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Has my Sony VAIO bit the dust?


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#1
peppers13

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I have a Sony VAIO PCV-RX700C that is at least 5 years old. It runs (well, it ran) Windows XP Professional and is a Pentium 4.

Within the past month, I installed Norton 360 which did a general "tune-up" helping things run better. Basically, there is one hard drive that is partitioned into 2 drives. The C drive had consistently been too full, whereas the D drive still had quite a bit of space. I would guess (since I can't confirm) that the C drive was about 30 GB and the D drive was about 60-80 GB. With Norton 360, things did seem to be better, although a bit sluggish at times.

BEFORE installing Norton 360, I tried to backup both drives to my Western Digital external hard drive. The D drive backed up fine, but it refused to backup the C drive. I was hesitant to backup the drives again after the installation of Norton 360 to wait and see if there were any issues. So, the bottom line is almost a month has passed since I have done any sort of backup.

Today my computer was working fine. I was not in the room for probably 45 minutes, and when I came back to the computer, I was surprised to hear the tower churning and to see the monitor displaying the black background with white text describing the Primary Master Disk, Slave Disk, PCI Device Listing, etc. with a small dash at the bottom left of the screen flashing continually. I tried doing "Ctrl-Alt-Del," and it just rebooted. The Sony logo appeared, and then it immediately went to that same screen I just described.

I turned it off manually, waited, and rebooted...still same problem. I then powered down completely (turning off the UPS system), and it still would not work when I tried to fire it back up.

I DID try pressing F8 to go into Safe Mode as soon as the system was rebooting, but it refused to work.

I truly hope someone has some suggestions please as to what can be done. Thank goodness I have a laptop that works, so I can post this message.

Let's say that there is no hope of recovering anything...I have heard that there are ways to delete things off of your computer before donating it or disposing of it via software programs. How can I do this if it will not even boot? I had been thinking of buying a new computer soon anyway...sigh.
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#2
pip22

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Using a PC with internet access & a floppy-drive, go here: http://dban.sourceforge.net/
Click on the link entitled "Download DBAN for installation on floppy disks & USB flash drives"

When you have the file, double-click it to open the utility which creates a bootable floppy and puts DBAN on it .
Put a blank, formatted floppy in the drive and run the DBAN setup utility by clicking the "install" button.

You can now boot your 'broken' PC into DOS from that floppy and commence the secure and thorough disk-wipe by typing autonuke at the A:>prompt
and pressing [Enter].

This will totally wipe the hard disk inside the system box regardless of how it's partitioned (so no need to specify a drive-letter).

Edited by pip22, 27 April 2008 - 02:48 PM.

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#3
peppers13

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Would this work from a USB thumb drive as well? I do not have a floppy drive on my laptop, so that part would be tricky.

Good to know, but is there anything that can be done to salvage my computer, or is it a lost cause?

Edited by peppers13, 27 April 2008 - 03:38 PM.

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#4
pip22

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Your laptop is unlikely to be able to boot from a USB device as even most new computers can't do that. The reason is that there's no USB support unless Windows is running (Windows loads the USB drivers). Some BIOS's give 'basic' USB support without needing Windows, but only for USB keyboards and (sometimes) USB mice since they are essential components of the system. Surprisingly, I can use my USB keyboard for Norton Ghost in 'pure' DOS (Windows not running) even though it's a wireless model! Anyway, I digress. back to your problem.

You can create a bootable 'DBAN' CD instead of a floppy disk and boot the laptop from that (you'll need to make sure that 'CD-ROM' is set as the first boot device in the laptop's BIOS settings).

to create a bootable DBAN CD you need to download a different setup file than the one I talked about in my previous post. The file you need is the link labelled "Download DBAN for installation on CD & DVD media" on the same page here: http://dban.sourceforge.net/

It's an "ISO CD Image File" which means you'll need a PC equipped with a cd-writer, on which Windows is working of course, and some burning software which can create a CD from an ISO file (simply writing the file "as is" to a CD won't produce what you need). Although XP supports CD-writing it can't create CDs from ISO files without additional third-party software. You can download a freeware application that was specifically developed to deal with CD/DVD image files from here: http://www.imgburn.com/
If you decide to create a bootable CD please use a CD-R and not CD-RW disc. Some drives won't boot from a CD-RW disc.

Regarding whether the laptop can be salvaged, not being able to get into Safe Mode is not encouraging since that means it's possibly something other than a driver issue. Have you tried "Safe Mode with Networking"? as on many PCs that option does work when plain "Safe Mode" doesn't (mine's one of those) If you try that, disconnect from the internet first because software firewalls aren't loaded in any of the safe mode options. If that works it may be a driver issue after all, but the trick is finding which one. have you updated any recently or installed a driver for a new device such as a wireless card?

You might also try "Last known good configuration" from the same F8 startup menu. Nothing to lose by trying it.
I can't help thinking that Norton 360 is part of the problem but I could be wrong. I'm aware it's caused grief for many people.
If you do manage to get into Windows in any mode I would uninstall that and see how your laptop behaves then.

Finally, if none of the F8 startup options work, do you have any Recovery discs for it that you can try, or a legal and licenced XP CD that hasn't been installed on any other PC?

Edited by pip22, 27 April 2008 - 04:56 PM.

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#5
peppers13

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I'm sorry that I wasn't clearer. I am posting currently from my laptop which IS working. It is my Sony VAIO DESKTOP that is sick (not that it really matters, I suppose).

It will NOT load into Safe Mode. NOTHING happens when I repeatedly press F8.

Even if I knew where the restore disks are that originally came with the computer, I would lose everything on the computer, correct?

I have been watching the lights as it tries to boot, and the drive lights do not last long at all before shutting down.

If I tried to make a bootable CD as you suggested to delete everything, since I cannot get into safe mode or any mode or anything, would there be some sort of indicator that the CD was successful in deleting things off the hard drive? I would not be able to tell what was set as the first bootable device. I am very unfamiliar with BIOS settings...that term is new to me...no clue how I would check that (even if I could access things on my computer).

Appreciate your help!
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#6
pip22

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It doesn't matter if Windows is totally wrecked or your C: drive is totally wrecked, you will still be able to see what's happening on-screen when you boot from a cd-rom and run a utility program from it. You will also be able to see your BIOS settings on-screen too. Neither of those two things require Windows or a working C: drive. or a graphics driver (that's only needed for Windows).

Indeed, you can boot from a CD and run programs from it (and see the programs running on-screen) and you can get into the BIOS and see the settings on-screen even if there are no hard disks inside the PC at all. How does that garb you? It's true!

The only three faults which would prevent you from seeing anything on-screen at all during the boot process or when the BIOS is accessed is if the graphics card was wrecked or the monitor itself stops working, or the VGA cable fails.

If you make a bootable DBAN CD, you can get into the BIOS settings usually by holding down the 'Del' key as sson as turn on the PC, until you see white text in two or three columns against a blue background. This is the BIOS setup screen. Use the up/down arrow keys and the 'Enter' key to navigate your way around it's various pages. On one of those pages you'll see the "Boot Order" or "Boot Sequence" where you specify which drive the system should check first for bootable code (you need it to be set to 'CD-ROM').

Edited by pip22, 29 April 2008 - 11:36 AM.

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#7
peppers13

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This is all great to know...so appreciate your response!

Is there any data rescue software out there (whether a freebie or something I could purchase) that might be able to salvage what is still on the drive? I'm glad I know now how to destroy things, but I am hopeful to save the files that I had not backed up.
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#8
peppers13

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I went back to the restore disks and thought my computer had come back to life. After hours of installing all the various Window updates, etc., etc. the system crashed again.

I went ahead and tried to run DBAN. It worked for almost 4 hrs., and then a message was on the screen stating the following:

DBAN finished with non-fatal errors. This is usually caused by disks with bad sectors.

Since I did not have a blank floppy disk lying around, I was unable to save the log.

When I rebooted the computer, it had the same screen with the PCI devices, etc., etc. and now it says at the bottom:

Disk boot failure. Insert system disk and press enter.

Would it be safe to say that at this point no one could retrieve a thing from this drive? I hope that is the case (for peace of mind).
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#9
pip22

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A hard disk with "bad sectors" usually means the disk is physically damaged and therefore beyond repair. However, the data that's on it can often be retrieved (except for data that's actually on those bad sectors) by putting the drive into a working Windows PC. It should then be visible in 'My Computer' as a drive-letter even though it's no longer able to boot into the Windows operating system that's on it. Damaged files may have odd-looking filenames which have been truncated or altered in some other way, but the contents of the file will often be intact.

Whether or not you use data recovery software, the disk will have to be fitted to a working Windows PC for two reasons:

1. file-recovery software needs Windows in order to run

2. You can't save recovered files on the same disk they've been recovered from, therefore you need to save them on the C: drive of the working computer or any other healthy partition that's available.

If you find that the damaged disk can be read on a working PC without using recovery software, again you will need somewhere to save the files that are intact -- hence the need to fit it to a working PC where you can then save them to the C: drive or any other healthy partition that's available.

So, first of all fit the damaged disk to a working Windows PC. See what can be read from it (and saved) before resorting to recovery software.
If recovery software is needed there are some free ones here:

http://www.softwarep...lerecovery.html

http://www.softperfe...s/filerecovery/

http://undelete-plus.com/

Bear in mind most of the free ones only recover files that have been deleted and are not in the recycle bin. This is a relatively easy process and is probably not sophisticated enough to recover damaged files.

If you are willing to pay for something more sophisticated, just open a Google page and type file recovery in the search bar.

Edited by pip22, 04 May 2008 - 02:54 AM.

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#10
peppers13

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Since I already reinstalled the factory software with the restore disks over everything TWICE, wouldn't there be nothing at this point to retrieve? Or are you saying there is still a chance there could be stuff on it? I am past the point of trying to recover anything, but thank you for the suggestions.
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