Hard Drive Does Not Boot
By Stephen Bucaro
When your computer does not boot, the first thing a technician must ask is; what do you
mean by "it won't boot"? Many times the problem is simply that the user doesn't have
their monitor turned on, or that they received the "Invalid system disk" message because
they left a floppy in the drive. Or does the user mean WINDOWS won't start?
A problem can occur in the boot sequence even before the hard disk comes into play. When
a computer first starts, its Basic Input/Out System (BIOS) performs a Power On Self Test
(POST). Before the computer is ready to use the display, it communicates using beep codes.
After the display is initialized, it sends codes to the screen.
If your computer stops with an error code on the screen, you need to find out who made your
computers BIOS and check the website of the BIOS manufacturer for the meaning of the error code.
When your computer boots, the BIOS reads the hard disk's partition table in order to
find the boot record. If the partition table is damaged, the message "Invalid drive or
drive specification" will be displayed. The partition table does not change after the
drive is partitioned and formatted unless it has been damaged, possibly by a virus.
If the boot record is damaged, you will receive the message "Invalid system disk". If the
partition table and boot record are good, the computer will read the hard disk's File
Allocation Table (FAT) in order to start loading Windows operating system files. If the
FAT is damaged, you will receive the message "Sector not found reading drive C".
If you do not receive any beeps, error codes or messages and your computer still will not
boot, then the problem is Windows will not start. Note: the POST makes a single beep to
test the speaker; this is not an error.
If you have a damaged partition table, boot record, or FAT, you can use Nuts & Bolts Disk
Minder or Norton Disk Doctor to make a repair. You must have the utility on a bootable
floppy disk and execute it from the floppy. Or you can install a new hard drive and load
Windows and one of the above utility suites on the new hard drive. Then configure the old
drive as slave and repair it from the new drive.
Note: If your hard drive makes a loud whining noise when you first start your computer,
you need to run out and get that new hard drive now.
The first step to repair a computer that won't boot is to find out what "it won't boot"
means. If during boot you did not receive any of the errors mentioned above, that probably
means Windows won't start. How to repair that problem is covered in another article.
More Windows Troubleshooting Articles:
• Troubleshooting a Dead Computer
• Windows 7 Startup Repair Tool
• Troubleshoot Windows 7 with Problem Steps Recorder
• How to Fix Advapi32 Error
• The Blue Screen of Death (BSOD)
• Four FAQs on How to Update Chipset Drivers
• Troubleshoot Windows with Event Viewer
• How to Troubleshoot and Repair Optical Drive
• Troubleshooting DLL Problems
• Video - Exploring with Process Explorer