On: Tech Republic’s “10 Things You Can Do When Windows XP Won’t Boot”

1 08 2007

Tech Republic has a great little article, even if its a bit old, for those of us that need a little help when it comes to WinXP. The article, entitled “10 things you can do when Windows XP won’t boot” written by Greg Shultz, is just what it claims to be.  My article here will dive a little deeper into the instructions posted in Shultz’s article, including some insights of my own and some extra tools that might help.

To be perfectly honest, I have learned all I know about “Windows troubleshooting” from trial and error while poking around WinXP for shits n giggles.  This means that I made alot of self imposed of cock ups, wasted months of time, experienced hair pulling frustration, and had too many complete drive reformats and re-installations to number.  Hence the interest in this article for anyone out there, who doesn’t have the time or patience to dick around with Windows for hours on end.

Here’s a peek at Greg Shultz’s list of ten. (My Comments are in parenthases)

Source – Tech Republic

  1. Use a Windows startup disk (The article was written in ’06.  So replace “floppy disc” with USB stick, or any removable media that you don’t mind wiping clean to use as a boot device and “startup disk”, including a CD-R if you want to waste one.)
  2. Use Last Known Good Configuration (Ok, I dunno about you, but I have never seen regular old OEM PC, WinXP boot screen with this text on it, “Please select the operating system to start“.  Most OEM systems (PC’s like Dell, HP, anything that you didn’t build yourself) will start with a screen that shows their logo while the BIOS is telling your system what to do.  Usually in this screen, before you see the Windows Logo/boot screen, you get a logo in the center and some F# options, like F8, that you can use before the system executes the boot sequence set in the BIOS.  Note: Some OEM systems do have different selections for different buttons, but they will tell you what they do on the screen.  You will see them, the options, either in the upper right hand corner of the screen or at the bottom, usually in gray letters)
  3. Use System Restore (Note: Sometimes Ctrl-Alt-Del won’t work to restart your system, you may have to do a “hard restart” by holding down the “power button” either on your tower or wherever it is on your laptop, and hold it until the system powers down.  There may even be times when a hard restart won’t work, which means you are pretty screwed, the absolute last resort is to pull the power plug.  However, most modern PC’s will succumb to the hard restart.)
  4. Use Recovery Console (This is really just a start point for many of the following “Things You Can Do“, as there is no explanation of what to do after you get the recovery console started.)
  5. Fix A Corrupt Boot.ini (Note: Won’t work if you F’d up a GRUB bootloader by wipeing a partition without fixing the GRUB partition map first, a personal experience of mine.)
  6. Fix A Corrupt Partition Boot Sector  (The functionality of this one may depend on just how many partitions you have.  Windows doesn’t allow for more than 9 (I think), and if you have more than two OS’s… lets just say I had a problem with this one. GRUB problem can also screw this one up.)
  7. Fix A Corrupt Master Boot Record (Same problems as 5 and 6)
  8. Restore From Backup (In my opinion, this is your best option.  Of course, not all people regularly backup their systems with Norton Ghost or whatever back up software anyone likes.  However, even if you haven’t been backing up your windows partition, you can still retrieve information, or even copy whole partitions, with a live CD like UBCD, Hiren’s Boot CD, or even a linux distro like BackTrack2)
  9. Disable Automatic Restart (Damn good idea.)
  10. Perform An In-Place Upgrade (Also known as a repair install.  You might get full functionality back with this and you may not, but at least you will have access to your data.  Oh, and depending on how up to date your Windows XP install disc is, you might wind up having to re-update to SP2 as well as other updates that were applied that are not on your disc.  Note: The GRUB problem described before will also screw this up.)

*I mentioned a couple tools up there in my comments, I’ll supply links after the jump.

From what I can tell there doesn’t seem to be any order of which things you should try first when your XP won’t boot.  In my opinion your easiest point and click options, in the order of what you should probably try first, are numbers 2, 3 and 10.  Number 9 is really just a good thing to do.  Now if you are a bit more adventurous, or knowledgeable, you can try the other options.  Number one is really just to get access to your windows partition.  However, if the start disk works, you will know that the files you copied from another  system (boot.ini, NTLDR and ntdetect.com) are involved with the problem on your system AND that your MBR (master boot record) is probably ok.  So then you’ll wanna try fixing your boot.ini file, number 5 in the list, which requires that you know how to do number 4.  However, if your start disc from number one doesn’t work, then you will have to delve into numbers 6, 7 and 8.  Number 8, backup restore, is really a great way to go, if you have your system backed up, including your boot sector.  This is all hindsight, but its a good idea to keep a system backup handy on some sort of removable media.  One thing to think of when you first install Windows, or right after you get your new PC or laptop, is to partition your hard drive so that the core system files reside on the default partition “C” with the minimum possible size allowed for a WinXP.  This will make it alot easier to back up your core system, because that “C” partition will be ALOT smaller than say your whole hard drive, and only contain files that your system needs to run.  You can use the other partition/s as storage for documents, videos, whatever you want.  If you don’t have partition magic, you can use Parted Magic or Gparted on a live cd.  Lastly, if you don’t remember your Administrator password, which is fairly common, you can use Offline NT PW & Reg-Edit Bootdisk to reset the admin password to blank.

That’s all I have to say about that one.  Remember, for links and info on the tools I mentioned in this article follow the jump.  Happy troubleshooting!!

 Windows Tools -
Offline NT pw & reg-editor, bootdisk   – is a nice tool for forgotten Admin passwords and even some registry editing. 

  • cd070409.zip (~3MB) – Bootable CD image. (md5sum: ffb92d9ffafaa6ed06e9b98fc14f707d ) Bootable USB drive may be made from the files on the CD. See readme.txt on the CD. WARNING: WILL CORRUPT WINDOWS VISTA!

Hiren’s BootCD – Is packed full of tools to help repair your system.  Just click the link to see all the tools.

  •  You’ll have to search for the torrent on this one, Hiren no longer posts Download links, sorry. The current version is “Hiren’s BootCD 9.2″.

UBCD – AKA The Ultimate Boot CD, is also packed full of tools to help repair your system.  Its linux based so don’t get all startled.  Big plus is its free and you aren’t breaking any rules/laws by downloading it or using it.

UBCD4WIN – Is the ultimate Boot CD that is ALL windows based.  Its made by a whole different project group than the original UBCD.  Also a total freeware project.

BackTrack2 –  The ultimate in linux live CD’s for penetration testing created by the folks over at Remote Exploit.  You can do alot with this disc including retrieving info from that NTFS drive you can’t get to boot.

That’s all folks.  Best of luck.

End Transmission


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3 responses

1 08 2007
dblackshell

you wrote the article just in time cause my win xp died yesterday :)

2 02 2008
15 06 2012
Ronaldinho

I have to get across my love for your kind-heartedness in support of those people who have the need for guidance on the area of interest. Your special dedication to getting the solution across came to be surprisingly good and has specifically encouraged men and women just like me to realize their objectives. This informative tutorial can mean a great deal to me and somewhat more to my mates. Thanks a ton; from everyone of us.

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