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''operating system not found'' when attempting to boot up

Relative newbie when it comes to hardware issues. Have 2 eMachines computers on home network with a router, running Windows XP home, SP2 on both, also running spybot, adaware, avg free antivirus, ZoneAlarm firewall on both; newer machine runs Microsoft Antispyware and Norton antivirus 2004... older machine runs McAfee antivirus. Regular defrag performed.

Ok, here's the problem. On my older machine, reboot was becoming slow the past couple of times it worked, meaning I turned it on, the eMachines logo appeared and got stuck there for 15 minutes, and then it would boot normally. The most recent attempt, it stood there and I left it for several hours, after which I get a black screen with little white letters saying ''Operating System not found.'' The system drive on this computer is 20 gigs, the computer is 5 years old, and I had installed (with a geek helping) a second 120 gig hard drive, which even the geek had trouble connecting due to the configuration of the case and had issues at first getting the slave drive recognized. I am not concerned with the info on the system drive, as most of the important info is on the slave drive. So, I wanted to put in the rescue disk that came with the computer to see if it would re-install the operating system, BUT my concern is this: on the chance that the system drive died, would the rescue disk see only the slave drive and start to format it? (I don't want to lose this info.) I have trepidation about going in there and disconnecting it first, as even my geek friend (no longer available to help me) had trouble getting it recognized in the first place, but if that is the only way to safeguard the info, I'd have to do it. But is this necessary? Or would the rescue disk just fail to do anything if the master drive is dead?

Ok, second question. Assuming the master drive IS dead and I need to replace it. Will my rescue disk still work on a replacement drive, or would I need to re-install Windows XP from a purchased CD?

Third question: This may be a stupid one, but, then I am a newbie. My newer computer has several external usb hard drives connected. If I were to copy all the info from my C-drive onto one of these externals, and then take it out of it's encasement and put it in the old computer as it's new master drive, would I have a clone of the newer computer, with it's operating system functional and everything?

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Ideas.

In reply to: ''operating system not found'' when attempting to boot up

1. Find the make/model of the hard disk and run it's maker's drive test or drive fitness test. Also check the cables are still plugged into said drive.

2. A proper restore CD will work proper within the limits of what OS you have. That is, Windows XP has a limitation of restoring to a 127GB maximum size drive. XP SP1 or XP SP2 can go past that. Some run out and change the drive size past what the machine or OS can handle.

3. "If I were to copy all the info from my C-drive onto one of these externals, and then take it out of it's encasement and put it in the old computer as it's new master drive, would I have a clone of the newer computer, with it's operating system functional and everything?"

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Here's why. There is no standard that dictates that the sectors must be translated the same way in the drive case or when on the IDE interface. As such, transfers like that are not a sure thing. I've seen failure and success.

Bob

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thanks will try, couple more quest related to what you said

In reply to: Ideas.

Ok, so let me get this straight... I can test fitness of a drive WITHOUT an operating system in place? OK, will investigate the situation.

And what about my slave drive? Can it stay connected while I do all this and will the restore cd leave it alone?

And since I do have SP2, is there a limit in the size drive I can get recognized should I need a replacement?

Thanks for further clarification.

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oops, I just realized something regarding the SP2

In reply to: Ideas.

Since I installed it from a download subsequent to getting the computer, the restore cd wouldn't have it, and therefore I would need a drive smaller than the 127 G, correct? Or, if I were to install a larger drive, only having part of it recognized, and then re-install the SP2, would I then retrieve the lost gigs?

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Something like that.

In reply to: oops, I just realized something regarding the SP2

Some walk into this trap.

-> You have XP. Not XP SP1, XP SP2. Then you make your system and all is well. Later you add SP1 or SP2 and use a tool like PARTITION MAGIC to expand the drive to over 127GB (full discussion at http://www.48bitlba.com ) You crash, but can't repair it with your XP (no SP) CD or restore CDs.

If the drive is under 127GB (or 137GB depending on how you count bytes), then this is a non-issue.

And yes, you can do a drive fitness test on a non-booting drive.

Part 2

If the boot partition is a size XP supports, then your other partitions will reappear after SP1 or SP2 is applied IF YOU HAVE NOT done any damage to the partition tables. Some attempt repairs too early.

Bob

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this is very helpful

In reply to: Something like that.

But just to make sure I understand you correctly... when I put in the new drive, I make a partition for the operating system that is under the 127 GB, don't worry about the rest of the gigs until SP2 is applied. But what do you mean about "attempting repairs too early"? What is too early? And how would I damage the partition table?

And the other part of my previous question you didn't answer is in regards to the slave drive. Can I just leave it connected without concern about the restore cd trying to mess with it?

Thanks again... learning a lot.

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Updating my status, and follow-up question. Got new drive...

In reply to: ''operating system not found'' when attempting to boot up

Ok, we're almost there. Here's what I did. Used Norton Ghost to clone the C drive on my working computer, checking the options to make it bootable, onto an external usb hard drive. (Understanding, of course, that adjustments would need to be made and that it may not work in the other computer.) Took the external hard drive out of it's enclosure and put it into the non-working computer as it's new C drive. Had to update some drivers and make adjustments for the differences in hardware. So far everything seems to be working fine, except for one thing: My DVD-burner is being recognized as a Compact Flash I/II card in My Computer. In disk management, it is recognized as the DVD burner, with all the correct specs, and it is working fine. I know why this happened: because that particular drive letter, on the cloned system, was a Compact Flash card. But what I don't know is how to change it. It is not giving me an option to re-name or customize. Any ideas? Or should I just live with this misnomer and be happy that this is the only sacrifice I will have to make for taking the "easy way out" and not reformatting from scratch?

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