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22Oct/11

Windows startup error

Worked late last night, on a friday I know! One of my laptops, an XPS M1530, have been making a strange noise. The speaker locks it self in some strange scream. Sometimes I was able to get it to shut up by tapping on it but other times I had to connect headphones to get it to shut up. Last night I was tired of it so after a did the shutdown I took it apart and ripped out the broken speaker and cut out the cables. Then I put it all together again and tried to start the computer. My entire hard drive is encrypted with True Crypt and I also have a hidden operating system on the machine (both win 7 x64). On start up I got the password screen for True Crypt and entered my password for the decoy system and got this error:

Error:  error no bootable partition found

I goggled a bit and didn't find anything useful. I realized it probably was the boot properties that was messed up but none of the tools I had could access the disk because it was encrypted. So I did have the recovery cd created by True Crypt so I started it up and decrypted the entire system. Then i restored the original boot loader and tried a reboot.

Missing operating system

So I only got a new error message instead. Google didn't give me much more then that I should use the windows install cd to repair it. I have been working with windows for a long time and I don't have any good experiences with Microsoft repairs. So I didn't want to do some universal end user fix that would f*ck up my system. I booted from the windows dvd with hope of a command prompt. When I selected "Repair my system" it couldn't find my system but I could read the disk from the prompt. So I took the disk out of the computer and hooked it up to my other laptop and activated the C:\ drive of the decoy system. Now the repair function of the Windows 7 install DVD could see the installation. I got a dialog that told my that my boot options was messed up and asked me if I wanted to repair them and reboot. Yes please that would be lovely! Did it boot, of course not!

But I got even a new error! Just a blank black screen with a flashing underscore cursor. So what now? I already know that my master boot record (MBR) and probably my boot manager was broken. So I tried to boot from the Windows 7 install DVD again and issued two commands:

bootrec.exe /fixmbr
bootrec.exe /fixboot

Restarted the machine and got a new error again!
BOOTMGR is missing
But this was the first good error message so now I could really get down to fixing the issue. Started the Windows 7 installation DVD repair function again and entered the prompt. Issued the following commands:

chkdsk /r

To check for errors and "repair" them. If chkdsk finds anything the disk is usually about to fail. Really don't like when that finds anything.

Bcdedit /export C:\BCD_Backup
ren c:\boot\bcd bcd.old
Bootrec /rebuildbcd

This rebuilds the boot options for the boot manager. But this command only sacans all the disk trying to find windows installations. I couldn't see that it found anything but I could access c:\ so then i entered it manually:

bcdboot c:\windows

Then I ran bootrec again:

bootrec /fixmbr
bootrec /fixboot

Then I restarted the machine and it booted without any problem. But only my decoy system, my hidden operating system is still on a partion that looks "RAW". In my case it doesn't matter becuase I rarly used my hidden system anyway and really only created it for fun. But I think it would be possible to get the system back but I didn't try. I'm just glad that my primary system was back on track.

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