computer wont boot

I have a Dell computer running XP home. Earlier, someone shut it down by holding the button on the computer rather than going through the shutdown process. When I tried to reboot, it goes to the dell loading screen, but then instead of going into windows, it just goes to a blank black screen with a white cursor in the top left corner that doesn’t respond to typing. Any idea what this could be?

Thanks in advance

That method of shutting a machine down isn’t particularly recommended unless the machine is hung, but it shouldn’t hurt it to the point of not booting, either.

First, check to make sure that there’s no CD or floppy in the drive; it may be trying to boot from that.

Second, check the BIOS screen (probably F1, F2, or DEL while the machine is booting) to make sure that the boot device is set correctly to the primary hard drive.

Third, let it sit at the blinky-prompt for a good hour or so; if it’s cycling through boot blocks, it can sometimes get hung for a surprisingly long time.

Fourth, boot from the XP install CD. When it asks you what you want to do, hit “R” to use the repair console. If it can find a disk, it will ask you for the admin password. Enter it, then type “CHKDSK /F C:”. If it whines at you about not being able to find AUTOCHK.EXE, skip this step and go on (it depends on the exact settings of your boot disk).

Fifth, get back to the repair console, then type “FIXMBR” at the prompt (say yes when it asks you if you’re sure). Note that at this point we’re into the fairly desparate options. FIXMBR is usually safe, but CAN mess up the partition table, at which point you’re toast.

Sixth, do the same thing, except add “FIXBOOT” at the prompt before “FIXMBR”. We’re really grasping at straws here.

Last, you’ll have to restore the drive. If you’ve got something like Norton Utilities (which usually does more harm than good), try it as step 4.5

Thank you sir for the response.

I got through step four but when I type CHKDSK /f C: it says that /f is an invalid parameter and only /p and /r are valid. So is /f a typo?

Oh no ok so I ran CHKDSK and it got 25% done and said “there appear to be one or more unrecoverable problems” or something. So am I toast here and my only shot is formatting?

try the fixmbr and fixboot before you call it dead. If you have files you need off of the machine you can fairly easily remove the hard drive and attach it to another machine to offload them before reloading/formatting.

Well none of those options worked, but thanks for trying. My next question is, how would I transfer files from one hard drive to another? A link to something like this would be greatly appreciated.

If you have another computer you should be able to open the case and plug it into an unused plug on the same cable as the other hard drive.

Turn off power
locate unused ide plug and unused power plug

set the drive jumper to CS or SL, look for a diagram on the drive mentioning those letters or cable select/slave, its almost always on there.

boot pc, computer should see drive and you can access it just like any other hard drive. If it cannot read it you will need recovery software to try anything else.

Sounds like you’re already past this, but you can use /r instead. Although /f should have been valid, I think – maybe the version on the repair disk is more limited than the installed one.

drachillix gave you steps to install the drive in a new machine, but if you’re not tight on money, there’s another way–buy a USB external drive enclosure. This is basically an empty case that turns any old hard drive into one of those external USB drives. They cost around $40-$80, depending mostly on size and how many blinky lights you want, and I think that anyone comfortable with moving drives around should have one. Not only are they useful for situations like this (where you want to move a drive around from computer to computer in a reasonably temporary way), but they make for a good local backup that’s painless enough that most people will actually do it regularly. Of course, if your drive really is toast, you’ll need to buy a working drive to go in the enclosure once you’re done with your recovery attempts, which adds to the cost.

If the repair console sucessfully got you in, I wouldn’t reformat the drive–there’s at least enough recoverable information there for Windows to find your admin password and the like–which means there’s probably more. If you can afford it, just buy a new drive and keep this one around. 300GB drives are less than a hundred dollars now, and if you’re talking a clean install anyway, you may as well do it on a huge space.

If you can afford it, just buy a new drive and keep this one around. 300GB drives are less than a hundred dollars now, and if you’re talking a clean install anyway, you may as well do it on a huge space.

I would do that anyway and slave the old drive.


This is a great suggestion – you’ll need to reinstall all of your old applications, but you’ll be guaranteed to have all of your old files around, and your new OS installation will also work much better than a kludged-together old version.


Well thanks for all the advice, but I’ve already formatted and reinstalled windows and my computer is back in action. Except for one thing, and that is that the computer no longer recognizes that I have a sound card, and thus plays no sound. Any idea what could be causing that or how to fix it?

I’ve had that happen once or twice on a reinstall.
Have you tried physically removing the card, reboot, shut down and refit it, reboot and it may recognise it as new hardware and install it correctly - try putting it in a different slot on the motherboard - sometimes works wonders.

For future reference the chkdsk of the repair option on the boot cd, uses different operators than the one run from the OS installation.

r and p go with the repair from boot cd method, and f x and more go with the cmd line from the OS.


Go to dells website and download the sound driver for your model and install it.

Hard to achieve if the sound card is not recognised in the first place.

Hardly. Every Dell has a service tag number. Go enter it on Dell’s site and get what shows up.