Black Screen with Blinking Cursor -- No Boot

I suppose this might be a "newbie" question, but I hope someone can help.

I've been experiencing the black screen with blinking cursor problem that many people seem to have. I've tried all sorts of hardware and software suggested fixes, but nothing seems to resolve the issue. Finally I think I've found the solution in the forum today. I believe it might have to do with my older system and installing a larger HDD and hitting the ceiling on the 137GB boot partition max.

Dell XPS M-170 Laptop - circa 2006
Windows XP SP3
Original HDD was 100GB (IDE)
New HDD is WD 250GB (IDE)

I did a clean install with the new HDD but have been experiencing the black screen/blinking cursor problem off and on ever since. I have no other problems with my system and all hardware passes the long diagnostics testing.

I found a work-around about 6 months ago from the forum. If I clone my internal HDD to an external HDD and then immediately clone it back, my system will boot and everything is fine again - temporarily. I don't quite understand why it works, but it does. Then I'll shut my computer down one night and go to start it up the next morning, and all I have is the black screen again. It takes about 3 hours to do the cloning and although I may not have a problem for months, this week I'm on my 3rd cloning. So I'm still hoping to resolve the basic problem

Is there a way that I can take my external clone and clone it back to the internal drive and change the partition sizes to under the 137GB max and have it boot? Or will I need to partition the internal drive and then reload the OS, all programs and data -- a task I would rather not do. And will any of this work at all? My skill level doesn't include much knowledge about the MBR or boot process.

None of the other "fixes" for the black screen/blinking cursor problem seem to work, so this is my last hope.

Thanks for any help anyone can provide --
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  1. If the drive had a boot partition issue it will never boot, it should not boot sometimes when it feels like it.

    Did you get a new drive or a used one for your laptop?

    Have you done a BIOS update? Can try that, and also check for any new drivers from Dell for your system, the chipset especially.
  2. Thanks for your reply --

    I purchased a new Western Digital drive.

    I did check for new drivers and could find nothing that seemed to apply to this problem. I'll go back and look again. I haven't done a BIOS update -- I'm not sure how to go about that. I've taught myself a lot about computers, but I also have large gaps in my personal "databank". And updating the BIOS is one of them.

    The other thing I don't understand is why the cloning and re-cloning back will work. I've probably done it a couple of dozen times over the past year. Some of the searching I've done on the topic indicates that the MBR is different on some Dell computers -- sort of in a hidden partition, but that wouldn't make sense with the cloning success either. When I found the forum discussion today about the 137GB limit on older model computers drives, that seemed like a good possibility. It said something about the boot process looking in different partitions for a particular file and then hitting the 137GB max and hanging up.

    I'm sorry if I'm not using the proper technical terms -- as I mentioned -- a lot of this I'm still learning.

    I do appreciate your suggestions and I will try to see if I can do any updates in drivers or BIOS. Any other ideas?
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