Don t Reformat That Hard Drive-Yet

Don't Reformat That Hard Drive-Yet

Many technical support centers put a tremendous amount of pressure on their employees to handle as many calls as they possibly can, so the support people working for those sweatshops often advise callers to reformat the computer's hard drive and reload Windows and everything else that had been installed on it.

This is bad advice. It may fix the problem, unless it's a virus that has infected the BIOS or some kind of hardware failure, but it's almost always overkill-like amputating a foot because of a blister on your heel, or bulldozing your whole house because there's a leak in a water pipe. In almost every case, there are other less destructive things you can do to solve a problem, if you would only take the time to find it.

Reformatting a hard drive should be an absolute last-resort technique because it erases everything-yes, everything-stored on that drive, and it may take you at least half a day to reload the software and restore Windows to the way it was before you started. As for your data files, forget it; they're probably gone forever.

Instead of reformatting the drive, try one of these techniques:

  • Run a complete antivirus scan on your computer. If the first scan doesn't find anything, try a program from a different maker, or run one or more of the online virus scans described in Chapter 48.

  • Try starting Windows in Safe Mode. If that works, the problem is probably caused by one of the other programs that load at Startup. Use the System Configuration Utility (Start image from book Run image from book msconfig) to turn off the programs in the Startup and Services tabs, one at a time, and restart the computer. When Windows starts without the problem, the last item you turned off was probably the source.

  • If Windows doesn't load, use the Recovery Console. Use the console to copy the http://www.NTDETECT.COM and ntldr files from the Windows CD, and to repair the Master Boot Record and the boot sector. To fix a drive that isn't opening, try replacing or repairing all four of these files.

    • To open the Recovery Console, place your Windows CD in the CD drive and restart the computer. When you see the Welcome screen, press the R key. If your computer didn't come with a Windows CD, either borrow one from a friend or colleague, or call your computer maker's support center and ask them how to open the Recovery Console.

    • The Recovery console uses a command line screen similar to the Command Prompt in Windows or the old MS-DOS screen. To replace ntldr, type:

           Copy c: i386\ntldr 

      To replace http://www.NTDETECT.COM, type:

           Copy c: i386\ 

      To repair the Master Boot Record, type:


      To repair the boot sector, type:

    • To close the Recovery Console, type Exit at the C:\ prompt.

  • Try re-installing Windows from the distribution CD. Remember to install all of the updates, patches and Service Packs from Microsoft's Windows Update site.

  • Remove the suspect drive from your computer and install a new one. If your computer already has a second hard drive, make it the boot disk and remove the old one, and then install Windows on the new boot drive. Don't forget to move the jumper on the drive.


For a more thorough discussion on jumpers, see Chapter 9.

After you have installed Windows on the new boot disk, you can get back to work and worry about retrieving your data files later. Consider this: you can buy a new hard drive big enough to install Windows for less than $100 (check the big-box computer stores and office supply places; one brand or another is always on sale). Are your data files worth that much to you?

After you have installed another drive, try a data recovery program such as Runtime Software's GetDataBack ( to retrieve your data files from the damaged drive. This and similar programs can often read data files that Windows can't.

PC User's Bible
PC Users Bible
ISBN: 0470088974
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2007
Pages: 372 © 2008-2017.
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