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error loading OS, now blinking cursor

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I found this forum after three nights up till 2am trying to fix my old Dell PC!!
as you might imagine, its still not working!!! great that these forums exist , have looked at so many but still to find a solution to the PC problem I have

system to be repaired is a Dell Inspiron 6000 laptop with 40GB hard drive, running XP home SP2 and with just one C drive partition. no other drives or any other OS are installed.

what happened: while browsing the web, system either froze or locked up, then the user did CTRL ALt Delete and then when the reboot screen came up it was just displaying the " error loading operating system". message.

A similar problem occurred months ago but fix mbr and fixboot from XP recovery CD resolved it back then

I tried for the first FIX 1....

created a bootable USB flash drive with bootable version of Ultimate boot CD (non windows version), then following instructions from online guide tried to repair MBR using MBRWork from the flash drive. overwrote the MBR to all zeros as instructed then used the fixboot command... on reboot the machine was then showing the flashing cursor and no longer the 'error loading OS' message.

ok, so when that did not work then tried FIX 2...

loaded up Parted Magic into RAM from same UBCD and ran Testdisk to find the partitions... found just 2, the Dell ones, so did deeper search to find the main HTFS-NTFS drive ( 40gb \ 37gb drive, just single partition..) this was not found at first fast scan, and then the final dell restore partition at the end of the disk,, so it shows the dell utility at top, then main drive then dell restore part at end. Using P showed all the files on the main disk are still there, so it seemed good. went through the process to rewrite the partition data..

still did no work... was it because it rebooted to USB first?
so went back to testdisk and repeated all above, but hit F12 after restart so that HDD booted first.

still did not work..

finally, went to Testdisk again and selected advanced instead of analyse... went to boot options and repaired the boot sector using restore, tried a reboot and still no further forward. would rebuild be a better option here?

My question is whether I messed it all up at FIX 1 by wiping MBR with zeros and resetting it?

Is there anything I can do, apart from take out the drive and connect as a slave to retrieve the files in my documents? That is my last option, but will that even work, if the mbr is corrupted or incorrect? Can I install a standard MBR, or manually change it? how would I do that?

If possible I want to just repair the XP operating system to get it up and running in order to make a backup or ghost image on larger USB drive.. then will reinstall XP,

Anyone been here before or seen problem like this?

thanks for any input...

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On most Dell machines it is possible to repari the OS by tapping F12 at bootupad then follow the onswcrene prompts for reload of the OS which will wip ethe dirve and palce a fresh copy of the OS onto the dirve, since your partition search did seethe recovery partition it does sitll exist
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yes, the Dell Restore function can do that, using ctrl and F11 on boot up, but it requires original Dell MBR to be there... since I had to fix boot record with bootfix some months ago I assume it is now not accessible... or desirable even, since it will wipe all my data from my documents, I need to recover the data from the drive. As a last resort I can connect the drive as a slave in desktop PC or use USB adapter to connect to other PC using XP.

what I have not tried yet is using the bootable XP installation CD and going into recovery or repair mode.. The PC does not have disks with it when purchased, due to the Dell restore feature that you describe.. Is that likely to improve things even though I have already attempted this through Testdisk and it did not work? My feeling is XP CD would have a better chance.. I read somewhere I can contact Dell and get them to send the XP disks to me... that would be very useful..

thanks for the suggestion..

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