Time to Start Mourning the Loss of My Laptop?

You may be right, but I’m not sure. Until yesterday, I was always able to get it to boot from the hard drive by simply hitting ctrl-alt-del when it would go into the boot-from-network loop. This suggests a software problem to me, since the solution was simply a key entry sequence.

-FrL-

Definitely sounds like a bad drive. I had the same exact problem where it wouldn’t detect the HD when I first turned it on, but pressing Ctrl-Alt-Delete worked (maintains power to the drive). The reason was that the drive had damage to the “system area” (a special part of the disk) and was taking a long time to spin up and be ready for use at power-on. Once it was detected, I had a lot of bad sectors and unreadable/corrupt data (thus all your problems with the OS once it manages to boot).

You can try booting from a CD (like an Ubuntu LiveCD) and attempting to copy what data you can to an external USB drive. If you don’t have an external drive it’s worth buying one anyway for backup purposes. Most likely you won’t be able to backup everything this way because you’ll run into those bad sectors. Someone with a lot of Linux experience can use the SystemRescueCD and the ddrescue tool to attempt recovery of the unreadable sectors. SpinRite is another option as it will be able to deal with the bad sectors (never used it myself but have heard rave reviews from everyone that has) and once it’s done all the data should be in the readable parts of the drive for easy backup.

Whatever you do, don’t run chkdsk because it’ll just drop the bad sectors instead of trying to read whats on them.

After you’re satisfied with the data you were able to save, you’ll need to buy a replacement drive and reinstall XP. Newegg has 2.5" drives for under $100 with decent capacities. Laptops are pretty easy to remove and replace the drive. It’s like two screws and it slides right out.

If you were to purchase SpinRite and a replacement drive you’d probably be spending under $200. No need to buy a whole new laptop.

Hmmm…

The corrupt desktop is usually one of two things:

  1. You’ve corrupted your computer profile, i.e. the things that make the computer think you are YOU.

  2. A virus.

I’d copy your data off the machine, right away.

If you go to My Computer, and right-click on your C drive, choose the option for Properties. This opens up another box. Choose the tab for Tools, and go to the Error-Checking option. Click the check-now box, and choose both options. You’ll have to reboot, and it’ll check your disk again. See what happens.

If your profile is corrupt, go and create another user on the computer. If that profile has no issues, copy your data over to it, and just log in as that person.

Hopefully, you’ve got some good anti-virus checking software on there. Scan the sucker to an inch of its life, and verify you’re clean.

All in all - Start considering a new hard drive.

Ok, I’m going to go ahead and disagree with Noelq here. I would not mess with this drive further until I had procured some sort of temporary storage to move all of my files to. Looks like a USB drive isn’t going to cut it, since you can’t get your USB ports to work. My reasoning is this: If it really is a bad drive, continuing to heat it up, spin it up, and spin it down is only more likely to excacer, uh, make the problem worse.

I’d buy a reasonably priced enclosure, you can find them for ~ $20, and attach it to another computer and save off all the stuff you need. Then I’d get a new 2.5" drive for cheap, and reinstall onto the new drive.

I suppose, once you have all your data off, if you wanted to run a surface scan (it’s in the disk checking options) you could do that and see if it cleans anything up for you, but I am not sure I’d trust that drive anymore.

Doing a system restore is a sensible action, as long as you did the system restore to before the problem! In your case that should be before the random reboots which you say started a week or two ago.

However, there’s one thing I haven’t seen mentioned: what do your Event Logs say, particularly the System log? Look for entries with a red icon.

And copying to another machine over the network is trivial.

I agree with crazyjoe that you should get a replacement drive, but you’ll probably find that the license key on your machine doesn’t work with the CD the shop gave you because it’s particular to Compaq install sets.

Except that, since I’ve lost track of my OS CDs (that was part of the problem that led me to post the OP) I’d also have to buy Windows and that puts me over the “just buy a new laptop” mark.

In any case, all desired data have been backed up, and for now the thing’s running basically okay, I’ll just see how it goes from here.

Thanks for the help on this thread so far, everyone.

-Kris