PC won't boot
September 17, 2004 9:05 AM   Subscribe

PC won't boot. All I get is a blinking cursor in the upper left corner after BIOS. Help!!! (more inside)

Background: Win XP, two 160GB IDE HDs on the primiary IDE channel. One of the 160s (drive 0) contains OS & data, the other (drive 1) I had been using for backups only and can be considered to be empty. The PC ran trouble free prior to this incident.

It began when I set up a PCI RAID controller card. I took drives 0 and 1 off the primary channel and put them on the raid card, both master on each of the two available channels. I configured them as a RAID set, but when I attempted to boot into them (it) I got past the BIOS fine and following that just got a black screen with a blinking cursor in the upper left.

I pulled the RAID card out and put in the drives as they were before all this started, on the primary IDE channel, jumpering same as before, etc. Same result, blinking cursor.

I tried a 200GB drive that is a known-good clone of drive 0, and put that on the primary IDE channel, by itself, jumpered correctly. BIOS saw it fine, then I got the blinking cursor.

I took the known-good 200GB drive and put it in a USB enclosure. I configured the BIOS to boot first into the USB enclosure drive (it was listed there). Nothing. Tried it again, and interestingly, I got past the BIOS and it began to load the OS from the USB drive. However, as the Windows gui started to come up, the PC spontaneously rebooted. No boot attempts after that resulted in anything but the blinking cursor. The USB enclosure drive is no longer listed as an option under the BIOS boot order menu.

Any ideas?
posted by luser to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
Software problem -- probably the master boot record or the partition table. Nuke both mirrored drives, boot from CD, reinstall. You were probably going to have to do this anyways, since you were adding the drives to an array.
posted by majick at 10:28 AM on September 17, 2004

Take this as the ignorant comment that it is, but it sounds like you may have knocked something whilst fiddling inside. I run an internet cafe with a load of machines in not very good condition and get the blinking cursor often. Solution is always the same, check and reseat all the cards (pull them in and out of their sockets) then the memory, the IDE connectors and finally (in desparation) the processor (don't touch that unless you have to). Nine times out of ten it is the memory or video card and it's always the connector - they're just not that well designed and very easy to upset. This is a rather higher-tech way of saying 'give it a kick'. For some reason talking nicely to the machine whilst you do this helps a lot. Best of luck!
posted by grahamwell at 10:38 AM on September 17, 2004

Response by poster: majick -- it seems unlikely that the mbr on the known-good 200GB drive went Jersey at the precise time it did on drive 0. This 200GB drive -- it's a clone of drive 0 made at the time 0 worked, and i tested it extensively to ensure it was a good, bootable, complete clone.

grahamwell - I'll try that. The problem immediately followed my installation of the RAID controller card, and I might have knocked something awry in the process.

Anyone have any other thoughts before this question sinks down the page into oblivion?
posted by luser at 11:09 AM on September 17, 2004

Well its spontaneously rebooting when on USB because you're trying to boot from a different hard disk controller type than the installation is expecting and loads drivers for. So the MBR/OS installation is probably fine or at least recoverable. The only thing I can suggest is maybe boot into BartPE and run all the chkdsks and whatever you can. Maybe flash the firmware of the HD that's playing up; sounds like the RAID card's done something to it.
posted by ed\26h at 12:20 PM on September 17, 2004

Any joy?
posted by grahamwell at 6:17 AM on September 18, 2004

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