Windows Vista PC - "No bootable hard drive".

whiskeyguy

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#1
Alright, so since I'm the fucking tech help for my entire goddamn family, I have to try and fix their computers after logging for 10 hours today.

So this is a Dell PC with Windows Vista... maybe six years old or so. Lately it's been shutting down... now it may or may not have at one point said "shutting down to protect windows", or something like that. However the last time it just went into normal shutdown procedure (showing the Windows "shutting down" screen), but it sat like that for hours. Then at some point it goes into the F2 boot setup menu by itself, where I noticed it says "no bootable hard drive". Manually turn off the computer and restart, and it works fine (for a while at least).

Any idea what is going on? I looked through the event log, but I don't know really what to look for (nothing stood out). I did install new RAM around two months ago, but it worked fine after that.

I've scanned with MSE and Malwarebyes. MWB found one thing, but removed it successfully (forgot to write down what it was).

This computer is used almost exclusively for checking a Yahoo email account and balancing a checking account via Quicken.
 
Apr 30, 2011
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#2
Alright, so since I'm the fucking tech help for my entire goddamn family, I have to try and fix their computers after logging for 10 hours today.

So this is a Dell PC with Windows Vista... maybe six years old or so. Lately it's been shutting down... now it may or may not have at one point said "shutting down to protect windows", or something like that. However the last time it just went into normal shutdown procedure (showing the Windows "shutting down" screen), but it sat like that for hours. Then at some point it goes into the F2 boot setup menu by itself, where I noticed it says "no bootable hard drive". Manually turn off the computer and restart, and it works fine (for a while at least).

Any idea what is going on? I looked through the event log, but I don't know really what to look for (nothing stood out). I did install new RAM around two months ago, but it worked fine after that.

I've scanned with MSE and Malwarebyes. MWB found one thing, but removed it successfully (forgot to write down what it was).

This computer is used almost exclusively for checking a Yahoo email account and balancing a checking account via Quicken.
So it is intermittent in both not detecting hard drive and when it does boot, sometimes it shuts itself down?

Certainly reinstalling windows would rule out software issue. If you have a spare hard drive, that is not a bad idea to drop an image of the current install onto it. Substituting a power supply would be a good test particularly if it wont stay on for a long period of time to see if the shutting down goes away. Mobo is most likely but not simple to swap at that age certainly not worth buying one unless someone is selling one cheap on ebay.
 

whiskeyguy

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#3
So it is intermittent in both not detecting hard drive and when it does boot, sometimes it shuts itself down?

Certainly reinstalling windows would rule out software issue. If you have a spare hard drive, that is not a bad idea to drop an image of the current install onto it. Substituting a power supply would be a good test particularly if it wont stay on for a long period of time to see if the shutting down goes away. Mobo is most likely but not simple to swap at that age certainly not worth buying one unless someone is selling one cheap on ebay.
I don't know if this is related, but now Chrome can't access Google (validation error, and it won't allow access for "safety", and all the sudden her Windows OS lost "Genuine status (noticed because MSE stopped working). Tried to download validation program and received and error.
 

Party Rooster

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#4
Are the vent holes clogged? Sounds like it's overheating almost. Try stripping it down as much as you can and blowing it out.
 

Party Rooster

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#5
Also, the hard drive may be failing so I'd make sure to get some files off of it fast as I can and/or make an image of it. Did you try running the LONG chkdsk on it? The one that checks and fixes the surfaces of the disk.
 
Apr 30, 2011
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#6
I don't know if this is related, but now Chrome can't access Google (validation error, and it won't allow access for "safety", and all the sudden her Windows OS lost "Genuine status (noticed because MSE stopped working). Tried to download validation program and received and error.
An unexpected crash can corrupt files and make those programs behave that way.
 

whiskeyguy

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#7
An unexpected crash can corrupt files and make those programs behave that way.
Alright, I have no idea if she has a Windows disc (I don't have a Vista one), but I'll check and just do a clean install after running a few more tests. Sounds like the easiest fix.

Also, the hard drive may be failing so I'd make sure to get some files off of it fast as I can and/or make an image of it. Did you try running the LONG chkdsk on it? The one that checks and fixes the surfaces of the disk.
Not yet, I haven't had time to really mess around with it beyond checking for viruses. I'll try that this weekend. I'm going to be pissed if the hard drive is failing... I suggested she just upgrade her RAM over buying a new machine. This one isn't worth putting another dime into... I thought the RAM upgrade would last her for as long as she'll need a computer (she's 87).

Are the vent holes clogged? Sounds like it's overheating almost. Try stripping it down as much as you can and blowing it out.
I blew it out really well when I installed the RAM, so that shouldn't be an issue.
 

Neon

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#8
Only got that error once and it was because my hard drive bricked, but I could also hear that it was done. You never want to hear scraping and screeching noises from your HD. Never a good sign.
 
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#9
I blew it out really well
He needed the money... boo

Is it still shutting down? Seems like you should be able to download a Win Vista image off the web, particularly since you don't need a hacked one if windows key is legible on the case sticker.
 

whiskeyguy

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#10
He needed the money... boo

Is it still shutting down? Seems like you should be able to download a Win Vista image off the web, particularly since you don't need a hacked one if windows key is legible on the case sticker.
The shitty thing is it's someone else's computer. I have no idea what the context of it shutting down is, and she can't really explain it to me. If it was my computer, I would have a good idea what was going wrong, because I use it every day.

I'm sure the key is still legible, it's a desktop and it has never moved with the exception of me installing the RAM. I had no idea OS images were legally downloadable.
 

Bobobie

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#11
If it's a Dell PC it should have PC Doctor diagnostic tools built into the startup, one of the function keys like starting the bios. It will test the hardware for a bad HD or memory. It still wouldn't rule out a bad motherboard or power supply.
 

Ego

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#12
Tell her to stop watching Lemon Party.
 

blazin

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#13
The shitty thing is it's someone else's computer. I have no idea what the context of it shutting down is, and she can't really explain it to me. If it was my computer, I would have a good idea what was going wrong, because I use it every day.
Welcome to my life, the life of a computer repairman.

I'm sure the key is still legible, it's a desktop and it has never moved with the exception of me installing the RAM. I had no idea OS images were legally downloadable.
Have fun finding a Vista download. Best luck would be on a torrent, but I would absolutely check the hash after you download it to make sure it hasnt been tampered with. You can find the official hashes of the MSDN downloads that used to be on Digitalriver (Microsoft's file repository site) but Vista is too old that they took them off.

Make sure you know if you're using a 32 or 64 bit operating system. They are two different downloads. Fortunately, Vista Basic, Business, Home Premium, and Ultimate are all contained within the disk. Your product key determines which gets installed. But since you have a Dell, it's got a factory recovery partition so you dont need to download anything. But don't even bother becuase that's not your issue.

When you're dealing with an error so early on, particularly right when the computer starts and you're still POST-ing (Power On Self-Test) that's where it looks for hard drives, etc...

Errors at this point have NOTHING to do with Windows. It's not a software problem - totally hardware or BIOS issues.

Possible Scenarios are:

1. Your computer is trying to boot off another device it sees as a drive. This could be an external hard drive, an SD card in a slot, and even some printers that have SD cards slots in them. Go into BIOS and make sure that your drive boot order is correct.
2. Bad/Loose Connection between motherboard and hard drive (either data or power)
3. Power supply that is not adequately powering on hard drive (unlikely)
4. Intermittent bad SATA port on the motherboard (rare)
5. Bad hard drive - had a drive that did this. All of a sudden it would take me about a few tries to get BIOS to see the drives. When it couldn't, I'd get that same exact error message It was a controller problem on the drive itself.
6. Fouled up BIOS

I would visually inspect 2.
Check 1.
Update 6.

If that doesnt solve it, most likely it's a bad drive.
 

somnarium

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#14
Had my Dell XPS 410 PC for over 6 years now and this week am getting my first BSOD's with it. At first thought it was due to a defrag that was interrupted by a power outage but after running memory diagnostics it has confirmed there is a hardware problem. The computer will restart but after a few minutes it will BSOD and restart. My money is on motherboard.

Also, everytime I start it up after it's sat off for more than 5-6 hours, it sounds like a jet taking off. Almost like a car in winter with cold idle, except it doesn't try to start up. It just sounds like the fans or hard drives spool up faster and faster until I power it off. Then when I would start it up seconds later, it would be fine.
 
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blazin

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#15
Ive replaced a bunch of XPS 410 motherboards. You can get new ones on ebay for $34.99 from a seller called anandtech
 

blazin

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#16
re-read your post in more detail:

might just have a stick of bad ram.

as far as fan noise, just clean out all dust in the case and the cpu heatsink...and it wouldn't hurt to take off the heatsink completely and apply some new thermal grease.
 

somnarium

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Aug 24, 2012
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#17
re-read your post in more detail:

might just have a stick of bad ram.

as far as fan noise, just clean out all dust in the case and the cpu heatsink...and it wouldn't hurt to take off the heatsink completely and apply some new thermal grease.
I keep it pretty clear of dust and though I am pretty good with computer software and such, I'm not a hardware guy so it's not out of the realm of possibility for me to miss something obvious.
 
Apr 30, 2011
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#18
Also, everytime I start it up after it's sat off for more than 5-6 hours, it sounds like a jet taking off. Almost like a car in winter with cold idle, except it doesn't try to start up. It just sounds like the fans or hard drives spool up faster and faster until I power it off. Then when I would start it up seconds later, it would be fine.
An explanation of what is going on here is some kind of "thermostat" circuit that has not gotten a proper temp reading yet so it is sending full power to the fans. Eventually they will slow down the fans to the correct speed by lowering the voltage to the fan to an idle. I have heard my graphics card do this occasionally when booting up and it will quickly slow down to an idle speed. Of course if I were to push the system you would hear the fan ramp up to full speed where it would be much louder. Obviously a dirty fan will likely sound louder than it would if it were clean.

Edit: Also to add, some gpu cards when starting up will spin the fans in the wrong direction to try to knock off any light dust, so they would be louder at startup for that reason too.
 
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weeniewawa

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May 21, 2005
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#19
Ive replaced a bunch of XPS 410 motherboards. You can get new ones on ebay for $34.99 from a seller called anandtech
is this the real anandtech or someone ripping off (hoo hoo) his name?

Anand Shimpi is a famous guy
 

Mikefrombx

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Jan 13, 2011
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#21
I don't know if this is related, but now Chrome can't access Google (validation error, and it won't allow access for "safety", and all the sudden her Windows OS lost "Genuine status (noticed because MSE stopped working). Tried to download validation program and received and error.
Check the system clock settings. After a total power failure it can reset the clock and then you would be able to update your comp or use certain websites in Chrome because your ssl will be broken.
 

Bobobie

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#22
Check the system clock settings. After a total power failure it can reset the clock and then you would be able to update your comp or use certain websites in Chrome because your ssl will be broken.
Maybe a dead bios battery. The motherboard forgot all the default settings?
 

Mikefrombx

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#23
Maybe a dead bios battery. The motherboard forgot all the default settings?
Definitely a possibility dealt with that on two older comps, one the battery burst the other dust got in and blocked a connection
 

somnarium

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Aug 24, 2012
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#24
As I was attempting to relieve the fan of any new dust buildup I noticed a couple of capacitors have cracked and confirmed my original suspicion of motherboard.

As mine is a BTX model, I'm trying to confirm that the ones I'm looking at online are not ATX motherboards.
 
Apr 30, 2011
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#25
As I was attempting to relieve the fan of any new dust buildup I noticed a couple of capacitors have cracked and confirmed my original suspicion of motherboard.

As mine is a BTX model, I'm trying to confirm that the ones I'm looking at online are not ATX motherboards.
I think the main difference of BTX vs ATX is the case that it goes in and how the airflow works for cooling the components. So you probably should not put an ATX board in a BTX case. I think BTX has been phased out too so finding a replacement board may be hard. It sucks because some people on ebay selling a mobo will sell it for a significantly higher price than it is worth because its a much easier swap for most people and they pay the "ransom" price.

Also mATX or micro ATX is a pretty common form factor now as it allows for smaller cases and an mATX board can also fit in a case made for a full sized ATX board.