Time to Start Mourning the Loss of My Laptop?

Today, my laptop (running WinXP) froze while I was typing in the password to log into my administrator account. After waiting several minutes, I finally powered it down. Upon powering it back up, it was no longer able to boot. It gives me a rather fatal sounding message to the effect that the system folder in the windows directory is “missing or corrupt.” It tells me to use my restore disk to try to repair the folder.

I’m not sure I even know where my restore disk is. I suppose I could ask Compaq for another one. But realistically, what are the chances here? Is this the kind of thing that generally does successfully get recovered, or is this the kind of thing that generally spells doom?

Other information that may be relevant is as follows. A few months ago the laptop began behaving in the following way: Occasionally, when booting (always, I think, from whatever state its in when I shut the laptop without powering down, leaving it in my bag overnight), it tries to boot from LAN (whatever that means) and fails, saying something or other “might be disconnected.” Then, a week or two ago, I began getting occasional BSODs followed by non-me-initiated reboots. These usually went by too fast for me to be able to read them, but once I caught something about there being something wrong with something like “system_kernal_nonpaged.” (I noted it down at the time but can not remember what it said anymore.) When I searched online for references to whatever it was it had said, the consensus seemed to be that I either had a virus or a bad hard drive. I don’t think I probably had a virus (but who ever does think so?)–I know how not to click on things I don’t know the provenance of. On the other hand, I didn’t have dedicated anti-virus software so who knows, I guess. In any case, assuming it’s a “bad disc” whatever that exactly means, is this doom, or is there hope? Is it true, as some sites said, that in this case, I just have to “discard the device” :frowning:

One further question. I don’t have any really important data on the hard drive of this thing, since I save everything important online. But if I do want to pull some off of it, if the computer itself can not be restored, is that going to be possible? I’ve taken a hard drive out of a desktop before, but I wouldn’t know what to do with a laptop hard drive.

I’ve hooked up two desktops to transfer data from one to the other before, but I assume this will be impossible to do with my laptop if it can’t even boot up. (Am I right about that?)

Anybody selling a laptop cheap?


Regarding my second to last question, I found this article describing a way to recover data from an unbootable computer using a Linux disc. So that’s good.


So this is odd. After having turned the thing off and on several times today and having had it do the “missing or corrupt system file” message each time, just now I once more powered the thing up and didn’t get that message. But it didn’t boot up either–instead, it started doing the thing it began occasionally doing a few months ago, to wit, the thing I called “trying to boot from LAN.”

Except I don’t know anymore why I thought that “booting from LAN” what it was trying to do. The actual text of the message it gives me now is

For Realtek RTL8139(x)/8130/810x pCI Fast Ethernet Controllver v2.13 (020326)
PXE-E61: Media test failure, check cable
PXE-M0F: Exiting PXE ROM.

It used to be that once it started doing this, I could get WinXP to boot up by hitting ctrl-alt-del. But now ctrl-alt-del just brings me right back to this “media test failure” message.



What happened was that the file that makes window “go” got corrupted, if you have stated your error message correctly.

Talk to your friends, and find one that has a Windows XP install disk. You then need to reboot your computer, and tell it to boot from the CD drive. Your computer will then check what’s going on, and tell you its preparing to install windows. This is OK.

It will then ask you if you want to install a new copy of windows, or attempt to repair the existing copy. You want to repair the existing copy. So, go for the repair option. It then asks you which version you want to repair - there should only be one install on 1: Windows or 1: WinNT. Choose that, and then it should show you a DOS prompt screen. Type in chkdsk/R. This will check out the disk for you.

If you have any geek friends, this is about as simple of a task as you can get. Bribe them with a dozen cookies, and they can probably walk you through it.

Good luck.

This means that its trying to boot from your network, which it can’t do, since you don’t have install files on your network drives.

If you run the disk check, all will be well.

If you had run a disk check when you were getting the blue screens, you probably could have fixed this problem once and for all.

And to be a jerk - once you saw your FIRST blue-screen, you should have backed up all your data.

Regarding the last comment, as I said, I do not have any important data on this drive. This is not an emergency, it is more like breaking a toy. Hence it is not true that I “should have” backed up all my data.

If by a disk check you mean chkdsk, I ran that two or three days ago when prompted to do so on startup. Other than that, I am not sure what you mean by a disk check.

Today, from the BIOS, I did a disk diagnostic (“Hard Drive Self Test”) and the “test result” came out to be “Diagnostics not supported.” I had no idea how to understand that. Are they not supported in the sense that the system is not supposed to be able to do them? (Then why offer the option in BIOS?) Or are they “not supported” in the sense that there is something wrong with the HD making it impossible to do the self test?


Will this work on a system that came with Windows pre-installed? (I read somewhere online today that in such cases a non-OEM WinXP disk could screw things up by resetting special admin passwords and such.)


Strangely, it is now back to the windows/system missing-or-corrupt message.

Any idea why sometimes it tries to boot from network and other times it does not?


  1. “chkdsk” examines your disk, and tells you if there are errors. The version I’m asking you to run, from the Windows CD, is a more powerful version of that. The “/r” option tells it to check the disk, and instead of just reporting the errors, it goes and fixes your problems.

  2. When your computer was running, if you had gone into the “check disk” option for it, there is the option to “scan for problems” and “fix errors”. If you had ran it that way, it would have fixed the problems like the above-referenced example.

  3. You aren’t able to get the options as you are having problems with the disk - because the computer can’t see the disk, it can’t run the options to fix the disk. :). Yeah, kinda sucky logic-loop there. That’s why we have to depend on external cd-bootable fixing programs to get drives back to functioning.

It will absolutely work. Its checking the basic operating-system stuff, which is completely independent of anything you have done. You will only need to know the “administrator” password if you’ve set one up. Most people haven’t, so you can just hit enter to bypass the screen.

Again, this is basic entry-level geek stuff. A good bribe to one of your friends can get them to work you through this. :smiley:

Also, you can get good directions at Google by entering Windows XP boot from CD chkdsk /r. There’s step-by-step instructions.

Gremlins. :smiley:

Your computer is set to boot from many options. First it looks for your hard drive, then it checks the CD drive, then floppy, then network. Because your computer is messed up, its trying these things at random, and when it finds that you have an active network connection going, or it detects your port, it tries to boot from there.

But generally, its the gremlins that live in your laptop.

Hmm, ok first thing take an unworried deep breath hehe…

I’m going to respond to this as though no one had answered you already, because I find, it throws me all over the place when I try listening to more than one person at a time. While I haven’t done too many HDD recoveries, I replace computer parts everyday and have to manage myself… at least for the last 3 years and change.

The PXE dealy really isn’t a big deal, you could probably turn that off in your BIOS which options probably come up as the Compaq logo screen comes up. But this really has nothing to do with your issue. PXE is only used if you don’t have Windows or another operating system loaded onto the computer you are using. So subtract this from your over-all problem and you have fewer issues to look at.

A few corrupt/missing files are only a problem for you because these files are important enough to be required for you to load into Windows again. Otherwise, you’d be set to do the same kinds of things only to a lesser degree.

While “Windows repairs” work most of the time, they are not known to be the best permanent fix, your OS (operating System) could go unstable again so even if it all works out, I would recommend you get what you need and use your bad luck as an excuse to reload everything again from scratch.
Just be aware that you will need not only your OS install disk but also the drivers (software) that corresponds to your video, audio, network, and chipset (minimum) to have everything working like it should. I am a contractor for a different major name brand computer company so I mostly know how it’s done there, not with Compaq.
But it’s possible that you can download your drivers through Compaq’s website on a different computer. Again, if you don’t have these drivers on a disk already this is a good excuse to m-ake yourself a driver disk for any future problems.

Your computer is not dying, it doesn’t even sound like your Hardrive went bad, all the errors you described were connected with Windows itself. I would scan for errors on your hardrive to see if any sectors were bad but I think even if you didn’t you’d most likely make it back to Windows to do this through there instead of the from-the-cd-route.

Another thing worth mentioning, my dad’s Acer had a recovery partition on it -which means by pressing a key at start-up you could get to a menu that would allow you to load over your OS to have a “from scratch” install of Windows, but I don’t know how accomodating Compaq is in the event of data loss.
Also you said you wanted to recover some files and if there we-re something of what I described on your computer this would wipe out everything saved to achieve a “fixed” state.

As far a recovering data without your laptop involved, it’s not a difficult thing for a technician to do because they will probably have the necessary cables for power and signal or maybe just a USB external case (seen both methods work). Once they are able to use your drive like an extra drive (rather than a primary one) they can grab your files, if they are visible. If the files aren’t visible then there may also be problems with your hardrive and some rebuilding will be required, which means “more money” to you. But the short answer is, “yes” in most cases you can get the data back (unless you have a solid state drive) it’s only a matter of how much time you have and what it’s worth to you.

I realize I was rather unspecific in areas, but it’s only because each brand has it’s own way of doing things for their PC’s. I would recommend getting whatever “free” out of Compaq that you can. And then locate your nearest computer geek =7

Good luck with things, btw- if you give up on your computer, you can always send it to me… I’ll take good care of it for you 0=D


Absolutely nothing useful to add, but the EXACT SAME THING HAPPENED TO ME TODAY!

Noelq - thanks for the advice. I’m feeling more optimistic about my computer now.

Yeah, with errors like this, recovery is possible about 90% of the time. Heck, if you bribe the afforementioned geek friend with a second dozen of cookies, he can probably pull out the hard drive, and check it out on an external drive enclosure. You can sometimes fix them that way.

It couldn’t hurt to get a copy of Spinrite and let that check the disk to see if there’s any physical problems with the drive.

I am going to have to disagree with most of the posters in this. The fact that your laptop sometimes tries to boot off of the harddrive and sometimes off of the LAN, suggests to me that either your hard drive is failing or your controller is. I am leaning towards the drive though. If it was a “Windows error” you’d get the same error every time (blue screen or bounce), and if it’s the drive, no amount of cookies is going to save it.

My two cents.

I decided to take the advice of Noelq and most of the websites I had checked out, and went looking for a WinXP startup CD. (I did this before having read anyone else’s posts.)

I just moved, and do not have any friends in the vicinity. But I just walked into a local computer repair shop and asked if I could borrow one of theirs. No problem–and they let me keep it. (Is that legal?)

I ran chckdsk using /r and after about an hour it had finished, finding and repairing one problem. And now the machine will boot and I can read all my files okay, so that seems good.

Still some strange behavior, though. When it first boots up, explorer.exe is running but is not displaying anything–no taskbar, anyway. Using ctrl-alt-delete I can call up the process list and so on. If I cancel the explorer.exe process, and then start up a new instance of explorer, then the taskbar loads up and everything looks normal, but none of the programs that usually load up and put icons on the lower right do their thing.

Also, as far as I can tell, explorer is unable to populate the “add/remove programs” list under the control panel. Anyway, I clicked on “add/remove programs” and it went to the dialogue which includes a field that’s supposed to contain all the installed programs, but there are no programs listed, and it doesn’t even say anything about trying to load a list of programs. I waited three or four minutes and nothing happened–no programs showed up.

Well, my plan now is just to be extra careful about making external backups of anything important I may do with this thing in the future, and keep close track of my trusty winxp startup cd, and be ready to write this thing off sometime in the next few weeks or months.

Any other ideas would be appreciated, though.:stuck_out_tongue:


ETA: Oh yes, one other strange thing. The first time it booted after the fix, when I ended the explorer.exe process (and I think after I started the new one), the desktop gave me the screen that says Windows encountered an error, and do I want to restore my Active Desktop. (This is the screen with the exclamation mark inside a triangle, and the button saying “restore my Active Desktop.”

Both me and the tech guy who was looking over my shoulder said, at the same time, “Isn’t that screen from Windows 98?” (Actually, I said Me, he said 98.)

Isn’t it?

:smack:hey! what are you doing? That’s my bread and butter you’re messing with, lol - my secret weapon and if you don’t tell everyone about it, I might still be ok:rolleyes: Of course not everyone wants to spend 90 bucks on a program, so I still may be safe :slight_smile:

Seconded. If it’s not even trying to boot off the drive some of the time, you’ve got bigger problems than data corruption. That drive is about to die.

Further drama, a question or two more.

It turned out that after chkdsk (partially) fixed my laptop yesterday, there were still some serious problems. (Not just the oddities I mentioned in my previous post.)

I wasn’t able to go online using the laptop, because I was unable to activate the wireless device. I forget now what it said exactly, but the gist was, there was something wrong with the driver and I needed to reinstall the thing.

Similar story with USB ports.

I did something, the intelligence measure of which I do not know: I did a system restore back to a few days ago. This may have been stupid since, I guess, in all likelihood, I just re-saddled the machine with whatever faulty registry entry (or whatever) was causing the problem in the first place. (Do you think it is likely that this is what I’ve done?)

But I did this mostly just so that I can go in, get any data I would like to save onto my flash drive, and feel better about the possibility of a future crash.

Now I’m wondering whether it would be a good idea to go find the drivers for my wireless device and USB bus online and download them, then undo the system restore, then try to install the drivers. Or maybe I should just leave well enough alone.