Blinking cursor at failed boot


J

Jon Danniken

Hi all, I have XP loaded onto my laptop, and currently at bootup all I
get is a blinking cursor in the top-left of the screen. F8 doesn't do
anything to mitigate this, it just sits there blinking, mocking me.

This was a dual-boot system, using grub as the bootloader, and
everything was working fine. In order to remove grub from the equation,
I loaded the install CD and /fixboot and /fixmbr, but still, nothing but
the blinking cursor. The boot.ini file looks to be fine, and ntldr is
of the proper size.

The XP partition was working fine the last time I booted into in a
couple of weeks ago. At that time, I made a couple of minor changes in
the registry, nothing major though. If that was the problem I should be
getting an error message about the registry I would imagine.

Any ideas on this?
 
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B

BillW50

Hi all, I have XP loaded onto my laptop, and currently at bootup all I
get is a blinking cursor in the top-left of the screen. F8 doesn't do
anything to mitigate this, it just sits there blinking, mocking me.

This was a dual-boot system, using grub as the bootloader, and
everything was working fine. In order to remove grub from the equation,
I loaded the install CD and /fixboot and /fixmbr, but still, nothing but
the blinking cursor. The boot.ini file looks to be fine, and ntldr is
of the proper size.

The XP partition was working fine the last time I booted into in a
couple of weeks ago. At that time, I made a couple of minor changes in
the registry, nothing major though. If that was the problem I should be
getting an error message about the registry I would imagine.

Any ideas on this?

Yup, that is a classic sign that it can't find anything bootable. Sounds
like the BIOS can see the hard drive since you booted from the CD and
allowed you to make changes to the drive. But it wouldn't hurt to peek
into the BIOS and see if it can see it.

I seem to recall fixboot and fixmbr doesn't always correctly fix the
boot.ini file. Could you post a copy of it? Most of the time it isn't
booting, its trying to boot from the wrong partition.
 
J

Jon Danniken

Yup, that is a classic sign that it can't find anything bootable. Sounds
like the BIOS can see the hard drive since you booted from the CD and
allowed you to make changes to the drive. But it wouldn't hurt to peek
into the BIOS and see if it can see it.

I seem to recall fixboot and fixmbr doesn't always correctly fix the
boot.ini file. Could you post a copy of it? Most of the time it isn't
booting, its trying to boot from the wrong partition.

Thanks Bill. Yeah, I can see the hard drive with no trouble, I
re-installed grub and it boots into linux just fine, even detects the
windows system and sets up a line to boot into it.

boot.ini is as follows:

[boot loader]
timeout=30
default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\Windows
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP
Professional" /noexecute=optin /fastdetect


Thanks again,

Jon
 
P

philo 

Hi all, I have XP loaded onto my laptop, and currently at bootup all I
get is a blinking cursor in the top-left of the screen. F8 doesn't do
anything to mitigate this, it just sits there blinking, mocking me.

This was a dual-boot system, using grub as the bootloader, and
everything was working fine. In order to remove grub from the equation,
I loaded the install CD and /fixboot and /fixmbr, but still, nothing but
the blinking cursor. The boot.ini file looks to be fine, and ntldr is
of the proper size.

The XP partition was working fine the last time I booted into in a
couple of weeks ago. At that time, I made a couple of minor changes in
the registry, nothing major though. If that was the problem I should be
getting an error message about the registry I would imagine.

Any ideas on this?



The third file needed for booting is ntdetect.com

is it present?


Also: I'd try running chkdsk /r from the repair console.
 
B

BillW50

Yup, that is a classic sign that it can't find anything bootable. Sounds
like the BIOS can see the hard drive since you booted from the CD and
allowed you to make changes to the drive. But it wouldn't hurt to peek
into the BIOS and see if it can see it.

I seem to recall fixboot and fixmbr doesn't always correctly fix the
boot.ini file. Could you post a copy of it? Most of the time it isn't
booting, its trying to boot from the wrong partition.

Thanks Bill. Yeah, I can see the hard drive with no trouble, I
re-installed grub and it boots into linux just fine, even detects the
windows system and sets up a line to boot into it.

boot.ini is as follows:

[boot loader]
timeout=30
default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\Windows
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP
Professional" /noexecute=optin /fastdetect


Thanks again,

The two lines that contains:

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)

Is the part we are interested in. When you change one, you should also
change the other one.

The disk(0) part should be right on a single drive system. Unless you
are using a PATA drive set as a slave. Then it should probably be
disk(1), but that isn't usually the problem. Just something to think
about for later.

That partition(1) part is saying that Windows is on the second partition
on the drive. Do you know if it is? If it is on the first partition,
then it should say partition(0). This is the one that I usually find is
wrong. It doesn't hurt to change this one, except if it is wrong,
Windows won't boot. That is okay, as you could always change it.
 
B

BillW50

The third file needed for booting is ntdetect.com

is it present?

Also: I'd try running chkdsk /r from the repair console.

That all and fine advice Philo, but I don't think I ever seen a boot
problem with just a flashing cursor that had part of Windows load. If
one of the boot files is missing or corrupt or anything, you will
usually get some sort of Windows error. Some of the errors are very
misleading of course, but you usually get something. I think it can't
find where Windows is at.
 
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J

Jon Danniken

boot.ini is as follows:

[boot loader]
timeout=30
default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\Windows
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP
Professional" /noexecute=optin /fastdetect


Thanks again,

The two lines that contains:

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)

Is the part we are interested in. When you change one, you should also
change the other one.

The disk(0) part should be right on a single drive system. Unless you
are using a PATA drive set as a slave. Then it should probably be
disk(1), but that isn't usually the problem. Just something to think
about for later.

That partition(1) part is saying that Windows is on the second partition
on the drive. Do you know if it is? If it is on the first partition,
then it should say partition(0). This is the one that I usually find is
wrong. It doesn't hurt to change this one, except if it is wrong,
Windows won't boot. That is okay, as you could always change it.

Thanks Bill. This is indeed the only disk in the system, and checking
with the BIOS it is configured as master.

Windows is indeed the first partition on the disk (it was the first OS I
installed). I tried changing multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1) to
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(0) (in both lines), but still no joy (I
even tried (2) just for fun.

Thanks,

Jon
 
J

Jon Danniken

The third file needed for booting is ntdetect.com

is it present?

Thanks philo, it is indeed present, and of the same size as the one on
the desktop installation of XP.
Also: I'd try running chkdsk /r from the repair console.

Tried that, still no joy.

Thanks,

Jon
 
P

philo 

On 0X


Thanks philo, it is indeed present, and of the same size as the one on
the desktop installation of XP.


Tried that, still no joy.

Thanks,

Jon


Good stumper.

If it were my own machine I'd confirm hardware is good.

RAM test and manufacturer's hard drive diagnostic

If all good, I'd perform a repair install.

Hopefully someone here has a less drastic solution
 
B

Ben Myers

Jon Danniken said:
Hi all, I have XP loaded onto my laptop, and currently at bootup all I
get is a blinking cursor in the top-left of the screen. F8 doesn't do
anything to mitigate this, it just sits there blinking, mocking me.
This was a dual-boot system, using grub as the bootloader, and
everything was working fine. In order to remove grub from the equation,
I loaded the install CD and /fixboot and /fixmbr, but still, nothing but
the blinking cursor. The boot.ini file looks to be fine, and ntldr is
of the proper size.
The XP partition was working fine the last time I booted into in a
couple of weeks ago. At that time, I made a couple of minor changes in
the registry, nothing major though. If that was the problem I should be
getting an error message about the registry I would imagine.
Any ideas on this?

Start the recovery console and type the following:

diskpart
select disk 0
select partition 1
active
exit
exit

Ben
 
P

Paul

Ben said:
Start the recovery console and type the following:

diskpart
select disk 0
select partition 1
active
exit
exit

Ben

If Linux is still booting, you can also check which partition has
the boot flag set, from there.

GRUB doesn't use the boot flag and doesn't need it.
While Windows does.

The puzzling part would be, why would a boot flag "go away" ?
What would have cleared it ?

Paul
 
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P

philo 

Ben Myers wrote: X

If Linux is still booting, you can also check which partition has
the boot flag set, from there.

GRUB doesn't use the boot flag and doesn't need it.
While Windows does.

The puzzling part would be, why would a boot flag "go away" ?
What would have cleared it ?

Paul



I've seen a bad shut down change a drive label.

I suppose anything can happen
 
B

BillW50

If Linux is still booting, you can also check which partition has
the boot flag set, from there.

I think Linux was killed off from booting when he did fixmbr and
fixboot. Although later he repaired it and Linux still loads.
GRUB doesn't use the boot flag and doesn't need it.
While Windows does.

The puzzling part would be, why would a boot flag "go away" ?
What would have cleared it ?

It isn't clear why Windows won't boot. All we know there is a flashing
cursor and nothing else when trying to boot Windows. I automatically
assume and focus on that it can't find Windows at all. Although this
isn't a sure thing or anything, but that is the first thing that I would
assume. But we don't know this for sure.

We also know that the BIOS can see the hard drive and the computer can
boot from an optical drive. And the boot OS from the optical drive can
see and change things on the hard drive (even on the Windows partition).

Philo immediately jumped on a problem with one of the Windows boot
files. I shied away from that idea based on the flashing cursor. As if
Windows has any chance to load and you just end up with a hanging
flashing cursor isn't usually one of them. Usually it pops up an error
about something. Usually about some file that may not really have
anything to do with it.

But Jon (the OP) checked everything that I can think of that would
prevent the system from seeing Windows. I am totally out of ideas and
the system must be seeing the Windows partition and trying to load
Windows, but fails.

So I too am now focusing on Philo's original comment. That something in
Windows boot files is missing, corrupt or something. There is no
evidence for anything that I have heard so far that anything changed
except the boot loader.

And I am still thinking whatever is wrong, it is something really
simple. The problem is, I am all out of simple ideas. As Jon did a
beautiful job showing that all of my simple ideas just isn't it. :-(
 
P

Paul

BillW50 said:
I think Linux was killed off from booting when he did fixmbr and
fixboot. Although later he repaired it and Linux still loads.

A LiveCD will do it. You install Linux from a LiveCD, so it
should still be lying in the pile of CDs. You can boot the
LiveCD, and run commands from there.

http://i42.tinypic.com/2m7sxmh.gif

When I tried booting recovery console from my WinXP SP3 CD
on that machine, the diskpart isn't the regular diskpart
you get normally in Windows. It's just the one used for
partition preparation before an install. I think other
DVDs, like Vista/Win7/Win8 DVD, when booted to recovery
console, they give the command line diskpart. I wasn't able
to run C:\Windows\system32\diskpart.exe when booted
to the recovery console from the WinXP CD.

This is what it looks like, if I boot and repair with the
Vista recovery CD (or the Vista installer DVD).

http://i42.tinypic.com/2v29pj8.gif

Paul
 
J

Jon Danniken

If Linux is still booting, you can also check which partition has
the boot flag set, from there.

GRUB doesn't use the boot flag and doesn't need it.
While Windows does.

The puzzling part would be, why would a boot flag "go away" ?
What would have cleared it ?

Thanks Paul, and Ben. Linux (fdisk -l) is indeed showing the WinXP
partition as the boot partition (it has the asterisk in the Boot column).

Jon
 
J

Jon Danniken

I think Linux was killed off from booting when he did fixmbr and
fixboot. Although later he repaired it and Linux still loads.

Indeed I did; fortunately it is just as easy to install grub as it is to
run fixmbr; you just run "grub-install /dev/sda" from a linux command
line and it writes to the MBR (then of course you need to generate a
config file with "grub-mkconfig -o /boob/grub/grub.cfg).

I keep a copy of rescatux on a thumb drive so I can always boot into a
system, Windows or Linux, when the loader is funny. It did not,
however, enable to boot into Windows this time, just taking me to the
blinking cursor, so I'm pretty confident the problem is on the Windows
side of the loader.
It isn't clear why Windows won't boot. All we know there is a flashing
cursor and nothing else when trying to boot Windows. I automatically
assume and focus on that it can't find Windows at all. Although this
isn't a sure thing or anything, but that is the first thing that I would
assume. But we don't know this for sure.

We also know that the BIOS can see the hard drive and the computer can
boot from an optical drive. And the boot OS from the optical drive can
see and change things on the hard drive (even on the Windows partition).

Philo immediately jumped on a problem with one of the Windows boot
files. I shied away from that idea based on the flashing cursor. As if
Windows has any chance to load and you just end up with a hanging
flashing cursor isn't usually one of them. Usually it pops up an error
about something. Usually about some file that may not really have
anything to do with it.

Yes; I've seen the "NTLDR missing or corrupt" message before, which
gives you a pretty good idea of where to start. Damn blinking cursor.

Jon
 
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P

philo 

Thanks Paul, and Ben. Linux (fdisk -l) is indeed showing the WinXP
partition as the boot partition (it has the asterisk in the Boot column).

Jon



OK one more thing to try from the repair console


BOOTCFG /REBUILD
 
B

BillW50

Yes; I've seen the "NTLDR missing or corrupt" message before, which
gives you a pretty good idea of where to start. Damn blinking cursor.

Wow that changes a lot for me. The error "NTLDR missing or corrupt" may
have nothing to do with ntldr at all. But I am like now 90% sure that it
sees the Windows partition and trying to boot from it.
 
B

BillW50

Wow that changes a lot for me. The error "NTLDR missing or corrupt" may
have nothing to do with ntldr at all. But I am like now 90% sure that it
sees the Windows partition and trying to boot from it.

You know this is something that is a super long shot. But delete the
pagefile.sys file and retry. I figure success is like less than like
0.001% chance that it will help, but it is easy to try and won't hurt
anything.
 
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P

Paul

philo said:
OK one more thing to try from the repair console


BOOTCFG /REBUILD

Or open boot.ini in a Linux text editor, and see whether it
looks reasonable.

The BIOS has a bad habit of renumbering disks, during
BIOS hardware detection. There is a difference sometimes,
between setting the boot order in the BIOS (save and exit),
versus using the popup boot menu. On my backup machine,
that was preventing Windows from booting, just because
two additional SATA drives happened to be plugged in at
the time.

My primary computer doesn't have that problem, and WinXP
on there always behaves. Because the BIOS doesn't have
quite as many curve balls in it.

Paul
 

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