How can I re-install Windows?
July 25, 2009 8:04 PM   Subscribe

Trying to reformat a PC. I've had this Dell which has given me nothing but problems since I bought it. Can anyone help me figure out how to wipe it and re-install XP? Degree of difficulty inside...

I'm cool with completely wiping this thing and starting from scratch. I have a Windows XP DVD which Dell provided with the PC when I bought it.

Here are the issues:

The reason I need to reformat is that Windows won't start. I get a blue screen which has this error: "A problem has been detected and windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer. DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL"

I can't start windows in safe mode. I get a screen full of errors such as: multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS\system32\DRIVERS\xxxxxx.sys and so on...

I have 2 options before windows tries to start: BOOT MENU and SET UP

BOOT MENU gives me the option to attempt to boot from "Onboard USB or CD-ROM" or "Onboard SATA Hard Drive"
However I have a DVR of the Windows OS so neither of those works.

When I go into SETUP and select 'System -> Boot Sequence' the DVR drive is not listed as an option.

So, I am out of ideas. How can I wipe this thing and install windows from the DVD if I can't even get it to recognize the DVD? I really have no clue.

I know there are plenty of other places online where I could ask this question but wading through all of the Windows questions on Google is a bit too much. I have confidence in the hive mind here. Help! Thanks in advance for any advice.
posted by eightball to Computers & Internet (19 answers total)
Could you burn the DVD to an image and put that on a USB key?
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:15 PM on July 25, 2009

It is very likely that your PC's mainboard controller -- the chipset which interfaces the CPU to the memory and I/O busses -- has failed. This smells to me like a hardware problem. Reinstalling windows will not help with that.
posted by localroger at 8:16 PM on July 25, 2009

option a) beg, borrow or steal (or buy) as USB external DVD drive and choose the option to boot from USB device

option b) use a different computer to get a CD-image of XP, burn it and boot from that. Use your own serial number. You can find a torrent of XP easily on isohunt
posted by Bonzai at 8:17 PM on July 25, 2009

So are you saying that your computer won't recognize your CD/DVD drive regardless of what you do? Or that it seems willing to recognize CDs but not DVDs?

If the latter, though I've never encountered a Windows XP DVD, but one possibility that might work would be to create a "slipstreamed" version of the Windows install disk which you can then burn to a regular CD. (Since you're able to get online to ask this question, I gather you have another, functioning PC you are using.)

If the former, then it sounds like you may have some sort of BIOS or hardware issue. Hopefully other, wiser MeFites can opine on that.

Also, the optical drive issues aside, it is possible that your hard drive is toast. When I faced a similar situation and posted to AskMe, someone recommended a program called Spinrite. I can't vouch for it, but you may want to try it. Then again, it costs as much as a new hard drive, so it may not be worth it.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:20 PM on July 25, 2009

a quick google on the error message says that the most likely problem is a corrupt driver, so (smells aside) a reinstall is worth trying.
posted by Bonzai at 8:21 PM on July 25, 2009

Conrad makes a great point. Even though it says boot from CD-ROM and you have a DVD-ROM try it anyway.
posted by Bonzai at 8:23 PM on July 25, 2009

To determine if this is a hardware failure, you can download a diagnostic utility from Dell's website, you might be able to put this onto a USB drive and make it bootable, assuming your CD/DVD drive is not working. Normally the diagnostic utility would be burned onto a CD.

If the CD/DVD drive has crapped out, but the rest of the hardware is fine, you can make a disc image of your Windows CD and put it on a flash drive as spike.... and Bonzai have suggested.
posted by mtphoto at 8:35 PM on July 25, 2009

Also, can you give us a little more information? Are you using a laptop or desktop? What Dell model is it? Are you still under warranty?

What keys are you using to get into Setup and Boot Menu? I'm guessing F2 and F12, but can you confirm? Also, have you tried using F8 during the boot-up sequence? That will allow you to try entering Windows in Safe Mode.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:36 PM on July 25, 2009

Response by poster: Conrad: Model is Dimension 8400 (desktop). It's probably 5 years old so not under warranty. In fact, in the first year the hard drive failed and they sent out a guy who replaced the hard drive. Not sure if that might give a clue what's going on here since it was working fine for a good 3 - 4 years since.

When I use F8 I get a few more options such as 'Enable Boot Logging', 'Enable VGA Mode', Directory Services Restore Mode', 'Debugging Mode', and 'Disable automatic restart on system failure'. Not sure if any of those help.

btw I'm on my Macbook Pro right now, and about to throw the Dell off my 10th floor balcony.
posted by eightball at 8:53 PM on July 25, 2009

Do you have a CD drive and a different DVD drive? My Dell 8400/8500 from about then had that.

If so, try attaching the data cable that currently goes to the CD drive to the DVD drive instead.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:25 PM on July 25, 2009

Response by poster: ROU_Xenophobe, getting somewhere, thanks!... Yes I do have a CD drive and different DVD drive. I attached the cable going into the CD drive into the DVD drive and was able to start the setup.

But... I've now got a blue screen saying "Windows XP Professional Setup" and at the bottom it says "Examining 76294 MB Disk 0 at Id 0 on bus 0 on iastor..." and it's been like that for 25 mins with no change. Is it actually doing something or is it hung up? I really don't trust this thing.

Is this "Examining..." phase something that could take a while?
posted by eightball at 9:56 PM on July 25, 2009

Sounds like your hard drive might be totally cheesed - or perhaps there's some problem with the connectors. I recommend creating an Ubuntu Live CD, which will let you boot up into Ubuntu OS (very easy to use) entirely from the CD drive. Once the OS boots, you'll be able to determine if you can see your hard drive at all, and hopefully access the files on it.

This won't be dispositive, though - it won't tell you if your hard drive is dead, or if a cable or connector is cheesed, or what. For that, you might need something like Spinrite.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 10:14 PM on July 25, 2009

Response by poster: Conrad, I think you might be right. Especially after finding this thread (See the third post, same thing happened to me).

I'm not even sure if I want to install another (third) hard drive. Who knows how long that would last until it fails also. There must be some other underlying problem, and I don't have the will left to deal with it. Over the balcony it goes.

Thanks everyone.
posted by eightball at 10:34 PM on July 25, 2009

I can't start windows in safe mode. I get a screen full of errors such as: multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS\system32\DRIVERS\xxxxxx.sys and so on...

Those aren't errors, they are regular messages telling you that a certain driver has loaded. If you're turning the machine off after seeing those, rather then waiting, you might not be giving it a chance to finish booting.

Also, normally when a bios says "Boot from CD" that usually includes booting from the DVD, after all, when you boot from a DVD you're using the same drive as you would be when you're booting from a CD-ROM right?

On most machines, you should be able to boot from a DVD by selecting the CD-ROM option. You should at least try it.
posted by delmoi at 10:42 PM on July 25, 2009

Response by poster: Delmoi: See above - I have separate CD and DVD drives. I had to reverse the cables to get it to boot from the DVD.
posted by eightball at 10:58 PM on July 25, 2009

I was getting the same error message on one of my PCs. It turned out to be a bad stick of memory.

I'm not saying this isn't an OS issue, but you might want to try a memory test.
posted by SAC at 11:40 PM on July 25, 2009

Many Dell's have a hidden recovery partition that can be used to reset the computer back to the factory default image. No disc is required to do this. You normally just need to hit a hey sequence on boot up
When the Dell splash screen appears during the computer startup process, press and hold and then press . Then, release both keys at the same time.

For more information see:

posted by nalyd at 8:05 AM on July 26, 2009

I'm not even sure if I want to install another (third) hard drive.

OT1H, a new hard drive would be cheap, like $40.
OTOH, installing a new hard drive is a bit of a pain in the ass in that model, if it's the one I had.
OTGH, *if* you can afford it it would be much more cost-effective to just build a new machine rather than keep that one stumbling along.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:05 AM on July 26, 2009

Simplify and do what the system "wants" until you get back in control of it.

That means for starters, un-reverse those cables and do a clean install from Windows CD, not a DVD, the way that your default system "expects".

I am sure you have or can burn a Windows SameVersion installer CD, perhaps using your Mac to do so, and since you're going to use your own legit serial number on installation anyway, the particular disk/image you start with doesn't much matter, imho. For that matter, once it's up and running you could even reinstall from "your" DVD a second time to be extra-normal.

I'm on my Macbook Pro right now, and about to throw the Dell off my 10th floor balcony.

That'll also work. Take pictures.
posted by rokusan at 1:51 PM on July 26, 2009

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