Monday, September 20, 2010

My Boot Directory Has Gone South

I've been trying to resurrect it, but so far not so lucky. I've tried to fix it, starting with the simpler efforts like virus checks, to taking out my hd and installing it into a portable reader to check it's health (ok) to reinstalling windows XP with the repair facility.

At least now it gets as far as the windows home edition screen, where it quickly switches to a flash of blue with white words on it for a split second that I can't make pause to read. And then it reboots. On in finitum.

I'm trying to avoid using the repair function fixmbr on my partitioned harddrive cuz I'd hate to lose all my programs just like that. The warning sounds ominous. (Update: fixmbr done, but to no avail.) I've saved my data files, but programs and drivers are such a pain to reinstall when I can find all the disks that windows asks for.

My plea for help at Belmont Club resulted in the following advice:

I’m training to become a computer forensic examiner and I think this is a pretty good explanation on how to remove a boot sector virus:

Four things the wiki leaves out: 1) Depending on the os, it is possible to boot from a flash drive instead of a floppy; 2) you should be very wary of saving any executables but if you do, scan them for viruses; 3) There are third party wiping tools available including (free) dban from; 4) your computer may have been compromised by removable media – scan all that you own for viruses.

You must consider all your internet passwords compromised. Reset them. Going forward, use firefox with the keyscrambling extension as your browser – everyone should. If you need help have someone post it here and I will try to give you a timely response. Good Luck.


I can't easily post at BC right now, so I'll respond to Veneto here in hopes he sees it.
I'm not certain my problem was caused by a virus. My virus checker hasn't found anything. I'm not certain if it CAN search the boot sector until it goes through the process of rebooting, and, of course, it's not been able to do that.

The thing about the fix at the link you sent me to is that it recommends doing a complete low level reformatting of the disk. Why not just throw the disk away and buy a new one? It would save one hell of a lot of time and grief.

The whole reason to save the harddrive would be to try and save what is on it and is still usable, no?


  1. Pascal,

    I misunderstood your problem. Assuming your hard drive has uses a parallel ata interface to the motherboard, using jumpers and a parallel ata ribbon with two connections, you can install your new hard disk as a master on the primary interface and install your unbootable hard disk as a slave on the second. This config results in the slave being a non-bootable data disk which the master can read/write to just like any other storage media.

    This isn't hard to do. I know there are youtube videos of how to do this. If you have any questions just amend your post and I will respond. Good luck.

    - Veneto

  2. Pascal,

    A friend just called to remind me of one caveat - make sure you install the new hard disk first and get the os up and running before installing the slave.


  3. Thanks for coming Veneto,

    How do I make use of the programs, registries and drivers on the now unbootable and soon to be slave hd?

  4. Pascal,

    Your programs should execute fine. You can copy them over if you want. Though I wouldn't ordinarily recommend it, since it is a brand new os with nothing important yet on it and if you screw up you could reinstall the os, you could try to copy needed registry entries and drivers onto the new machine - that is assuming both machines use the same os. I don't know your level of tech experience, but editing the registry can be very tricky/difficult and it is very important to get right. What os are/do you plan to use on the old/new drive? Let me know.

    Most drivers are available on the internet if you don't have the driver disks or the os of the hard drives are different.


  5. No my tech experience is weak.

    I've Windows XP home edition. I figured I'd install it again on the new hd. Is there a way to take it off the old disk? I've already wiped out all the updates, including service pack 3 when I attempted to reinstall XP on the soon to be slave drive.

    I no longer have a driver management system as I once did. So what you're saying is that I can continue to use the programs on my old drive. But what about the registries for them? Anything I can do about that?

  6. Pascal,

    You say you attempted to reinstall XP on the soon to be slave drive. Why did it fail? Is it possible you overwrote data? It seems possible all your data on that disk is lost (unless a forensic exam is performed?).

    I'm not exactly sure what you mean by driver management system. Could you please elaborate? What devices are the drivers for?

    Assuming data integrity of the old drive, yes, you should be able to run executables on the old drive. If you experience problems, move them to the new drive.

    You cannot transfer an os from one drive to another without a ghosting program. I dk the details on how to use them, but they are VERY expensive as they are meant for enterprise use. If you still have the install disk for windows xp home, you may want to try to install xp on your new drive using it.

    Assuming data integrity, registry values can be copied from one drive to another. The trick is how many of them there are and where to put them w/o compromising the os.

    I gotta go to bed. Back at you tomorrow.


  7. Oops -- wrong meaning of reinstall. I meant recovery install, the R option that appears after you request installation rather than full installation. It warns that even data files could be lost if I did that, so I didn't.

    I had already used recovery console early, and that is the other R option, before one gets to decide if you want to do a full or recovery install. It says the recovery console is only used by advanced users who can dicker with the lower level areas with care. I simply ran fixboot(?) and then later I summoned the nerve to use fixmbr as directed by the simple examples MS offers. Unfortunately neither those programs were sufficient to rebuild the boot area so the program would run.

    Hey thanks for taking the time Veneto. Even if I can't get this going without having to reinstall every cotton picking program for all the hardware I've got on my machine, at least we tried. I didn't realize how many h/w items there were until the windows XP set up disk started running their names off at the bottom of the screen. I didn't think the list would ever end.

    Good night.


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