Laptop Gives Error: Operating System Not Found
March 16, 2013 8:37 AM   Subscribe

My friend's laptop runs windows 7. After resetting last night she's getting an Operating System Not Found error during boot. Assuming the hard drive hasn't completely failed, what are the best, simplest tools she can use to either fix the problem or at least get her important data off the drive? She has access to another computer with a cd/dvd burner, an 8GB USB flash drive, and blank cds. She doesn't have access to the system restore disc or anything like that. She can get a blank DVD if that's simplest. I was leaning toward Knoppix as the Linux distribution for a live dvd, but if there's an easier way I'd love to hear it. Thanks.
posted by Green With You to Technology (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Solution 1: Make sure your hard disk is detected by BIOS

When the computer is booting up, you can press a function key to enter BIOS Setup. The function key varies from different manufacturers, usually F2, F12 or Del. Please look at the on-screen instruction. Ensure your hard disk is recognized in the list. If the hard drive is not detected, you may have issues with your hard disk

Solution 2: Use Windows 7 Recovery Console

detailed description here:

Solution 3: The final resolution to fix operating system not found issue

As above introduced, an incompatible Active partition or MBR in the NOT active partition would also cause operating system not found issue. A 3rd party tool like Wondershare LiveBoot gives an intuitive and friendly interface for you to fix an operating system not found error. By booting up any computer to a virtual system, you can make troubleshoot and even install a new Windows system quickly. Note that solution 1 is a must. First ensure your hard drive works properly.
posted by bobdow at 9:03 AM on March 16, 2013

Sounds like you've got the right idea by using Linux to boot and then copying files to the USB. If it turns out that this is a data retrieval job rather than a recovery one, might I also suggest buying an external case and making the internal drive into an external one that can be accessed using the other computer. If you're feeling ambitious, you could also covert the external disk to an image and run it as a virtual PC on the other computer, like so
posted by FreelanceBureaucrat at 9:11 AM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks bobdow I didn't think about checking the BIOS. Sadly that showed the hard disk is not recognized.
posted by Green With You at 9:23 AM on March 16, 2013

I just recently spent two weeks fixing a system, it turned out the motherboard had fried, and wasn't recognizing the drive most of the time, and had messed up the mbr. I used ubuntu from cd to start the system and grab my data. For some reason, the hd would show up in Linux more often than in dos.

That said, even if the system doesn't see the drive, the drive may not be dead. If she's getting a specific error, google that error. Sometimes an mbr fix will do the trick. Get data off first, just in case you have to wipe the drive.

Good luck, it sucks when this happens.
posted by dejah420 at 9:37 AM on March 16, 2013

After messing around in the BIOS she was prompted to save changes and reset the computer. Miraculously, windows booted up. However, it's not working that well. She said it freezes for a bit then works. We are assuming it will die at any moment so she's copying the important stuff and hoping it lasts until she finishes.
posted by Green With You at 9:40 AM on March 16, 2013

After getting that stuff off she's going to try the Live CD option to try some sort of diagnostics.
posted by Green With You at 9:41 AM on March 16, 2013

As a footnote, sometimes the easiest way to get the data off a failing hard drive is to remove it from the computer, and attach it to another one using a USB adapter, dock or enclosure.

Like this.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:20 AM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

if the BIOS can't see the drive, there are still things you can try.

I'd pull the hard drive... (not very hard to do) and pop it in an external usb case.

plug it in to a PC or Mac see if it mounts as a volume... if it does... great.

it's waaaay easier to recover files from a sick or dying hard drive from a healthy machine.

And... rather than killing a day repairing a damaged OS, I'd start from scratch on a new drive.

Move the recovered data if you can... an then reformat the old drive and use it as extra space.

If the volume does not mount, you can try one of many disk recovery utilities.

If there is valuable data on the drive, you can send it to DriveSavers for a free estimate. Data Recovery is expensive but sometimes worth it.

If the drive is dead or damaged beyond repair, look at the year and look up the warranty. Most Manufacturers will replace a drive that is less than 3 years old under their warranty.

Drives are cheap until they break and then they cost you time.
posted by bobdow at 10:23 AM on March 16, 2013

Other posters have covered all the good stuff, so I"ll just add this: makes putting any Linux Live CD onto a bootable USB drive so blistering easy, you'll weep for all the time you ever spent doing it the hard way. I know I did.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:05 AM on March 16, 2013

Thank you all for the help, the important data is off and hopefully the computer can be saved but if not it's not a huge deal.
posted by Green With You at 1:59 PM on March 16, 2013

I have a couple newish thinkpads with Core Duo processors. These have some extera nose to tail space on the sata drives that fit in them and occasionally will work themselves free or loose. I would try pulling the one screw, popping the door open, and push the drive in until it seats with my finger. Something to maybe check before you go tossing out the baby with the bath water. Still continue with your backup though; those always have a use if things go south in the future.
posted by schade at 9:56 AM on March 17, 2013

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