Non-System Disk or Disk Error - uh oh?
November 28, 2006 2:45 PM   Subscribe

How can I fix a "Non-System Disk or Disk Error"? Evidence points to hard-drive failure, except for the fact that it's working fine for the moment...

I got a Non-System Disk or Disk Error when I booted up my 2 year old Compaq notebook. After restarting about 50 times over the span of half an hour, Windows eventually started successfully. This has been the case for both of my two most recent attempts to restart. Now, I've read what causes this error and I realize that it could mean my hard drive is bad, but the fact that my system is currently up and running with all programs and files working properly leads me to believe that it is still salvageable. Of course I could be wrong.

While windows is still running, what should I do to try to diagnose and fix this problem before I have to restart again? Next time I might not be so lucky as to actually get Windows to start.

I'm not sure if this matters, but I do not have easy access to my OS/recovery CD as it is sitting at home in the US and I am abroad in Europe for the next several months.
posted by whataboutben to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
Check to make sure you don't have a floppy in your disk drive (or a CD in the drive if it tries to boot off that). If not, then get your important data off the computer now, because the hard drive is probably about to croak.
posted by hamhed at 2:59 PM on November 28, 2006

Wot I would do:

Leave the computer running, run down the store and buy a USB drive (preferably over twice the size of your laptop drive), or a replacement laptop drive with USB enclosure.

Copy your entire drive to the USB drive.

Then, download the demo version of bootit NG. Use it to burn a boot CD (or floppy if your computer uses them).
Boot from the CD (it will loat Bootot NG), enable it to see USB drives, and make a new partition on the USB drive to match the size of your laptop drive. Copy the laptop partition to the USB drive, and write down the drive signature of the laptop drive. Thus you are set up to copy the partition and drive signature to a fresh laptop drive, denote it as the boot partition, install the drive, and continue on as if nothing had happened.

more here
posted by -harlequin- at 4:05 PM on November 28, 2006

Also, if you do end up with a computer that you can't get to start, take out the drive, and connect it to another machine either via a USB enclosure, or install it via a 2.5"->3.5" drive adaptor ($20, $10 respectively). With luck, the drive will still be mostly readable, even though not sufficiently readable to boot the OS. But ideally, you'd want it all backed up before next powerdown, because... who knows.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:12 PM on November 28, 2006

I've never used it, but you may want to look into SpinRite.
posted by JulianDay at 5:00 PM on November 28, 2006

What you've got going on is that the Master Boot Record portion of your hard drive is going toes up. Do what harlequin suggests as far as creating a duplicate of your current hard drive as soon as possible and then generating a boot disk so you can bypass you PC's hard drive. It's a temporary fix until you can replace your laptops hard drive and reimage it. The MBR is very low level and cannot be repaired without a complete low level format and even that is not a guarantee it will keep working.
posted by ptm at 11:50 PM on November 28, 2006

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