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Bad HD required to use good HD

Last response: in Storage
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July 15, 2012 2:30:01 AM

Ok, I consider myself fairly good with computers but this problem just baffles me.

My setup: I have 2 Hard Drives, both Western Digital. The old HD (about 8 years 320gig) has 2 partitions (C: contains only program files and Windows XP, D: contains media, documents, and games. The new HD (about 1.5 years, 750gig) contains Windows 7, media, and games. I only keep XP as a backup in case of weird problems with 7 and I haven't really used XP in over a year. Theres no coupler on either of the drives, they simply share a power cord and use different SATA cables.

I noticed my computer running slow and videos running choppy (They would stop altogether, then start again.) So naturally I think some background program. After all the programs were shut down and processes that weren't essential closed I was still having this problem. So I did the natural thing to run a virus scan, then a malware scan, then a HiJack This log. All came back negative for malware... etc. I realized movies and music worked fine on my newer drive so I figured the 320 was just crapping out. So I think "No biggie, I'll be fine considering all my essential files for running windows 7 are on the new drive."

After a windows update I was forced to restart and then I was greeted by a "Disk boot failure - Insert system disk and press Enter" message and the "Click of Death". After fiddling around with BIOS settings I found that the old HD had been selected (somehow) as the HD to go to in the boot order for HDs. So I selected the newer one to boot from by hitting F8 at the BIOS screen and selecting the 750gig... now here's where it gets strange...

Starting from the 750gig drive appears to give me the same disk boot failure message (even though I'm certain that drive is physically fine.) If I select the 320gig drive it will load a menu asking me which OS I want to start from (Win7 or Earlier version) Selecting 7 will simply give me the error again and the earlier version will just spew out error messages and crash. If you run the "last known good configuration" option it works fine. The 320 is viewable but laggy, sometimes programs crash when they read files on that drive.

I unplugged the old HD because I had made backup copies of files to the new HD. (All media and documents, no programs) But I still recieved the Disk Boot Failure message. The only way I've been able to access windows 7 is by plugging the BAD HD back in! Even though it shouldn't affect the Win7 OS because its on the other drive! (ARGH!)

I plugged in the HDs in other SATA ports and even used some spare SATA chords I had, and nothing seemed to remedy the problem. Sometimes I wouldn't even be able to ask the BIOS to load the last known good config for win7... it just keeps popping up with that message.

It's like a nintendo cartridge, eventually I can get on and everything within the newer drive works fine.

So, after all that, my question is WTH?! I could understand HD failure, I could understand MOBO failure (mobo is only about 3 years old) But both at the same time?! I don't have any of my windows backups (and I'm currently looking for a bootdisk for either my cd\dvd player or my thumb drive. What do I do now? Why is the new HDD acting fine when I DO finally get into windows but gives me all sorts of grief at the bios level?

I have an ASUS PDN-5 if that helps. I don't know if it should be in this forum or in a Mobo forum considering I really don't know what's causing it.

So basically: Why can't I use my good HDD without plugging in and attempting to boot from the bad one to get a menu that will let me load a configuration so I can use windows without any problems?

*pant pant*

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July 15, 2012 2:44:43 AM

I believe your issue has to do with the location of the MBR etc.

Just because you have an OS installed on a certain drive or partition doesn't mean you will be able to just boot from that drive or partition.

Typically there is an MBR or master boot record from which your system boots. This is where the bootloader resides and it is from this little loader that the system is redirected to the appropriate OS to boot.

Typically messing around with the MBR can cause system issues or data loss; however, I would reccomend unplugging the old HDD but booting from the Windows 7 install DVD. Somewhere in there you should be able to choose repair startup problems etc. and this should install the MBR to the new HDD.

I would reccomend backing up your new HDD somewhere just in case something goes wrong.

The reason you are able to boot from the new HDD when the old HDD is plugged in is because it is using the MBR on the old HDD which is booting the OS installed on the new HDD. Hopefully running that Windows startup repair from the Windows 7 install DVD will detect the OS installation on your new HDD and install and setup the MBR there appropriately so that you can boot your Windows 7 installation without the old HDD.

Just to further illustrate the situation. Once you install an MBR on the new HDD selecting to boot your computer from the old HDD from the BIOS will load the MBR on the old HDD while selecting to boot your computer from the new HDD in the BIOS will load the MBR on the new HDD. If there is no MBR or other boot record found in the boot order selected in the BIOS thinks that the drive is not bootable and thus gives you the message asking you to insert a bootable disk etc.

The drive you choose to boot from in the BIOS is not really related to which OS installation you boot. You could have a bootloader on drive 2 which will have options to boot several OS installations either on drive 1 or 2. If you choose to boot from drive 2 from within the BIOS the bootloaders menu will be displayed and you can then select which OS installation to load (which could reside on any drive) while if you select drive 1 to boot from within the BIOS you may receive the message asking to insert a bootable disk if no bootloader exists on drive 1 even if several OS installations exist on partitions on drive 1.
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July 15, 2012 2:51:46 AM

I'll try and find my Win7 install DVD and run from there or at least make a repair boot disk. After I do this I'll report my findings. Hopefully this will resolve my issue. I was also concerned about losing data on the new drive so I've already put the essential documents I need on my email and thumb drives. Thanks for the quick response.
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July 15, 2012 2:55:07 AM

No problem. Booting from the Windows Install Media is a good idea. When presented with the option to perform a clean installation or repair an existing installation choose to repair an existing installation. At this point it should detect your Windows 7 installation on your new HDD. Choose this and then choose "Repair startup problems" or something along those lines. It may take a while but eventually it will finish and reboot. Remove your Windows install media and hopefully it will boot into Windows 7 as you expect.

If on the other hand your existing Windows 7 installation is not detected when choosing to repair an existing installation you probably have a more severe issue then a simple bootloader/MBR issue.
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July 15, 2012 2:57:54 AM

Also once you get back up and running with a working system I highly reccomend keeping your important documents on google drive or dropbox. Amazing free services! I keep all my music in google music and documents on google drive. This way I can access them from any computer anywhere and if I ever experience system failure or data loss I don't need to worry about losing any critical data. Good luck, and let me know if you need any more help trying to get your computer to boot properly!
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July 16, 2012 1:25:36 AM

SUCCESS!*

However... and this is a big however, I still had some headaches afterwards so let me outline the problem and solution so anyone coming across this thread will know:

I couldn't find my Win7 install disk, but I did burn a Repair Disk (you can get a link from microsoft's website) and used that to boot up.

Now upon booting via the DVD I got the repair screen asking me to select an OS I have installed from a list (Its the screen that has a "Load Drivers" button.) but *shock!* no OS is detected. I ignore it and select the top option and go to the next screen with 5-6 options and hit repair setup. It says there's something wrong with the MBR and it is fixing it... restart... same problem. Did it a few times and nothing...

*Meanwhile back at google...*

I found that I had to have Win7 be "marked as active" which I did by going to the command prompt (the last option on the second dialogue box) and typing the following:

diskpart (give it a minute, it takes a sec to load)
list disk (showed the connected disks which was only the one "0" because I had disconnected the old HD)
select disk 0 (Or whatever number your OS is on)
list partition (Looks similar to the "list disk" command)
select partition # (If its been partitioned you'll select the one that has the OS.
active (activates said partition within the drive)
exit (exit :p )

After this I reset the computer and got a different message upon starting something like cannot find NTLDR. Ignore that message, and just reset if you get it and make sure you force it to boot from the DVD. After the reset, no OS was listed, so I went to repair setup again. I selected repair setup, it ran again, and then it reset. Everywhere I look it says to do this a three times. But after this reset I was greeted with a detected OS, I ran the Repair setup and reset until it finally said something like "There are no problems" and then reset the computer and let it boot up like normal.

It then Windows 7 start like normal. All is fine. The galaxy is at peace and the all the children are singing. (Or something, I'm just ecstatic that we finally got it working)

Thank you so much geogolem, I didn't know ANYTHING about MBR and without that critical information I might have figured it was the MoBo. I am currently checking out Dropbox for some of my docs, I've been looking for something better than self-emailing or using Megaupload.

I hope this whole thread helps out anyone else, thanks again!
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July 16, 2012 1:26:32 AM

Best answer selected by sinistermike.
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July 16, 2012 1:35:17 AM

Glad to hear you got it working. Thanks for the info about needing to have the partition marked as active in order for the setup to detect the OS installation. I didn't know that. A while back I ran into a similar issue where the OS wasn't detected and I eventually just abandoned my installation and did a full clean new installation. Had I known about marking the partition as active I probably could have resolved my issue like you did.
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