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Chapter 16. Fixing Windows Problems > Troubleshooting Windows 2000/XP Startup

Troubleshooting Windows 2000/XP Startup

In Chapter 15, you learned how the Windows 2000/XP boot process works and about the different tools you can use to solve boot problems. These tools include the Advanced Options menu, the boot disk, the Recovery Console, the Windows XP Automated System Recovery process, and the Windows 2000 Emergency Repair process. Before you read this part of the chapter, you might want to take a few moments to review the steps to loading Windows 2000/XP outlined in Chapter 15 and also the tools to solve Windows 2000/XP startup problems. With this knowledge in hand, you’re ready to face Windows 2000/XP startup problems. Follow these steps:

As with every PC problem, begin by interviewing the user to find out what has recently changed, what happened just before the problem started, and how to reproduce the problem. Ask what has recently happened. Has new hardware or software been installed? Don’t forget to ask about any important data that is not backed up.

If important data is not backed up, make every effort to copy the data to another media before you try to solve the Windows problem. Don’t risk the data without the user’s permission. If the system is giving so many errors that you cannot copy data, try booting into Safe Mode (see Figure 16-20). If Safe Mode doesn’t load, you can use the Recovery Console to access the data. If Recovery Console cannot access the hard drive, you can move the hard drive to another computer and access it as a second drive in that computer. An IDE to USB or SATA to USB converter kit works well to make the connection so that you don’t have to install the drive in the other computer case.

Figure 16-20. Windows XP Safe Mode with Task Manager

Courtesy: Course Technology/Cengage Learning

Next, determine at what point in the boot the system fails. Decide if you think the problem is hardware or software related.

If you think the problem is related to hardware, check the simple things first. Turn off the power and restart the system. Check for loose cables, switches that are not on, stuck keys on the keyboard, a wall outlet switch that has been turned off, and similar easy-to-solve problems.

If an error message is displayed on-screen, start by addressing it. Table 16-2 lists several startup errors and what to do about them. As you work to correct the problem and restore the system, always keep in mind to use the least drastic solution that will change as little of the system as possible.

Table 16-2. Error messages during Windows 2000/XP startup and what to do about them
Error MessageWhat It Means and What to Do About It
Errors that occur before the Windows load begins:
Hard drive not found
Fixed disk error
Disk boot failure, insert system disk and press enter
No boot device available
Startup BIOS cannot find the hard drive. Problems with the hard drive and its subsystem are covered in Chapter 8.
Invalid boot disk
Inaccessible boot device
Invalid partition table
Error loading operating system
Missing operating system
No operating system found
Error loading operating system
The program in the MBR displays these messages when it cannot find the active partition on the hard drive or the boot sector on that partition. Use the Diskpart command from the Recovery Console to check the hard drive partition table for errors. Sometimes Fixmbr solves the problem. Third-party recovery software such as PartitionMagic might help. If a setup program came bundled with the hard drive (such as Data Lifeguard from Western Digital or MaxBlast from Maxtor), use it to examine the drive. Check the hard drive manufacturer’s Web site for other diagnostic software.
Black screen with no error messagesThis is likely to be a corrupted MBR, partition table, boot sector, or Ntldr file. Boot the PC using a Windows 2000/XP boot disk and then try the fixmbr and fixboot commands from the Recovery Console. You might have to reinstall Windows.
When you first turn on the computer, it continually reboots.This is most likely a hardware problem. Could be the CPU, motherboard, or RAM. First disconnect or remove all nonessential devices such as USB or FireWire devices. Inside the case, check all connections using safety precautions to protect the system against static electricity as you work. Try reseating RAM. Check for fans that are not working, causing the CPU to quickly overheat.
Windows gives an error and then automatically restarts in an endless loop.To stop the automatic restarts, press F8 to load the Advanced Options Menu. Then select Disable Automatic Restart on System Failure. You will then be able to read the error message and can turn your attention to addressing this error.
A disk read error occurred
Missing NTLDR
NTLDR is missing
NTLDR is compressed
A disk is probably in the floppy disk drive. Remove the disk and reboot. When booting from the hard drive, these errors occur if Ntldr has been moved, renamed, or deleted, or is corrupted, if the boot sector on the active partition is corrupted, or you have just tried to install an older version of Windows, such as Windows 98, on the hard drive. First try replacing Ntldr. Then check Boot.ini settings.
When you first turn on a system, it begins the boot process, but then powers down.The CPU might be quickly overheating. Check for fans not running. Is this a new CPU installation? If so, make sure the cooler assembly on top of the CPU is correctly installed.
STOP errors that cause Windows to lock up:
A text error message appears on a blue screen and then the system halts.Stop errors are usually caused by viruses, errors in the file system, a corrupted hard drive, or a hardware problem. Search the Microsoft Web site for information about an unidentified stop error. Several stop errors and their solutions can be found in Table 16-1 earlier in the chapter.
Startup errors that occur because a program is corrupted or not found:
A device has failed to start Service failed to start Program not foundA registry entry or startup folder is referencing a startup program it cannot find. Use MSconfig or the Services Console to find the entry and then replace the missing program. These errors are sometimes caused by uninstall routines that left behind these orphan entries. Depending on the error, the system might or might not halt.

If you think the problem is software related and you cannot boot to the Windows desktop, try booting to the Advanced Options menu (hold down F8 while Windows loads) and select the Last Known Good Configuration. If you want to use this option, it’s important to use it early in the troubleshooting process before you accidentally overwrite the Last Known Good Configuration.

A+ Exam Tip

The A+ 220-702 Practical Application exam expects you to be able to select the appropriate next step in troubleshooting a failed boot when given a specific scenario. As you study the tools and methods in this part of the chapter, pay attention to how a technique affects the installed OS, applications, and data. The idea is to fix the problem by using the tool that least affects the OS, applications, and data.

If you can load the Windows desktop, but the system is giving many errors or is extremely slow, suspect a virus is present. Run antivirus software to scan the entire hard drive for malicious software. If the antivirus software won’t work or is not installed, boot into Safe Mode and install and run the software there. You will learn more about using antivirus software in Chapter 20.

If the system has recently been changed, such as installing software or hardware, assume the installation is the guilty party until it’s proven innocent. Use Device Manager to disable or uninstall the device. If this solves the problem, then try to find updated device drivers for the device. Search the Microsoft Web site for known problems with the device or search the device manufacturer Web site. Try updating or rolling back the device drivers.

If a new application or utility program has just been installed, go to the Add or Remove Programs applet in Control Panel and uninstall the software. Reboot the system. If the problem goes away, then try reinstalling the software. If the problem comes back, go to the software manufacturer’s Web site and download and install any updates or fixes.

If the system will not start normally, try to boot into Safe Mode. If you boot into Safe Mode and Windows XP recognizes System Restore has previously been used to create restore points, Windows XP gives you the opportunity to launch the System Restore Wizard (see Figure 16-21). The wizard gives you the opportunity to choose a restore point from those previously saved. Recall that when Windows is restored to a restore point, all Windows settings are returned to the way they were when the restore point was created.

Figure 16-21. Windows XP gives you the opportunity to launch System Restore before it loads Safe Mode

Courtesy: Course Technology/Cengage Learning

After you boot into Safe Mode, you can use the SFC, Chkdsk, and Defrag commands to verify system files and clean the hard drive. How to do these tasks is covered in Chapter 13. Use antivirus software to scan for viruses. Restart the system. If the problem is not solved, then use System Restore to restore previous settings. The idea is to fix the problem while making as few changes to the system as necessary.

If you cannot boot into Safe Mode, try Safe Mode with Command Prompt. Then try these commands, rebooting between commands: Sfc.exe, Chkdsk C: /r, and C:\Windows\system32\restore\rstrui.exe.

If you cannot boot from the hard drive, try creating and using a Windows 2000/XP boot disk. If you can boot to the Windows desktop when using this boot disk, you can assume that the boot files in the root directory of drive C are missing or corrupted. If necessary, you can restore these files using the Recovery Console. Also use Fixmbr and Fixboot to repair the MBR and boot sector.

If you cannot boot from the Windows 2000/XP boot disk, load the Recovery Console and do the following to restore system files. After you have made a change, restart the system to find out if the problem is fixed or has changed before you attempt the next fix:

  1. Get a directory listing of files in the root directory. If you see garbage on the screen instead of a clean directory list, most likely the hard drive file system is corrupted or the hard drive is physically damaged.

  2. Use the Chkdsk command to scan the hard drive for errors.

  3. Try copying the backup copies of the registry files from the \Windows\repair folder to the \Windows\system32\config folder. Directions are given in Chapter 15. Reboot to see if the problem is solved.

  4. If you have previously identified a key Windows service that is causing the problem, you can locate the file in the \Windows folder and replace it with a fresh copy from the Windows 2000/XP setup CD.

  5. To see a list of all services you can disable, use the Listsvc command. Use the Disable and Enable commands to try disabling each service one by one until you find the one causing the problem.

  6. For Windows XP, try using System Restore to return the system to a previously saved restore point.

  7. If you have a backup of the system state, use Ntbackup to restore the system state using this backup.

If the problem is still not solved, it’s time to assume that the Windows installation is corrupted and you need to restore the Windows installation. However, if there is data on the hard drive that is not backed up, first look over the section “How to Recover Lost Data” earlier in the chapter. There might be a way to recover the data before you use one of the following methods to restore the Windows installation. Here are the tools used to restore a Windows installation:

  1. For Windows XP, use Automated System Recovery to restore the system to the last ASR backup. You will then need to restore data from backups.

  2. For Windows 2000, use the Emergency Repair Process to restore Windows 2000 to its state immediately after it was installed. You can then install applications and drivers and restore data from backups.

  3. Use the Windows 2000/XP setup CD to perform an in-place upgrade of Windows 2000/XP. Recall from Chapter 12 that an in-place upgrade installs Windows on top of the existing installation so that applications and drivers don’t have to be reinstalled. The data might not be disturbed.

  4. If the in-place upgrade does not work, use the Windows 2000/XP setup CD to perform a clean install of Windows 2000/XP. You will then need to reinstall applications and drivers and restore the data from backups.


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