. If that can be done, then you should use all the other things supplied on the UBCD4WIN CD to run anti-virus, anti-root kit, etc etc (these should be updated just before you burn the CD). That is why I recommend UBCD4WIN, because it will give you the ultimate toolkit. You could also download a partition editor such as GpartED CD first, just to see what gives on your HDD.

    Some more recources...
    Most of the contents of the drive are still there. The first thing to try is partition recovery. If a proper partition table can be written to the drive, you can then access the files that remain normally. or Testdisk Boot Floppy Image is the best tool for that. It will not damage your files no matter what options you choose and it often requires some intelligent guessing. If it finds a partition that is close to the size it should be, write the changes to disk and then reboot. See if the drive is accessible. If not, try again. If you get nowhere with it (and that would be very unusual), then try scanning the drive with recovery software.

    Free recovery applications:

    Diskinternals Recovery Boot CD
    Pandora Recovery (Free for personal use)
    Smart Data Recovery
    Recover Files
    Free Undelete (NTFS only)
    Softperfect File Recovery
    ADRC Data Recovery Tools
    Undelete Plus
    Data Recovery
    PCI File Recovery
    Ultimate Data Recovery
    Disk Investigator


    O&O Disk Recovery
    Paragon Mount Everything (Mounts any file system, CD/DVD burning, File Manager, Partitioner)
    GetDataBack (For FAT or NTFS)
    Ontrack EasyRecovery Pro
    File Scavenger
    Recover My Files
    RecoverPlus Pro
    Zero Assumption Recovery
    Active@ File Recovery
    Final Recovery
    Recover4All Professional
    Easeus Data Recovery Wizard
    NTFS Recovery

    Sorry the hyperlinks for all these seem to have got lost in the copy - if you cannot find one you want, let me know, I have them all here.
  3. MCROZ

    MCROZ TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks for the advice although all the options look a bit daunting. I saw references to TestDisk elsewhere but I couldn't work out how to download it on this laptop so I can use it on the "damaged" desktop ...sorry if I am being a bit slow there ..I'm a reasonably competent user and have successfully repaired a windows installation before but not in a case where the damaged version can't be easily found.

    I have downloaded TestDisk onto this laptop (from which I am posting to forum) but confess I don't know ho to create a copy to run on the damaged OS desktop.

    Would it be a simple as copying the


    file onto a CD..would that be executable on the desktop even if XP wasn't running (sorry - I know that's a really basic dumb question...)


    In the WIN XP recovery console I also just tried both the





    For fixmbr I get :

    This computer appears to have a non-standard or invalid master boot record. FIXMBR may damage your partition tables if you proceed. This could cause all the partitions on the current hard disk to become inaccessible. If you are not having problems accessing your drive do not continue. Are you sure you want to write a new MBR ?

    for FIXBOOT I get :

    The target partition is C:
    Are you sure you want to write a new bootsector to the partition C:

    So far I answered "No" to both .....but appreciate any advice on either possible action ?

    I'm also downloading UBCD4WIN as suggested - it will take a while as I have minimum speed broadband .....assume it will tell me how to create a bootable CD when it completes !!

    Appreciate the help so far .... It's also been suggested that I instal a new HD and restore to manufacturer settings to that ..then try and access the corrupt original HD when I am up and working again. I think if all I will lose from a complete restore is my Outlook express data and IE bookmarks, I might eventually just go for that rand the pain of dwloading all the WIN XP updates and reinstalling applications rather than anything more I have "My Documents" from the PC backed up onto an external HDD ...I may need some advice on how to "restore" that to the Desktop HD if and when I get to that point....
  4. EXCellR8

    EXCellR8 The Conservative Posts: 1,835

    I think you can download a DOS version of TestDisk that runs from a CD so you can browse the contents of your hard drive and verify that all the data is still in tact... without booting into XP. You can also run some tests on the physical structure of the drive. Chances are the data is fine, but I would run the program anyways just to be sure.
  5. MCROZ

    MCROZ TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks - I downloaded UBCD4WIN but after waiting 2 hours to complete it didn't build properly so I gave up on it. I have tried Fixmbr and fixboot without success. I have run chkdsk from the WIN XP CD and it has found "One or more errors on the volume". Although I have a CD burner on this (office) laptop for some reason I don't have burning software on it so that wil make creating a TestDisk CD a challenge. I think I am about to take the "easy" option and do a complete recovery using my suite of recovery CDs ..spend the night reloading a few applications that I added after original instal, plus Norton etc and the WIN XP updates. All that will be practically lost are emails, addresses and IE bookmarks. I assume as I have the "my Documents" folder backed up on external drive I can simply copy that back ..? All my iTunes stuff is in there so assume I can recreate that too ....hopefully.
  6. EXCellR8

    EXCellR8 The Conservative Posts: 1,835

    You could always physically remove the hard drive and add it as a secondary in another system, if you have one that is. That would make it a lot easier for you to make backups and maybe even diagnose the problem from within another OS. You could also have an easier time running some of those other applications on the drive when it's being used as a slave. If you do decide to reformat the drive, you can do it from within the operating system as well.
  7. MCROZ

    MCROZ TS Rookie Topic Starter

    not an option I'm afraid, only have the home desktop and office-owned laptop.

    have been through same XP crash twice on my daughter's HP laptop (with suspect HD) and have taken the complete restore option both times (will replace the HD next time....!).

    Assume if I simply reinstall windows in the apparently Windows-free C partition (from the XP CD rather than the full recovery set) it will in fact reformat the entire drive and I will lose all apps and data ? If so - I'm better to go for the full recovery and at least I get the original apps resotored. Fortunately on a 160 mb HD I was onlly using 30, I didn't have a lot of apps or data. The most incovneient bit is losing the email histiry and addresses but as I was doing all mail on "local" rather than on yahoo server I will make sure I back that up for future.
  8. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,431   +77

    Time for a free burner ! Try InfraRecorder which I use in preference to the one bundled with my PC.

    ExcellR8 implies you should buy a new hard drive, and I completely agree. If you are going to reinstall, at least do it to a drive you can trust, and add the old one later to recover all you need. You then also have a drive (if the old one still works), that you can use for backups and drive imaging. Invaluable.

    By the way, hard drives do not fail all that often. Either your experience is very unlucky, or the more likely thing is you don't have sufficient protection when online and are picking up some nasties that can give the same symptoms as drive failure. It might pay you to check the malware and recovery sticky notes on this site for recommended free applications. I'm sorry most of the experts on this site will have snorted at your mention of 'Norton'.
  9. MCROZ

    MCROZ TS Rookie Topic Starter

    well - seems the new HD is a common recommendation...and for about £30 from Novatech maybe I should do it ...what's the recommended way to proceed... take out the current one and instal a new one in that bay or instal a new one in the remaining free bay ? If the latter do I make sure when I reinstal everything from the recovery disks that it all goes on the new drive (which presumably won't be the C drive and that the PC boots from it ?

    I know the experts hate Norton but tell me anything that someone doesn't think is c**p somewhere on a forum. I also run Windows Defender ..OK - I hear the snorting....

    EDIT - OK thanks for the link to the free burner - that's now on my laptop and I had already downloaded TestDisk ..not sure how to create CD from that though ?
  10. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,431   +77

    No real preference. You just make sure the drive connections and bios agree that the new drive is #1, the old drive #2. To start with, only connect #1, using the current connector wire.

    You can worry about #2 at leisure. I use Windows Defender too. For once MS has produced something that works reasonably well. But it is only spyware, you know, not anti-virus.
  11. MCROZ

    MCROZ TS Rookie Topic Starter

    thanks ...any tip on creating the TestDisk CD ?
    I seem to have a TestDisk 6-10 folder which contains :

    WIN subfolders and separate files called


    Not sure which of any of those is needed to create a CD I can use in the "damaged" PC.

    The WIN folder contains the testdisk_win.exe file...

    EDIT - maybe I can work it out - I have also saved it on a USB stick - so perhaps if I try to run the .exe from that from the DOS prompt ..maybe by assuming the USB stick will be drive E .....
  12. MCROZ

    MCROZ TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Have just completed chkdsk /r

    Rebooted and now have

    Windows could not boot because the following file is missing or corrupt:
    <Windows root>system32\hal.dll

    Please reinstal a copy of the above file
  13. Junkanoo

    Junkanoo TS Rookie

    btw it could also be sectors on the HD that are damaged that could have cause the crash.
    the check disk command would fix this
  14. EXCellR8

    EXCellR8 The Conservative Posts: 1,835

    Did you ever get the TestDisk bootable CD to work? I'm pretty sure all you need to do is burn the ISO file directly to the CD and it should run in DOS. In order to run it from USB stick... you will need to format a flash drive and make it bootable.

    As for antivirus, I can confidently recommend either Avira AntiVir (even the free edition is good) or Avast! for that. Norton is bloatware which installs all kinds of unnecessary components on your computer. Both of my recommendations are more compact and work very well, no slow downs, fast scans, good update servers etc...
  15. MCROZ

    MCROZ TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Haven't managged to create TestDisk CD yet - I don't seem to have an ISO file in the download ?

    Am running chkdsk /r again in case it happens to fix the hal.dll roblem but it takes a long time to run so may have to abort it until tomorrow (1.15AM here in UK).

    If all fails I will get a new HDD drive tomorrow as you have suggested and do a clean restore to it ..then I can bug everyone about how to restore my backed up "My Documents" folder and how to try and see if there is any data on the original "damaged" disk !!!

    More tomorrow I'm sure.

    BTW I tried the MS recommended fix for the hal.dll problem using XP Disk and recovery console with "expand d:\i386\hal.dl_c:\windows\system32\hal.dll" command but no luck ...I get "the system cannot find the file or directory specified".
  16. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,431   +77

    the command 'expand' has to be in your current path, and you have to have administrator rights and have set 'system' files to be visible. It is trying to copy from drive D: which is expected to be your install CD. There should be a blank between hal.dl_ and C:

    NONE of the above is the correct approach, because every service pack supplies a more recent version. The one you want is normally in C:\Windows\ServicePackFiles\i386

    The hal.dll is your entire 'hardware extraction layer' logic. Anything wrong with that and the whole PC is screwed.
  17. MCROZ

    MCROZ TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Afraid I am retiring hurt from the contest with the PC. I did manage to get it to recognise a windows installation this morning in the recovery console and I took a chance and went for what I though was a reinstal with no reformat. It did come back with a limited number of files but with none of the originally loaded apps. On that basis I went of the full recovery safe in the knowledge at least I have the "my Documents" folder from original installation backed up on external HDD. Sadly I then found that disk 4 of my recovery suite is corrupt and can't be read. I have ordered a new set from Lenovo (UK pounds 40...!) and will reinstal the whole thing to original manufacturer spec when I get them in 5-6 days. Meantime I have loaded a new copy of WIN XP from the XP CD and will set up with minimum config in the interim just for email and web...IF I can remember how to set up the b***** wirelss connection...amazing what you forget after a few years or trouble free working.

    All down to experience. If problems persist I will consign to the junkyard and invest in a new PC or laptop.

    Thanks to those who tried to help and took an interest.
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