Hard disk works but won't boot even after XP repair, fixmbr, etc

POST (laptop self-test) passes as do Dell tests, but laptop stops as soon as it attempts to boot from hard disk, leaving cursor flashing top-left. Could access files fine by booting into Knoppix on a boot CD, when I boot into Acronis Backup it says C drive (Windows boot) is fine. Hard disk and motherboard recently replaced and worked fine until few days ago.

XP Repair console Chkdsk finds errors and says it fixes them, every time I run it.

XP full repair process copies files across OK but when it reboots the laptop stops as soon as it attempts to boot from HDD (as part of the repair). I have deleted and rebuilt boot.ini, and run fixmbr and fixboot and removed and reconnected HDD but nothing makes any difference.

Is this a motherboard problem or a hard disk problem? Any ideas what I can do? Please?! I've been bashing at this for days and nothing touches it.

Problem started when I did a reboot following an AVG update, very much doubt this is relevant but mentioning just in case.

Thanks for any comments or time reading, any suggestions or thoughts however insignificant gratefully received, as I am out of ideas and nearly out of hope!

System is Dell Precision M20, 2.13GHz, 2GB, 160GB Samsung HM160HC HDD, nothing else plugged in running XP Pro SP3.
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  1. Presumably you can get into the BIOS -- check that the drive is being recognised and that any settings are correct for that type of drive.
  2. Thanks for the good tip - I hadn't thought of that. I have checked and all appears to be fine. Also, I can access any files on the hard drive when booting into Knoppix, copy them onto a USB stick, etc.
  3. If you can save your data and have the needed software and drivers; do a clean install. The windows utilities do not always work (clearly). When a repair install does not fix the issue you mostly have only a clean install option left. After doing a repair install and running the console commands, you have altered the HD content beyond the point where you can isolate the original cause. You did the right stuff it just did not work.
  4. For some reason Knoppix has stopped working (freezes just after it says "don't remove media"). However I ran a Samsung disk utility test and everything passed fine except for a sector on the surface check, which I reckon exonerates the motherboard and means the disk is to blame. As the disk is only 8 months old I'm going to take it back, get a replacement, get a SATA interface, grab the files I need from the old disk, then reinstall XP from scratch on the new disk. I think persevering with a dodgy disk is inviting future troubles.
  5. Yup and also if there is any chance that this is/was virus related the clean install on a new disk solves everything. This links to a page where you can download and make a system disk. The entire OS is on the cd so you can start the machine and access the HD as if it was a secondary drive. You can then grab the files you want. Give it a try. It is the Bart-PE builder section you want. Cost nada and save a trip to the store.

  6. Thanks that looks fantastic, and a lot friendlier to use than the process I did find. I ended up using all my blank CDs and DVDs so looked into USB drive options. I flicked through all the ISOs in this compendium boot disk and in the end I just used the <a href="http://www.avg.com/gb-en/avg-rescue-cd">AVG Rescue CD</a> - most of my boot CDs have barely worked, but this has been the most reliable and capable of all of them, and it is a very easy process to create a boot USB drive (without the need of formatting it) <a href="http://forums.avg.com/ww-en/avg-free-forum?sec=thread&act=show&id=80543#post_80543">here</a>.

    It isn't for complete novices as you need to use the keyboard and navigate the linux file system, but as soon as you find the file manager in utilities, and get used to the fact that your drives are under /mnt/sdb1 etc, it works a treat.

    If someone else with a similar problem is reading this, based on my experiences:
    pu2 has an easier graphical interface but looks trickier to build the boot disk
    AVG Rescue CD is fiddly to use but easy to create the boot disk
    Knoppix is as simple as burning an ISO and slightly easier to navigate (but still text based) but in my experience is less reliable

    I've got my files and am going to return the drive and install XP from scratch.

    Thanks HUGELY for everyone's help, absolutely invaluable.
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