Windows XP will not boot from C drive or CD

By The Drifter ยท 16 replies
Sep 12, 2010
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  1. I have a Dell Dimension E520 that I can't do anything with. Windows just goes to a black screen when booting normally and if I try to boot from the CD I get the blue screen of death, saying Windows has been shut down to prevent damage.

    I did some reading and hoped I could get to the recovery console and try some things, but all it will let me do is go to setup or the boot screen. Nothing works from the boot screen (it just keeps bringing me back to it) and I don't see anything in the setup that looks helpful. If I could get to a C prompt, I may be able to get somewhere but after hours of pulling out hair I give up. My guess is a virus that's completely shut me down. If that's the case, how can I wipe and reformat my hard drive and start fresh? I hate to lose everything but I'm running out of ideas. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  2. B00kWyrm

    B00kWyrm TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,436   +37

    I do not want to discount your malware concerns.
    Still, there are other factors which may cause your symptoms.
    Why did you raise the possibility of malware?
    Did you have other symptoms?

    What did you do (hardware changes, software changes, or specific activities) just prior to the problems?

    Your system looks like it is about 5 years old. Have you opened the case?
    (Check for dust accumulation. Dust is a blanket that holds heat. Heat is an enemy of your system).

    Were you overclocking? Have you changed any bios settings (especially memory)?

    Memtest will run in its own environment and will check your memory for errors.

    Please follow this guide...

    Please note that (unless you start getting errors reported) you will need to let this run a long time.

    A good way of doing this is to let it run over night. In each 'pass" there are a series of eight memory tests that are run, each more complicated than the previous. You need to let it run a minimum of 7 passes, unless you start getting errors. If you have errors reported, you may want to re-run the test with only one stick of ram installed, checked each stick until you isolate those that are faulty. That way you can limit your replacement to those that actually need it.

    Let us know the results.
    If your memory comes up without errors, that is good, but not 100% conclusive.
    Recently I have seen a report that defective memory did not show up until the 11th full pass.
    Defective memory may sometimes pass memtest, But it is a good starting point.
    And if it checks okay then 99% of the time it means something else is the issue.

    When you repost, please answer my questions,
    and post your memtest results.
  3. The Drifter

    The Drifter TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks for the reply. My first thought was malware because the system has been running slow lately and IE has been crashing. I don't use it often but my kids do and who knows what they are downloading.

    There have been no hardware updates and the only software ones I know of were two: a legit copy of WordPerfect, but that was a week before the crash. I wasn't home when it happened but my wife had just finished downloading the Second Life viewer from their website when it happened.

    The system is actually 3 years old and it does get cleaned inside the case, although perhaps less often than it should. I have gone in and given it a cleaning after this occured and there was some buildup, but not a whole lot. I'm not sure about being overclocked - I'm far from a computer expert and as far as the BIOS goes, I'd never make any changes without specific instructions and no one who uses the computer has done so either.

    I downloaded Memtest on my laptop and burned it to a CD. It's running now in the desktop. I'll post the results when it runs at least 7 times, as per the instructions. Thanks again for the help.

    Edit: Memtest has run through 7 passes - no errors.

    I have a Kaspersky rescue disc and I'm running that now. I figured it couldn't hurt to check for malware.
  4. B00kWyrm

    B00kWyrm TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,436   +37

    Okay... my guess right now is that Second Life is using a driver that conflicts with your system.
    My suggestion would be to
    try to boot to "Safe Mode"... (you may have been trying to tell me that this did not work?)
    after turning on your system, tap f8 (repeatedly if necessary).
    you should get a "black screen" with several boot options.
    Select "Safe mode" (not "Safe mode with networking".
    This will, if you can do it, load windows with only the minimal basic drivers necessary to run.

    Then go to Start -> Control Panel -> Add/Remove Programs
    Wait for the list to populate, and then remove the Second Life viewer.
    While there, see if there are other programs you do not recognize and may not want.
    Make note of each one that you uninstall. This may be helpful if you do have malware and need help from our malware removal team (Bobbye/Broni et al).
    After doing your uninstallations,

    Open Windows Explorer and go to

    See if you have any files present.
    If so, copy the most recent 5 of them to a thumb drive or other removable media.

    reboot and see if your problem is resolved.

    When you post again, tell us your results including attaching your minidumps,
    and we will consider the next step.

    If you cannot get to safe mode, I would like you to try another route to find your minidumps.
    I will explain after you repost.
  5. The Drifter

    The Drifter TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I have gotten to the safe mode boot screen and it always just comes back there no matter which option I choose. We have had Second Life on here before - this was just an update. So, I can't get into my hard drive in any way at the moment. Hopefully Kaspersky will find something. I'll keep you posted.

    I'm open to any other options to get the minidumps. As I've said, I haven't been able to get anywhere past the Safe Mode, Safe Mode with Prompt, etc screen if the hard drive is enabled as a boot drive. If I disable it using the Setup screen, I can use the disc drive to run programs like Memtest and Kaspersky rescue disc, but any attempts to access the hard drive have failed so far. The Windows startup used to come up briefly before the black screen, but no more. I've also tried booting from a Windows CD I have (an older version) but it doesn't do anything either.
  6. B00kWyrm

    B00kWyrm TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,436   +37

    Okay... let's do a drive check.
    You may be able to find out the maker of the hdd from the bios.
    (Bios is sometimes able to report, not just the size, but other information).
    If not, then open the case and look at the drive to find out who made it.
    Then get the tools from the appropriate source below.
    This is an iso, like memtest, which will run in its own environment.
    Do the Short Test First, if this checks okay, then do the long test.
    Let me know the results...

    Links to diagnostic software and utilities from the manufacturer of your hard drive below:

    Conner - Merged with Seagate, see Seagate for support.

    Fujitsu (now supported by Toshiba)


    Maxtor & Quantum



    Try Seatools (Seagate) or Fujitsu Tools (may work or may not)

    Western Digital
  7. The Drifter

    The Drifter TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Ran the short and long tests - passed both. It's a Seagate drive, if that matters. I also ran the Kaspersky Rescue Disc and it found and cleaned some trojans, but it still won't boot up.
  8. B00kWyrm

    B00kWyrm TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,436   +37

    Right now my primary suspicion is still the "Second Life" viewer.

    But, since you found trojans, It could be malware interfering with your boot.
    You may want to ask on the Malware forum, and see if they think they can help you.
    If they cannot help you, then repost here and we will try some more options.
    Will will likely be sending you back there for a final check-up.

    You should be aware that malware is very insidious today.
    Since you did discover trojans, I would suggest that you immediately deal with any passwords and accounts that may have become compromised. Especially if you handle any financial matters on line, or if there may be things that could lead to identity theft.
    Check the stickies at the top of the malware board.

    I am going to be away for a few days.
    But this gives you some things to look at while I am gone, and I have asked a friend to check on those I have been helping, so you aren't left hanging while I am gone.
    I'll be back sometime this coming weekend.

    --- another thought ---
    if you want to explore bartpe as a means of retrieving minidumps, that is a possibility.
    i was trying to work up an easy way to do it with linux, and I am out of time for now.

    you can get started with bartpe HERE
    and you will find your minidumps here...
    if you can get to them, then copy and attach your five most recent.
    This will help us narrow down your problem and find your solution more quickly.

    Be advised... bartpe will take some work to get up and running, but perhaps less than the linux approach I was working on.
    In essence, it generates a "dos like" environment from which to work.

    See you this weekend. (Meanwhile, hopefully some of my other suggestions will bear fruit too.)
  9. The Drifter

    The Drifter TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I appreciate your help, but unfortunately I am a truck driver and I'm going back out on the road tomorrow. I'm not sure when I'll be home again but not this weekend. My wife will be home here with the defective computer but the laptop will be with me. I'll look into the bartpe link, but I know nothing of Linux except that it's another type of OS. In the meantime, I'll go see what I can find in the malware forums. I'll post any results here. Thanks again.
  10. B00kWyrm

    B00kWyrm TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,436   +37

    Hey Drifter... checked in again to see if you had replied.
    sorry we can't get this fully fixed before you head out

    Either linux or bartpe would be possible routes to gain access to the minidump files.
    I was hoping to retrieve them to help with diagnostics.

    I do not know if the malware team will be able to help you enough before you go out.
    If they can help it is normally a time consuming process.

    Another route that might be quicker to get your home system up and running would be to get a replacement hard drive and reinstall windows on it, holding your existing drive out of the system until you get back and we can work on recovering data, and determining what went wrong to begin with. If you have a MicroCenter near you, or Staples, or OfficeMax, etc, any of these could be quick sources for a replacement drive. I would go to Microcenter, but you might not have one nearby.
  11. The Drifter

    The Drifter TS Rookie Topic Starter

    That's not an option right now, but thanks for the suggestion. I'll keep at it. Bartpe will not do anything (invalid path errors) but I'm not giving up.
  12. The Drifter

    The Drifter TS Rookie Topic Starter

    OK, Broni gave it a try over on the malware side and he seems to feel my drive is hopelessly corrupted ( ). I'm going to try to recover the data by slaving the hard drive. Hopefully I can save something, but it looks like I need to wipe it and start fresh.

    I have a question concerning reloading Windows. As I said, my computer is a Dell and Windows came preloaded. I can't remember if I received the Windows disk with it or not, but if I did, I can't find it. As an added bonus, the Windows key tag on the computer case is now unreadable, so d/loading one from MS is out, although my laptop has an SP2 version of XP and I can read the key for it. I do have an older XP disk (pre SP2) for an older computer. Will this work and update to SP2? I'm also wondering about drivers. The computer the disk was for has the old style monitor and the newer one has a flatscreen.

    Sorry if these seem like dumb questions, but I've never been in this situation before. I don't want to do anything illegal as far as Windows goes, but I can't justify buying a copy when I've already paid for it. I very much appreciate all the assistance from you and Broni. Hopefully we can get this puppy up and running again.
  13. B00kWyrm

    B00kWyrm TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,436   +37

    Often system builders (like Dell, Gateway, etc) will provide a "system restore" disk instead of an oem xp disk.
    This disk will have drivers specific to your system.
    You will have received one or the other from Dell. (I don't know which in your case).

    But since you cannot find it, AND since you cannot read your service tag, or the xp key label on your system... your only resort may be to call dell and ask for help recovering this information.

    Your specific monitor should not really affect things... flat screen and old style vga monitors both connect to the same vga port, and receive the same signal from it. The question is whether your xp disk has the correct drivers for your graphics card. If not, then it will install a set of basic drivers, and you will be able to download correct drivers to take full advantage of your card, once you get that far.

    I doubt you will find any xp disks in captivity any more.
    There may be a few, but hard to find. "Computer Shows" may now be your only resort.
    But you don't want to spend the money anyway.

    All you can do is try...
    I would suggest a call to Dell for their assistance.
    (for a small fee) They may be able to provide a system restore disk.
  14. The Drifter

    The Drifter TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks again for all your help and advice - it's very much appreciated. I found someone with some experience in this who's coming in to take a look at it. He says he has the hard drive dock to try to retrieve my data and a fresh XP disk to get me going again. Hopefully we can save something from the hard drive. Again, many thanks and I will repost when I get it up and running in case someone else has this issue.
  15. B00kWyrm

    B00kWyrm TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,436   +37

    Okay, keep us posted
  16. The Drifter

    The Drifter TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Got it working

    Finally got this thing running again. I wiped the hard drive and after fighting with Dell on the phone, got them to send me the recovery disks I should have got with the computer when I bought it. Starting fresh, but at least it's working again. Thanks again for all the help from BookWyrm and Broni over in the other forum..
  17. B00kWyrm

    B00kWyrm TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,436   +37

    Thanks for the update!
    Would be interested to know if Second Life continues to cause issues. ;)

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