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Thread: Computer crisis -- "No boot sector on internal hard drive"

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    Computer crisis -- "No boot sector on internal hard drive"

    Hi all,

    My laptop, a Dell Inspiron 6000, recently hit a blue screen of death. When I reboot, a black screen appears with these two lines of text: "No boot sector on internal hard drive," and "No bootable devices -- strike F1 for retry or F2 for setup utility."

    I'm not sure what to do. My written work was already backed up, so it's safe, and that's most important. Still, I don't want to lose anything that can be saved. So what should I do? Is there a way to fix this, with the memory intact? Is my data even there?

    I consulted other forums, but they spoke in a language I could not comprehend. If somebody could guide me through this in plain English, it would be appreciated.

    Thanks in advance, and the quicker anyone can help, the better!
    Last edited by Juno Reactor; 11-07-2007 at 04:31 PM.
    JUNO REACTOR
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    Update (for the worse): I tried hitting F2. I went to the Boot Sequence area and disabled the Diskette Drive, the Internal Hard Drive, and everything but the CD driver, reasoning that it was trying to boot the others up first and was hitting a brick wall. I then put in the "Reinstallation DVD for Windows XP" disk, and it booted it up, and began an automated system recovery, which didn't appear to amount to anything, because now when I turn on the computer, it simply shows the Dell screen, then a blank black screen with a blinking _. I can't type anything there, and hitting F2 does nothing.

    Soooooo...

    Anyone want to tackle this one? Is there even anything that can be done?
    JUNO REACTOR
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    Take you hard drive to another computer and see what you can save.

    That's really all I could recommend.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheOneGuy View Post
    Take you hard drive to another computer and see what you can save.

    That's really all I could recommend.
    ...how do I do that?

    I mean, does the hard drive come out of the laptop, and I can somehow plug it into another computer?

    Because if so, that sounds like a great idea, I just don't know how to do it.

    Before he ran off on a "sort-a date" (his words, not mine), Fallout told me to look into Knoppix, some Linux program. But I don't know what to do next. TOG's suggestion sounds simpler, if I knew how to go about it.
    JUNO REACTOR
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    Oh.

    I didn't realize it was a laptop.

    ...

    Sorry, I have no clue! D:

  6. Icculus is offline
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    Try running the program SpinRite by Steve Gibson. It can do heavy drive repair permissions and does an amazing job of recovering drives you thought were completely dead. It saved my data when I thought my hard drive was dead (was just spin,clicking,spin,clicking).

    It's kind of pricey, but I can't recommend it enough. It's bootable from CD.

    After that, buy an external backup drive and run a backup utility to it.

    P.S. I know the website looks like it's from 1996, but the program works really well.
    Last edited by Icculus; 11-07-2007 at 05:39 PM.
    "And if you're lucky, a plane will crash in your backyard, some mercury-like shit will slither out of the wreckage, and it'll reform into Reggie.

    And then Reggie will give you a new Wii."
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    The joker in me would say Go Get a Mac! Time Machine would've saved your bee-hind. But that's not an option.

    Some laptops allow the removal of the HDD (check underneath to see if there are screws you can remove, that will make it easy to remove the actaul HDD).

    If you can remove it, then you should be able then put the HDD into an enclosure that you can plug via USB into a different working computer and that might allow you to just copy/paste the files you need which would then allow you to put the HDD back into your laptop, reformat, re-install and you're done.

    As for the Knoppix idea, you could theoretically use any Linux LiveCD (bootable CD that boots straight into Linux and then gives you read access to your Windows partitions). If this works, you might be able to just read all your data off the "dodgy" HDD and copy it to an external USB drive, or perhaps copy over the network to another drive.

    There are a few options to getting your data back, but it won't be plain sailing. There will be a bit of work for you to do unfortunately.
    Mark Medina
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    Thanks for the tips so far, guys.

    The laptop has a three-year warranty that expires this summer, and Dell will supposedly come to my house and fix it for me if I use it. However, it's hell trying to get through to Dell by phone; you have to endure mindnumbing elevator music, endless button-pressing sequences, and then wait an indefinite period of time to be connected to someone (and that someone will likely have a heavy Indian accent). I might try again later.

    Then there's the option of the local repair shop, which could be pricey. And finally, I have the many alternatives you guys are offering -- and please, keep making suggestions, if you have 'em.

    I only wonder if my data is still on the laptop. Do you guys think that everything is still there? I hope so. I could live without it, but I'd rather not have to re-acquire and reorganize all my media...

    It's funny. I thought I'd make it to the end of the year without calling upon everyone's computer knowledge here. Guess I was wrong!
    JUNO REACTOR
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    I would bet TOG's genitals that your data is still there.

    It only sounds like you can't boot into windows, doesn't sound like a format has taken place or data has been corrupted.

    You should be fine.
    Mark Medina
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    Quote Originally Posted by MJM View Post
    The joker in me would say Go Get a Mac! Time Machine would've saved your bee-hind. But that's not an option.
    Time machine would have done exactly jack shit in this situation :P

    Sounds like something happened with your partition - boot sector is what the bios looks for to get instructions on what to do after it POSTs... so in most cases, it says 'go here and look for windows' -- your bootsector doesnt exist - it got corrupted - or it has a virus.

    There are tools to repair such boot sector, but to be honest I dont have that info handy at the top of my head.

    Your data is likely still there, and your best bet, as others have said, is to put the drive in an external enclosure and try it on a different machine to try and salvage data.

    another possibility, is to make a windows boot disk, and run it so that it will repair your boot sector.

    d
    Dean Bergmann
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    http://www.computerhope.com/boot.htm

    Once you've booted from your boot disk, type "fdisk /mbr"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesc359 View Post
    http://www.computerhope.com/boot.htm

    Once you've booted from your boot disk, type "fdisk /mbr"
    Is my "Reinstallation DVD for Windows XP" disk the same as the boot CD they describe for the Windows XP instructions? Because when I put in that disk and it starts up, I hit F2 to start the automated system recovery (maybe I should be doing something else?), and it simply brings me to a screen telling me to insert a system recovery diskette that I'm not sure I have.

    So, for a Windows XP user, what disk should I use (chances are it's the one I'm missing at the moment), or should I simply make one? Also, when and where would I input that code (fdisk /mbr), and what does it do?

    And once again, thanks to everyone for their ongoing support. It's appreciated.
    JUNO REACTOR
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dean View Post
    Time machine would have done exactly jack shit in this situation :P
    Well this situation just wouldn't have happened on the Mac, so that's actually even better than having to call on Time Machine. (incidentally, having thought about it I agree that Time Machine wouldn't have done anything. But that's moot because this situation wouldn't have happened on the Mac)

    --

    Juno, your Windows XP disc isn't quite the same as a boot disk that others (like James) have talked about.

    Just download and create one, once you have command line access you should be able to browse the contents of your HDD partitions (i.e. c, d, e, f, etc drives) and this will confirm to you that your data is still alive.

    My preferred course of action would be the external drive method, just get all your required data off your HDD onto an external drive so that you can then format/re-install your laptop HDD back to "out of box" state.
    Mark Medina
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    Okay, I'm now attempting to make this boot disk. It's a floppy diskette, right? That's what it sounds like from the instructions James linked me to. Now, my laptop doesn't have a floppy drive; however, I do have a USB plug-in floppy drive. Will this plug-in drive be usable on my laptop in its current state? Will it still read the diskette when I plug it in?

    I guess I'll see soon enough if nobody answers, but if I'm doing this wrong, stop me while you can!
    JUNO REACTOR
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    An update in Juno's ongoing saga to salvage his computer:

    I formatted the boot diskette, I loaded it into my USB plug-in, I hooked the plug-in to the laptop and turned on the laptop, it loaded the diskette, said "Starting...", then two A:\> appear, and I type the following, with the same spacing and everything: fdisk /mbr

    Just as James said. However, upon typing the above and hitting ENTER, it says "Bad command or file name," and gives me another A:\> to type on.

    What should I try now? Did I input the code right?
    JUNO REACTOR
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    it's saying bad command because the fdisk.exe isn't on the floppy!

    do a "dir" (without the quotes of course) and it will display the contents, all .exe, .bat, and .com files can be run

    if u don't have fdisk.exe, then the fdisk /mbr command won't run

    see if that site has the fdisk.exe file as well, download it and copy to your floppy, and try again
    Mark Medina
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    It sounds to me like fdisk wasn't included on your rescue disk. I'm not sure why... You can try searching your windows directory (and sub directories) for the fdisk utility and manually copy it to your thumb drive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesc359 View Post
    It sounds to me like fdisk wasn't included on your rescue disk. I'm not sure why... You can try searching your windows directory (and sub directories) for the fdisk utility and manually copy it to your thumb drive.
    I went to Start --> Search --> All Files and Folders --> Local Hard Drives (C) and searched "fdisk," but it didn't turn up anything. Any tips on more effectively searching for the fdisk file? And if that doesn't work, could somebody possibly upload a copy of the fdisk file, so I could download it for my floppy disk?

    And with that, I'll retire to bed for the night. Hopefully I'll get this all to work tomorrow, so I can assess the state of my laptop's data.
    JUNO REACTOR
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    Well I did say to search the site you got the boot disk from, but failing that a simple google search should find it in abundance.

    I don't think you'll have trouble finding a copy of the fdisk.exe file.

    Good luck!
    Mark Medina
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    If by some chance you can't find fdisk you can always try xfdisk. I've never used it to reinstall my MBR, but it should work (it is an unfinished beta though). Naturally you'd have to type: xfdisk /MBR

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    James:

    Since I couldn't find an fdisk.exe, I used your xfdisk, downloaded it, copy and pasted it to the previously formatted floppy diskette, loaded the diskette into the USB plug-in on the laptop, typed in xfdisk /mbr, hit Enter, and after a long click and whir, it put a blinking _ on the next line. Now whenever I try to type, nothing appears. Did I do something wrong?

    Hopefully you guys will have some more ideas. I'm probably doing something wrong. I'm going to call Dell's warranty service soon if I can't figure out how to check the data myself.
    JUNO REACTOR
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    Well, I called Dell. The guy ran me through some diagnostics test, and when no errors were detected, he had me detach and reattach the hard drive, thinking it might've been misaligned and not communicating. When that didn't work, he told me to go to a computer repair shop to backup my data, which he says should still be there, and then I'll call Dell again and they'll help me from there. I think I'm going to end up reinstalling Windows or something, and then transfer over my data afterward. Hopefully it'll work.
    JUNO REACTOR
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    Sorry that didn't help. It might be something that'd be better if it were left to a computer repairman then.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesc359 View Post
    Sorry that didn't help. It might be something that'd be better if it were left to a computer repairman then.
    Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate everyone's help -- TOG, Dean, Icculus, MJM and you, James. Even if your tips didn't pan out (which was probably my doing something wrong anyways), the fact you guys took the time to contribute ideas is very much appreciated. I just hope the computer repairmen can back up my data and that I'll have no problem reinstalling Windows from there. I learned a lot from this experience, seeing areas of my computer I never knew existed, so it's not all bad.

    Thanks again, everyone. I'll try to let you know what happens.
    JUNO REACTOR
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    Well this situation just wouldn't have happened on the Mac, so that's actually even better than having to call on Time Machine.
    I know it was trolling, but I have to bite.

    Get boned, Macs break too. The only difference is there's no way to fix them except to send them to Apple to have it done for the small fee of a bajillion dollars (Canadian).

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    LOL I didn't say Macs don't break down.

    I'm saying you wouldn't have gotten a "cannot boot" error of this type!

    And yes, troll away :P
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    Quote Originally Posted by grimshaw View Post
    Get boned, Macs break too. The only difference is there's no way to fix them except to send them to Apple to have it done for the small fee of a bajillion dollars (Canadian).
    For hard drives at least, the same hardware applies... and last time I checked, you could use FreeBSD et al to get into the drives from another machine... so you're wrong, at least on this front.

    And actually, at least until recently, you had more options with a Mac for getting files off--NTFS support outside Windows-based tools has been dismal at best. This has changed, thankfully.

    Quote Originally Posted by MJM View Post
    I'm saying you wouldn't have gotten a "cannot boot" error of this type!
    You're also wrong!

    I swear, the past 24 hours must be OS fanboy/anti-fanboy day, with a friend berating my wife for owning an iMac with ludicrously inapplicable arguments based on his tenure with Xserve, and now this...

    P.S. Juno--I think your hard drive is physically dead. Good luck.
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    Quote Originally Posted by zigg View Post
    P.S. Juno--I think your hard drive is physically dead. Good luck.
    The Dell guy said the hard drive should be fine. He thinks this because of all the diagnostics tests we ran, which revealed none of the error codes that would suggest a dead hard drive. I guess I'll find out 100% for sure when I go to extract the data tomorrow.
    JUNO REACTOR
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    Zigg, I'm perfectly aware that there are ways to fix macbooks without sending them off.

    I was merely responding to the standard "macs just work!" with "until they don't!". To be honest it was a kind of fanboy self-parody.

    Postmodern humour is so lost on the internet forum crowd ...

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