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XP nearly boots but stops...SOFTWARE issue only


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#1
clogman

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Sorry in advance for the lengthy first post.
The faults I'll describe are not due to hardware or malware of any kind. They are entirely self-inflicted.

My PC is running WinXP, SP3. I have two HDD, both with multiple partitions. The C:\ SYSTEM disk is copied bit-for-bit to a backup partition on the second HDD.

BUT I have cleverly corrupted both sets. First I accidentally defragged the backup, which presumably moved files around. Then an error on the C:\SYSTEM disk prompted me to overwrite the entire disk with the backup. I remembered too late that I’d previously defragged that backup image. Now I have two identical copies of the disk (one backup, one C:\SYSTEM, but it will now not boot to Windows desktop.

From cold, my PC boots past the BIOS POST, the Windows XP splash screen starts, the progress bar moves as it should. The screen goes blank and the drivers kick the USB keyboard and speakers. The CDROM spins up if anything is inserted. The Windows cursor appears on the black screen. So far so good. Then, nothing......it just hangs there. I've tried waiting for hours, still nothing more happens. It will not launch the user interface or desktop.

Here's what else I've tried:

1. booting to safe mode. Same thing happens, the PC just hangs at the black screen without launching the GUI.

2. RECOVERY OPTION
booted from XP disk, started recovery console. None of the usual commands work:

dir
"an error occurred during directory enumeration"

chkdsk
"the volume appears to have one or more unrecoverable errors"

cd windows
"the path or file specified is not valid"

fixboot
"fixboot cannot find the system drive, or the system drive is not valid"

fixmbr
"this computer appears to have a non-standard or invalid master boot record"
"the new master boot record has been successfully written"
(the new MBR made no difference....the machine still hangs before the Windows interface opens.

when I rebooted, it ran checkdisk and reported no errors, with all files and folders apparently intact. But then it still hung up at the same point.

3. REINSTALL OPTION
I booted off the XP install disk, selected ENTER to install Windows, to try a Repair Install. I was not given that option.
"setup cannot find a previous version of Windows installed on your computer."

And now the funny part....

4. I removed the disk and put it into a USB drive case. On a different machine, the disk is visible and accessible. I can see and read/write all three partitions (which means all my data is now saved elsewhere).

The SYSTEM partition is intact, all Windows files and directories appear intact, so...

5. I copied boot.ini from c:\windows\pss and overwrote the one in the root.
This made no difference when I reinstalled the disk and rebooted.

6. I put it back in the usb drive, then copied the registry files from c:\windows\repair to c:\windows\system32\config
This made no difference when I reinstalled the disk and rebooted.

All the Windows files are on the drive, as far as I can tell.
I think that defragging the image outside of Windows' operation has screwed up the directory or something; Windows cannot start fully. It's like it's lost some file it needs to complete the boot. I'm thinking a directory got messed up somewhere.

ANY help gratefully received from XP experts!
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#2
pcs365_13

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Hi,



Did you check that your hard disk partition is active or not?

Did you try re-creating 'boot.ini' files?

Did you re-created HAL.dll files?

Did you check for any missing or corrupted system files?


If not follow the below instruction.


OPTION 1:


Boot from your CD and follow the directions to start Recovery Console. Then:

1. Type Diskpart

2. Type list volume

3. Type select volume #

#=volume you want to make active.

4. Type Active.


OPTION -2

Boot from your CD and follow the directions to start Recovery Console. Then:

Attrib -H -R -S C:\Boot.ini
DEL C:\Boot.ini
BootCfg /Rebuild
Fixboot



OTPION -3


Boot from your CD and follow the directions below to start Recovery Console.

Insert the Setup compact disc (CD) and restart the computer. If prompted, select any options required to boot from the CD.
When the text-based part of Setup begins, follow the prompts; choose the repair or recover option by pressing R.

When prompted, type the Administrator password. (if you didn`t create one try pressing enter).

At the system prompt, type Recovery Console commands; type help for a list of commands, or help commandname for help on a specific command.

Most likely you will need to expand the file from the CD.

The command would be expand d:\i386\hal.dl_ c:\windows\system32\hal.dll. (Substitute d: for the drive letter of your CD.)

Once you have expanded the file type "exit" to exit the Recovery Console and restart the computer.



OPTION-4


How to check the missing or corrupted files?

Boot from your CD and follow the directions to start Recovery console.

To run System File Checker follow the below mentioned steps:


1.Log in to Recovery console with administrator privileges.

2.Type "sfc /scannow" without the quotes and hit enter.

You will get an file missing or corrupted error, note it down and if it is possible replace the file using CD or any other source. If not, post it here we try our best to help.
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#3
happyrock

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BUT I have cleverly corrupted both sets.

I like this admission as I have done similar things years back...

now if everything recommended by pcs365_13 does not get you going the try testdisk but I don't think it will work because you overwrote everything including the MBR mirror copy...

first a little general info...
MFT...(master file table) Describes all files on the volume, including file names, timestamps, stream names, and lists of cluster numbers where data streams reside, indexes, security identifiers, and file attributes like "read only", "compressed", "encrypted", etc.
MFTMirr is a Duplicate of the first vital entries of $MFT, usually 4 entries (4 KB).
TestDisk will use the MFTMirr to rewrite the MFT...
The first sector of NTFS partitions is reserved for the partition boot sector. This contains the information that allows the OS to read the partition. Without it, the partition cannot be accessed.

NTFS keeps a backup copy of the boot sector on the last sector of the partition which can allow recovery programs to restore it. The FAT equivalent of this is also called the boot sector, and resides on the first sector of the partition. The difference is that FAT does not keep a backup copy of this information, making recovery much more difficult...
this is in addition to the other advantage of using NTFS..so you can see you really should use the NTFS instead of FAT

The first file stored on an NTFS partition is the Master File Table(MFT) which is essentially a listing of the names, properties and locations of all the other files in the partition. This is referenced by the operating system to access individual files.

NTFS stores a backup copy of this file. Data restoration software will attempt to access or restore a copy of the MFT in order to access files on the partition.

If the MBR (master boot record) or partition table are damaged, the drive will become unbootable, and may appear to be blank if the partition information has been erased.

TESTDISK will attempt to access and restore a copy of the MFT in order to access files on the partition.

  • Please download the Ultimate Boot CD here.
  • Please burn the file to a CD using a ISO burner. (If you do not have a ISO burner you can get one here)
  • Please boot to the CD using the disk you just burned.
  • Press enter to boot to the disk when prompted.
  • Using the up and down arrow keys select File System Tools.
  • Select Partition Tools.
  • Select TestDisk
  • Let it load do not press anything until you get to the screen that says at the top:
    TestDisk 6.6 Data Recovery Utility
  • Unless you have more then one hard drive installed take the default option and press enter to proceed.
  • Due to you are on a PC select Intel and press enter.
  • Select analyze
  • The next screen will display the current partition structure. If your System shows anything but No partition is bootable please post back with what it says.
  • Click Enter to Proceed.
  • The next screen is where TestDisk will analyze your disk.
  • After that it will come back with the results. It should show. Under Partition NTFS. With a Star Indicating Primary Bootable.
  • Press enter to continue.
  • Use the Left and Right arrow keys to select write.
  • Type Y and press enter to confirm.
  • Remove the disk.
  • Restart your computer.

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#4
clogman

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Thankyou for the excellent responses.

pcs365_13: thanks for the reply, I will work through what you've suggested later today and report back.
happyrock: again, great help which I will go through. Unfortunately, the disk was FAT32, which is going to make things more difficult.

VERY impressed that the first two replies here were so helpful. Every other forum has suggested things like reformat, reinstall, buy a new HDD, it's a virus, etc etc.
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#5
clogman

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Just to clarify:
The drive / partition is active. Windows starts to boot from this drive but won't finish launching.
(I've removed the backup HDD to make sure the PC is only looking at one copy of Windows).

I've tried replacing the boot.ini with the backup in C:\windows\pss, but it made no difference; the fault is at Windows level when it's trying to load.

In the Repair Console, any attempt to write to anywhere on C:\ gives me 'access denied' error.

Likewise, sfc /scannow failed from the recovery console. Any way to run scannow on the drive while it's connected via USB?
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#6
happyrock

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I never tried to run sfc /scannow on a usb connected drive...
this is my canned for getting systems that are having boot issues...if you already have a way to get to the recovery console just skip the first part about downloading and burning the RC.iso...it will be left in for others that do not have a oem/retail xp cd to use...
this will require you put the hard drive back into the original system
you should start with chkdsk /r for sure to make if there are any hard drive issues they are fixed before any attempt to write to the drive like fixboot ect...

Please download ARCDC from Artellos.com.
  • Double click ARCDC.exe
  • Follow the dialog until you see 6 options. pick the version and service pack option that corresponds to your system l
  • You will be prompted with a Terms of Use by Microsoft, please accept.
  • You will see a few dos screens flash by, this is normal.
  • Next you will be able to choose to add extra files. Select the Default Files.
  • The last window will allow you to burn the disk using BurnCDCC
Your ISO is located on your desktop.

make sure in the bios the cd drive is the first boot device....put the cd in the cd drive..boot your computer....when you get to the screen that gives you the option to install or repair ...select r

when you get to the command prompt
type in chkdsk /r press enter
note the single space before the /


Chkdsk will display the specific stage it is checking as well as the percentage of completion of the stage. You cannot do anything else on your computer while chkdsk is running. When chkdsk is finished, it will automatically reboot your computer.
NOTE this can take a long time to complete..it may even appear to hang or get stuck at a certain % for a couple of hours...then complete
it may even back up and go over the same area...this is normal...let it run...there are 5 stages
WARNING... Microsoft does not recommend interrupting the CHKDSK process when it is used with the /r switch, and Microsoft does not guarantee the integrity of the disk if the CHKDSK program is interrupted.

DO NOT TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER WHILE RUNNING CHKDSK or you can have severe problems...

if the above does not allow you to boot normally then try the steps below one at a time and only try the next step if you still can't boot normally...there is no need to do all the steps...just do them until you can boot up
nojoy...
boot from the cd again...
then type fixmbr press enter...reboot
no joy ....boot from the cd again...
type in fixboot press enter...reboot
nojoy...boot from the cd again...

Type in bootcfg /scan and press Enter

if it says total identified window installs: 1

Type in bootcfg /rebuild and press Enter...

It will identify your XP installation...type Y once you see this prompt.

You will be prompted to enter the load identifier...type in Microsoft XP Home Edition or Microsoft XP Professional depending on whichever version you have...press enter

You will be prompted to enter the load options...type in /fastdetect and press Enter

Type in exit and press Enter

remove the cd and Reboot
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#7
The Skeptic

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Try to run chkdsk /r while the hard disk is linked to a working computer. Right click the faulty hard disk > properties > tools > Check Now in Error Checking > check the two boxes > Start. Reboot to start the process.
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#8
clogman

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Sorry, I should have been clearer.
The XP install disk lets me get to the recovery console.
When I get there, no option for chkdsk works, with or without /r.
All I get is the error message:
"the volume appears to have one or more unrecoverable errors"
If I force boots a few times to trigger chkdsk, it runs and reports no problems.
If I remove the HDD and run chkdsk from a command prompt while the drives in a USB port, again it runs completely and reports no problems.

This is an error after Windows has started to load.
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#9
The Skeptic

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chkdsk /r does much more then checking the drive's sectors. It is probably the most verastile command, and I use it a lot, before anything else, when I have a non bootable computer.

As far as I remember sfc /scannow cannot be run from recovery console.

Try System Restore to a previous day from Recovery console:

* At the prompt Type: CD \
* Press Enter
* Type: cd system~1\_resto~1
* Press Enter
* Type: dir
* Press Enter

After you press enter you will see a list of folders (like rp1, rp2) If the list of restore points has more than one page then press the Enter key untill you reach the end of the list

* Type: cd rp {number of the second to last folder in the list). Example: cd rp9, if rp9 is the second to the last restore point where the last restore point no. is 10
* Press Enter
* Type: cd snapshot
* Press Enter
* Type: copy _registry_machine_system c:\windows\system32\config\system
* Press Enter
* Type: copy _registry_machine_software c:\windows\system32\config\software
* Press Enter
* Type: Exit
* Press Enter

Your PC will reboot.

If you get an access denied error when doing the above, then do the following at the recovery console:

* Type: CD \
* Press Enter
* Type: cd windows\system32\config
* Press Enter
* Type: ren system system.bak
* Press Enter
* Type: Exit
* Press Enter

Your PC should reboot

If you still cannot get access in anyway to your installation in the recovery console then your SAM database files are corrupt. There is no way you can restore these with the recovery console. You may need to do a fresh install.


and last: Winternal, before being bought by Microsoft at 2007 had a free tool named ERD COmmander. Microsoft started selling it at a high price only for users with group licences. By that, microsoft made one of the most useful products inaccessible to the public. It can fix system files, restore to a previous date when this cannot be done through XP and a lot more. There are lots of sites that offer ERD COmmander 2005. I am not sure whether it's legal or not, but I think it is because it was free at that time. If you can get one, try to fix your computer with ERD and keep it for future use.
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#10
clogman

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These are all great ideas, but.....
The disk is bootable, Windows is not.

From Recovery Console, I have no way of reading the disk. Change Directory command just gives me 'access denied' message, no matter what directory I ask for.
From USB, I can see / read / write to the drive. There is no directory for system restore, sadly.
From USB, I've deleted the windows\system32\config registry files and replaced them with those in windows\repair, but that also did not work.
Windows is still stuck at the same loading point.
Apparently, the same thing started happening on Vista until a service pack fixed the issue.
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#11
clogman

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Okay, I don't know if I'm getting anywhere, but here's an update.
And thanks again for sticking with me on this.

I copied the bit-for-bit backup to the C:\drive again, so I could start again with the original problems.

A very useful tip about about ERD Commander. I got a copy and booted from the CD. It loaded to a Windows-like GUI.

WORKING:
In ERD Commander, I can run System File Repair and it reports no errors. I can read the disk via Explorer. All files and directories appear to be there.

I can see previous restore points dated 19 Sept, before this disaster.
I can run Event Viewer, but don't really know what I'm looking for.

NOT WORKING:
From ERD Commander, Notepad will not launch (error: application has failed to start because application configuration is incorrect)
File Restore will not launch: same error
Registry Editor will not launch: same error

SORT-OF WORKING:
ERD System Restore Wizard will launch, but the only restore point offered is dated February 1970 (!) so something got screwed with the dates somewhere. When I selected it anyway, I got the message "Not all WMI files were found during the rollback" and no files updated.

OTHER:
I launched the DOS command window and got to the system restore folders.
There are two restore points listed. Neither has a 'snapshot' folder inside, just a load of .dll and .reg files.

I have not yet tried to replace any of the registry files.

Is it time to abandon hope yet?
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#12
The Skeptic

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I have no better idea then reformatting at this stage. The damage is such that all the repair tools that I can think of do not work. I hoped that you will be able to restore with ERD but it seems that there are no restore points left (that's the reason that ERD went for 1970, which is probably a default set in the program).
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#13
clogman

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Ah well.
Hours spent stripping out redundant files, streamlining Windows, customising menus, loading testing unloading software.

All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain.

Time to die.
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#14
clogman

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I'm going to throw one last question out there, before I re-format and re-install.

This installation of XP was done using upgrade disk of XP on top of 98SE.

When I boot from the XP disc, it says that there is no previous OS installed. It says it will install on c:\ but shows an incorrect partition size.

When I boot from the 98SE disc, it says there is a previous OS present and asks if I want to overwrite.

When I boot from ERD commander, I run Partition Info (already installed on the disk) and it reports no partition errors.

Why does 98SE recognise that there's an OS already there, when the XP boot disk and repair console / repair install does not?
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#15
The Skeptic

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I have no answer to that.
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