View Full Version : Drive and Windows Problem

10th Mar 2003, 14:45
I am confused. It all started a couple of weeks ago. I was in Windows (I have 98 SE), using a program, and all of a sudden, a blue screen came up and said "Could not write to the disk in drive c:. Data or files may be lost". I thought that perhaps the disk was too full, even though there was over a gig of free space. I deleted programs I haven't used in quite some time, and everything seemed to be fine. Then about a week later, Norton said that my drive needed to be defragged, so I told it to do that. As it was finishing, it said that there was a drive error that could be fixed with Norton Disk Doctor. It did that, and then said that there were no errors found on drive c:! I ran Scandisk in Windows, and about half of the way through, the computer rebooted! I ran it once again, and that same blue screen came up with the "can't write" error, 4 times, one right after the other. I went to the command prompt outside of Windows and ran scandisk. It found no bad sectors. I tried to reinstall Windows, and it said that I could either configure the rest of the disk for Windows (?!?!) or exit. I told it to configure, and it then said that it couldn't install Windows, because it found a disk error while trying to write to the boot sector. But scandisk found no bad sectors. Yesterday, I tried to reinstall Windows again, and it said that some of the drive wasn't configured for Windows. I called it a liar, and it asked me if I wanted to configure the disk, or exit. I told it to configure, and the screen and the keyboard locked up. Before AND after this, when I went into Windows, I didn't get the same result. Sometimes when Windows loads, I will get an error message that said that pmxinit tried an invalid instruction, and ddraw also failed. Sometimes, I don't get those error messages, but the same blue screen comes up 4 times with the "can't save" error. And sometimes I don't get any errors, but the keyboard locks up. What is constant, though, is that I no longer have a mouse (except in safe mode), and I have to maneuver using the keyboard (when it isn't locked up). Does anyone know what might be happening here? Why would scandisk in Windows find problems, but scandisk in command prompt doesn't? And what's this about an error in the boot sector? And if there is an error writing to the disk, wouldn't that mean a bad sector? If so, why wouldn't scandisk try to repair it by moving the data and marking it as bad? I guess the two aren't always synonomous, so what is happening? Oh yeah! Almost forgot! Last night, I tried to load Windows one last time, and I got the blue screen of death that we are all familiar with. And the keyboard locked up. I guess that it's time to get a new hard drive. Or can this problem be fixed somehow? It appears to be hopeless. Is it? I would hate to get a new C: drive, because everything would have to be loaded all over again

10th Mar 2003, 15:18
Hi yubetcha

Sorry to hear about your hassles - that must be intensely frustrating. :(

It's only a guess, but I'm wondering whether there might be a problem in the boot sector of the drive, and perhaps Scandisk doesn't read that area, just the normal working areas of the drive?

I have to admit, I have had Norton Disk Doctor trash a HDD on me by trying to write the data from a bad sector to a good, but in fact transfering whatever the problem was to the new sector until it toasted the drive... I also have to admit that this was on an AT, in the early 90s, so it may well be a much better product now! If I recall correctly, the hard drive in question was 40 MEGAbytes... ;)

There may still be tools you can use to recover, and you could definitely try the following, but it may also be new drive time... Avoiding re-loading everything (which you wanted to avoid) remains possible about halfway down this list!<ol><li>Make backups of all your important data files (word processing documents, game saves, etc). You definitely want to do steps 1 and 2 even if you decide not to format the drive, in case it goes dead.<li>Use a tool like Windriversbackup (http://www.jermar.com/wdrvbck.htm) to back up all the drivers for your hardware (sound card, video card, etc).<li>First thing to try is to get a command prompt and type 'fdisk /mbr' (no quote marks) - this <i>might</i> repair boot sector problem. If this doesn't work:<li>Format the hard drive (whichever way you like, with the format and fdisk commands or with Partition Magic or whatever)<li>Reinstall Windows, then your drivers, then your software.</ol>None of this is guaranteed (hence the backups to go on a new drive if you have to buy one), but it would give you a good chance at fixing, e.g. registry problems or other file system confusion.

No doubt others will have perspectives as well, and may have direct experience with this problem, which I don't have.

All the best with it,


10th Mar 2003, 15:35
Thanks a lot, Bravus for your suggestions. I appreciate it a lot. I wasn't aware of the link's existence, so thanks for that also :). One thing came out of this. At least now, I am forced to spend more time with my family... :D :D

10th Mar 2003, 16:42
The Windows and DOS versions of Scandisk use 2 different executable files. The Windows version is scandiskw.exe (or something close to that which ends in "w" for the filename) and scandisk.exe for the DOS version. It is possible one is corrupt or the environment it is running in (Windows) is interferring with correct operation. I believe there is also a scandisk.ini file used to retain its settings. Delete it to ensure it isn't somehow corrupted and causing misconfiguration of Scandisk.

Presumably you have ran Scandisk and used its surface scan feature to check for bad sectors. Does Windows 9x's CHKDSK have an /R command-line switch to also check for bad sectors? These are okay tests when sectors start to go bad but aren't useful if you start getting "soft" sectors, those that gradually lose their data due to weak retentivity rather than just a bad sector where reads and writes will fail. The problem with these tools is that they will pass a sector if there is a successful read within 5 attempts, so it could fail 4 times and pass on the 5th one (and that's how many retries occur in the OS; I don't know if the circuitry on the hard drive itself also does retries). Gibson Research's <a href="http://grc.com/spinrite.htm" target=_blank>Spinrite</a> is a very low-level surface check tool that could better detect bad and soft sectors, alignment, and move data but I haven't seen an update in awhile (but then maybe an update isn't needed). However, if you are the point of using Spinrite then you should really be using it to recover data, get your drive working for awhile, and prepare to replace the drive, and the cost of SpinRite is about the same as for an 80GB drive. As with most of these hardware intensive utilities, you have to boot into DOS to use them (so for those of us with ONLY NT-based versions of the OS, you have to go to www.bootdisk.com or happen upon the makeboot.bat utility under the 3rd party directory on the Windows 2000 install CD).

Have you run a virus scan? It seems you do repairs and then it breaks again. The reboots amidst running a program, whether it be Norton DiskDoctor or something else, could be a virus. It could also be memory hardware failure. Might be time to buy some diagnostic software to run tests on your system (hard drive, memory, CPU, etc.).

Configure the rest of the drive for Windows? I'm not sure what you mean by that. Did you have the drive partitioned into multiple primary and/or extended partitions with logical drives? Or do you have 1 primary partition? The FORMAT command won't format just a portion of a partition. If "configure the rest" means part of the partition became unusable then I'd suspect the partition table in the MBR (master boot record) is getting corrupted. That means something is writing to the MBR which would point to a boot virus. You could try "FDISK /MBR" to rewrite the MBR. Also after booting into Windows 9x, exit to DOS and run "SYS C:" to rewrite the boot sector of that partition (the MBR is at the start of the disk and is not within any partition and used to load the boot sector of whatever is the active primary partition). However, if you have a virus, FDISK and SYS might also be compromised so you'll want to run these off a write-protected bootable Windows 9x floppy on which these utilities exist. If you don't have such a bootable floppy (and creating one now would be fruitless since you would be creating it from a virally infected machine), see if www.bootdisk.com has bootable floppy images with these files. The images have to be expanded and written onto the floppy so you'll want to create the bootable floppy from these images on another clean machine.

10th Mar 2003, 17:43
Thanks, Vanguard, for the help and the links. No, I don't have many partitions on this drive. It is one big multigig partition. So I don't know why the Windows setup program would say that. I guess that the drive is thoroughly screwed up and confused now. I have Norton SystemWorks, and it was always updated, so I doubt that I have a virus. But I wonder what was writing to the MBR. I am using GoBack. Does that have an effect? (BTW, GoBack saved me many headaches since I started to use it many months ago. When I tried to use it after this happened, though, it found no times to revert to...possibly because of the defrag?). So I'll try these suggestions before buying a hard drive. Thanks, guys. I appreciate the help.

10th Mar 2003, 21:47
GoBack replaces the master boot code in the MBR. Other utilities that replace the MBR boot code are: boot managers (IBM BootManager, PowerQuest BootMagic) and drive overlay managers (to provide INT13 extensions and geometry translation). If you have GoBack configured to make a snapshot after some threshold of changes then it runs to create that snapshot, but I don't know why it would be rewriting the MBR since all the logging and snapshots are stored in the partitions (preferrably the snapshots are saved ideally on a separate drive or alternatively in a different partition if there is only 1 drive).

I have SystemWorks Pro which includes GoBack but I don't use GoBack because I found it can cause severe problems and compatibility issues. It also obviously conflicts with any other software that wants to usurp the MBR, like BootMagic. Instead I use DriveImage to create disk images (snapshots) into a partition on a separate drive. Also, save the snapshots, whether for GoBack or DriveImage onto FAT32 partitions; NTFS can cause headaches for these utilities which run under DOS mode. Ghost comes with SystemWorks Pro but after testing it for awhile deciding to go with DriveImage; the reasons would fill 9 pages of why one is better than the other under different circumstances. What is really scary is that apparently GoBack not only modifies the MBR but it also can alter the partition table according to a tech article at Symantec. I don't know why GoBack would be directly modifying the partition table in the MBR. Maybe when it is installing or updating its code that it screws up and writes too far and overlaps the partition table area in the MBR. This is also evidenced in that GoBack tells you to disable it if you use partitioning programs, like PartitionMagic or Partition It, which don't even touch the master boot program in the MBR but can modify the partition table section of the MBR. But if you disable GoBack then you lose all historical data, so if at any time GoBack gets disabled to actually manage your own hardware then you lose everything that GoBack was tracking. Oh boy, what a genius designed this utility.

I have a tape drive to backup my data. I do periodic disk images using DriveImage so I can restore the EXACT layout of my disks. But many users never ever bother with any kind of backing up and GoBack represents the lazy user's method of trying to provide some means of recovery. Overall it's probably good software but for me it just gets in the way. I also do want another program cranking away on my hard drive and taking CPU time to record incremental updates of changes on my hard drive. It will slow down your computer due to disk overhead for GoBack. At one time, I also tried using DataKeeper (came with PartitionMagic) and gave up on it, too, because it would slow down my system when it decided to make backups while I or a program was using the machine. I'd rather perform periodic snapshots, especially before installing software, rather than having something monitoring and updating continuously. And if your drive goes bad, what good is GoBack since you obviously don't want to restore to a flaky drive and will have to replace it? Maybe if its snapshots were on a different drive then you could reinstall it and rebuild your drive through all the incremental changes that were made.

Me, I'd rather rebuild the 40GB drive in about 6 minutes and be exactly back to the condition of that snapshot. If I didn't have a need to multi-boot between operating systems, and if I didn't have DriveImage, and only if I got the full version of GoBack (not the "lite" version in SystemWorks), then maybe I'd use GoBack.

10th Mar 2003, 22:04
hmmmm, Drive Image is something else I need to check out. Thanks, Vanguard. I already checked out Spinrite per your link. Interesting program. Tempting.

13th Mar 2003, 14:44
I tried formatting the C: drive from the second hard drive (D: ). The command prompt came back with 'bad command or file name'. Does the format command not exist any more?
Also, is there a command that will make a hard drive bootable? In other words, if I take out the C: drive, I would still have another hard drive in the computer. It's not bootable as is. Correct? If so, how do I make it bootable? I am considering loading Windows on that.

13th Mar 2003, 15:00
I dunno. I've never formatted C that way. I have always done it froma startup floppy, or in the case of 2000 or XP, the startup CD. Is C: in your path at the time you are doing it? If not, then it won't work because the command is not on D, it is on C. It is also possible that the system prevents formatting C when the command is resident on C:, or maybe C: is corrupted.

The usual procedure when installing the system is to boot from a startup floppy or CD and do all your fdisk and formatting from there.

However, since you have undetermined disk problems, I strongly suggest that you download a hard drive utility from a manufacturer that tests the complete drive, locates defects, and modifies the defect map. Format does not do that. I know IBM and Western Digital have those, and I imagine other manufacturers do too. Those utilities are designed to run from a floppy too. This utility will destroy all data on the drive, so you need yoour starup floppy or CD to proceed from there.

This should really be in the Technical area....

13th Mar 2003, 15:45
One other thing. If the defect software detects quite a few defects, then it is possible your drive is failing. I had such software detect one defect on two different occasions, repairing after the first, and that was grounds for returning the drive under warranty.

14th Mar 2003, 17:18
In other DOSes, I was always able to use the format command by going to another hard drive. This time it doesn't work.

14th Mar 2003, 17:42
In Win98, at least you can't format the C drive and the "active" partition, because that is the one where the app you are running is.

You can't reformat a drive partition that is in use, and C is where the boot record and Opsy is.

You need a "restore" disc or a startup floppy.