Author Topic: Corrupt Boot on Windows Laptop  (Read 2349 times)

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Offline redyoshi49q

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Corrupt Boot on Windows Laptop
« on: July 12, 2012, 07:25:43 am »
At my aunt's request, I've been working to set up a dual boot situation on her laptop.  It previously had Vista installed, and I had an XP disk/key that I wasn't using on my systems.

Aside from various relatively normal kinks along the way, things seemed to be going along fine.  After a few boots between Vista and XP (I had to reboot XP multiple times for updates, and Vista once to check a few settings for a critical application), the system stopped booting (the boot process failed before the multiboot menu, so neither OS could be booted).  I've tried a number of fixes that I already knew of or researched, including Rescatux's automated tool for fixing Windows MBRs as well as executing "bootcfg /rebuild" from the recovery console reachable through the XP install disk.  I also tried repairing the XP install and then tried completely reinstalling XP.  Even that didn't leave the machine in a bootable state, which has me extremely concerned.

The most frequent error message is displayed below; this is the one that displays after starting an install of XP from the CD.

Quote
Invalid BOOT.INI file
Booting from C:\windows\
**********
Windows could not start because the following file is missing
or corrupt:
<Windows root>\system32\ntoskrnl.exe.
Please re-install a copy of the above file.

Some attempts to use Rescatux to recover the MBR have resulted in different booting behavior (essentially, a short, non-informative output consisting of "MBR" followed by 1-2 numbers and a colon, followed by a system freeze).  I don't recall any other booting behavior, though it's possible that other booting behavior has been exhibited but forgotten.

I *haven't* yet tried running "fixmbr" from the Recovery Console to completion; the tool complains about "a non-standard or invalid master boot record", and warns about the risk of losing partition data.  Though I do have a backup of the user data from the Vista system (and am still able to back up any needed data by mounting the drives in Linux), I'd rather not try that unless I'm certain the partitions wouldn't be lost.

The partition table of the hard drive originally contained a small partition at the beginning, which I have left unmodified.  The remaining disk space used to be entirely devoted to Vista, but now only half of that space is dedicated to Vista.  According to GParted, a clean install of XP on the unallocated second half of the drive creates an *extended* partition, which in turn contains an NTFS partition.  If a Linux system instead creates the NTFS partition, and the XP CD is simply told to use that partition as is, then GParted shows an NTFS partition after the XP install as expected, but boot behavior isn't affected by this (the system still fails to boot).  I imagine that this could be at least part of the problem since (to my awareness) XP installs are only supposed to exist on primary partitions.

The tools available to me to fix this problem are an XP Professional CD and key as well as a flash drive dedicated to YUMI (in essence, I can use it to boot almost anything available as a LiveCD, including Linux distros and recovery tools).  Notably, I *don't* have a Vista CD; my aunt is here on travel, and unlike my XP disk, I don't have an extra copy of Vista available.

In the absolute worst case scenario, I can maintain backed up data, wipe the entire hard drive, and install XP on the entire system.  In an effort to avoid using such drastic measures without warrant, I was hoping that somebody else might have a few ideas on diagnostic methods or anything else that I may have overlooked while working on this.

Any ideas?
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Offline Foxpup

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Re: Corrupt Boot on Windows Laptop
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2012, 10:58:39 pm »
I didn't know it was even possible to dual-boot two versions of Windows on the same hard drive using the Windows MBR. I thought you had to use something like GRUB and use that to trick each installation of Windows into thinking it's the only one installed. It's a real pain.

The partition table of the hard drive originally contained a small partition at the beginning, which I have left unmodified.  The remaining disk space used to be entirely devoted to Vista, but now only half of that space is dedicated to Vista.  According to GParted, a clean install of XP on the unallocated second half of the drive creates an *extended* partition, which in turn contains an NTFS partition.  If a Linux system instead creates the NTFS partition, and the XP CD is simply told to use that partition as is, then GParted shows an NTFS partition after the XP install as expected, but boot behavior isn't affected by this (the system still fails to boot).  I imagine that this could be at least part of the problem since (to my awareness) XP installs are only supposed to exist on primary partitions.

Correct. Windows XP (and Windows 7) must be installed on a primary partition (and, I'm pretty sure, the first non-hidden one) in order to boot. I'm not sure why Window XP Setup would try to install to a logical partition, since that won't work at all. Make sure Windows XP is installed on a primary partition, then set the Windows 7 partition as hidden and the Windows XP as non-hidden and active/bootable. That should enable you to boot Windows XP but not Windows 7. If that works, then you'll want to think about installing the GRUB bootloader, which can be configured to automatically make the appropriate changes to your partitions depending on which OS is selected at boot time, which sounds crazy, but it's no more crazy than Microsoft's apparent belief that anyone who installs more than one OS will have a separate physical hard drive for each one. >:(
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Offline WhiteShepherd

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Re: Corrupt Boot on Windows Laptop
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2012, 05:01:11 pm »
You can dual boot Vista/7/XP on a single hard drive.  It's simple enough to do.  One possibility is you may of went to a website or got a trojan that modified your master boot record (to load trojan or spyware before windows). 

This is fairly easy to fix to repair the MBR.  But if you have been messing with the .ini files you may have tanked your install OS files. :( 

If you made a backup of your files (you did make backups right?) restore everything back to default.  Download and boot off Super Grub Disk. Booted from CD make sure it can boot your Windows and Vista partitions.  If that works it should let you install it's boot manager to the HD removing any trojan that would expect a windows boot manager.  If your boot manager gets tanked again you can boot off the cd to replace it.
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Offline Foxpup

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Re: Corrupt Boot on Windows Laptop
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2012, 04:11:19 am »
You can dual boot Vista/7/XP on a single hard drive.  It's simple enough to do.  One possibility is you may of went to a website or got a trojan that modified your master boot record (to load trojan or spyware before windows).

If there is a simple way to do it using the Windows MBR, I have yet to learn of it. And a boot virus? On Vista? That seems... unlikely. There's probably nothing wrong with the MBR other than that it's a Windows one. ;)
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Offline redyoshi49q

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Re: Corrupt Boot on Windows Laptop
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2012, 04:22:21 pm »
Thanks for the help, guys.

I didn't know it was even possible to dual-boot two versions of Windows on the same hard drive using the Windows MBR. I thought you had to use something like GRUB and use that to trick each installation of Windows into thinking it's the only one installed. It's a real pain.

As WhiteShepherd alluded to, it is possible and (when things are working the way they are supposed to) reasonably easy to multiboot Windows.  If progressively newer versions of Windows are installed on separate partitions of the same hard drive, each installed version should recognize the older installations and add entries in the bootloader for them automatically.  Since I had installed XP *after* Vista instead of the other way around, I had to manually restore Vista's bootloader and add an entry for XP (I used EasyBCD as per this guide to accomplish that).  That guide also discusses how to fix a bootloader that gets corrupted, but unfortunately for me, it recommends the use of a Vista disk, which I do not have.


One possibility is you may of went to a website or got a trojan that modified your master boot record (to load trojan or spyware before windows).

That's possible, but I don't think that's the case.  My aunt ran McAfee on Vista before she came to me, and I installed AVG at her request afterwards.  Neither AV program threw complaints.  I was also diligent with my use of the XP install (one of the first things I did was install AVG).


Download and boot off Super Grub Disk. Booted from CD make sure it can boot your Windows and Vista partitions.  If that works it should let you install it's boot manager to the HD removing any trojan that would expect a windows boot manager.  If your boot manager gets tanked again you can boot off the cd to replace it.

I used Rescatux for this purpose; it's supposed to be able to do the same things as SGD, including fix Windows and GRUB bootloaders.  Having said that, SGD may work through different backend mechanics, so it may be worth trying separately from Rescatux.  I'll see about getting SGD on my YUMI flash drive and trying that out on the machine.


If that works, then you'll want to think about installing the GRUB bootloader, which can be configured to automatically make the appropriate changes to your partitions depending on which OS is selected at boot time, which sounds crazy, but it's no more crazy than Microsoft's apparent belief that anyone who installs more than one OS will have a separate physical hard drive for each one. >:(

I... actually didn't think of that.  I guess I always thought of GRUB as a way to boot Linux.  I'll try that if a SGD repair fails, as GRUB may need an ext partition to work (which, for a Windows system, would effectively be a dedicated partition).

I was hoping to get this fixed up before I headed off to camp (I'm chaperoning for my hometown's Boy Scout troop), but that ended up not happening.  I'll try your suggestions when I get back at the end of this week.  Again, thanks for the help!
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Offline Foxpup

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Re: Corrupt Boot on Windows Laptop
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2012, 04:41:41 pm »
I didn't know it was even possible to dual-boot two versions of Windows on the same hard drive using the Windows MBR. I thought you had to use something like GRUB and use that to trick each installation of Windows into thinking it's the only one installed. It's a real pain.

As WhiteShepherd alluded to, it is possible and (when things are working the way they are supposed to) reasonably easy to multiboot Windows.  If progressively newer versions of Windows are installed on separate partitions of the same hard drive, each installed version should recognize the older installations and add entries in the bootloader for them automatically.
Really? Well, I've had nothing but problems trying to get Windows multiboot to work with two Windows installations on the same drive. Maybe Windows just hates me.

If that works, then you'll want to think about installing the GRUB bootloader, which can be configured to automatically make the appropriate changes to your partitions depending on which OS is selected at boot time, which sounds crazy, but it's no more crazy than Microsoft's apparent belief that anyone who installs more than one OS will have a separate physical hard drive for each one. >:(

I... actually didn't think of that.  I guess I always thought of GRUB as a way to boot Linux.  I'll try that if a SGD repair fails, as GRUB may need an ext partition to work (which, for a Windows system, would effectively be a dedicated partition).
Yes, GRUB requires a small ext partition to store its configuration files, but that's no big deal. GRUB stands for GRand Unified Bootloader, and as the name suggests it is capable of booting pretty much any operating system in existence, and even works is some configurations where the OS's "official" bootloader cannot.
“Hmm... They have the Internet on computers now.” - Homer Simpson

“Art doesn't work without pain. Art exists for compensating pain.” - Till Lindemann

“There's a fine line between sayings that make sense.” - Too Much Coffee Man