Possibly damaged hard drive?

Western digital 3200js
February 1, 2010 at 11:13:44
Specs: Windows XP
Hey everyone,

Back in December I got a boot error claiming the system couldn't start Windows XP because C:\Windows\System32\Config\System was missing or corrupt. I searched around and tried those XP Recovery Console fixes that consisted in copying 'system', 'sam', 'software', etc., from the Windows XP CD to the hard drive. It didn't quite work, but I managed to start up in safe mode, so I decided to back up all my important files, format the drive and install XP again. Everything went fine and the system was up smoothly.
Around last week, however, exactly one month after I had formatted, I came home one day and noticed my PC was surprisingly slow (I noticed my mom had downloaded some files; perhaps a virus?). I tried to restart, and it seemed normal again, but after 2 or 3 minutes it ran slowly again. I kept restarting and it always became slow after a constant period of time. Did it one more time and surprise, surprise: "The system cannot start because '\...\software' is missing or corrupt"! I tried replacing it in the Recovery Console through earlier restore points, but then 'system' became corrupt instead. Kept trying it, but no luck, so I tried a XP repair install from the CD.
The repair install seemed fine, but now the USB ports didn't work, so I couldn't use my mouse. Besides, the whole system ran really slow, just like before the boot error, and it froze whenever I tried to use the System Restore Point utility. I tried resetting the BIOS settings to default to try to fix the USB issue - probably shouldn't have done that, because it stopped detecting the hard drive. Changed the SATA mode from AHCI to IDE and it started working, though. Also turned on S.M.A.R.T. and USB Legacy.
Still no luck withe the mouse or slowdown. And now whenever I tried to perform another repair installation, setup would hang on 13 minutes left. Then I though I should probably reformat again and install Windows 7, since I wanted to tried it. So I took out my hard drive and connected it to my sister's PC via SATA/USB cable and backed up my files (after some time the HDD seemed to get some kind of error and I had to reconnect it - maybe the same issue as the previous 'slowing down' one?). Formatted and tried to install Windows 7, but I got some disk error. I'm pretty sure my system can run Windows 7. I kept reformatting and trying again, and I got several other errors, such as corrupted files. One time I even got halfway through the installation, but then I got to a black screen with only the mouse cursor. I unplugged my monitor's HDMI cable and connected it through a DVI/VGA one. I think that solved the issue, but I got other errors again, like the disk one, before actually getting to that screen again.
I tried it one last time, but now the system simply hangs at the beginning: black screen with white type, showing the drive specifications and prompting for BIOS setup, but when the hard drive specifications are listed, it just freezes. I disconnected my hard drive and it's normal again: I can access the BIOS and even boot from a CD. Does this mean the hard drive is busted?
I apologize for the long wall of text, but I'd really appreciate if you could help me out. Thank you in advance!

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February 1, 2010 at 11:31:14
You could try putting the hard disk back.

Then use UBCD, you can boot from cd, this has some hard disk
utlities that can check the disk.


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February 1, 2010 at 11:46:39
Thanks for the fast reply. The problem is that when the hard drive is connected, I can't boot from any support. It gets stuck when showing the HDD specs at the beginning. I can only go to the BIOS setup or boot menu when the hard disk is disconnected...

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February 1, 2010 at 11:57:09
And if the physical damage detected u know what to do right?

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Related Solutions

February 1, 2010 at 13:18:34
Tell us the make and model of your brand name system, or if you have a generic desktop system, the make and model of the mboard.
The specific model of a brand name system is shown on a label on the outside of the case somewhere, or it can often be determined by going to the brand name's web site.
The model, sometimes the make, of a mboard in a generic desktop system is usually printed on the mboard's surface in obvious larger characters, often between the slots.

The model is often also displayed on a logo (graphical) screen early in the boot, but it's often not as specific as the specific model number.

For Dell computers, they have a Service Tag number - the specific model can be determined by using that on their site, or can often be determined there automatically by you downloading some software. The Service Tag number should be on a label on the outside of the case, probably on the bottom on a laptop, on the back on a desktop, and is often also shown in the bios Setup.

"I got a boot error claiming the system couldn't start Windows XP because C:\Windows\System32\Config\System was missing or corrupt."

I've fixed that error on two people's computers, 3 times, on one of them for the same hard drive many months apart.
Both people have not had that happen since.

It isn't caused by a virus or other malware. It's caused by a certain essential file or files at that location getting randomly corrupt. Apparently it can happen once in a blue moon with any computer that has XP (or 2000) on it, although it's never happened to me.

The fact that you got that again in a month, and your other many problems since, probably indicate you have a hardware problem.

E.g. if your hard drive is failing, it could account for most of the problems you've described.

XP's Repair installation (Repair Setup) procedure can't fix all problems. Sometimes you must install XP from scratch - if you have data on the Windows partition you don't want to lose, if you can't access Windows properly, you have to connect the hard drive to another working computer and copy the stuff you din't want to lose elsewhere, BEFORE you run Setup from scratch. You don't need to copy anything you have the installtion disks for, the key for if that applies, or that you can easily download from the web.

When you attempt to run Windows Setup, you should get absolutely no errors reading from the CD, and absolutely no errors writing files to the hard drive. When you DO get errors, you have a hardware problem, or a problem with the CD.

If you install an operating system, 2000 and up, when the hard drive is connected to one mboard , then connect that hard drive with the operating system to another mboard, if the mboard hardware (chipset etc.) is more than a little different on the other mboard, the operating system will not load fully on that second system with the different mboard. For 2000 and XP that can be fixed by booting with the XP CD and running the Repair installtion procedure, if the harddrive has more data than just the operating system on it, but if only Windows is on the drive, or if it has no data or you're wiping the data it has, you're better off installing the operating system from scratch when the hard drive is connected to the computer mboard you'll be using.

"The problem is that when the hard drive is connected, I can't boot from any support."

When it's connected to your sister's computer or yours? With what?

If it's connected internally or via an esata cable -
Check your SATA data cables. The connector on each end should "latch" into the socket on the drive and on the mboard, or on the drive controller card - it should not move when you merely brush your hand against it near the socket - if it does, mere vibration can cause a poor connection of it - use another SATA data cable that does "latch", or tape the connector in place.
(There is a slight projection or bump on one side of the outside of the connector that "latches" it into the socket - it's easily broken off or damaged)

The same thing applies for the SATA power connection.

If that gets it working -

Run diagnostics on the problem hard drive, or connect your hard drive to you sister's computer again, to eliminate other possible causes of your problem, but DO NOT boot from it.

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 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 the hard drive itself tests okay, any data problems found can be fixed, one way or another.

NOTE that if the diagnostics find other hard drives but do NOT find yours, you need to connect the drive internally to a computer.
E.g. They can't find it if it's in an external drive enclosure connected by USB, and probably firewire.


"The repair install seemed fine, but now the USB ports didn't workso I couldn't use my mouse....",

If you had a PS/2 mouse connected during the Repair installation (XP or 2000) , the support for a USB mouse is NOT there in Windows the first time you connect the USB mouse until the desktop loads fully, and Windows installs the drivers for it - before that point, the cursor will not move. If you need to get past a Logon screen, use the Tab key to toggle what is selected (dots around it or it highlghts), cursor keys, Enter to select the user.
Simlarly, a wireless mouse or wireless keyboard won't work the first time you connect it, if it's software hasn't already been loaded in Windows, until the desktop fully loads and Windows loads the drivers for it.

If you had a USB mouse connected during the Repair installation, then it not working after Setup is finished is not normal at all.

Try a different USB mouse, try that USB mouse in another computer.

If other USB devices work there's nothing wrong with your USB ports.

If no USB device works, if the USB controllersare enabled in the bios Setup (they are by default)

Check the current voltages in the bios - if what issupposed to be 5v is too high or too low, USB will not work properly.

See response 4 in this:

USB devices may not work correctly when they're connected to certain USB ports e.g. ports in a hub or on the front of a desktop case. If you have a desktop computer, you may have an IRQ sharing problem you need to fix, or your power supply may be starting to fail.
See response 3 in this:

Also - if you are using a USB extension cable, some of them have inadequate wiring and will not work properly with some USB devices.

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February 1, 2010 at 14:47:28
If you can't get into BIOS unless hard disk is disconnected.

You need a new hard disk.

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February 1, 2010 at 21:15:25
"If you can't get into BIOS unless hard disk is disconnected.

You need a new hard disk."

....that is assuming the SATA data cable connection is okay.

See "Check your SATA data cables." etc. in the middle of Response 4

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February 3, 2010 at 17:25:33
Thanks for the in-depth reply, Tubesandwires! I managed to connect the hard drive to the computer itself with the SATA/USB adapter I mentioned earlier and the XP boot CD detected it. I deleted the partitions created by the Windows 7 setup, connected it again to the motherboard via SATA and the system detected it again. Formatted and managed to install XP again. In fact, I'm writing this on the troublesome computer, it's up and running! Cheers again for the help!

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February 4, 2010 at 06:44:17
We're glad to hear you found a solution.

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