Did I just lose Vista?

So, I just spent all afternoon writing my statements of purpose for grad school in the library. Upon coming home, I opened my trusty Dell Inspiron 1420 and accidentally touched the button of death: the Dell Media Source button. This goddamn button has ruined my computer before when I used to use Ubuntu.

Well, now, to my surprise, I can’t boot my computer. All I got at first was something like, “Loading GRUB please wait…ERROR 17.” This leads me to believe that Ubuntu is still on my computer.

After some searching, I found people suggesting to use my Vista CD to repair it using fixboot then fixmbr. I did this (see note*) and now I get nothing but a blinking cursor when I boot.

What’s the deal? Any ideas?

In addition, I thought Ubuntu was gone from my computer, and I have no desire for it to be there. If the solution requires that I get rid of GRUB**, fine.

*One worrisome thing is that when click “Repair your computer,” it doesn’t show any instances of windows on the computer!
**that is an Ubuntu thingy right? It’s not Vista, is it?

GRUB is a bootloader that lets you boot multiple OSs on your computer. If the Dell Media Source button is one of those things that lets you, say, watch a DVD without booting Windows, then Ubuntu or no Ubuntu, you probably still have some sort of Linux on your PC. GRUB, IIRC, loads either entirely into the MBR or enough into the MBR to jump to a small boot partition.

My ex-wife’s HP laptop had a similar thing and it was always a pain to deal with. I think I wound up just wiping it out altogether.

right now, I’m trying to download this recovery disk. Anyone know if this’ll help?

I cannot stress how much I need the stuff I was working on today. I can’t fathom wiping the entire thing out…

It might. I’d try Bart’s first, myself.

Well, it’ll probably be a lot more use to you than e.g. the recovery partition or any of the other gubbins supplied with your laptop. I have to confess that my first instinct would be to yank the hard drive out, connect it to a working machine, make a disk image copy (just in case the drive gets totalled completely while trying to fix it) and then work away at it using recovery utilities. I’ve had drives just die on me before, and it’s a pain.

Oh man, that’s pretty much the nightmare scenario. You have my sincere sympathy - I’ve seen grown people in tears over this sort of stuff.

I’ve done this kind of thing before. If there are no time constraints, don’t panic too much. You just wrote it this afternoon and you can do it again. And if it matches my experience, you might be even happier with the result the second time around. Easy for me to say, I know…

If the repair disk doesn’t work you might consider purchasing Spinrite I’ve seen it recover failed drives before.

I appreciate your help, and I hope you’ll continue to help. You see, the issue here is not simply the grad school letters. It’s also our documents for our immigrations papers (as we’re planning on moving back to the US, and my wife’s Taiwanese), other grad school documents, and a number of other things that have not ben wholly backed up elsehere. If I lose the stuff, I lose it, but I’m going to need to do all that I can to make sure that it’s really gone.

Here’s where we stand now. My wife’s brother gave me a boot disk that allows me to open windows (appears to be XP), so that theoretically, I can get in and get my files off beforehand. When I did so, it began to appear to me that I am somehow stuck in the “Dell Media Direct” (the button that I pushed to begin this whole mess. It seems that somehow I’m stuck in this partition.

So, what I was thinking is that, since I had never reinstalled Dell Media Direct when I reinstalled Vista months ago, maybe if I installed media direct I could enter that partition, and then just click exit and shut down the computer in a way that would not make it attempt to boot into media direct (if indeed that is what it is trying to do).

Or has my push of that button just plain nuked my harddrive?

Hmm. I only have one vista machine so I don’t know much about it, but I do know that it is a lot more picky about security etc, to the point that when I formatted an external drive and lent it to a friend, he couldn’t read it (or even see it) from an XP machine. You may simply have fallen foul of the Vista permissions model.

You could try something like the ultimate boot CD to have a look at the various partitions and things, and maybe set the right one active. If the stuff on the hard drive is valuable, I’d most certainly use one of the cloning tools.

Pretty unlikely, my guess is that it’s just screwed up some of the master records which tell the computer how the disk is organised and what order to load things in. Unless the disk is physically damaged, you should be able to get the all or most of your stuff back. The disk in my mums pc went belly-up, so I hooked it up to one of mine and ran RecoverMyFiles - it got back all her files. It also got back 90% of the files that were on it when it used to be my PC previously, despite having been reformatted and re-installed twice :eek:

Thanks for those links, slaphead. It’s comforting to know that I might still get these files back (even if I am going to have to reinstall and rearange everything sooner or later.

As I’m still trying to make headway, I’m wondering how I might go about seeing the partitions or choosing which partition is being booted (or something like that). Is there a way for me to use the BIOS or DOS to rectify this?

I looked up that Ultimate Boot Disk, but the site always times out.

You’re getting into an area which I have always navigated using the faithful method of trial and error - I hesitate to give specific advice because I don’t really know much beyond where to start poking about. My experience has been that usually there’s nothing in the BIOS sophisticated enough (unless there’s a separate disk controller BIOS such as in a RAID controller) and that the utilities in DOS are pretty primitive compared to even freeware tools. If you have a Linux liveCD of some kind that should let you have a good look at what’s on the drive, but you would probably need some linux knowledge. If you could get Vista to boot up off a USB stick, or secondary hard drive that should also be a good starting point.

It sucks that you can’t get to the UBCD site, but google should lead you to similar tools, and the download is mirrored to several other sites.

I just remembered that I have the Ubuntu disk here. I’ve booted up using that. Is there any way I could use this to get into my other partition (without actually installing Ubuntu)?

Yes. You’ll have to mount the partition, though, and that may require some exploration first.

Hit alt-f2 to get a Run Application box. Then type in ‘gksudo qtparted’ (no quotes) in the box and hit Run. Type in the password you used to log in if it asks for one.

Now Qtparted will load, and you’ll be able to see all the partitions on all the hard disks in your computer. Once you know which one is the partition you want, make a note of what Ubuntu calls it. It should be “/dev/hda1” or “/dev/sda1” though the number may be different.

Now that you know what the partition is, you can mount it. Go to Applications > Accessories > Terminal. Now type ‘sudo mkdir /mnt/windows’ (no quotes) then Enter. Password if prompted. Now type ‘sudo mnt ’ and the name of the partition and ’ /mnt/windows’ then Enter. Now you’ve mounted the partition.

Now go to Places. Look to make sure because the windows mount may show up there. If not proceed to Computer > Filesystem > mnt > windows and you’re there.

I posted that in haste a bit, and did not consider the possibility that Vista’s filesystem may be different enought from XP’s that it may not yet be readable by Linux. Please consider the first word in my previous post to be “Maybe.” :slight_smile:

Knead to know, when I type “gksudo qtparted” and hit enter or click run, the box just goes away and nothing happens…

Hmmmmm. What version of Ubuntu are you running there?

Gutsy…

okay. My wife’s brother helped me recover the files (all praise the diligent computer savy of the Taiwanese!), but I’m wondering what I should do before I reinstall vista. How do I make sure this never happens again (i.e. get rid of that pesky GRUB)?