Laptop That No Longer Accepts Windows XP

Forum: LinuxTotal Replies: 21
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CFWhitman

Mar 27, 2013
4:46 PM EDT
I have encountered something that is a bit strange to me. It's odd enough that I thought I'd post it here just as an interesting anecdote.

At work we have a laptop which is several years old (about 5 now, I'd guess). It has been running Windows XP since day one. Recently it started going to the Windows splash screen and staying there. Windows would not load. OK, that's not so strange. Windows probably needs to be reinstalled. We were planning on formatting the disk anyway, so we start up Clonezilla, put an image on the machine and reboot. The same thing happens.

OK, perhaps the hard drive is not right. We have another hard drive laying around so we try that. The same thing happens. That's a little strange.

OK, let's try a fresh install instead of an image. We load Windows from a bootable CD. It gets to the point where it has copied all the files and says at the bottom "Starting Windows." That's as far as it gets. It won't load Windows no matter how long we wait. The same behavior from two different hard drives that both were good last we knew, as well as from a Windows installation CD. It's not like we've never done this before. I've done hundreds of Windows XP installations and tens of installations to the same model of laptop.

We load a bootable Linux CD and voilĂ , it boots up and seems perfectly normal. So we decide, just for the fun of it, to install Linux Mint 14 Cinnamon from a USB stick. It installs without a hitch, and it boots to a normal desktop after installation. I haven't tested it extensively with Linux (yet, anyway), but this laptop seems to have just decided it didn't like XP anymore. It seems to want to run only Linux (perhaps a BSD would satisfy it as well :-) ).

I know that there must be a logical explanation for what's happening, but I've never seen anything quite like this before. :-)
jdixon

Mar 27, 2013
4:53 PM EDT
The one thing about being a computer tech is that your job is seldom boring.

You can almost guarantee that at least once per week you're going to see something you've never seen before.

If you loaded grub into the MBR, you can try reloading again and see if it works now. There may have been some weird MBR problem.
Fettoosh

Mar 27, 2013
5:06 PM EDT
It seems to persist and it like Linux, you must oblige. :-)

Have you tried replacing its memory? I would try that next and if the same happens, I would try older Win XP version to use different drivers.





tracyanne

Mar 27, 2013
5:16 PM EDT
My guess is the laptop finally made up it's mind it isn't going to be abused any longer. :)
gus3

Mar 27, 2013
5:22 PM EDT
A sentient laptop?
DrGeoffrey

Mar 27, 2013
7:31 PM EDT
"Number 5, Alive!"
slacker_mike

Mar 27, 2013
10:22 PM EDT
"Disassemble, dead. Disassemble, dead!!!"

http://youtu.be/WjeptaI2T8E

Classic!
CFWhitman

Mar 28, 2013
8:35 AM EDT
Well, a little further investigation on my part seems to reveal a problem with the motherboard. The laptop won't recognize any optical drive plugged into it's drive bay, even though they work fine in other laptops. That and refusing to load Windows are the only symptoms I've seen so far. I'd say that Linux is just more forgiving of this hardware issue.

The hardware problems are kind of a shame, really, because even though the laptop is getting old, it was a monster machine back in its day. It was one of the first machines that we got with a Vista license, which we didn't use of course, and a Blu-Ray drive. It has a 1920x1200 display and 4 GB of RAM, as well as a pretty good (for its day) NVidia Quadro GPU. I might find a use for it without an optical drive for a while (I don't care whether Windows works). I'm tempted to cannibalize some of the parts for one of the lesser versions of that model at some point.
Steven_Rosenber

Mar 28, 2013
2:03 PM EDT
You can always load XP on another computer and then swap the drive into this one.
tmx

Mar 28, 2013
5:19 PM EDT
Personally I would rather put XP into a VMWare. Atleast the virus stays in there.

But you can install Windows XP from flashdrive using tools like WinSetupfromUSB.
CFWhitman

Mar 28, 2013
5:42 PM EDT
Steven_Rosenber wrote:You can always load XP on another computer and then swap the drive into this one.


You don't seem to understand. It's not that I can't load XP because the optical drive won't work. I could always use a USB drive to load it if that were the case. When we tried to freshly install XP, we were trying to install it from an external optical drive.

XP simply won't boot even when it's already on the hard drive (which is where we started from). It sits there trying to load, but can't. It won't boot to XP from a hard drive, from an optical disc, and I'd say almost for certain not from a USB thumb drive as well (since that would be essentially the same as a USB optical drive). It will boot into Linux from an external USB optical drive or from a USB thumb drive or from the hard drive (we've done all three).

I don't really care that it simply won't run Windows XP anymore anyway. I wouldn't use that in any case. It was only before we wrote it off that we were trying to get Windows XP running on it for work purposes.
Steven_Rosenber

Mar 28, 2013
6:08 PM EDT
Ah ... definitely a mystery.

Did you try pulling the CMOS battery (if you can get to it)? Maybe a full BIOS reset will help.
jdixon

Mar 28, 2013
7:31 PM EDT
> XP simply won't boot even when it's already on the hard drive...

It's almost certain that one of the drivers is hanging, probably because of the motherboard problem. If you turned on logging, you might even be able to tell which one, but what would be the point? It's not like you're going to replace the motherboard. As you said, strip it for parts to use on other systems.
Bob_Robertson

Mar 29, 2013
10:43 AM EDT
Ah HA! Something useful from my Windows experiences.

Yes, there is an MBR problem going on. The GRUB "capture" isn't being overwritten when XP is installing, so the GRUB remnant is interrupting the boot cycle.

There is a Microsoft format command switch "/MBR" that needs to be issued in a DOS shell to clear this. I wish I could remember the exact details, it's been near a decade since I had to deal with this last.

Try booting a FREEDOS image and format the HD with the /MBR switch, just in case FREEDOS has replicated that functionality.

Cool! Talk about a brain-mining experience. I hope my memory is good enough that this works.
CFWhitman

Mar 29, 2013
11:24 AM EDT
@Bob_Roberton: There are a couple of problems with your theory. One is that two different hard drives were tried which had never had Linux on them before this problem arose. That one is pretty insurmountable by itself. A second problem is that the issue also affects the XP install CD, which isn't affected by the MBR.

I have dealt with several permutations of that issue before. The easiest fix for me these days is to boot to SystemRescueCD and run ms-sys on the hard drive, but I don't encounter that issue much anymore.
Bob_Robertson

Mar 29, 2013
11:26 AM EDT
Ok, CF. As I said, it was a very gray memory, inspired by "xp on formerly linux hd".
CFWhitman

Mar 29, 2013
11:40 AM EDT
Steve_Rosenber wrote:Did you try pulling the CMOS battery (if you can get to it)? Maybe a full BIOS reset will help.


Resetting the CMOS is the one thing I have considered but haven't tried. I'm afraid with this model, that is not so simple as pulling the battery, but there is a way to do it (because I've done it before to erase a BIOS password that someone else put on one of these things). I'll have to dig up the obscure method to do this if I want to try that. I may still try it just to see if it will make the optical drive work again. My hopes are not high, but it's the only possibility left other than hardware component failure.
jdixon

Mar 29, 2013
12:44 PM EDT
> There is a Microsoft format command switch "/MBR" that needs to be issued in a DOS shell to clear this.

fdisk /mbr. But that's not the problem in this case.

I have seen a number of HP laptops where the bios/motherboard get into an unstable state and won't boot properly. The "fix" is to power off the machine, remove the battery, and hold the power button down for 30 seconds to drain the caps. Strange, but it works.
Fettoosh

Mar 29, 2013
2:53 PM EDT
Try what you haven't tried from this list

Since you have 2GB, Memory ones should be quick and easy to do by removing modules.

May be some system files/drivers are getting loaded and corrupted due to bad memory spots.

stanbrown

Mar 30, 2013
10:48 AM EDT
If the need is to run Windows XP, you could always run it in a Virtualbox. That does not solve the problem, but gets you to WindowsXP.

(Or you could turn it into a terminal and do remote desktop into a Terminal Server of some kind.)

I mention the Virtualbox coz my younger brother uses Virtualbox on his Linux desktop to run various versions of Windows in full screen shared desktop mode. It seems that not many people know about the full screen shared desktop mode of Virtualbox, which displays both Linux and Windows icons and toolbars on the same desktop. He finds it very useful to check how his website displays on different versions of Windows for compatibility.

You can extend the useful life of the laptop without cutting yourself off from either Linux or Windows. The performance hit is not that bad.

I don't use Windows if I can avoid it, but when I do have to run it, I use Virtualbox.
Steven_Rosenber

Mar 31, 2013
5:17 PM EDT
I have used more than a few computers with dead CMOS batteries. It's just an inconvenience, not a system-killer.

Pull that CMOS battery if you can.
gus3

Mar 31, 2013
6:15 PM EDT
Pull it before it leaks onto the circuit board and bricks the system.

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