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how to repair non-booting hard drive ?

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Hello to all,

Overnight, my favourite HP nc4200 laptop seemed to die !
From being in perfect working order the day before, the next morning I had a black coloured screen with absolutely nothing visible, but I could hear the hard drive spinning and I knew it had gone into Windows because I heard the goat bleat in the programme Autorun Eater !

After many attempts to reboot, and reboot, and reboot ... still nothing ... so I tried putting the hard drive into two other laptops, HP nc6000 and HP nc4010.
Both failed to boot the hard drive ... I had the HP splash screen, the boot menu that is generated by boot.ini, but nothing worked in choosing either XP or Safe Mode or the Recovery Console on the hard drive.
All I got was a flashing white cursor.

I left the dodgy hard drive in the nc4010, and used a bootable USB key that had the XP Recovery Console installed on it.
What I tried ...
Then I tried booting up, but all I got was the same flashing white cursor in the top left corner of the screen.

I also booted with a NTFS4DOS USB boot key, and could easily access XP on the C: drive and was able to copy off some files onto the USB key.

I was almost going to throw the nc4200 in the trash, but at the last moment to be absolutely sure, I put the working hard drive from the nc4010 into the nc4200, and what-the-heck ... this hard drive booted and the screen was fine !
I have reinstalled programmes and fine-tuned this other hard drive in the original dodgy laptop and all goes well at this stage.

So ... what do you think happened to my screen and hard drive ?

As this nc4200 does not have a CD drive, I cannot use the XP CD to try and do a repair installation.

I do however have a USB hard drive, and I can copy the contents of the XP CD to it, but then what ?

I would prefer not to format at this stage, but would like to see if I can salvage the hard drive and get it booting again.
This is more a learning exercise ! (as I am not desperate for the hard drive)

Best regards,
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