How dead is my computer?
October 21, 2014 10:18 AM   Subscribe

My PC, a Lenovo roughly 3 years old, froze this morning while I was navigating a web page.

The keyboard and touchpad were totally unresponsive, so I forced it to shut down. Now it won't restart. It gets as far as displaying the Windows logo and says "starting Windows," but then a text screen comes up saying that windows has failed to start, and gives be the option of starting normally or using the windows startup repair tool. Trying again to start normally just brings it around to the same place, and I let the repair tool run for about an hour and it didn't seem to be doing anything. I don't know what to do with this, it isn't my area of expertise, and researching the problem from my phone is rather difficult. Help?
posted by jon1270 to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
Response by poster: Might be worth mentioning that the OneKey Recovery tool, which has its own dedicated button, isn't working either. If I start the computer using the OKR button, it says it's loading files, then displays a pretty background screen with a pointer which does respond to the touch pad, but nothing else happens.
posted by jon1270 at 10:26 AM on October 21, 2014

Do you have an option to run chkdsk on boot?
posted by empath at 10:30 AM on October 21, 2014

There are quite a few "emergency bood CDs" that will boot the computer using the OS on the CD and is packed with troubleshooting programs. Some might be a bit more technical than you're comfortable with but they're worth taking a look at.

A couple of them are:
posted by 2manyusernames at 10:38 AM on October 21, 2014

My guess is that it's a dead hard drive, which is relatively cheap and easy to replace from a hardware perspective. The computer itself likely isn't dead at all. When you run the boot CD @2Many referred to, check the disk for errors. This will tell you if the drive is indeed dead.
posted by cnc at 10:43 AM on October 21, 2014

Response by poster: How would I "run chkdsk on boot?" I can get into Setup by hitting F2 during the first moments of the start cycle, but otherwise all I can do is what's described above.
posted by jon1270 at 10:46 AM on October 21, 2014

Response by poster: I might be able to use my wife's computer to burn a cd. I don't know her password, so it might be s while before I can try that.

Is there any simple way to check for basic hard drive function?
posted by jon1270 at 10:51 AM on October 21, 2014

Response by poster: Currently downloading one of the boot CDs.
posted by jon1270 at 11:01 AM on October 21, 2014

I've only ever done this with Lenovo laptops, so this advice may not apply fully in your case. However, you can usually check hard drive health through the BIOS (the F2 setup).

Instructions from Lenovo are here (edit to change to desktop instructions).
posted by bonehead at 11:29 AM on October 21, 2014

Response by poster: I've tried a utility for checking and repairing bad sectors, and it didn't find anything to repair. Any suggestions for what to try next?
posted by jon1270 at 12:38 PM on October 21, 2014

If you're able to go into your bios and set it to boot from the optical drive media, and then are okay so long as you don't access hard drive files, then it's the hard drive that's hosed. If you can boot to CD and then use it more or less as normal, it's likely a problem with the master boot record or bootloader. Either way, new hard drive, but in the latter case you should be able to pull unrecoverable files/folders onto a USB fob as desired.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 1:51 PM on October 21, 2014

Response by poster: Okay, so the hard drive likely needs replacement even though tests find no bad sectors? Also a drive health utility rated its health at 95%. This is all so confusing.
posted by jon1270 at 2:21 PM on October 21, 2014

Woah woah woah guys, i know this one. Your hard drive is almost guaranteed to be fine.

You need to check two things.

1. go in to the BIOS and see if "ahci" is on or off. If it's off, switch it on and try booting again. ditto if it's off. at the end of this test leave it on though.

2. Your boot sector is likely fubar'd this happens. you need to boot from a windows CD, or your recovery cd/dvd and do the repair from there.

Crashes love to do #2 to windows 7 and later, and sometimes crashes mess up bios settings and cause the AHCI issue.

Don't jump to the conclusion your drive is dead and freak out. Even if your windows install is boned and you need to reinstall, you can still get to all your files by just burning an ubuntu livecd and copying them to an external hard drive or flash drive.
posted by emptythought at 3:45 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks. I won't be able try anything else until tomorrow, by which point this thread will be off the radar. I might follow up via memail.
posted by jon1270 at 4:48 PM on October 21, 2014

I'm so sorry! This just happened to me 3 weeks ago. Unfortunately, my story ends with getting a new computer, but mine was 4.5 yrs old and had a number of other problems prior to this one (a fan was bad, and I never could turn the computer on if I turned it off, b/c it wouldn't start unless it was over 70 degrees). I had an all-in-one, which are very hard to work inside of, so this might make a difference. I don't want you thinking you'll go through the same thing I did, because my research had some folks getting theirs right back up and running.

I was, however, able to get the Windows repair cycle to repair the problem enough so I could regain access to my files and programs and move them to the new computer.

I'd say, first, listen to emptythought's post before you assume your computer is shot. In my research, a number of people were able to get theirs going again without further issue, and hopefully, that will be the case for you.

However, what worked for me to get it to do its repairs was to disconnect everything from the computer except for the mouse/keyboard receiver. Then try to get it to do its repairs again with nothing else attached. I tried a number of times, and one of them happened to work. I walked back into the room to something other than the black screen. But be prepared--it could take hours (literally) for it to load your desktop. (I think it took 3-4hrs for mine to, and I didn't interrupt it till it was entirely finished.) The problem I had was that it took *days* to copy everything over to an external hard drive because it was moving so slow. You may be able to take your hard drive out and connect it to your wife's computer to make it easier, if the hard drive is still working. (This is assuming your computer would need to be replaced like mine or if you needed to do a complete system reinstall.)

I wish I could be of more help, but this is what happened and "worked" for me. My main concern, since I needed my computer for work, was just getting access to the files, so try disconnecting all other stuff before trying to get it to do the repairs (this was the vital part in my case) and see what happens. Hopefully, it will work, and then you can see how it goes from there.

Best of luck!
posted by LillyBird at 5:13 PM on October 21, 2014

Response by poster: For the record, I got a lot of off-thread help with this but finally concluded that the HD was toast. Fortunately I didn't lose any critical data, and a nice new hybrid drive is performing better than the old one ever did.
posted by jon1270 at 5:12 AM on November 4, 2014

« Older Another "Help me find this story"   |   Coffee, Tea, or... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.