IO.SYS in damaged cluster

Packard Bell EasyNot
September 20, 2008 at 06:31:58
Specs: XP Home Edition, Celeron 2.80 / 512mb
Xp Home SP2 would not start at all in any mode. Using XP BootDisk from I got to a command prompt and used Scandisk via DOS to check the hard drive. It came up with the following "Cluster 2 is currently being used by the \IO.SYS file" then "Scandisk cannot repair damaged cluster 2 because other damage to drive A prevents it". In this case Drive A is the hard drive. I can now boot into Safe Mode but nothing else. Recovery console is not loaded on this laptop and I do not have an XP boot disk or recovery disk. Any ideas please.

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September 20, 2008 at 07:19:59
I have no idea what you are doing as the information you provide is confusing.

For a start there is no DOS in Windows XP, just a command line interpreter. If you booted from a Windows XP floppy you got the Recovery Console.

Drive A: on a PC is always the floppy drive, never a hard drive. The hard drive is always C: or higher.

Are you sure you have a Windows XP boot floppy and not a Windows 98 boot floppy. The Windows XP boot floppy is a six floppy set.

IO.SYS is not used by Windows XP, it is a Windows 98 file. It exists in Windows XP along with MSDOS.sys and is only for backward compatibility with Windows 98. It is always a zero length file and can be safely deleted unless you have a Windows 98 application that depends on it.

What errors do you get when you try and start Windows XP? Knowing that will give some indication of what the problem is. It may be the hard disk has packed up altogether.


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September 20, 2008 at 08:07:26
Unplug the AC adapter, remove the main battery, and make sure your hard drive and ram are properly seated. Then make sure your main battery is properly seated.

Is the bootdisk a floppy?
If it is, the message is about the data on the floppy disk, not the hard drive.

In that case, you probably copied the data for the bootdisk onto a floppy with previously undetected bad sectors on the floppy.

I recommend you use Windows to check your floppy using FULL format. FULL format is slower, but will find and exclude from use any previously undetected bad sectors on a floppy, a common problem these days.
In XP, RIGHT click on A: to find Format, DO NOT use the Quick format switch, format the floppy. After the format has finished, RIGHT click on A:, choose Properties - Free Space should be 1,457,664 bytes for an error free floppy. If it is less than that and the floppy is less than about 7 years old, I recommend you don't use it - it will probably get worse. Format another floppy instead, and look at the properties of that.

If the bootdisk is a CD, when you boot from a CD, a virtual A drive is always loaded, whether you are aware of that or not. In that case, you probably have one or more bad sectors on the CD - burn another one. Use a CD-R for the best possible compatibilty with your optical drive - a CD-RW disk may not read properly in a drive it was not made in.


Check your hard drive with the manufacturer's diagnostics.
See the latter part of response 1 in this:

(thanks to Dan Penny for this link:)
Hard Drive Diagnostics Tools and Utilities

If it's a Toshiba hard drive, there are no diagnostics available.

If you don't have a floppy drive, you can get a CD image diagnostic utility from most hard drive manufacturer's web sites, but obviously you would need to make a burned CD, preferably a CD-R for best compatibilty, on another computer if you need to.

If there is nothing wrong with the hard drive itself, any data problems found can be fixed one way or another.

"I do not have......recovery disk..."

Most laptops that come with a burner drive no longer come with a single Recovery CD, or a set of them.
What you are supposed to do, while Windows is working properly, is use a brand name system supplied program already there in your All Programs list to make the Recovery CD you can use along with the original intact and unaltered contents of your second partition to recover the original contents of your C partition, and/or make a set of Recovery CDs with which you can re-load the entire hard drive with the original software.

We rarely hear anything from people who have done that - we frequently hear from ones who have NOT.

If your model is not more than about 5 years old, you may be able to order the Recovery CD set for your exact model from the Packcard Bell web site. If that is available, it is probably quite cheap. E.g. I ordered a Recovery CD set for a HP or Compaq model, it had 6? Cds, and it cost only 2x.xx before shipping.

If you can't get the Recovery CD set, or if you want another alternative, if your laptop has the official Microsoft sticker on it with a Product Key, you can use a COPY of a Windows CD of the same version of XP that is on your laptop - in this case Home SP2 - with that Product Key.
You must use "disk at once" or similar to copy the entire CD in order for the copy to be bootable - copying the visible files will not result in a bootable CD. Burn to a CD-R disk for best compatibilty.

Or - you can buy an OEM XP Home CD for as little as $80 or less these days, from the web, or from local places that have lots of computer parts and software.

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September 20, 2008 at 08:16:14
Hi Stuart

I think you may well be right that it is a problem with the hard drive. If I try to boot in anything but safe mode I just get a continuous loop.

The XP Bootdisk (A CD not a floppy)loads up DOS and sets the HDD as A and the CD-ROM as R. It provides a version of Scandisk that can be run from the DOS prompt. It does not load up Recovery Console

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Related Solutions

September 20, 2008 at 08:45:53
The A: drive you refer to is probably a virtual floppy disk referred to by Tubesandwires. It is not the HDD.

Once the boot disk has loaded type C: at the command prompt. If you get an unobtainable error then the hard disk is not accessible and you need the manufactures diagnostic.


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September 20, 2008 at 09:01:19
"The Windows XP boot floppy is a six floppy set."

You can get the downloads to make a 6 floppy XP Setup set from the Microsoft web site, but is meant to be used with a non-bootable CD, or on a computer that has an ancient or defective optical drive, or an ancient bios, that cannot boot from a CD. It only gets you to the end of the initial loading of files needed for running Setup, where you see the first screen that asks if you want to Repair Windows, or continue on to Setup. If you choose R for Repair at that point, I don't know if the Recovery Console even works without you also having a Windows CD in a drive. You can't continue on to Setup without the Windows CD being in a drive.

On the other hand, I have not tried that on a brand name system that still has it's original software on it. In that case files normally found on the Windows CD may be accessible and found automatically to run Setup from.

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September 20, 2008 at 09:05:07
Borrow an XP CD and use the Recovery Console, why use MS-DOS??? it is dead as a dodo!!!

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September 20, 2008 at 09:29:24
"The XP Bootdisk (A CD not a floppy)...."

In that case the burned CD probably has bad sectors on it.

Bootable CDs often boot to the A: prompt - that's the virtual A drive. If they don't, if you type A: , press Enter, it will go to the A drive prompt.
In that state, even if you have a floppy drive and insert a floppy with files on it, if you type: dir, press Enter, you will see the files loaded on the virtual A drive, not the files on the floppy. Any floppy in a floppy drive is ignored when the virtual A drive has been loaded.

"I think you may well be right that it is a problem with the hard drive. If I try to boot in anything but safe mode I just get a continuous loop."

That is usually caused by a software problem. It CAN be caused by there being bad sectors on the hard drive, but usually that's not the case. The reason I asked you to test the hard drive is because if the hard drive itself IS defective, it may be a complete waste of time doing anything else at all - you would need to get another another hard drive, and start from there.
Laptop hard drives tend to fail sooner than desktop drives.

Try choosing Enable VGA mode rather than Safe mode from the boot choices menu.
That loads Windows normally except the video is forced into a default VGA mode that all mboards and video hardware supports without needing specific video drivers to be loaded. If that gets you to the desktop, your problem is probably related to your specific video drivers you have loaded for the video.

Since everything in Enable VGA mode is normal except the video, you can do anything you can do in normal mode when you use it. You can't do a lot of things in Safe mode, including you may not be able to un-install or install some software.

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September 21, 2008 at 02:38:04
Hi Tubesandwires

Thanks for all that advice and info. Will try what you suggest and post back.

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