General discussion

Can't boot into safe mode or anything for that matter

Jul 19, 2008 4:00AM PDT

I've got a Dell 8300, P4-2.80G, 1G DDR SDRAM, XP Pro. I made the cardinal error of trying to fix something that wasn't broke. I decided to see if there was a driver update for my Maxtor HD, using the update driver function in the Device Manager. It searched for the update and then I received a BSOD with this error ?Stop: c0000221 Unknown Hard Error \SystemRoot\System32\ntdll.dll?. I shut down the system and rebooted. I get a momentary manufacturers splash screen. My two hot keys are F2 and F12. I can reach the BIOS information and the Boot Device Menu, that's it. I can't reach "Safe Mode", I can't reach anything. I used my XP Pro disk and the system won't accept it, and it's the disk that came with the system. I got a new copy of the ntdll.dll and tried to replace it but I couldn't do anything with it. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable but this has left me with the taste of rank amateur in my mouth. Any ideas? Please?


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"I used my Windows disk and the system won't accept it".
Jul 19, 2008 4:14AM PDT

That can't be caused by anything you did in Windows, because the PC should boot from a bootable Windows XP disk even with the hard disk totally new and blank and empty. It boots the OS from the CD, only then starts to look at the hard disk and see what it can do with it.

It's not clear from your post what you did after searching for the update (and maybe finding it?) and receiving the BSOD. Did you download something, install something? Or did the BSOD come before you even started the download. You simply don't tell and leave us guessing.

If the boot device is set to cd first AND the xp cd is bootable (as an authentic Microsoft CD is) and it still doesn't boot, you can be sure it's a hardware issue somewhere that needs repair.
You can check the boot device in the BIOS, as you say. You can check the CD on any other computer where you can access the BIOS. After those 2 simple checks you know more.


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Can't boot...
Jul 19, 2008 5:06AM PDT

Sorry, I thought I explained it fairly well. I searched for the update using the link for(updating)the HD in the Device Manager. I selected the "Update driver" and allowed it to search automatically for any possible upgrades. As it was searching, I suddenly received a BSOD with this error ?Stop: c0000221 Unknown Hard Error \SystemRoot\System32\ntdll.dll?. As I said, I had simply selected to "Update Driver" and this error occurred during its search. I also used the Boot Device Menu and changed the boot order so the CD-Rom was first. The disk opened and it checked my configuration, etc.,etc. and then after running the "Windows Setup" it says that "Setup is starting Windows". I'm then offered three choices 1.Set up Windows XP now 2. Repair Windows XP 3. Quit Setup. Selecting either 1. or 2. I receive a notice that "Setup cannot access this disk." In the same box it says "39206 MB Disk 0 at Id 0 on bus 0 on atapi." It has mentioned that I need to partition the drive and when I attempt to do that it opens that same window indicating Setup cannot access this disk.

I fail to see how it could be a hardware failure because it was operating fine and this occurred only after trying to update the hard drive driver. It is a genuine MS XP Pro disk and I have the key, so it's not a counterfeit disk. I apologize for the scattered explanation. Thanks Kees...

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Jul 19, 2008 5:10AM PDT

I just received a notice that setup cannot install to the selected partition.

You can only install to GPT disks on IA-64 machines and MBR disks on X-86 machines.

Enter to continue which takes me back to the screen mentioned previously.

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Re: hardware failure
Jul 19, 2008 5:22AM PDT

- Setup can't access the disk.
- Setup uses the drivers from the CD, not the drivers you tried to update.
- You got an 'unknown hard error' while searching for a new driver.
- There's nothing in your story that points to the update being done already.

That leaves one conclusion: it's the disc itself or the interface to it on the motherboard. It was operating fine. And now it isn't. Such things happen. That's what I call a failure.

Things I would do:
1. Reset the BIOS to something called 'defaults' or 'safe defaults'. But I don't believe searching for a disc driver will corrupt the BIOS, so it's a small chance that it will work.
2. Download killdisk or dban (both free) and boot from its CD to wipe the entire hard drive. Then - if they don't fail - try installing XP again. But my idea is right, they will fail.
3. Trying another (new?) disk.
4. Replace the motherboard.

If there's data on the disk you don't want to lose and don't have on a backup, skip #2.


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I'm going to comment about "Update Driver"
Jul 19, 2008 5:12AM PDT

If there's one thing to learn is that you can't trust this button.

Use this as your personal lesson then look to last known good boot or even wipeout and start over.

-> Let me repeat this another way. Update drivers from the makers. Not Microsoft.

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That boot error.
Jul 19, 2008 5:14AM PDT
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So true!
Jul 19, 2008 5:30AM PDT

That's something I generally don't do but have in the past and got away with it. This has turned into a train wreck for me. I read the information you recommended Bob but I can't boot to anything. It's either the BIOS or the Boot menu. I can't get passed that point. Anything I try just gets me a notice that "Setup cannot access this disk." Is this thing toast?

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"Setup cannot access this disk."
Jul 19, 2008 5:40AM PDT

All too often I find this when the hard disk is on the SATA connections and the BIOS doesn't emulate IDE.

The old F6 key during the XP CD boot is used and we supply the drivers on floppy for old times sake. Who said the floppy was dead?

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Could be, but ...
Jul 19, 2008 6:17AM PDT

this is what he wrote a few posts above:
I receive a notice that "Setup cannot access this disk." In the same box it says "39206 MB Disk 0 at Id 0 on bus 0 on atapi."

That didn't look like SATA to me, so I didn't mention that possibility. Agree?


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I always check...
Jul 19, 2008 6:31AM PDT

Then again they could be dual booting which could cause the second odd boot issue.

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IDE Drive Diagnostics
Jul 19, 2008 6:52AM PDT

IDE HD Diag. running,
Primary SATA Drive 0: no device
Secondary SATA Drive 0: no device
Primary IDE Drive 0: Maxtor 6E040L0-Error attempting diagnostics
Drive 1: no device
Secondary IDE Drive 0: JLMS DVD-ROM XJ-HD166-Diagnostics not supported
Drive 1: SONY CD-RW CRX216E-Diagnostics not supported

Test complete, Press <ENTER> to reboot

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There's a missing clue here.
Jul 19, 2008 6:57AM PDT

See post 7 and tell us about it.

Otherwise it looks like a failed hard disk or you tried to format that drive ahead of installing XP (which can trip up the XP installer.)

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Jul 19, 2008 7:21AM PDT

I sent you a message earlier on this subject but I see it didn't make it past the gate keeper. Anyway, it is impossible for me to reach any sort of command interface. I can't access any function, no safe mode, no My Computer, nada. I believe that my BIOS page is nothing more than the setup utility. My bad... I've seen everything in the last two days except the things needed. So strange that simply looking for a driver update would ruin my system. I can't do anything with it.

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Jul 19, 2008 7:58AM PDT

The hard disk failed and it just chose a bad time.

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Jul 19, 2008 8:15AM PDT

This has truly been a lesson. By simply using a M$ link to try and update a hard drive,ruined the drive instead of updating it. There's something very wrong with these results! The system was operating so well and has always been very dependable. I always stayed on top of required maintenance, good firewalls, anti virus programs, never put trash on the system, yada, yada, yada. I'm so peed off right now that the only azz I need to kick is my own. I'm not sure who stinks more right now M$ or my decision to trust them. I think I'm going to take a shower. Thanks gents for your patience. Is there anything I can do with this now or is it junk?

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Just luck I guess.
Jul 19, 2008 8:19AM PDT

Think about how old most 40GB drives are. I just pulled my wifes drive out of a machine that was getting wierd. It was a 40GB drive and the very first thing I did was get her to copy ALL the files out. The drive is now failing the drive maker's diagnostics.

Small world it seems. That drive is so old I can't remember when we got it.

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Installing new HDD?
Jul 19, 2008 4:27PM PDT

Okay, it took the better part of this evening to free my tower from captivity, what a job. Uggh... Now that we've decided that this Maxtor IDE 40 Gig paperweight is toast, what is the recommendation for replacement? Another IDE or a SATA? Granted I'll be upping the storage space considerably, will the new drive adjust itself accordingly or will a BIOS Flash be required? One of my major desires would be to recover some of the software from the old drive. Is there anyway of determining that beforehand or should I consider everything non recoverable? I've got my business files, passwords and email contacts backed up about 80%. Everything else will have to be installed again. A lot of the software came pre-loaded and will be lost. Carbonite sounds pretty good right now! Would you recommend taking the box into a shop where knowledge is far better than my own? Any opinions up to and including replacing the system are welcome and appreciated. It's a Dell Dimension 8300, purchased in 2003. It has been a great system but I'm not sure if spending two or three hundred for a replacement drive is the best way to go.

Signed, Confused in FLA :^[

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Re: new hard disk
Jul 19, 2008 7:05PM PDT is an 320 Gb IDE disk for $99.99 and it might be OK. That depends on
1. The BIOS (might have a 127 Gb limitation in a machine from 2003)
2. Your OS (must be at least XP SP2)

You surely can use it as a second hard disk in most modern machines. They all have SATA, but there's a fair chance they support 2 IDE-drives: choose 2 from DVD-burner, DVD-read only, CD-burner, CD-read only and this nice hard disk.

But just as well, you might consider to save this $100 and buy a new machine right now. Your choice.

As to getting your data back, you can try to mount this disk in an external drive and use data recovery software (like GETDATABACK or ZERO ASSUMPTION RECOVERY), but if it's an electronic or mechanical failure (and it seems like it, because even the diagnostics won't run) that's useless. Unless you want to pay $1000 or more for professonial recovery, consider everything on it lost.

Best of luck with this issue.


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