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Reboot results in blinking cursor

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OK. I'm another in a line of folks who can't boot the system (like ). After a reboot, I get the Dell screen and then the blinking cursor on a black screen. I've tried everything I've found in this site, including:

- repeated CHKDSK
- fixboot
- fixmbr
- system diagnostics
- etc.

I can't reach safe mode through f8. When I have booted from the vendor CD, I can change my directory and see that my data is still there. I've got a full backup from a week ago, but it will sitll take me 8-12 hours to rebuild my system. My real question is: should I bother? I've yet to see the "happy ending" on any site where the user successfully recovers from this condition with all the data intact, and this is the second time I've been hit in 2 weeks.

My 5 month old HDD checks out OK, along with the rest of the hardware, and no one at Dell or MSoft has a clue about what could have caused this. There's speculation that it's a transient disk failure, the result of a virus, the result of a MicroSoft automatic update, a McAfee update, etc.

The last thing that happened before this started was a window saying that the automatic software update requires a restart and that the sytem will restart in 15 minutes. I don't remember Windows Updater issuing that warning, which leads me to believe that it might be McAfee.

Has anyone ever found something that really works to reinstate the boot sector and get the system operational?
Does anyone know what causes this disaster?

Thanks for any help guidance, or commiseration you might be able to offer.

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