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April 9, 2007 11:20 AM   Subscribe

Why am I seeing so many "Inaccessible Boot Device" blue screens of death?

Some backround: Large corporate network with many thousands of users. I support a few hundred of them myself and about two months ago "Inaccessible Boot Device" BSOD's started popping up like crazy. At first I was leaning towards hardware being the cause, but when I started getting three or four a day I started to wonder. It's happening to the other site techs as well and if I had to guess I'd say the number of affected users is easily into the hundreds by now.

We're running in a Windows 2000 enviroment (I know, I know. Shut up,) and most of the users don't have admin rights to their machines. It's all HP hardware but the problem has occurred across different brands of hard drives. All software updates, MS of otherwise, are pushed without user input from distribution servers.

If the computer gods are in a good mood, you can stick in an ERD 2005 disk and it will see the C:\WINNT installation. You can then run the system file repair and every time it will tell you that kernel32.dll and ntoskrnl.exe are corrupt. You'll get an invalid path error when it does the repair. If you ignore it and reboot and the gods are pleased, the PC will start a CHKDSK and you're good to go. Or the PC will just hang at the windows splash screen if the gods are pissed.

In a fit of desperation one day I booted one of the PC's with a BartPE disk, stuck the hard drive from a working machine of the same model into a USB multibay, and overwrote the kernel32.dll and ntoskrnl.exe files with the ones from the working machine and waddaya know, the PC started fine.

On a *really* bad day neither the ERD disk or the BartPE disk will see the installation and then it's reinstall time. I can put the drive into a multibay, plug it into my PC and run a data recovery program (GetBack for NTFS) and get the data off of the drive, however.

So, basically I want to know if anyone has a clue why these two files keep getting horked? And if anyone knows of a utility that can see the installation when ERD and BartPE can't thus allowing me to replace the affected files, that would be swell too.
posted by Cyrano to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is it possible that someone (or some thing) nefarious has obtained administrative access to your network? Virus or disgruntled employee?

Or maybe you have a boot/login script running that is doing strange things it is not supposed too?
posted by chundo at 11:40 AM on April 9, 2007

IIRC, it's been a long time - the problem lies with Office. It moves some system files beyond the 1024th sector, and the bootloader can't find them and thinks the drive is inaccessible and you have your problem.

The solution in our case was to upgrade to Office2003. If I get a chance (not likely) I'll kick around the knowledge base on Microsofts website and see if I can find the article that details this problem.

I wish I had more help than that to offer, but It's what I've got. Good Luck, man.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:47 AM on April 9, 2007

Was it "Inaccessible Boot Device" or "Unmountable Boot Device"? I ask because I had one at home over the weekend on a corporate laptop. The error numbers led me to believe it was down to the hard drive cache being written to out of order, so it fouled things up and generated the error. Almost sounds like what Pogo is saying.
posted by jwells at 12:29 PM on April 9, 2007

Do you have SATA drives? Win2K and XP don't support those natively, and it's possibly your drivers are borked.
posted by fvox13 at 12:34 PM on April 9, 2007

Based on the way this came on, I'm thinking boot-sector virus. If this were my problem, I'd be reaching for the Trinity Rescue Kit to diagnose and repair it. If it is a boot sector virus, then at no time during diagnosis and repair should you be booting from an affected drive.

You might consider re-flashing the BIOS, video cards, disk controller cards and network cards on affected machines as well.
posted by flabdablet at 10:01 PM on April 9, 2007

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