unmountable boot volume (no XP CD)

December 2, 2006 at 03:32:22
Specs: win xp home, panic

Macguyver, I need your help!


error: unmountable boot volume


- normal and safe mode boot doesn't work.
- I booted from my Win XP CD, but the CD is possibly corrupted. (the 1st time, it says cpqarray.sys corrupt. 2nd time, it passed it but another file was corrupt).
- I tried my WIN2k cd, and I saw the welcome message. It says there's no hard-drive installed When tried to Repair (or install).
- I tried the DELL diagnostic by pressing F12 (?) and ran a test. The hard-drive has unreadable sectors.
- I shut down.

next day:

- The hard-drive was less noisy and much faster. I tried safe-mode with command prompt, it worked.
- I did chkdsk and it said "read-only mode". It showed me some unreadable sectors.
- I did chkdsk /p and chkdsk /f but it said its using the volume so it will perform chkdsk when I reboot.
- I rebooted to normal mode, but chkdsk won't run. I get a C000031a Hard Error. (I looked it up but nothing helped).
- Booting from my Win XP and win2k CD still doesn't work.


- another dell laptop + cd + usbs. (no burner). with internet access.
- external usb HD with 10gb free.
- USB mp3 with 400mb.
- a windows 2k cd.
- a (corrupted/scratched) win XP cd

My priorities:

- I have a few text files, password files, and work documents I'd like to BACKUP RIGHT AWAY to a USB if I can. Would it work from safe mode? I've only tried safe mode with prompt.


- I don't want to reformat and lose all my files.
- I don't have any CD-Rs.
- I don't have access to a working win xp cd. (I would like to fix it ASAP, not wait for dell or buy another cd. But will buy another CD if no other solutions.)
- I don't have a floppy disk drive.

Solutions I'm considering:

- I need access to backup my important documents. I read about booting from a USB using BERT but I don't have a win XP CD. Any other solutions not requiring win xp cd to allow basic recovery or access to DOS?

See More: unmountable boot volume (no XP CD)

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December 2, 2006 at 05:36:23

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December 2, 2006 at 07:07:50

The first part of your saga suggests a RAM issue as a possibility.

The "can't find or whatever this file or that..." or "that this file or that may be corrupt" - on a CD... - that tends to suggest teh CD is duff/dmaged... is fairly typical of failing RAM... One or more sticks may be less than purrfekt...

This misleading message about the CD being duff, in effect a mis-direct..., first appeared in NT... It was flagged up here and a couple of other places too; as a result of which more than a few pholks have avoided having to go thru' the find a new CD routine etc...

Initially I suggest you reduce RAM to a single stick (min = 128Meg) and see if things improve re' CD etc. Try each in turn... Ideally beg/borow/s...l a known good stick to try as well???

If no improvement... then perhaps go thru' the routine in the M$-link courtesy of "jam"?

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December 2, 2006 at 09:24:20

If you weren't fiddling with your ram, it's extremely unlikely there is anything wrong with it, but there's a small possibilty it's got poor connections or the ram is not properly seated. You could try removing your main battery and AC adapter, removing the ram, cleaning it's contacts on the module(s) by at least wiping them, installing it properly again, and restoring the power to your computer and trying it.

It sounds like your hard drive is failing.
Check your hard drive.
See the latter part of response 1 in this:

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.

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Related Solutions

December 2, 2006 at 09:36:26

Thank you everyone. I scrubbed the CD and got it running after the 3rd try. I did a chkdsk but it stopped at 50%!

"Volume appears to contain one or more unrecoverable problems."

Is there anything else I can do besides chkdsk and fixboot?

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December 2, 2006 at 09:46:42

You could try removing the AC adapter and main battery, and accessing the hard drive and removing/installing it, in case it's getting a poor connection, but it probably won't help.

Check the hard drive as in response 4.

If the utility can't find the hard drive there is nothing you can do.

If the hard drive is failing but can still be accessed by the utility, there is nothing you can do other than connect the drive to another desktop computer as slave on either IDE or as master on the secondary IDE and rescue what you need to off of it - you will need a laptop/notebook IDE to desktop IDE wiring adapter to do that.

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December 2, 2006 at 09:49:21

I hope you understand by now why we kept telling people to Backup, Backup & Backup.


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December 2, 2006 at 10:11:23

"....If you weren't fiddling with your ram, it's extremely unlikely there is anything wrong with it..."

With respect... not entirely valid... There are more than enough instances where RAM starts to fail without any user-intervention at all...

That cleaning the CD seemed to make a noticable difference, inclines me to wonder a little if there is a problem with the drive itself - possibly the lens assmebly is a little mucky/dust-covered etc.? None of us suggested to perhaps clean the lens on the CDROM itself - using a suitable cleaning kit?

I seem to recall that Adcom(?) make a decent kit and there are others.

There are disk utils on the web-site for each/most drive manufacturers? Perhaps download those for your drive and see what they can do to help?

But perhaps the wisest path just now is to slave the drive etc. as suggested by "Tubes..." and see if you can recover anything data-wise from it - via a suitable util? Afterwhich perhaps see if you can recover the drive... though I'd be inclined to dump/replace it... Once they start becoming less than reliable... time to move on...?

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December 2, 2006 at 11:35:38

""....If you weren't fiddling with your ram, it's extremely unlikely there is anything wrong with it...""
"With respect... not entirely valid... There are more than enough instances where RAM starts to fail without any user-intervention at all..."

I have been using computers since 1989, I have fiddled with my computers and others peoples computers numbering at least fifty, some a lot older than 1989, and I have never come across a ram module that is actually bad, and certainly not one that has spontaneously gone bad. Whenever I've seen errors reported by ram tests, it was either because there was poor contact in the ram slot, or the ram was a type not compatible with that mboard.
It's quite possible for the ram to be damaged by some external cause such as a power spike or surge, or an excessive static electricity discharge, or a bad PS that produces too much voltage or shorts out, or extreme heat buildup within the case, or the ram was damaged while installing or removing the module from an ATX computer because the power surce was not disconnected, but I have never come across a module damaged from any of those.

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December 2, 2006 at 12:03:15

Looks like this laptop will wait until I can find out how to slave the drive and recover my files.

Is it common for hard-drives to fail after only 2-3 years? I have a Dell Inspiron 1150. I never had any problems with it.

What kind of laptop should I buy that is long-lasting or at least backups files automatically?

I heard someone say macs backups automatically but I'm not sure. Can I install win XP on it? I would really appreciate some recommendations if that's allowed, because it looks like I'll have to buy a new laptop ... this is very frustrating.

Thanks again everyone.

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December 2, 2006 at 12:47:37

"Is it common for hard-drives to fail after only 2-3 years?"

No, but does happen maybe 5 to 10% of the time, or a bit more often for laptop drives.
Most hard drives are warrantied 3 years, or sometimes 5 years. If the hard drive fails within the warranty period you can get a RMA for it and have it replaced for the cost of shipping it one way.
Laptop hard drives have more heat buildup related issues than desktop hard drives do - it is very important to make sure the ventillation ports on the laptop are getting good air circulation to them all the time and that the cpu fan works properly and it and the cpu heatsink is not obstructed by crap buildup outside or inside the laptop.

"What kind of laptop should I buy that is long-lasting or at least backups files automatically?"

All laptops of major brands are quite reliable and long lasting on average these days.
They don't backup automatically unless they have software on them to do that, whether it comes with it or you install some later, and you would need to also have an external hard drive to back them up to - it would be pointless to back up to the same hard drive, and you have to do the disk changing labour if you back up to CDs or DVDs, which you obviously haven't been doing. Some external hard drive enclosures have a one button backup feature, but you must press the button.

I know nothing next to nothing about Macs.

You only need to replace the hard drive, not the whole laptop. Hard drives are very easy to replace. If you want to get a drive that is likely to last longer most Seagate drives are warrantied for 5 years.
If you have not made a set of Recovery disks with the included brand name supplied utilities that are on the hard drive when you buy the laptop, you can order an inexpensive set of Recovery disks for your Dell model of computer from Dell, and load Windows and all the software it originally had on it, and then load Microsoft Updates (that takes at least 6 hours or so), or you could buy a Windows OEM CD with a qualifying hardware purchase (such as a hard drive) made at the same time (the smaller places that build computers and have a lot of computer parts have OEM XP Cds) and install Windows that way, but you would be minus any bonus or bundled software that came with the laptop, and you will probably have to find drivers for at least some of the hardware on the laptop.

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December 2, 2006 at 13:07:20

We have had occasions in the past where I work when RAM just went flakey; and there are not infrequent (but not frequent) posts on the W2K/NTXP forums (fora...?) where RAM appears to have gone a little less than purrfekt... - without any activity in and arond the innards of the case - and the RAM area in particular...

Also there are the occasional reports of RAM flaeky at time of pruchase/installation etc... but fortunately they tend to rather few...

I guess it all depnds on one's experience in this regard as to who one regards RAM failing etc..; perhaps the why is not as important as that fact that it is/has...; and thus one needs to know what "might" be the consequences etc, and as a result what to do about it...

ALso I've not found RAM testers to be of much use; and my IT colleagues tend to favour the substitution test overall... Which having said XpUsers and others suggestion in the past to perhaps clean the edge-connectors is a valid one...

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December 2, 2006 at 14:23:17

Make a linux live cd or get a vista dvd and boot to it. Then move your data off if the drive still works. A barts cd will work too be sure your network drivers are added in any cd. could use other network floppies too. Most live cd's can burn to cd's as well as samba shares.

Get a test suite and test system and reload xp.
As above anything may be bad.

I read it wrong and answer it wrong too. So get off my case you goober.

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December 2, 2006 at 15:25:09

Another Linux on a CD is knoppix

you can download an image, which burn to a CD and use that CD. Or you can order CD copy (£5/$10???) - or look for the O'Reilly Knoppix Handbook:

and the CD is part of it.

The book is actually an in-depth "how to use Knoppix" properly - rather than a hacker's guide to whatever... Although with any Linux on a CD one can do all all sorts of things...

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December 2, 2006 at 17:14:07

"We have had occasions in the past where I work when RAM just went flakey...."

So have I - re-seating the ram, and/or cleaning the contacts on the modules and/or blowing or brushing the crap out of the ram slots cured the problem every time.

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December 2, 2006 at 18:06:24

Clearly each of us - whoever we are, where-ever we are - has his/her own experiences- not the least with electronics... Some experiences may appear to be unique, some less so... But none are invalid or of no account..., especially if they resolve a similar situation for another... And if the latter should occur then it demonstrates that that particular situation it wasn't unique...

RAM failures are just one of many such events...

Years ago I "cured/fixed" a pre-amp problem in broadcast tv colour camera - by accident.. I hit (heavily sprayed) a suspect part with freezone - an instant cooling agent... I totally iced it up unintentionally - totally encased it in dry ice (the control valve on the can was a little dodgy). When the system defrosted the fault had gone away - apparently permanently... Others have found that this approach deliberately used - didn't work... Yet three of us know that one occasion it most certainly did...; and one or two have found that a "mild" cooling also works occasionally...

Thus - RAM likewise...; just 'cos you haven't experienced it failing in a given way... doesn't invalidate the experience of other(s) who have?

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December 2, 2006 at 20:47:10

"I have been using computers since 1989"

Hey - I've been using cars since the seventies - that must make me an expert too! (I just didn't know it)

Wild guess: first computer forum?

If I know the answer I'll tell you the answer, and if I don't, I'll just respond, cleverly

--Donald Rumsfeld

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December 3, 2006 at 05:35:27

'88 in my case with an almost state of the art 286 - 2Meg RAM and 40Gig harddrive... and you'll never need more than that for RAM or a drive... - they sed...

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January 3, 2007 at 04:37:20

I have had this error on my laptop before. I had purchased a 1 gig chip ( Kingston) and installed it in my computer. It worked fine for a while and then I started getting the unmountable boot volume error. I could not figure it out to save my life!! Everyone said it was my hard drive but when I removed the new RAM chip, it worked fine. It has since happened again with the original RAM chips in my laptop and they are sending my new chips to install. Any advice to prevent this from happening again? thanks

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January 3, 2007 at 05:29:12

Is the system overheating? Are the air-ways truly clear? Others who have investigated cooling (air-ways/fan etc.) have often be "very" suprised to discover just how much "muck - assorted fluff etc..." has accumulated inside. Once clear again system appears to behave itself.

It might be worth the effort to check the air-ways/cooling etc.?

If with new RAM installed it re-apppears (and cooling etc. is OK)..., and if the M$ -refs posted earlier by "jam" don't resolve it for you, then I'm inclined to consider a new drive? At the least run a full drive diagnostics - using utils from the drive web-site?

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January 3, 2007 at 08:21:09

Incidentally... referring back "Tubes... comment re' cleaning the edge connectors...

It's valid point and not to be lightly dismissed. It does work in many instances - as "Tubes..." attests; and in other elctronic kit it frequently resolves intermittent problems too.

I have had many instances where cleaning edge connectors was succcessful in resolving assorted problems; and this also includes jack-field U-links (of many/varied specs./quality) as used in analogue video paths, and also the allegedly higher-spec U-links as used in digital signal paths...

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