Worse than the BSOD??
June 22, 2011 7:08 PM   Subscribe

I was doing a thorough cleaning of my 5 year old Dell Windows XP machine before I sold it. I used CCleaner, Erasure, and the Windows disk cleanup tool. Whatever I was doing was too much because now I am getting something that I think is worse than the Blue Screen of Death.

When I turn the computer on, a black screen pops up that says:

"Loading PBR for descriptor 2...done.
Bad PBR" and that's as far as I get.

Is this computer now hosed? Anything I can do? I don't have any install disks or anything like that.
posted by Rad_Boy to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
Looks like you need to run chkdsk on the drive.
More info found here.
posted by msbutah at 7:13 PM on June 22, 2011

Aries, the dell tech providing answers on that page, mentions running chkdsk /r /f /p. Microsoft has a list of the command line options for the DOS chkdsk command. The 'p' option is only available in the boot console. If you are running from a dos-like floppy chkdsk /r /f would probably be sufficient.
posted by dgeiser13 at 8:08 PM on June 22, 2011

Best answer: I was doing a thorough cleaning of my 5 year old Dell Windows XP machine before I sold it.

Using anything except the inbuilt Dell tools for restoring the machine to factory settings is absolutely the wrong way to go about this.
posted by flabdablet at 8:12 PM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I would be very strongly inclined to wipe the hard drive to bare metal and either sell it without an OS or install Ubuntu on it if you don't have a Windows CD. That's almost surely the easiest way to fix your error message, and a complete reformat is good practice anyway when you're selling a computer.

Most likely your computer is fine, but the software you ran screwed up your Windows installation.
posted by deadweightloss at 9:12 PM on June 22, 2011

You want to do a full format before selling a computer. Unfortunately, most machines don't come with install discs these days, just a partition on the hard drive with all the gear on it. It's a really nasty way for a manufacturer to save about a cent per machine. There's a little info here but without physical media I would be inclined towards doing as deadweightloss says and just installing Ubuntu (or whatever). Heck, why even sell it? A 5 year old Dell isn't worth more than a couple of hundred bucks, you could install Ubuntu and use it yourself! Teach yourself Linux, use it as a media server, whatevs.
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:22 PM on June 22, 2011

Format drive during OS reinstall.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:22 PM on June 22, 2011

This is what I found here:

95% of the hardware forums speculate a problem with the MBR or, a faulty HDD. Yes, it can be a corrupted master boot record or a faulty hard drive but that happens in less than 10% of the cases.
Also, this is not a message you see on HP or Acer or any other manufacturer therefore is a Dell bios message.

99.9% of the causes = Dell system

90% left USB drive plugged onto the USB port while restarting the PC.

90% can be fixed by simply removing the USB drive, reseting the bios and restarting the PC.

posted by Mike Mongo at 10:41 PM on June 22, 2011

Usually "cleaning" an HDD/Windows install is a bad idea.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, you're vastly better served with a flatten + reinstall.

There's a reason that "nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure" became a legitimate IT option sometime in the late '90s.
posted by Sphinx at 12:22 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm guessing he's "cleaning" it because he has "sold" the new person Windows as part of the purchase price of the machine.
posted by dgeiser13 at 5:43 AM on June 23, 2011

If restarting from scratch, you'll not only want to reformat the drive, but re-partition it as well to get rid of the Dell hidden partitions. Dell's had a bizarre way of hiding a utility and restore partition back in the day (which Is where I think PBR issue is coming from).

The kicker is, if you run something like fixmbr (something that'd likely help on most other computers), it could actually make things worse on an old Dell configured this way. I think something similar might have happened when you were erasing data, as the utility might have confused one of these partitions and tried to clear it out.

If you're interested in getting the existing system booting without reinstalling, here's something to try:
1. Start up the computer and click F12 to give you the boot-up options.
2. Insert your Windows Installation/Recovery CD into the CDROM drive, choose CDROM boot option and click enter.
3. Press the spacebar when it prompts for you to press any key to boot off the CD.
4. Press "R" when in setup to enter the "Recovery Console".
5. Run "chkdsk," there's a possibility this might not work however depending on the partition damage.
6. Try the command "fixboot" When prompted, press "Y" and hit enter to create a new boot partition.
7. A message may appear stating the partition was corrupted and a new one was created successfully.
8. Type "exit" to reboot the PC.
posted by samsara at 5:44 AM on June 23, 2011

Response by poster: Since I had no recovery disk and didn't need any files on the machine, a full restore to factory settings seemed like the best idea. It took a lot of fumbling around to get started, but using Ctrl-F11 to access (eventually) the Dell system recovery partition did work for me. Thanks to all who responded.
posted by Rad_Boy at 9:18 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Way to go. Well done you.
posted by flabdablet at 9:22 AM on June 23, 2011

And congratulations for not listening to all those people telling you how to wipe out the only means Dell ever provided you with for doing that job.
posted by flabdablet at 9:24 AM on June 23, 2011

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