Problem booting Windows/reinstall/backup
February 8, 2007 9:36 PM   Subscribe

Ok, so after having first consulted a bunch of tech forums, I've found my way here, where I know I'll get some good help. So, to recap: For some reason earlier, my windows xp on reboot would hang at the splash screen, while the blue bar continued moving...

After booting several times succesfully to safemode, it finally stopped booting to safemode, hanging at a black screen with a list of windows/system32 files. I tried a windows repair install, but at some point in the device install, my mouse and keyboard dont respond and i get a popup that some scanner driver isnt found, but i cant click cancel or ok or anything. i tried a second time with the same problem. I'm not sure what step to take next...I've beentold to try Ubuntu to access and backup my files, but I have no experience with linux at all, and dont know how difficult this will be. At this point, I'd just like to be able to get everything from the drive I need before a format/fresh xp install. Any help on accessing windows or those files would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
posted by rbf1138 to Computers & Internet (17 answers total)
Did you try Ctrl+Alt+Delete (during the "freeze") to bring up your task manager to see what's running that might be hanging things up?
posted by amyms at 9:43 PM on February 8, 2007

More information on the error messages would help, but barring that, to get your files off safely:

Ubuntu would work fine for this. Download the Ubuntu live CD and burn it. Boot your computer from the live CD. Your Windows disk should automatically be mounted -- look under the "Places" menu, or in the /media directory -- it will be /media/hda1 or something like that.

Good luck!
posted by brool at 9:47 PM on February 8, 2007

amy, the freeze was at the splash screen, not in windows itself, and at this point, im pretty much stuck trying to install it, i cant even start to load windows.
posted by rbf1138 at 9:52 PM on February 8, 2007

It sounds like a disk or memory failure of some sort.

Like what brool suggested, I would try some sort of linux live cd like Ubuntu or Knoppix. I can't say how easy those are for a linux novice to use, but they should get you access to your files and probably a internet connection depending on what type of connection that machine has.

If that doesn't work, maybe you could put this hard drive as a secondary one in a working Windows machine.
posted by demiurge at 10:07 PM on February 8, 2007

ok, when i try and access it in ubuntu, it says "unable to mount the selected volume. error: device /dev/hda1 is not removable
error: could not execute pmount

i should note, it is an ntfs drive
posted by rbf1138 at 10:37 PM on February 8, 2007

at this point, i think i need a step by step post on how to enable reading from this ntfs drive, accessing it, etc. and getting the data nto an external drive or dvd
posted by rbf1138 at 10:52 PM on February 8, 2007

You might have already tried it (probably have at this point) but try removing ALL USB devices except your mouse and keyboard (assuming they're USB) before booting up.

I've had very similar experiences caused by buggy USB device drivers (actually, I believe it was a buggy windows update to USB drivers that caused it). Usually it was either my fingerprint reader or my webcam. I have a lot of USB devices and a few hubs (my motherboard has a LOT of root ports too) including external hard drives, printers, etc and unplugging all of them is usually the last thing I want to try.

Just a thought.

For a very thorough FAQ on UBUNTU check out
It covers pretty much everything including NTFS access. If you want to avoid a lot of scrolling use your browsers search function (F3 or CTRL-F).

posted by TheAspiringCatapult at 11:37 PM on February 8, 2007

Do you have another computer available? From the depth of your problems, perhaps you should mount the drive on another machine before trying to extract your data.
posted by Malor at 1:07 AM on February 9, 2007

I've used Ubuntu 6.4 and 6.10 (but not for data rescue). The latest Ubuntu (6.10) is quite user-friendly (for a linux).
posted by Baud at 2:07 AM on February 9, 2007

I can't believe people are suggesting that you run linux to get access to your files... that's a ridiculous solution.

Start your trouble shooting by removing any USB items (sans keyboard and mouse), if you still can't boot, open up your case and remove any pci cards (except your video card.) At this point if the system still won't boot you can try removing memory one stick at t time, paying careful attention to the stick in the first slot (sometimes labeled slot 0.) It also wouldn't hurt to remove any secondary or cd-rom drives for the purpose of this trouble shooting. If your computer has a lot of on board stuff (like sound, etc) you may try disabling that in the BIOS as well.

If at any point you can get the system to boot normally then you can start reinstalling all the stuff you removed one item at a time in order to locate the problem.

If your system still hangs then you're probably looking at a windows reinstall. So, reinstall windows, but DO NOT re-format your hard drive. A reinstall is different from a repair. On the reinstalled system you'll need to reinstall all of your programs but your files will be intact.

As a last resort you'll need to remove the hard drive, locate a second windows computer, backup your files from the hd and then do a format and reinstall. You can be creative for how you do the backup. For instance you can buy an external enclosure for the drive which will allow you to attach it to a laptop (keep your receipt so you can return the enclosure once you're done...)

Good luck!
posted by wfrgms at 3:53 AM on February 9, 2007

What file is the system hanging on when you attempt the safe mode boot? Just curious, as it may help narrow the field.

In the meantime, it sounds like your issue during the repair install was the lack of a driver, right? Obviously something that Windows doesn't have a driver included for, so unplug all peripherals from your machine (printers, modems, etc) and try the repair install again.

"Some scanner driver": Maybe a multifunction printer plugged in?

Oh and if your keyboard and mouse are wireless get your hands on a wired pair since those drivers may be missing from the XP CD too.

posted by JaredSeth at 4:23 AM on February 9, 2007

Knoppix is another good Linux choice to access your files.

It sounds like your boot sector is corrupt on the physical disk. I've had this exact same problem a few times and a new HD fixes the problem. To get my old files, I use this cable set which hooks up to a working computer with USB.
posted by jmd82 at 6:08 AM on February 9, 2007

jmd82: if the poster is able to get to Windows' splash screen, it's unlikely to be the boot sector at fault.
posted by blag at 6:49 AM on February 9, 2007

How important is this data? All this mucking around with repairs (or an accidental reinstall/wipe) may permanently erase this data. If your technical skills are very low and you do not have a friend who can help you mount this disk into another computer I would seriously consider taking this machine to a professional computer repair place and telling them you need the data off this drive.

This approach (using a bootable OS disc) to read your disk should be pretty safe, but do not attempt to write to the disk. Linux's attempts to write to a windows volume can be disasterous for your data. Again, if this is very important data consider professional assistance. You may find a 'ma and pop' computer repair place that can do this kind of thing for well under 100 dollars.

Good luck!
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:50 AM on February 9, 2007

There's always the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows which obviates the need to learn linux.
But I had this same problem recently and it turned out to be the motherboard.
The suggestion to remove all devices, and pull and change sticks of RAM is also a good one.
posted by gnz2001 at 10:46 AM on February 9, 2007

Ok, well, I ended up getting an enclosure, but then right after powering on the enclosure, I knocked the hard drive off a table while it was on and further messed up whatever had happened...I'm currently trying to get my data back somehow with programs. However, my new problem is as follows: I bought a new drive, and installed Windows on it. However, it named the drive E, not C, which is making me crazy. I know it can't be changed with Disk Manager, so my question is, how do I make my main windows drive letter C without reinstalling Windows?!?! Thanks again for all the help!
posted by rbf1138 at 8:05 PM on February 9, 2007

rbf1138, sorry to hear about your continued bad luck. For questions like renaming your drive letter google is going to be your friend.
posted by wfrgms at 8:47 PM on February 9, 2007

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