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Why can I install Ubuntu but not Windows?
March 24, 2009 7:54 AM   Subscribe

Why can't I install Windows XP Pro on my Dell laptop? I get an error message that says "acpi.sys is corrupted". I can install Ubuntu 8.04 just fine.

I've searched various forums for this issue and haven't seemed to make any headway. I used (retail) disc to successfully install XP Pro on my sister's Gateway laptop just to see if it was a problem with the disc. It wasn't, and the install proceeded normally.

I updated the BIOS to the latest version and that didn't do anything. I've searched every BIOS setting for anything related to ACPI but can't find anything. I know ACPI is a power management setting, but there's nothing in the BIOS that says ACPI anywhere.

I've tried pressing F5 during the install to change the Hardware Abstraction Layer. I've tried every option there with no luck. I finally tried to install Ubuntu 8.04 and that worked perfectly. I just need to be able to install Windows to run a couple of applications that can't run under WINE/Crossover Linux/Other Emulators.

It's a Dell Precision Workstation M65 with 2 GB of memory, with the A10 BIOS version (formerly tried under A04 and got the same error). It used to have a corporate image of Windows XP Pro on it, but when I lelft my job I was locked out of the laptop (I used a live CD to back up all my data and then reformatted the drive). After that, I can install Ubuntu but I can't install Windows. Weird.

Any clues? I'm getting by with Ubuntu and Open Office, but I'd really prefer the option of running Windows here.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints to Computers & Internet (47 answers total)
 
It'd really help to know when in the install process this is happening.
posted by valkyryn at 8:02 AM on March 24, 2009


Are you installing from a retail XP disc?
posted by odinsdream at 8:04 AM on March 24, 2009


Low-Tech fix: Try a different CD.

Many laptops cd/dvd drives take a bit of a beating and sometimes they do not read discs very well. Assuming the CD youa re using is not scratched or damaged - Oftentimes using a different CD or even making a new copy of the existing can allow you to proceed.

If this corrects the problem, replace the cd drive. If Not, try copying the XP installation to a USB flash drive and running your install from there.
posted by emjay at 8:08 AM on March 24, 2009


It might (very slight chance) be a bad sector on the HD that isn't getting swapped out properly. If this is the case, Spinrite will fix that for you. Plus, there's a 30 day money back guarantee if it doesn't help!
posted by tdreyer at 8:15 AM on March 24, 2009


If this disc SP2? There are acpi driver issues with XP SP1 or XP noSP. If so try to get a disc with SP2.

You should do a disk check on the disk in that computer. Are there any bad sectors? It could be that the disk is dying and the place windows is placing acpi.sys is bad. Ubuntu is working because its probably not placing any drivers in the bad area.

Its also possible that its a bad stick of ram. Again, ubuntu may just be using different parts of memory for drivers than windows.

If the disk is good then do you have a working install of windows anywhere? If you boot with a bootdisk like BartPE or UBD4Win you can copy a working version of acpi.sys to a usb drive then use it overwrite the one that's bad on your new install. I guess you can use the recovery console for this, but I honestly dont remember if it can read from a USB drive or a network share.

Lastly, you can reset the CMOS in the BIOS. Pull the battery or find what jumper does this.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:25 AM on March 24, 2009


It'd really help to know when in the install process this is happening.
Um...In the beginning. Within one minute of booting from the CD. Shortly after the "Press F6 to load SCSI Drivers" message.
Are you installing from a retail XP disc?
Yes. I used this disc to successfully install XP on my sister's computer (she then wiped her drive clean and reinstalled her OEM version of Vista. That was just to test the disc.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:27 AM on March 24, 2009


The error message reveals all! acpi.sys on your install disk is corrupted. Try another install disk.
posted by devnull at 8:34 AM on March 24, 2009


Work-around: Install Windows inside a VirtualBox or VMWare virtual machine. (VirtualBox is free)
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:35 AM on March 24, 2009


If this disc SP2? Yes, this is an SP2 disc.

I'm downloading MemTest to test the memory. What can I use to test the hard drive?
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:39 AM on March 24, 2009


What can I use to test the hard drive?

On Linux, badblocks will do it. Will take a while though. Run it from a live cd. This is a destructive test.

If you want a quicker non-destructive test, use something from smart tools (but badblocks is much better).
posted by devnull at 8:52 AM on March 24, 2009


You should be able to run chkdsk from the recovery console if you dont have a bartpe or ubcd4win disc.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:12 AM on March 24, 2009


The error message reveals all! acpi.sys on your install disk is corrupted. Try another install disk.
I'm going to try that as soon as I can find another copy. I have a valid license. I'd prefer not to download something via bittorrent for fears of getting a nefarious copy. Is that a valid concern? Also, if acpi.sys is corrupted on the install disc, why would it work fine on another computer?

Work-around: Install Windows inside a VirtualBox or VMWare virtual machine. (VirtualBox is free)
I tried that and it still wouldn't install. It got a little farther before stopping, however.

I burned MemTest and it ran 100% without errors.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:33 AM on March 24, 2009


You may need supply SATA drivers when it's booting up; or you may need to go into BIOS and change the hard drive settings to AHCI/ATA/SATA. I'd try them all and see if it makes a difference.
posted by mand0 at 10:58 AM on March 24, 2009


Hm...I see no SATA drivers listed on the drivers and downloads page for this system.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:05 AM on March 24, 2009


Also, there's no option in the BIOS to change the drive settings.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:26 AM on March 24, 2009


If youre able to see the drive and format it during install you already have the SATA drivers.

Have you been able to do a chkdsk via the recovery console yet? Or some kind of block-by-block surface scan?

I burned MemTest and it ran 100% without errors.

Microsoft makes a better (imho) ram test tool. Ideally you'd want to let it run all night, regardless of which one you use.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:26 AM on March 24, 2009


When I press F2 to enter the recovery console, it then presents me with a screen prompting for me to enter the recovery floppy disc. This laptop has no floppy drive.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:31 AM on March 24, 2009


Oh, I also used systemmontools in Linux to analyze the drive and it came up clean.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:32 AM on March 24, 2009


No, dont use F2. Boot from the windows disc.


To run the Recovery Console from the Windows XP startup disks or the Windows XP CD-ROM, follow these steps:

1. Insert the Windows XP startup disk into the floppy disk drive, or insert the Windows XP CD-ROM into the CD-ROM drive, and then restart the computer.

Click to select any options that are required to start the computer from the CD-ROM drive if you are prompted.
2. When the "Welcome to Setup" screen appears, press R to start the Recovery Console.
3. If you have a dual-boot or multiple-boot computer, select the installation that you must access from the Recovery Console.
4. When you are prompted, type the Administrator password. If the administrator password is blank, just press ENTER.
5. At the command prompt, type the appropriate commands to diagnose and repair your Windows XP installation.

For a list of commands that are available in Recovery Console, type recovery console commands or help at the command prompt, and then press ENTER.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:34 AM on March 24, 2009


When I boot from the Windows disc it never loads the recovery console if I press R during setup. It starts loading the Windows kernel, loading plug and play, loading acpi, and then I get the error message. I suppose if it were to progress farther it would load the recovery console, but it doesn't progress enough through the startup.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:52 AM on March 24, 2009


What mand0 said.
posted by kenchie at 12:03 PM on March 24, 2009


Do you have a different hard drive to try? Thats what I would do at this point. If it continues Id be pulling ram and replacing it with known good ram. It usually much faster than trying to do all these scans.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:04 PM on March 24, 2009


If youre able to see the drive and format it during install you already have the SATA drivers.

While I'm fairly sure the issue OP is asking about doesn't have anything to do with SATA, this isn't necessarily correct.

I recently re-installed XP on a Dell machine using one of the Dell restore CDs. The first part of the install went fine and was able to detect the SATA hard drive, as well as format it and install system files. When the system rebooted for the first time to continue the installation it failed with a blue-screen.

What solved this was, as mand0 suggests, changing the BIOS setting regarding AHCI to ATA.

This was after trying to load the proper SATA drivers at installation time with F8, which didn't solve the BSOD.

I only mention this for the benefit of others, because I don't think this is the issue the OP is having.
posted by odinsdream at 12:06 PM on March 24, 2009


On second thought if youre not even getting to the part where you can detect the disk then you might need SATA drivers. SP2 by default only has some. Or there's an option to set the drive to AHCI or IDE emulation in BIOS.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:07 PM on March 24, 2009


According to this the drive in there is SATA.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:09 PM on March 24, 2009


Here's a nice simple answer -- hope it helps. To disable loading acpi.sys during boot, press F7 instead of F6. [that's step five here] That way it should be able to go ahead and finish the install anyhow.
posted by koeselitz at 12:16 PM on March 24, 2009


By the way, acpi.sys is an utterly unnecessary file, and you don't need it to install Windows. You can go back and put it in later when Windows is installed. acpi.sys is just the driver bundle for the 'Advanced Configuration and Power Interface;' in plain English, it puts your computer to sleep when you don't have any more battery to run on, and it dims your screen when you're not plugged in. Just keep the thing plugged in until you get everything installed; you should be fine.

And I somehow doubt this is a problem with your hard drive. Power configuration drivers can be silly, and have to cope with very diverse hardwares on different laptops. If it spits your machine out the first time around, it most likely won't be a tremendous problem. The worst-case scenario, if you never manage to install acpi.sys? You lose maybe an hour in battery life -- that's it.
posted by koeselitz at 12:29 PM on March 24, 2009


Here's a nice simple answer -- hope it helps. To disable loading acpi.sys during boot, press F7 instead of F6
No go. I press F7 while it's booting the Windows disc but I still get the error message.
Or there's an option to set the drive to AHCI or IDE emulation in BIOS.
I would love to know specifically where this is. I'll grab a notepad and pen and copy down all the BIOS settings. I'm not seeing anything regarding AHCI or IDE in BIOS.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 12:33 PM on March 24, 2009


Okay, now this is bugging me: how is it at all possible that a bad hard drive would throw an acpi.sys error message? Unless the hard drive isn't getting enough electricity or something, I don't see why it would trip up acpi.sys at all. Do you guys know something I don't about all this? Or RAM -- how could this be faulty RAM? I don't get it.
posted by koeselitz at 12:37 PM on March 24, 2009


And how could a bad hard drive throw an error message before Windows even begins installing to disk?
posted by koeselitz at 12:38 PM on March 24, 2009


spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints: I would love to know specifically where this is. I'll grab a notepad and pen and copy down all the BIOS settings. I'm not seeing anything regarding AHCI or IDE in BIOS.

In lieu of evidence, I'm pretty sure odinsdream is right -- this doesn't have much to do with your problem. But this does: look in your BIOS under Power Management -- reading around, apparently some BIOSes have a switch to enable or disable ACPI. That would fit the bill exactly, so here's hoping.

Finally: this is somewhat ridiculous, this flopping around with the BIOS. You shouldn't have to do that to use the machine minimally. Go download and burn the Ultimate Boot CD -- that should get you to a command prompt almost certainly, and then you can chkdsk until the cows come home.
posted by koeselitz at 12:47 PM on March 24, 2009


Do you see SATA Operations in the BIOS? Probably under System Setup. You should have the option for Legacy or IDE or AHCI or something.

And how could a bad hard drive throw an error message before Windows even begins installing to disk?

I was under the impression that this was happening post install during the first reboot.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:49 PM on March 24, 2009


damn dirty ape: I was under the impression that this was happening post install during the first reboot.

Nope:

valkyryn: It'd really help to know when in the install process this is happening.

spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints: Um...In the beginning. Within one minute of booting from the CD. Shortly after the "Press F6 to load SCSI Drivers" message.


You might have gotten tripped up by the part in the question where he installed onto his sister's computer using this disk and then uninstalled just to test the disk. This is happening at the beginning of install.
posted by koeselitz at 12:52 PM on March 24, 2009


There is nothing at all in the BIOS that I can find that refers to ACPI. This is not happening in the first boot post install. This is happening on the initial install try.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 12:57 PM on March 24, 2009


What's most confusing about this is that when you pressed F5 and tried installing XP as on a normal desktop (rather than a laptop) acpi.sys should not have loaded at all. I was thinking this was a Dell BIOS / acpi problem, but now I really do wonder about the install disk.

That Ultimate Boot Disk might be handy for poking around, anyway.
posted by koeselitz at 1:11 PM on March 24, 2009


How about AHCI or Sata operation in the bios? I dont have a dell in front of me with that vintage.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:18 PM on March 24, 2009


There is nothing regarding AHCI or SATA in the BIOS either. I'm searching for screenshots of the A10 BIOS options so you can see.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:27 PM on March 24, 2009


BTW, your SATA driver is here. You'll need to extract that exe and find the right file. Then you need either slipstream it in the disc (nlite does this) or find a floppy drive with a usb cable that the windows xp disc recognizes. Its a real pain to extract the correct driver file and do this, so hopefully there's a bios option to go into legacy mode.

Another alternative is to just have Dell send you the install disc with the driver. It writes the drivers to the hard drive then it asks you to install the XP disc.

Oh, are there any RAID options? You could have a raid controller in there that is making this more complex and has a different menu structure.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:33 PM on March 24, 2009


There is no BIOS option to go into legacy mode. The system was originally shipped without an operating system and my employer (who has since laid me off) installed their own slipstreamed image of XP Pro. I can't contact Dell for a disc as the system technically does not belong to me.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:40 PM on March 24, 2009


Oh, there are also no RAID options.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:43 PM on March 24, 2009


If Dell hassles you just tell them you bought it used. They consider the original media a "customer replaceable part" and they'll charge you 10 bucks. Get one of their support people on the phone. They might even know if it can be switch to IDE/PATA mode for XP too.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:47 PM on March 24, 2009


Can you list everything from the Power or Power Management section of the BIOS? It's most likely something in there.

Another option is to find the BIOS option to reset everything to default values and then try again.
posted by Xuff at 7:56 PM on March 24, 2009


I will list all power management options as soon as I finish downloading Vista. I'm going to try to load Vista on a USB drive and see if that will work.

I reset the BIOS setting to default and that didn't work.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:27 PM on March 24, 2009


I'm going to bed (there's about 90 minutes left on the Vista download and I don't want to boot into the BIOS and interrupt it). I just want to say thanks to everyone who's replied today. I appreciate you sticking with this for so long.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:59 PM on March 24, 2009


Ok, here are all the headers in the BIOS settings, and I've listed out the individual options under power management: I've tried enabling/disabling the serial ATA DIPM setting with no change in behavior.

I downloaded Vista last night from a friend's university repository but it came out to be 4.1GB, and my USB stick is 4.0GB.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:20 AM on March 25, 2009


If you've tried resetting the BIOS settings to their defaults, plus all the other things mentioned above, I'm almost certain it's a bad XP CD.

As for why it worked on your sister's laptop; it's quite possible that her laptop doesn't support ACPI and, thus, the damaged portion of your XP CD was never accessed.

Let us know how the Vista install goes!
posted by Xuff at 11:35 AM on March 25, 2009


Ok, so here's what's happened:

I previously installed Sun VirtualBox and tried to install XP in that, but it failed. I got a copy of Vista and it successfully installed in VirtualBox. I then used Vista running in VirtualBox to create a bootable USB key with Vista on it.

I tested the Vista USB key and it seemed to work. I didn't go through with the full install yet because I want to make sure everything's backed up, but it looks promising. Afterall, Vista installed in VirtualBox so it should install on the primary partition as well.

Tomorrow I'll back everything up and install Vista, then install Ubuntu, and if all goes well I'll be dual booting. I can't find a copy of an XP Pro disc to verify this, but I'm going to go with the assumption that all these problems were caused by a faulty XP disc. It's about a year old.

I'd prefer to run XP just because it's a little lighter weight for what I'll be using it for, but I'll take what I can get. Again, thanks to everyone who's worked with me on this issue.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:21 PM on March 26, 2009


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