Is my boot sector corrupted?

This is a self-built WinXP box, P4, with a SATA HD, and DVD, CD, and floppy drives.

I came home the other night to find that my computer will not boot. There had been storms that day, and power had gone out in the house at least once. The computer was plugged in through a power strip, and it was probably off. No indications of physical damage.

It goes through the usual BIOS startup screen, stumbles through a slow version of the RAID-related screen that usually comes next, then tells me that an IDE scan finds nothing at Drives 0-3. Then a RAID configuration screen that I don’t think usually appears, and then I get the screen that says there’s been an error and asks if I want to load Windows in Safe Mode, Safe Mode with Networking, Safe Mode with Whipped Cream, Last Known Good Configuration, or Start Windows Normally. Starting Windows normally or last-known-good gets me as far as the WinXP logo for a moment, but then it restarts. The safe mode options churn out a screen or two of text but then restart. No error message.

HD light on the front comes for a moment at the beginning, blinks again at the Safe Mode screen, then flashes as the computer tries to load Windows.

Based on the above, am I right to think that it doesn’t sound like the HD has failed physically? Should I try to boot from CD and see what can be read? But what does it mean that an IDE scan did not find any drives – will it even see my CD drive?

Should I just reinstall Windows? That can be done without formatting the disk and wiping all data, right? My Windows disk is SP1, I think; is that going to interfere with a repair installation, given that the version on the HD is current?

Any advice would be welcome.

Sounds like your RAID controller got damaged to me, but I’m something of a RAID novice.

Maybe your battery died and the BIOS has reset to a default configuration… you say there’s a RAID screen that you don’t think normally appears. I would try going into the BIOS (press ESC or DEL or F10 during that BIOS start screen). See if there’s a way to turn off the RAID configuration, since it doesn’t sound like you have a RAID setup anyway.

It’s possible Windows is choking on there suddenly being a RAID setup when there wasn’t one before.

Good thoughts, guys! I do not have a RAID array set up, so that might indeed be worth exploring.

“stumbles through a slow version “

I had a problem a few months ago where the BIOS screen sometimes ran very slowly and sometimes failed to boot. Flashing the BIOS solved it.

If youve gotten to the windows XP logo screen then youve gone past all the low level disk stuff like the boot sector and your raid configuration. Im guessing at this point its a disk failure or a bad hardware device.

You want to do a repair install. The SP level doesnt matter, you’ll just need to install SP3 when its done. I would first get a boot disc like UBCD4WIN or a linux disc and copy all your critical data files to another drive just to be safe. Good luck!

Thanks again to all. It turned out to be a problem with the RAID settings in my BIOS. I suspect that the storm must have popped the BIOS settings back to factory default, and so it was looking at my SATA HD as half of a RAID array, rather than an independent disk.