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Hanging blinking DOS cursor on XP reboot


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#1
kane5187

kane5187

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I am running Windows XP on a Dell Latitude D610, bought in the fall of 2005. The machine is an Intel Pentium M with a 1.86GHz processor, 0.99GB of RAM. It came with a 60GB Toshiba hard drive, but I replaced it with a 160GB Seagate drive in April 2007.

The problem that I am encountering is a hanging, blinking DOS cursor after a reboot. It can occur both after completely routine reboots, and after the system crashes or otherwise gets shut off suddenly (one time I forgot to plug in my laptop and it lost power, and manifested this error when I tried to boot it up). The blinking cursor appears just after the Dell screen and hangs indefinitely, never allowing Windows to start.

From searching online forums (including this one: http://www.geekstogo...king dos cursor ) for solutions to my problems, it seems that the most often suggested diagnosis for people experiencing a similar issue was that the boot file was corrupted or needed replacement. I can access F2 (Setup) and F12 (Boot menu) in the screen that appears before the blinking cursor, and have tried running the Windows Recovery Console from my XP install disc without success ("fixmbr", "fixboot", etc. don't fix the problem). Trying to repair the Windows installation is equally unsuccessful. Everything listed in the BIOS appears to be correct. I've also attempted various other solutions suggested by online forums; nothing I've found has ever worked. However, I can place the hard drive into an external enclosure, and it functions perfectly normally -- none of the data on it is damaged or inaccessible, so I know it's not a hardware problem with the disk.

This error has happened so frequently -- probably seven to ten times in the last year and a half, and three times in the last two months -- that nowadays when it occurs, I know that the only solution is to completely reinstall Windows and reformat my hard drive. I always back up all my data, so this amounts to more of a major, three-hour inconvenience rather than a really serious problem of data loss. Usually my computer will function normally for several months before the problem occurs again, but lately it has happened in two- or three-week intervals.

It is obviously a concern to me that this problem continues to occur. I find it remarkable that the exact same problem would recur so many times, over such a long period of time. Surely, there's something in my computer that is causing this issue which I am not addressing by reformatting my hard drive -- that measure treats the symptom and removes the manifested error, but obviously there's a deeper issue at hand. What could be causing this problem? And what can I do about it?

Thanks!

Edited by kane5187, 10 July 2008 - 11:33 AM.

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#2
The Skeptic

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The problem is so infrequent and random (yes, I know it's annoying but still) that it may be very difficult to pinpoint. The problem occurs because "something" corrupts the boot sector. What this something is we don't know. If this happens again I would run low-level format which zeroes all the bits in the hard disk and reinstall windows. Please note that if you run this format you will have to initialize the disk and then format it to NTFS. This can be done by rigging the disk to another computer and run Disk Management in Control Panel > Administrative tools.
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