No Boot / Non-System Disk Error with Win 10 Repair Disk


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I'm working on a friend's laptop, a Dell Inspiron N5050. I updated the machine from Windows 7 --> 10 (64bit) a few months ago. Things were working fine. A few days ago, the laptop fails. Now on normal power up (after the bios splash screen), you hear no drive noise, it just goes to a black screen with a single flashing dash / cursor about three lines down in the upper left hand corner of the screen. If you hold down a key, after a few seconds you hear a repeated click. The cursor never moves. It just blinks.

I did a Dell bios diagnostics test (built into the bios). The test is called a "ePSA Pre-boot System Assessment" Not sure what PSA stands for. Diagnostics reveal no errors, including Hard Drive and memory.

On a different laptop I built a Windows 10 repair disk (Control Panel --> File History --> System Image Backup [left hand margin] --> Create a system repair disk) . When I boot the problematic Dell Inspiron N5050 to the repair CD, the screen shows "Non-System disk or disk error Replace and press any key when ready" There were no problems reported on the normal tests. I'm running the lengthy Thorough Test Mode stuff right now; that test should take a few hours to run. I'm at a loss as to what to look at next...

I don't understand how that Windows 10 repair disk actually works. When I boot my windows 10 laptop up with that disk, I can see the CD start, but after a few minutes the thing reverts over to my Windows 10 hard drive. This is definitely different behavior that I see on the defective laptop. (I wanted to verify the CD was burned correctly...)

Any hints on how to fix a broken Windows 10 install? (and / or mystery hardware issue?)

thanks for any assistance...
 
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Regedit32

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Hi Zipzit,

ePSA stands for Enhanced pre-boot System Assessment.

Regarding your System Repair CD or DVD - did you test this on the laptop you originally created it on to make sure the Burned image was sound?

A Non-System Disk error generally points to there being no boot files on the media allegedly loading the operating system; in this instance your CD or DVD.

That error though can also be caused when the cables connecting CD/DVD ROM to motherboard are loose. Have you verified the CD/DVD ROM on the affected laptop is in fact working and all cables are connected?

Likewise, you obviously need to set the BIOS to boot from the CD/DVD first for your repair disk to be even used as the Boot media. I assume you did do that; if not then the error message is actually pointing to the HDD of the laptop which would imply its Boot Configuration is corrupted (i.e. the Master Boot Record (MBR) and the Boot Configuration Data (BCD)). Both can be repaired with a working System Repair disk.

If the CD/DVD ROM of affected laptop is not playing nicely, have you considered instead created a System Repair USB? They tend to be more reliable and in my opinion are more likely to be working well a few years from now when you forgot about that old now dusty CD in your desk drawer.

Regards,

Regedit32
 
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Regedit32. Thanks for your prompt reply....

Yes, I know the CD on the defective laptop works fine. I first tried a linux style repair disk just to see what I could see. It booted up fine, and I could see portions of the hard drive there. That repair disk was created in 2014, and I'm not clear on what hard drive element should be available from that thing. I couldn't see the main portion of the C-drive, but I'm not really clear on what a windows 10 setup should look like. But I'm quite sure the CD rom is working fine.

I did test my new Windows 10 repair disk on the computer that I used to create it, as I reported in my original note. I can see it boot up to the CD drive, but after a few minutes that computer jumps from the CD drive to the hard drive with a normal boot up. There are no error messages or anything visible when this happens. Its not clear to me on how that repair disk is supposed to work.

If you place a windows 10 repair disk in a fully operational windows 10 machine what should you see?


Note: I'm still running a complete diagnostic of the defective laptop's hard drive.. Hopefully I'll have results in a few hours... (Edit, Update) After two hours of hard drive testing with the integral Dell Assessment tool, there are NO ERRORS observed on the hard drive (or anywhere else...) Test complete, all elements are reported as good.
 
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Regedit32

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Hi Zipzit,

The Windows 10 OS is designed to automatically bring up the advanced troubleshooting option when Windows fails to boot after several attempts.

I assume this has not occurred at all, and thus you are left with your Repair CD.

When you insert that into the ROM Drive and reboot the computer it ought to automatically boot from this Disk (although on some systems you need to reset the Boot order for this to occur) - again I assume you all ready have done the basics here.

So given you say this Disk burned OK and is working, then the first thing you should see when the affected computer boots from your Repair Disk is a Blue Box like so:



Given your friends computer is not booting Windows at all then you ought to select Advanced options which will take you to this screen:



Now if your friend has created restore points, then that is worth trying first. Thus select System Restore.

However, if they have not done this in a while or ever, then your best option here would be Automatic Repair.


If the affected computer booting from your Repair Disk is not getting to these two screens then its time to consider a new approach.

On a working computer download a Windows 10 ISO file from either:

Create a Disk or USB with this ISO file

When ready refer to the Repair Installing Windows 10 section on this website:

Regards,

Regedit32
 
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When you boot a Dell system you should see a message during the splash screen showing an F12 option for a boot device menu. Do you see that and does the F12 get you into that menu? You may also be able to enter that menu from the Bios setup if you can get there.

If you can get the menu, what devices does it show?

A Win10 recovery drive is fairly specific to one system. As Regedit32 mentions you may want to use install media to make a bootable drive and use that.

The flashing cursor, as was mentioned, means the system boot is being directed to an incorrect or corrupted location. I don't know why that would happen but it seems the Win 7 to Win 10 upgrades are experiencing this problem more than others.

Edit: Does the problem system have an LED for the Hard Drive operation? If it does what is it showing?
 
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If you have not accidentally deleted the hidden factory partition, you may be able to return to the original Windows 7, as it was when the machine was purchase. This will, of course, mean installing all you software and going through the upgrade process again. It looks like you may have a HD problem, however.
One small point to add. There is no need to set the boot device in the Bios. Keep clicking the F12 button on instant start. An advanced menu will appear, where you can select the device you wish to use first in the boot order.

If you are interested, this is the normal dell procedure:

Unplug any devices you may have.
After the Splash screen appears keep press the <F8> key until you see the Advanced Boot Options menu.
You will need to login to the Administrator account on the computer. That is the account created the first time the computer was turned on. If you have no knowledge of it, you may be able to accept the login without a password.
In the Advanced Boot Options highlight "Repair Your Computer", with the arrow keys and Enter, Click Next
Click the "Dell Factory Image Recovery and DataSafe options", and just follow the prompts.
 
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Update: I originally created the windows 10 repair disk on a HP UEFI windows 8 computer that had been converted to Windows 10. The defective Dell was originally a Windows 7 machine. If I boot the repair disk to the operational HP Windows10 laptop, I can see the screens shown above. (Many thanks to Regedit32!) When I boot the defective Dell with the same disk, I still see "Non-System disk or disk error. Replace and press any key when ready" message.

Hmm.. I wonder... so I went back to another Windows 7 machine and created a windows 7 repair disk there. I wanted to see if this would boot up in the defective laptop. I created the disk, plugged it in, and it definitely starts the CD drive boot process. It gets as far as "Press any key to boot from CD or DVD. . . . " (five dots and a blinking _ ) And that's as far as it gets, no matter how long you wait.

Next step: Create a bootable USB flash drive on a known good computer. In this case I used a Unetbootin Ubuntu 15.10 OS, just to check out the boot up process. The screen shows "exF Remove disks or other media. Press any key to restart" I know I installed windows 10 on this machine using a USB drive.

I have full F2 access to the Bios, but there really aren't that many choices here. I'm easily able to boot to a Ubuntu CD or a CD Linux based Disk repair tool.

When I boot to Ubuntu 14.10 (via Live CD) In live mode I can use Ubuntu, but not install it. I can see there are three hard drive partitions: OS, DELLUTILITY, and Recovery.
When I click on OS, I get the following message:

Error mounting /dev/sda3 at /media/ubuntu/OS.... (blah, blah) .. exited with non-zero exit status 14: The disk contains an unclean file system (0,0). Metadata kept in Windows cache, refused to mount. (blah, blah...) The NTFS partition is in an unsafe state. Please resume and shutdown Windows fully (no hibernation or fast restarting), or mount the volume read-only with the 'ro' mount option.

I get the same response for the Recovery partition. I can see the DELLUTILITY partition normally.

I have no clue. Anybody been here before? What actions should be taken here? Again, many thanks for your assistance.
 

Regedit32

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Error mounting /dev/sda3 at /media/ubuntu/OS.... (blah, blah) .. exited with non-zero exit status 14: The disk contains an unclean file system (0,0). Metadata kept in Windows cache, refused to mount. (blah, blah...) The NTFS partition is in an unsafe state.
Hi again,

That error message is actually quite helpful as its basically telling you the Windows OS failed to shut down correctly and is automatically trying to boot Windows again, but as it does this its finding your Ubuntu and then Windows decides its Boot is unsafe.

It's been ages since I used a Ubuntu boot disk in the manner you are trying, so a quick rhetorical question per se:
  • Can you boot into an Ubuntu terminal?
  • If yes you could try the following command there to do some basic NTFS repairs on the partition you want to boot Windows from:
    • sudo ntfsfix /dev/sdXX
      • Just replace that XX at end with a1, a2, or a3 (e.g. sda1)

Beyond this I am no Dell expert sorry so I cannot really offer further advice on its systems for recovery. It looks like Saltgrass knows about Dell though so hopefully he is still watching this thread as he may have more advice to offer there.

Regards,

Regedit32
 
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Regedit32,

Thanks again for your input here. I've been wading thru postings like this one... and there are a whole lot of great ideas. The second answer on that link above is your ntfsfix command line tool. I'm just a bit nervous.

The problem, of course, is for every success, there is always a disclaimer, in this case "I concur with @psusi: this is very dangerous and could result in all data lost like hereFabby Aug 10 '15 at 12:23 " in the comments below the ntfsfix recommendation on that link above, sigh.

I did just talk to the laptop owner, there really in no critical data stored on the hard drive, so a total wipe wouldn't be a terrible loss. That still rubs me the wrong way... I'm too much of a perfectionist. I'm going to sleep on it for a day, check out a few different references before attempting some Linux terminal command line fixes. I'm a freelance software developer, very comfortable in command line tools. I'm not so hot on hardware troubleshooting. I'll update here with the tests and results... Give me a day or so.

And hey a complete rewipe and Linux install is an option, but I so wanted Windows 10 to work out for this user.

Anybody else got some ideas? Many thanks.
 
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Post #6 ? - If you are looking to a complete wipeout
 

Regedit32

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Thanks again for your input here. I've been wading thru postings like this one... and there are a whole lot of great ideas. The second answer on that link above is your ntfsfix command line tool. I'm just a bit nervous.
Understood, there is always a risk when playing with the Boot files. At the moment though you cannot get it to boot at all making it hard to recover files from.

Is there any chance you could pull the hard drive from laptop and slave it to your own computer. That way you ought to be able to at the very least explore it and pull files from it that may be worth saving; you may even be able via Disk Management be able to do some basic tests and repairs too.

Regards,

Regedit32
 
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If you decide to wipe the drive and start over, before you do that you could try to replace the boot files but you need to be able to boot into a command prompt from a recovery system.

You could try Bootrec.exe /RebuildBCD

and if that doesn't work you could try

bcdboot C:\Windows

Where the OS partition is on the C: drive which may be different when you boot into the command prompt. You could open diskpart and type list vol to check what letter the OS is on.
 
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Update: So I was totally able to get the ntfsfix command line tool stuff to work. Now, while using a Linux live CD, I can totally check each and every directory on the Windows hard drive. It no longer goes into the error mounting modes observed earlier.

Unfortunately nothing I do will enable this thing to boot to:
  • a Windows 7 repair disk
  • a Windows 10 repair disk
  • its own hard drive (I do note, that during boot up, I NEVER see a hard drive LED)
It will boot off of Linux based CD's quite easily (Ubuntu 14.10, Ubuntu 15.10, and a Linux based Boot Repair disk. )

Its not clear to me on if this is a Main Boot Record (MBR) issue or perhaps a BIOS issue. What baffles me is, if this were a MBR issue, then I'd expect the Windows 7 repair CD and/or Windows 10 repair CD to function.

I'm now thinking of re-installing the Bios from Dell. Unfortunately, that requires: a MSDos or Windows environment, sigh. I'm looking at the Medicat repair DVD... It replaces Hiren's Boot disk and its Linux based. It also includes Mini Windows 10. I don't have the original repair disks for this laptop, but in wacko boot up condition, I'm not sure they would even work.

My thought is download Medicat, burn a DVD. Then boot to Medicat, start Mini Windows, reinstall the Dell BIOS, then attempt to boot to the Windows 10 repair disk I created from the HP laptop. Boy, this sucks. I could push one button and Linux would be there now.

Any other ideas?
 
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Update: So the Medicat Repair DVD is pretty impressive. It boots up fine (to isolinux), and it has some pretty awesome tools in there, including:
  • Boot 1st Harddisk
  • Hard Drive repair tools (TestDisk from http://www.cgsecurity.org/),
  • Windows Recovery (Win 7, 8, 10) which originally went to the familiar [Troubleshoot: Reset this PC or Advanced Options. Advanced Options: System Restore, System Image Recovery, Startup Repair, Command Prompt, Go Back to Previous Build] After hard drive "repair" it just goes to the "Loading DRMK v8.00 screen".
  • Diagnostic Utilities
  • Run Virus Scan
  • Boot Mini Windows 10. Note: it takes an unusually long time to load up this screen. The screen has an audio output "Welcome to the MediCat DVD" then shows a simple OS page with "This PC, PENetwork, Recycle Bin, ReMount CdDrive Y, Command Prompt, Reset User Passwrord, Device Manager, System Recovery, Google Chrome, Hardware Wizard, MediCat DVD help Thread, Network" icons.
  • Boot Lubuntu
  • Boot MediCat FreeDOS
  • Reboot the PC
  • Shutdown the PC

I found some hard drive partition errors, let the DVD Test Disk repair things (which left some odd results... In my case it left me with three active partitions. The partition it now boots to is the DELLUTILITY partition. ) I've tried the Windows Startup Repair numerous times, it always fails. Going back to a previous build --> "We ran into a problem and won't be able to take you back to the previous build. Try resetting your current build instead (Troubleshoot > Reset this PC)

When I now boot to the newly "repaired" hard drive, I see "Loading DRMK V8.00... Copyright (c) 2006-2008 Dell Inc. From this link and this posting, indicating that this is the Dell System Restore partition. Apparently the system uses this as a swap in preparation to restaging the computer to recovery repair.

I will say, I'm unable to get the wireless connectivity to work on this laptop, with this repair disk. There aren't any wired ethernet connections available in this location.

I'm looking at the "Active Partition Manager 3.0" within the Mini Windows 10 environment, and it shows on original 500 Gig hard drive there are three partitions: 100MB of DELLUTILITY (F: ) (color = green, active partition), 19.5GB Recovery (D: ) (color = blue, primary partition) and 446GB of OS (C: ) (color = blue, primary partition)

So its clear to me that the wrong partition is active. I'm not quite clear on how to correct this.

I found a tool in the Mini Windows 10 OS, called "Macrium Reflect". Generally this tool is used to create and recovery disk images. In my case, none were found. In that tool there is a menu choice entitled "Restore -- Fix Windows Boot problems"

When I Select C: (OS) (the drive with Windows 10 installed on it... )the next screen takes me to:

Boot Code Options -- Select options to repair your PC boot code. (you can selectively choose any of the next four options)

--Reset the boot disk ID
--Replace the master Boot Record
--Replace partition sector boot code
--Rebuild the boot configuration database (BCD) and BOOT.INI files

Anybody been here before? How do I proceed? (Note: I've safely backed up all user files to a USB flash drive.) Many thanks,
 
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Regedit32

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So its clear to me that the wrong partition is active. I'm not quite clear on how to correct this. Anybody been here before? How do I proceed?
Hi Zipzit,

The easiest way to do this is to use the Built in DISKPART option in Windows.
  • Open a Command Prompt
  • Type Diskpart | then press Enter
  • Type List Disk | then press Enter
You'll now see a list of disks available.

Disk 0
Disk 1
Disk 2 etcetera

To select the Disk you want to work with do the following:​
  • Select Disk # | then press Enter
  • Note: replace # with the number of the Disk you want to work with (e.g. Select Disk 0)
  • Now type List Partition | then press Enter
You'll now see a list of partitions available on the Disk you chose

Partition 1
Partition 2
Partition 3
Partition 4 etcetera

To select the partition you want to work with do the following:
  • Type Select Partition # | then press Enter
  • Note: replace the # with the number of partition you want to work with (e.g. Select Partition 4)
OK so above I've chosen Disk 0, Partition 4. If I want to make this inactive I simply now type:
  • inactive | then press Enter
If I want to make it active then simply type:
  • active | then press Enter
Once completed type exit | press Enter to exit Diskpart, then type exit | press Enter to exit Command prompt
Regards,

Regedit32
 
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This is really turning into the Windows Laptop From Hell.

So I was able to swap which partition was active. When I reboot to the normal OS hard drive partition, I get a splash screen with small blue window icon, then I can see text indicating scanning and repairing Drive C: I see the little spinning balls icon ... and then fail. I'm back to the original screen at the start of this whole chain of postings:

A black screen with a blinking _ (underscore) cursor about four lines down from the top.

I play around a bit, do a few more restarts, and then I start getting an error message "Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: <Windows root>\system32\hal.dll Please re-install a copy of the above file."

Replacing that file from a known good Windows 10 install gets the exact same error message.

I will say the MediCat Mini Windows 10 thing has a lot of tools available. (I'm assuming that the MiniWin10 thing is a docker windows instance that runs in Linux.) One of the tools available is System Recovery. When I select System Recovery from the Mini Windows 10 screen, I get a popup that says: RecEnv.exe The exception unknown software exception (0xc06d007e) occurred in the application at location 0x757924C2.

So..

A couple more questions please:

1) Is it possible to download Windows 7 install from a legal repository somewhere, and re-install Windows 7 using the original Windows 7 Product key label from the bottom of the laptop? (When I check the Dell website, I don't see them selling the install CD/DVDs for this model at this time.) (Update: I was reading up on the MediCat stuff... and I realized they have a Windows7 recovery kit built in... I missed that before... I'm trying it now... It seems to be working... Oops. Fail. I get stuck at the hal.dll missing or corrupt error message. )

Oops. Well Duh... https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows7

Well this just sucks.

Error
The product key you entered appears to be for software pre-installed by the device manufacturer. Please contact the device manufacturer for software recovery options.

That's a heck of a sales pitch to remove Windows and install Linux. Am I missing something? sigh.

I am not giving up! I did find this article on recovery over at Dell and a link to the Dell Recovery Image. Wow. If this works, big kudos to Dell for doing this right, and making the software available... Stay tuned.

Darn! "Recovery image not available for your Service Tag. Sorry, but a Dell Hosted Recovery Image is currently not available for the Service Tag that you entered. Please enter another Service Tag or contact Dell Technical Support for further assistance." Well this just sucks. I'm on the phone with Dell. I can purchase the disks (ship only, not available via electronic data transfer.) They tell me that the download .iso file just isn't available. Hmm.. they have the DVD's but no .iso file(s). How do you spell customer service? Cost is around $25 or so and a delay of a week or so. Mumble, mumble. I'm not happy. This makes me reconsider ALL of my Dell purchases. (I spent $1200 with them last year...)

2) I'm seriously considering manually copying key files (c:/Windows/system32) from a known good windows 10 laptop --> this beast, via USB flash drive. Any recommendations there?

3) Any other ideas?

As always, many thanks.
 
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Hi Zipzit,

re that Hal.dll error - Neosmart have a pretty solid article on this and offer advice and tools to resolve it.

https://neosmart.net/wiki/hal-dll-missing-corrupt/

Re the message about your machine having a certain OS on it when you tried to install windows 7: Its been a long while since I dealt with something similar so to be honest at this moment I forget the exact terms, but essentially that message is saying your Dell Laptop came with most likely an OEM version of windows 7 pre-installed, and you have attempt to use a non OEM Windows 7 installation file with an OEM Product key.

I recall reading about this on a Windows 7 forum many years ago at the Microsoft Community sites and they offered a series of downloads that you could legally use to re-install an OEM version which worked fine so long as you had a legal OEM Product key (which clearly you do given its on that sticker you mentioned).

I'll need to slave some old hard drives to dig out the link to those downloads, but in the meanwhile you could perhaps call Microsoft on the phone, or Google OEM installers. Or call Dell re your recovery image.

Regards,

Regedit32
 
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Regedit32... yeah, the Dell support thing is rather ugly. I really hate when businesses treat their customers poorly. Hate it! Here's my write up on the issue.

and as for the hal.dll thing.. game on. Thanks for the hint / help.
 

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