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Cant find Valid Partition on drive?

by cyberion / May 2, 2004 3:01 AM PDT

Is all lost? I was installing a new CD-RW and upon rebooting, the system stopped. I tried using a Win 98 start up disk and it just told me that it has loaded the diagnostic utilities to another drive and then gave me the A: prompt. Confused I removed the startup disk and tried rebooting....thats when I received the horrible message, Win 98 was unable to find a valid fat partition on my hard drive. Possible problems include a virus. YIKES! I don't like the sound of that. Any advice that could help me get up and running again would be appreciated. Thanks!

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Re:Cant find Valid Partition on drive? After adding CDRW
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / May 2, 2004 3:37 AM PDT

The common gaffe is that some are unaware how to set jumpers.

In a nutshell.

-> 80 conductor IDE cables = all devices set to Cable Select.

-> Older 40 conductor IDE cable = One device = Master. Second device = Slave.


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Re:Cant find Valid Partition on drive?
by Kees Bakker / May 2, 2004 3:49 AM PDT

In addition to what Bob (rightly) says: disconnect the CD-RW and reboot. There's a very good chance everything will be normal again.
Then reconnect the CD-RW with the master-slave switch set correctly.


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Re:Re:Cant find Valid Partition on drive?
by cyberion / May 3, 2004 2:06 AM PDT

Thanks for the info. Just to make sure I understand this jumper mess...First let me state that I have a dinosaur for a PC. Which means that I have the older 40 pin IDE situation. Companies don't make their instructions clear enough on this subject. That said, am I understanding correctly that in my case if I have two devices (both of the older kind) on one IDE cable that the jumpers on each are to be set to the "Slave" position?
In relation to the advice you originally gave....I did disconnect the newer CD-RW drive and then rebooted but now the boot stops and gives me a C: prompt. It seemed to be booting just fine but when the "Starting Win 98" logo came onscreen it quickly flashed off and gave me the C: prompt. I tried the startup disk and still I just get the A: prompt. Is that all I am supposed to get with a startup disk? Thanks again for any info you can offer.

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Re:Re:Re:Cant find Valid Partition on drive?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / May 3, 2004 2:22 AM PDT

"That said, am I understanding correctly that in my case if I have two devices (both of the older kind) on one IDE cable that the jumpers on each are to be set to the "Slave" position? "

No. Which is why I pared it down to one sentance.

-> Older 40 conductor IDE cable = One device = Master. Second device = Slave

You can't have two masters or two slaves on 40 conductor cables.


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Re:Re:Re:Re:Cant find Valid Partition on drive?
by cyberion / May 3, 2004 3:24 AM PDT

Thats what I originally thought. Let me ask this then, What was the cause of the "Invalid Partition" message? I checked the jumper settings and they were set to the Master\Slave settings. I set the HD=Master and the CD-RW=Slave on the same cable. Is this a correct configuration?

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Cause? Incorrect setup.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / May 3, 2004 4:05 AM PDT

There are also some IDE devices that won't co-exist, even though they should. You will find from time to time a CDROM or HD that won't live on the same cable, no matter what.

Welcome to standards. The joke is that you can chose from many.


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Incorrect setup ??
by Kees Bakker / May 3, 2004 4:55 AM PDT

I go with defective or non-standard / incompatible hardware,if the switches and cables are OK. But I can't find the incorrect setup in his post immediately above, so I can't find it a cause for the error message either. BIOS setup should be automatic, isn't it?

Could you explain what you mean?


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Re:Incorrect setup ??
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / May 3, 2004 4:59 AM PDT
In reply to: Incorrect setup ??

I read some passage that both were slaves. That would be incorrect. This area will confound a new system builder.

As to BIOS being "automatic", one can hope for such, but as there is no standard (or many to chose from) we can count on it.

"Could you explain what you mean? "



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Re:Re:Re:Cant find Valid Partition on drive?
by Kees Bakker / May 3, 2004 4:01 AM PDT

To answer your last question first: hd = master, cdrw = slave is definitely correct. And shouldn't give troubles, if the hardware is OK. The alternatives, of course, are: cdrw master on the second IDE (if nothing there at the moment) or as slave on the second IDE (if nothing there at the moment). The only rule: disk to boot from = master of first IDE.
If you go into the BIOS at boot time, you'll be able to see (most often on the first screen) what IDE devices are connected where. The same shows at start-up, unless some OEM choose to display its own name instead.

A boot diskette indeed boots to A: and no more. It's up to you what you want then.

Windows 98 from the hard disk booting into MSDOS is remarkable, and not correct. Try running win (in the windows folder, so \windows\win) and see what happens. It might be a BootGUI=0 setting in MSDOS.SYS, but I wonder how that should come. Better have a look at it!
If necessary for research purposes, boot into the boot menu (keep ctrl pressed while 'Starting Windows 98 ...' appears, and try Safe Mode boot, Normal Boot and (if necessary) boot with bootlog.txt written to see why it goes into MS-DOS in the boot log.
The c:-\prompt appearing anyway shows your partition is still there, and valid also. That must be a good feeling.

I would advise to leave the new device disconnected until you have the system up and running again.

Hope this helps.


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by cyberion / May 3, 2004 7:12 AM PDT

Yes, it's a huge relief that I still have my info!
Thanks for your detailed advice. I am a newbie at this computer stuff. It's just unfortunate that this PC is not a NEWbie. It doesn't help that it has had a few owners other than myself, so I'm not confident that the system is stable or even setup for the best performance. There are two folders that are named "Windows" and "Windows.000". That doesn't seem right to me although I couldn't tell you why I think that. Could this be a possible cause for this wierd problem? The main components are a 5g HD, CD-Rom, 100mb IOMega Zip Drive, Standard Floppy, and hopefully this new CD-RW. Is the correct config for these devices: Primary IDE: HD=Master, CD-RW=Slave ; Secondary IDE: CD-Rom=Master, Zip=Slave, Given that these components are compatible with each other?

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Windows.000 cause.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / May 3, 2004 7:19 AM PDT
In reply to: Re:Partition
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by cyberion / May 3, 2004 3:00 PM PDT

I'm sorry I don't follow the "windows\win" and the "bootlog.txt"thing. Can you elaborate? And as for the MSDOS.SYS part, I searched the entire disk for a file by that name and came up empty. Considering you mentioned something about a setting being wrong in this file, I take it that the fact I can't find this file may well be my problem. If so, now what? I appreciate your continued patience and wealth of knowledge that you so kindly share! It's reassuring that there are those who can make up for others who are technology impaired. Thanks again.

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by Kees Bakker / May 3, 2004 5:11 PM PDT
In reply to: RE; MSDOS.SYS

If you boot into MS-DOS and want to do useful diagnostics, you must have some basic DOS-knowledge, I'm afraid.

Just type win to run Windows. All commands in DOS-mode should be ended with enter or they don't work, by the way. If it gives something like 'invalid' precede it with the folder-name the program ( resides in, so \windows\win or \windows.000\win

Bootlog.txt is a file created in the root folder if you choose from the bootmenu for a logged boot. You can view it rather well with Notepad (or DOS EDIT). A freeware program call bootlog analalyser (or analyzer) makes it somewhat more readable, if necessary.

MSDOS.SYS is a hidden file. You must unhide it before you can see it (or view with type, or edit with Notepad or Edit).;EN-US;118579 tells you all about it.

Running bypasses this file. So if runs, and it doesn't appear at boot, the problem might be here.

Hope this helps.

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by cyberion / May 3, 2004 5:38 PM PDT
In reply to: Re:RE; MSDOS.SYS

Well after I played with your advice I figured it out. I was able to do the Win thing but received this error message:
A device or resource required by VFAT is not present or is unavailable. VFAT cannot continue loading.
System Halted.

I figured out that the MSDOS.SYS file was hidden and figured out how to view it along with the list of other hidden files. These hidden files are named but have only a .--- for an extension. Is this because they are hidden? I tried to rename the MSDOS.SYS file using the correct SYS extension, however I was told that this file was "Read Only" and was denied acces. I am confused as to why the simple act of adding new hardware would somehow tick the PC off enough that it would drop file extensions. That is if it did do that with the .--- example. Is it a simpletons answer to just reinstall Windows 98? Would that even benefit me at this point or create more problems? All I wanted to do initially was to install the CD-RW drive to back up my data. Then if it dies or I get fed up at least I can reformat. The up side is that I am learning. Until I gain enough knowledge to fix this issue I am again at your mercy.

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by Kees Bakker / May 3, 2004 8:40 PM PDT
In reply to: Re:Re:RE; MSDOS.SYS

The MSKB-article about MSDOS.SYS tells you how to view (and even edit) the contents. You need the attrib command to unhide it. If you don't have Windows, Notepad won't work, but EDIT will, and type (type msdos.sys | more) will certainly do. Don't forget to reset the attributes to what they were after viewing.

Renaming MSDOS.SYS is a very bad idea!

There's nothing wrong with file extension ---. Even you might make them, I think, so certainly can Microsoft. You don't normally see them, so nobody matters.


Not being able to run windows (vfat initialization error, system halted) is a very bad sign. You don't like what you read in at all! Of course, it just an example. The other hit found by google is no more pleasant reading.

I'm afraid you need to bring the computer to a qualified computer shop to fix it. Or maybe you have some guru near at hand?
If you don't have a backup of all data you don't want to lose, let them mount the hard disk in one of their computers and copy them to a CD for you.

Sorry, but as things are they aren't much suited for remote help here, and not much suited for solving yourself either, I'm afraid.

Let's see what Bob has to say.


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