win7 no boot, bios boot mod maybe at fault?

Discussion in 'PC Hardware' started by schmibble, Feb 28, 2013.

  1. schmibble

    schmibble MDL Novice

    Dec 22, 2012
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    #1 schmibble, Feb 28, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2013
    If my suspicion is correct, I'm posting in the right forum. If not, I guess I should be posting in the general Win7 forum, and I apologize to the moderators for my mistake & humbly ask that they move the thread over there.

    Please pardon my ignorance of everything I'm going to ask about. I'm desperately trying to make some deadlines, so have limited troubleshooting and learning-curve time, but have run into an intractable laptop problem. Four months ago I bought a used Dell Vostro 1510 with Windows 7 and didn't really pay attention to the fact that, while it was sold to me with Win7, the sticker on it is actually for Vista. And one time when I was booting, I don't know what happened but I got a grub4dos screen. I don't know what that is, but this machine is definitely not set up the way Dell originally shipped it, and I believe that the previous owner installed Windows 7 on it with a "SLIC-modded BIOS". I don't really know what a SLIC is either except that using one helps you modify your BIOS so you can bypass M$'s activation.

    I think this is causing me problems because after the system choked on a bad disk Monday night when burning to an external DVD drive, now it won't boot. No matter what I do, the system always gives me BSOD error 0x0000007B, which the book _Windows 7 Annoyances_ (p. 384) says is an error usually indicating that a boot device has a problem. Now the system always restarts into a "Windows Error Recovery" screen which gives me only two options, "Start Windows normally" or the "Launch Startup Repair", and the only thing I can do from there is get into Startup Repair . If I choose the "Start Windows normally" option, it just restarts and then kicks me right back to "Windows Error Recovery".

    First thing I did was to go into the BIOS and set it back to defaults; no joy. Then went back into Startup Repair. From there, "Vew diagnostic and repair details" always shows all tests as having passed. So did a system Restore to a known good point; no effect. Next I performed a full registry restoration (following the procedure described at richlang.home.pipeline.com/Reg/RegistryBackup.pdf). I had just barely backed up the registry as described therein on Sunday, the day before the problem occurred, so I had a brand-new registry backup handy. I was able to use the Startup Repair command line to do the restoration of all the registry files (even [System Reserved]Boot\BCD), all to no avail. No matter what, I still can't get past "Windows Error Recovery". (At least I was able to copy all important data files off the hard disk with the command line to a flash drive.)

    So then I decided I better see if BSOD 0x0000007B was right and there's some kind of hardware issue. First ran Windows memory diagnostics from Startup Repair; the Standard test showed no errors. Then, since the HD is a Western Digital, I booted up with Western Digital's Data Lifeguard 5 and ran their diagnostic Extended Test; the hard disk tested good. Last, restarted into the Dell boot menu (f12) and chose option 4, Diagnostics, which runs a whole bunch of different tests on the whole system, especially memory (much more thorough than the M$ test, several hours long, had to do it overnight), and it reported everything fine.

    Finally I also tried UBCD520. The DVD will boot, but parted magic doesn't find any drive excpet it's own (i.e. the optical drive). I know that's anomalous behavior because parted magic finds all the drives on my desktop just fine. Also, when I tried to run FreeDos on UBCD, it errored out with this:
    dos mem corrup, first_mcb=0271
    . . . [two long lines of gibberish omitted] . . .
    PANIC: MCB chain corrupted
    System halted

    After that happened, I booted with a Boot-it Baremetal boot disk (from terabyteunlimited.com) and BIBM saw all drives just fine. Remember that WD Data Lifeguard detected the HD also.

    So let's recap the symptoms:
    1. Pheonix BIOS A12 seems normal and is accessible, so BIOS itself doesn't seem to be corrupt.
    2. Parted magic sees no drives except its own (the optical drive running the UBCD disk).
    3. UBCD freeDos errors out with an 'MCB chain corrupted" message (maybe someone knows what that means--I spent a good while searching on the web with no luck finding out).
    4. Windows Repair environment DOES see the hard drive and any attached usb drives; allows all repair operations to proceed and full command-line file-managment functionality. BIBM also sees the HD (and shows all 3 partitions I created) just fine.
    5. BSOD 0x0000007B usually signals a hard disk problem, but no hardware issues found by various tests, including Western Digital's own Data Lifeguard extended test (the drive is a WD). No memory problems found either.
    6. Despite what Startup Repair reported as a successful System Restore, and despite a complete registry restoration (performed according to the procedure described in the PDF linked above), no matter what, the system refuses to go past the "Windows Error Recovery" screen.

    The fact that the bios is accessible suggests that the bios itself is not corrupt. The fact that I performed both a System Restore and, when that didn't work, a full registry restoration, and neither had any effect, suggests that it's not a software issue in Windows. The fact that I can operate normally on the hard disk via Windows-repair command line, that BIBM can see the hard disk too, not to mention that the disk passes WD's extended test, all suggest that the hard disk is healthy; so the fact that parted magic can't see the drive, and that FreeDos errored out, doesn't mean that the hard disk is bad but rather that there's a blockage of some kind that's keeping both of them from getting TO the drive. So having eliminated the HD as a suspect, and since BSOD 0x0000007B is ultimately a boot-related error, I'm left with the suspicion that the SLIC mod performed by the previous owner is the culprit, but I have no knowledge or experience with such operations and have no fuh-reaking idea how to go about troubleshooting it.

    I've never messed with BCEdit, but doubt that the BCD store is the problem because even if my System Restore didn't touch it, recall that I restored a known good copy of the BCD registry hive to [System Reserved]:\Boot as part of my registry backup restoration, so while I don't know much about bcdedit, I suspect that using it will not solve my issue. Moreover, I certainly don't want to execute a generic, standard BCD reset process on a system with a modded boot setup which I might destroy forever. For the same reason I don't want to use the more powerful tools such as the MBR tools in Boot-it Baremetal without direct guidance--and if go over to the BIBM forums and say, "I've got a SLIC-modded BIOS running my Win7, and I need help getting it to boot," they'll ignore me at best, probably more likely ban me. So I find myself rather at a loss. RL doesn't allow me the time right now to learn about SLICs and modding BIOSes so as to figure out what's going on by myself--don't get me wrong, I'd love to get into it if I could, but for the next while that won't be possible. Right now I have to get this machine back up and functioning, and I'm stuck, don't know where to go from here, & would be most grateful for any assistance. Actually, let me cut the BS: looming deadlines are making me flat-out desperate, having used up much of my rapidly diminishing work time this week on troubleshooting. I'm very much an RTFM guy and would normally do my due diligence on SLICs & mods to solve the prob myself, but at the moment I truly can't. I know I'm asking for a handout here, and deeply apologize, but can't stress enough that RL is really a b--- right now.
     
  2. Recursion

    Recursion MDL Junior Member

    Dec 26, 2012
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    #2 Recursion, Feb 28, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2013
    I'm sorry about RL. Perhaps it's a virus? I also find it difficult to backup the registry files?
     
  3. schmibble

    schmibble MDL Novice

    Dec 22, 2012
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    Almost certainly not a virus. No downloading or filesharing on this machine--strictly work, very secure.
    No, actually, I don't find it difficult to back up the registry. It's actually a one-touch operation if you set up the batch file as described in the PDF I referred to above. The restoration wasn't difficult either. The crucial issue is that the problem does not lie with Windows. It's at least partly outside Windows; otherwise the System Restore or the registry restoration would have solved it.
     
  4. Recursion

    Recursion MDL Junior Member

    Dec 26, 2012
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    You can run a virus scan to be sure? You can also format the disk or try another disk? There is this program "hddregenerator". I have never tried it and it takes long time but something I would try. But I think it seems to be a hardware problem.
     
  5. LatinMcG

    LatinMcG Bios Borker

    Feb 27, 2011
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    MBR or partition issue i think.
    i saw it happen once when the 100MB reserved partition became corrupt. (boot folder) = delete partition with gparted and move data to far left first part of disk 100MB thats deleted now run repair windows startup. (might have to copy the booot folder from dvd to c: first) or just replace boot folder in reserved 100mb part.

    GRUB4DOS screen? sounds like seller used a loader to activate. try SHIFT on boot.

    part of reason old UBCD doesnt work sometimes is pc is set on AHCI and it needs IDE mode in bios/drives for old programs to work with hdd.
     
  6. Recursion

    Recursion MDL Junior Member

    Dec 26, 2012
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    #6 Recursion, Mar 1, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2013
    Yes, maybe it's a hidden partition. Maybe it's good to erase the disk and not only to format. There is this Active@KillDisk program.
     
  7. schmibble

    schmibble MDL Novice

    Dec 22, 2012
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    #7 schmibble, Mar 1, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2013
    (OP)
    Solved!

    LatinMcG, you are The Man:
    First thing after reading your post, I went into the BIOS and sure enough, it was set to AHCI. Changed it to ATA (the only other option my bios offers) thinking I'd boot up with UBCD just to check it out. However, I forgot to change the boot order so it could boot to the optical drive. As a result, the boot bypassed the optical drive. I said a few bad words to myself and then prepared for the Error screen, thinking I'd go back into the bios and set the optical drive to boot. And while I was cussing & thinking, the system booted normally! All good! So my whole system--not just the UBCD--requires the HD be set to "ATA" in the bios. I never would have guessed that.

    So here's what must have happened:

    1. The bad optical burn caused some original Windows corruption & I couldn't boot.
    2. As I noted in the OP, the first thing I did was go into the BIOS and reset everything to default. Resetting the bios/clearing cmos is a standard troubleshooting step and I certainly wouldn't have suspected that doing so would cause a problem. However, the hard-disk setting must have been at ATA prior to my reset--perhaps the seller put in an older drive before he sold the unit to me, and therefore he had to change the setting from the default (AHCI) to ATA. So when I reset the whole bios, the drive setting changed back to its default of AHCI. At this point my system now had two problems: the original Win7 corruption and the incorrect bios HD setting.
    3. Next thing I did was to perform the System Restore and then the full registry restoration. Either one of these steps probably would have removed the original problem; for sure the second one did, but the system still wouldn't boot because of the newly-incorrect AHCI bios setting.
    4. Once I set the bios back to ATA, the blockage was removed and the system could "flow" correctly again.
    I'm certainly glad that I didn't need to mess with the boot partition, since if I were to mess that up, I'd lose my OS since I don't have a restore disk. Anyhow, many thanks to both of you for responding. Greatly appreciated.
     
  8. LatinMcG

    LatinMcG Bios Borker

    Feb 27, 2011
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    #8 LatinMcG, Mar 2, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2013
    usualy win7 doesnt use IDE mode if SATA motherboard chipset drivers installed during 7 installation
    (it asks for drivers for sata AHCI before setup continues.. most skip. u might need them)

    active@ killdisk is overkill, gparted live does same in device> create partition table.
     
  9. schmibble

    schmibble MDL Novice

    Dec 22, 2012
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    You're probably right...unfortunately, given my situation, I can't very well reinstall and put 'em in...

    Gparted, eh? Good to know for future reference.

    Thanks much again.