Sunday, August 23, 2009

Some Things To Try When Windows Fails To Start

We went to visit my wife's aunt. While my wife and her aunt conducted civilized conversation over tea and biscuits, I was cajoled by the aunt's daughter into taking a look at her laptop. "It's broken" I was told, "and surely you can fix it!". Flattery goes a long way with me.

I was handed a brand new Dell laptop, that was literally broken after the teenage daughter dropped it. The plastic cover, close to the bottom right corner of the screen, was cracked. The other problem was that, after turning on the laptop, it remained stuck in the Window$ vista boot screen - the one with a green progress bar going back and forth, indefinitely.

I forcibly shutdown the laptop with the power button and turned it on again, and tried hitting F8 during the boot process, in order to enter safe-mode. I wasn't quick enough so I had to do it again.

Safe mode usually did the trick for me on XP machines, but it didn't help this time.

The boot process hung while loading crcdisk.sys. I now know that this is a pretty common complaint, but it seems to be caused by several unrelated problems. At the time, however, I could only guess that it's a disk access problem of some kind. Not that it helped - the box was bricked.

I wasn't aware of the fact that I could've tried hitting Alt-F10 during the Vista boot process in order to get to a recovery console. That would've at least allowed me to run chkdsk, or something.

I wasn't aware of Startup Repair.

I'm a Vista newbie.

My next step was to boot the laptop using my live HDD which I usually carry with me. It took two attempts to find how to convince the laptop's BIOS to boot from the USB disk, but I finally succeeded. The plan was to access the internal hard disk and either copy important stuff from it to the live HDD, or burn said data to a writable DVD.

The plan was foiled by the fact that I could not mount the NTFS partition - I was notified that I have to run chkdsk first...

At this point I had to admit failure and suggested to my disappointed audience that the laptop be taken to the repair shop.

When we got back home I was restless. I just had to find a way of making that simple plan of mine work in the future. This got me on a roller-coaster ride of activity: I found myself installing GRUB2, setting up a Window$ live CD, slipstreaming an XP install CD and more. I plan to summarize my efforts in some of the upcoming posts.

In the meanwhile you may want to consider installing the Window$ recovery console on an XP box that you care about, by running the following from the Window$ install CD:
d:\i386\winnt32.exe /cmdcons
I did this on my wife's laptop, and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.


  1. Hi, is very useful that this happen, Windows is a great show of problems, but sometimes (more than less) it can fix it.

    I want to comment you that a link "live HDD" not works, the webpage say an error.

    Sorry for my poor english anyway, and thanks for this article.

    See you

  2. Thanks for your comment.

    The "live HDD" link seems to work just fine on my end. In any case you can try these links:
    or this search.