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Failed XP Install-was Win98-partition problems now

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While in Win98, my son mistakenly used my brand-new Dell computer's XP re-installation disk by mistake to try to install XP on his Gateway computer (he's only 11 and didn't understand). He was in Windows 98, put in the XP CD, and then just followed the prompts, clicked INSTALLATION, clicked I AGREE on the agreement page, and then pressed ENTER as directed to "initialize the installation, and reboot the computer". The computer duly rebooted, but after it rebooted, and got through the boot, and then into the GATEWAY Goback screen (which normally pops up right before Windows comes on to give you a chance to fix any problems), his 3 yr old brother pressed some keys, and interrupted the installation somehow. It froze before going into the Windows logo and so my son turned the computer off and back on.

Now the computer will not reboot without hanging at the Gateway GoBack screen, unless we use a CD to boot it -- either the computer's own Gateway Win98 CD, or the Dell XP Re-installation CD. It just hangs and freezes to a black screen right after the Gateway GoBack screen (and then, if you go ahead and press spacebar at the Gateway GoBack to fix and return the computer to a previous date, it just says there are no previous previous dates to restore to, and when you press continue, then it hangs at a completely black screen).

When I boot from the Win98 Setup CD, it starts Windows 98 setup, and then says it can't continue setup because Drive C has an "Incompatible Format", and that I have to reformat Drive C (which would erase everything).

When I boot from the XP Re-installation CD, it starts Windows XP setup, and then says to install XP highlight a partition and press enter, and it lists two partitions as follows:

F: Partition1 [FAT32] 9766 MB (470 MB free)
C: Partition2 [FAT] 16 MB (15 MB free)

When I press Enter as directed to install XP on the highlighted partition (Partition1), it says it cannot recognize the partition, and that I have to press enter to go back to the previous screen, delete the partition (which will erase everything), then select the unpartitioned space to repartition and press enter to install XP.

I want to get the hard drive back to how it was, and save the files. I think the files must all still be there on the hard drive (only 10GB in size), because on the XP setup screen, there is a Partition1 [FAT32] listed, and there are 470 MB free, as well as a Partition2 [FAT] listed. (I did not try the selecting Partition2 on the XP setup screen because it said that Partition2 had only 16 MB total, with 15 MB free.)

At the prompt, after exiting setup, and typed <dir>, there were just 16,420,864 bytes free (which seems to be the size on the Partition2 listed). But no files, or nothing else.

Does anyone know if there any way to fix this situation, while saving as much of the data as possible? I'd be happy to get my son back the Win98, or even XP (which I figure I could then remove and then I could re-install Win98). If that doesn't work, I guess I will have to completely reformat and reload the original system files, but I am really trying to avoid doing that before trying what I can to just fix the partition problem.

Can I fix this by just putting the hard drive in my Dell, and then somehow copying the files? Could I use Norton or Partition Magic or some similar software? Or could I could copy whatever is still on the hard drive to a CD to safeguard it until we figure out what to do? But how when no files show up when I do a <dir> on the hard drive (even though the XP setup screen shows that the Partition1 has 9766 MB used, and 470 MB free)?

Unfortunately, since this happened right after I got the CDRW drive for his computer (and I was trying to figure out the Nero Express CDRW software), we had never been able to make a backup of his data. I am checking to see if I ever made the 3 1/2" floppy "Rescue" disk for Win98 some years back (I seem to remember some file called PartInfo, which I think might be Partition Info). Would such a "rescue" disk help if I locate it? (I might have made it with the Win98 using Norton which was preloaded, I think).

Any help would be appreciated. Even if you know of somewhere else I could go for help. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Please feel free to email me directly also.
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Hi Newgrace, welcome to Geeks to Go! <_<

It seems the Dell restore CD probably created NTFS partitions on the hard drive, and has already erased any of your data on the hard drive. Do you know any basic DOS commands? I'd suggest booting the computer using a Win98 boot CD, and browsing the hard drive using the DOS prompt to see if any of your data is still there.

You can get a boot disk here: http://www.bootdisk.com/
Basic DOS commands: http://www.colorado....ps/doshelp.html
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