Help with booting external drive -- it's encrypted, getting BSOD after Windows starts
May 12, 2007 8:46 AM   Subscribe

Help with booting external drive -- it's encrypted, getting BSOD after Windows starts. It "kind-of" boots, then crashes. Drive is fully encrypted but I have password and can get to Windows. Is there a way to get data off? Is there a way, after pre-boot authentication, to just use DOS or something? Maybe network it and copy files?

Thanks for any ideas, I'm fresh out.

- Hard drive has data I want. It "kind-of" boots, then crashes.
- XP Pro SP2
- Drive is fully encrypted but I have password and can get to Windows

- Is there a way to get the data off?
- Is there a way, after pre-boot authentication, to just use DOS or something? Maybe network it and copy files?


I've got a hard drive from my old laptop that I'd like to get data from. The old laptop won't power up (been having problems with that, knew it was coming, and had almost everything backed up anyway... Somehow electricity ain't making it to the battery/system anymore). Anyway, the Hard Drive shouldn't be fried -- it just has no power.

I've stuck the hard drive into an external enclosure and tried booting from that. I've also stuck it in a different laptop, with the same results as below. The OS is XP Pro SP2.

The drive happens to have Pre-Boot Authentication (meaning you can't get to the Operating System) via SafeGuard Easy. No problem there, I can enter the password and it starts booting.

Then I get the old "Windows didn't start normally last time, do you want to Start in Safe Mode.... Start windows normally ... Last known good configuration...".

The "Last Known Good" option seems to be the best. However, shortly after the Windows logo appears I get a quick flash of BSOD (blue screen of death, if you didn't already know). Then the system reboots, rinse, repeat.

I've tried different power cords to revive the old laptop, and I know the cords work from using them on other systems. I've also taken it apart and fiddled with where you plug the power cord in (it used to work to jiggle the cord...) so it now looks like a science project. I've got nothing against fiddling more if it might help to have the hard drive back where it came from for booting...

Thanks for reading!
posted by powpow to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
By the way, all this booting I'm talking about happens on the NEW laptop -- booting from USB Hard Drive.
posted by powpow at 8:50 AM on May 12, 2007

By encryption, do you mean this SafeGuard Easy stuff? It sounds like this is, as you say, only asking you for a password before windows starts.

Perhaps you should try booting the system from a Windows CD and repair the installation. Choose the normal "install" method at the first question, not the repair console. When the disc finds your existing Windows folder, you'll be prompted to do a repair or reinstall, and you should choose Repair.
posted by odinsdream at 8:59 AM on May 12, 2007

Thanks for the reply. Yes, SafeGuard Easy is an encryption program so you can't just boot with Linux or something and copy files.

I didn't think about a Windows repair... Do you happen to know if I can do that on an external Hard Drive?
posted by powpow at 9:08 AM on May 12, 2007

A) Your symptoms have all the signs of a hard drive failure, especially since you've tried it with other computers. Laptop hard drives die much faster than normal hard drives.

B) Your data may still be on the hard drive. It sounds like parts of your hard drive are borked, but you don't have an entire failure on your hands.

C) The tricky part is the encryption. Searching through the Safeguard site, I found that you can create an emergency repair disk. This might get you to the point where you can grab files off the disk, although all the documentations describes doing this before the system is broken.

On preview: odinsdream, it looks like safeguard encrypts the entire drive except for a proprietary boot kernal. A windows installation CD wouldn't be able to find anything to repair, as it couldn't read the encryption.
posted by zabuni at 9:09 AM on May 12, 2007

@zabuni "safeguard encrypts the entire drive except for a proprietary boot kernal. A windows installation CD wouldn't be able to find anything to repair, as it couldn't read the encryption"

Aaaah, yes zabuni, that's what I meant....

OK, I do have the kernel backup (thank you Mozy) and can probably make a repair disk. I just thought that was only for SafeGuard Easy problems, but I'll try anything now.
posted by powpow at 9:12 AM on May 12, 2007

I disagree that it's harddrive failure. You're trying to boot Windows on entirely different hardware, so it's not surprising that it crashes. Among other things:

1) The boot drive went from IDE to USB. A guaranteed way to kill a Windows install is to ask it to boot from a different type of controller.

2) Your architecture could be different. For example, booting a single core version of windows (say, Pentium M) on a multicore processor (say, Core 2 Duo) doesn't usually work.

3) Your display drivers have completely changed. Windows might not have drivers for your new hardware, or it could be trying to initialize the old hardware on the new machine. Bad things result.

Part of my job entails maintaining lab images across several different types of hardware. I doubt you're going to get this to work. The best way to get your data off is to boot your new laptop normally and then connect the old drive as an external drive. I don't know how this works with Safeguard.
posted by sbutler at 9:17 AM on May 12, 2007

Thanks all for the ideas.

@sbutler, Hate to say it but you could be right. It's a Core 2 Duo on the new system and something way older on the old system (Pentium 4?).

If it's the new/different system messing things up, would that mean it's messing up the data on my old drive? Or, does it just fail to boot and leave everything the way it was?

Thanks again.

Time will tell... Next steps are try the SafeGuard Easy rescue disk (I've already screwed up Windows if a different system does it...) and try to find ways to somehow virtually boot the disk....
posted by powpow at 9:34 AM on May 12, 2007

Ok, crazy idea: how about trying another Compaq Presario? I may be able to get my paws on a 2100 (vs my old 2580us). Would that be close enough, or did I already kill the Windows install?
posted by powpow at 9:39 AM on May 12, 2007

I doubt it's corrupting data, unless you were using FAT32.

And actually, with the Pentium 4 + Hyperthreading your old Windows install might already have the multiprocessor kernal/HAL. I think the much more damaging change was from IDE -> USB, or that the system board is radically different than the last time Windows successfully booted.

Looking at the Safeguard site, they claim Safeguard Easy can protected external disks too. Have you tried installing their software on a good install of Windows and just plugging the external drive in?
posted by sbutler at 9:42 AM on May 12, 2007

I'm inclined to agree with sbutler, different HALs being the likely culprit. A royal pain in the ass when trying to build a one size fits all desktop image.

Are you able to boot into safe mode at all? If so, you might be able to go into Device Manager and under Computer, switch to something like Standard PC. That may boot on a wider range of hardware. What you really need to be able to do is Sysprep the machine but I don't know how you'd go about doing that from an unbootable drive.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:44 AM on May 12, 2007

Thanks again, I've got SafeGuard on the new system, and when I plug the external drive in Windows asks if I'd like to format it....

However, this may mean that I need to check with their Support folks for ideas.

I cannot boot to safe mode at all. When I choose one of the "Windows didn't start" options, I get a bunch of commands/paths showing in a DOS type screen, then it says something like "Press ESC to quit loading [wild guess here]STPM[/guess]".

Then I might see the Windows flag for a second, BSOD for half a second, and it restarts.
posted by powpow at 9:53 AM on May 12, 2007

sbutler said this but might might not have made it really clear, based on your last response.

Don't try to boot from the drive! Add it as an external drive to a system that already boots successfuly.

I exclamation-mark not because you're doing any damage or such, but because you're making the problem way more difficult than it needs to be, especially considering you're done with the old laptop.

So boot from a machine that works, install Safeguard on that machine, add the encrypted drive, and then you should be able to get at whatever is on the drive easily.

I second the opinion that there's nothing described that would indicate physical problems with the drive. You're just at an odd intersection of trying to fix a misconfigured XP installation without being able to use any typical boot repair tools because of the encryption. An interesting problem, but fortunately you don't need to solve it.
posted by Bokononist at 11:50 AM on May 12, 2007

Does the laptop drive have Master/Slave jumpers? If you're trying to get the data from another laptop with the Safeguard software, and not trying to boot from the old drive, just make sure it's a slave drive. Considering you're using Whole Drive Encryption - with that being authenticated at boot - it would seem to make it hard to retrieve the data if you're not actually booting from that drive. However, maybe Safeguard has a utility that will allow you to decrypt the drive when it's not a boot drive? Have you tried contacting them?
posted by Gerard Sorme at 12:00 PM on May 12, 2007

Hi all,

Thanks for the input. It looks like the next steps will be to:
1. Work with with Safeguard and see if there is a utility that will help
2. Try to find a similar laptop or battery on craigslist

Thanks again!
posted by powpow at 3:24 PM on May 12, 2007

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