Help me boot into windows with a broken bootloader and no installation media...
December 11, 2006 8:52 AM   Subscribe

I've messed up my boot loader. I have a (working, legal) XP installation, but it won't boot, and I don't have any Windows installation media. How can I fix it? Linux, Windows and general stupidity feature in the creation of the problem, and getting the computer ready to give away in time for Christmas is the aim.

I'm giving my old laptop away at Xmas. The recipient is unlikely to want the dual-boot-ness, so I had two tasks on my hands.

1. Change the boot-loader (grub)
2. Reformat /dev/hda3 from ext3 to something Windows can see.

But Dr Stupid here did the tasks in the wrong order, and using fdisk I f-ed the disk before dealing with grub. Grub now gives me error 17 (cannot recognise filesystem). So I can't boot into Windows or.

All the recovery software is all on the hard disk already and despite having a legal copy of XP I don't have any media (cheers, PC World). All I have to do to access the recovery software is to press F10 during boot to use it. Except that won't work, 'cause grub intercepts the boot process.

So how can I overwrite the grub bootloader in order to boot directly into Windows, bypassing all grubbiness?

I have installation and livecd versions of ubuntu, and am assuming that if I boot into XP once, I should be able to tell it to overwrite the MBR itself (bonus question - once in XP, how do I do this?).
posted by handee to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Can you borrow an XP disk? If so, boot to this disk, go into the recovery console, and use the commands FIXBOOT and FIXMBR.
posted by found dog one eye at 9:18 AM on December 11, 2006

Easiest is to boot to recovery console (R) from the XP cd and then access your windows directory and run fixmbr and fixboot, since you don't have the cd tho, thats a problem.
Try this link which has a walkthru of putting MS's 6 floppy recovery boot disks for XP install onto a bootable cd that you can then use to get into recovery console and run the above commands to fix your boot problem.
Hope it helps!

posted by clanger at 9:20 AM on December 11, 2006


Good luck.
posted by dropkick at 9:20 AM on December 11, 2006

What about a boot disk(ette)?

google xp boot disk

Then maybe you can run fixmbr.
posted by tremolo1970 at 10:02 AM on December 11, 2006

alternatively, boot into dos with a boot disk and type fdisk /mbr
posted by fvox13 at 11:12 AM on December 11, 2006

Best answer: I'd think it would be easiest to repair grub, using a LiveCD if necessary, and then update the grub menu.lst to put in entries for your Windows and OEM recovery partitions. A standard Windows mbr may not have options for your laptop's recovery partition, and you may have to go back to your laptop's manufacturer for help duplicating their custom mbr, anyway. But if you can see the Windows and recovery partitions via fdisk, and get the appropriate information to add to grub, you might be able to still make the recovery partition usable from grub.

If you could do that, the recovery partition on some laptops is extensive enough to rewrite the mbr afresh with entries for itself and the factory delivered Windows setup, and completely recover the machine to delivery state. Good luck with this.
posted by paulsc at 11:56 AM on December 11, 2006

I'm fairly sure fvox13 has the solution. At least, that's what I was going to say.
posted by krisjohn at 2:46 PM on December 11, 2006

What brand of laptop is it? Does it have one of those "Windows installation is hidden in a disk partition" disk partitions? Those are usually outside of the MBR boot process, if I recall correctly (it's part of the BIOS that if you hit F-whatever, it'll take you to the tools on that partition). It's a long shot, and I'm guessing you already checked for that, but thought I'd check any way since you don't mention it :)
posted by antifuse at 2:05 AM on December 12, 2006

Response by poster: OK (hoping that someone is still reading this question. My doesn't askme move quickly these days?) I now can boot into Windows and/or Linux without trouble, with grub. Many thanks are due to paulsc for this.

But now I have the problem of the missing media: apparently, to fix the MBR from within Windows I needs a boot disk, and my recovery partition has stopped playing ball.

So is there any way to tell XP home from within XP home that it should boot itself, or is that too much to ask?
posted by handee at 12:11 PM on December 12, 2006

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