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Windows 7: Working backup Win7 boot drive, need to fix main Win7 boot drive

12 Oct 2013   #1
MrZork

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 
Working backup Win7 boot drive, need to fix main Win7 boot drive

Earlier today, I thought that I wanted to run a the Repair Install (as per that tutorial) to a non-booting Windows 7 (64 bit) installation on a physical drive (my SSD) which is different than the drive to which I can currently boot. That is, I can currently boot to an older installation of Windows 7 on one partition, but the Windows 7 installation (my main one) is on my SSD drive and it will not boot. The boot process ends at the blinking cursor after the BIOS messages. I was hoping that the Repair Install would give the option of repairing the Windows 7 installation on the SSD, but it seems that it will only repair Windows 7 on the partition from which I have booted.

A little background in case it's useful: I installed Windows 7 (upgrade from Vista in 2011) on the PC's original HD and then ghosted to a new SSD and made that my boot drive. I kept the old drive (with a functioning Win7 installation) in the system as a backup. All was well for the past couple years until a recent graphics card swap. (I will note that I had successfully swapped these same cards several times without boot issues in the last few days. They are both Radeon cards, so I didn't have to re-install drivers or anything.) But, now Windows on my SSD (my main drive) will not boot - I just see the blinking cursor after the BIOS screens. (I don't know if the boot issue was even related to the graphics card issue, it just happened after one of the swaps.) There are no error messages. So, I used the BIOS boot options to boot the drive with the older install of Windows 7 and it booted fine.

I opened the Windows Drive Manager and it couldn't see the partitions on the SSD and wanted to initialize it! Instead, I ran the MiniTool Partition Wizard and recovered the partitions on the SSD. Then I ran "Check File System" from MiniTool and it found some corrupt files and did something with them; not sure what, but that chkdsk finds no problems now. That drive seems fine - all of my data is there and appears intact. But, setting the OS partition on the SSD the primary active partition still resulted in the same boot fail. I am assuming that some of the boot files were among the bad ones chkdsk found.

So, that's where I am. I have a working Win7 partition on my older drive, but the Win7 install on the newer drive still will not boot and I am not sure how to repair that installation. Any help would be much appreciated.

FWIW, I created a repair disc (CD) for Windows 7 and booted from it. It noticed some problem with a boot manager and fixed it. But, Startup Repair found no problem with Windows 7 on my SDD. :-( And, as recommended, I ran Startup Repair three times, but none of them found a problem and that drive still will not boot. I also tried this process with the backup (functioning) Win7 drive disconnected (so that the SSD was the only HD on the system), but had the same result.

Also, this was a shot in the dark, but I also tried to check that the boot configuration data was okay by rebuilding it according to this guide. No change.


My System SpecsSystem Spec
.
13 Oct 2013   #2
gregrocker

 

Did you run the SSD's drive diagnostics or Partition Wizard Partition surface test to see if it will scan it?

Try running SFC /SCANNOW Run in Command Prompt at Boot from the Repair CD to see if it can repair System files enough to start it, or to enable Startup Repair - Run up to 3 Separate Times to start it after confirming System Reserved or C partition is Partition Marked Active. If one fails, try moving it to the other. Unplug the other drives first.

If you want to continue trying to repair it, everything else that can be done is compiled in Troubleshooting Windows 7 Failure to Start. Infection can't be ruled out until it is scanned from boot disk provided, and sometimes WIn7 will not repair if it is infected.

At some point you might want to do a booted reinstall with all other HD's unplugged, deleting all partitions first. But I'd want to know the drive is sound first via diagnostics and using tech support if under warranty to pave the way for RMA.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Oct 2013   #3
MrZork

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 

Thank you for that reply, gregrocker. I was trying to do everything suggested before posting again. I may still have to double check the Troubleshooting Windows 7 Failure to Start list. Either way, I wanted to post before the whole day went by. I have been doing this all day, off an on, as several of the processes either take a long time or stall at some point without giving any indication that they aren't doing anything.

First, I ran Partition Wizard's surface test on the SSD and the drive is fine. All little green boxes. :-)

No viruses. From my working Win7 install, I updated and ran MS Security Essentials on the SSD. It found one archive file to be suspicious. I know that archive file is 1) from a clean source and 2) I have never run the executable inside of it anyway. (It is a Neverwinter Nights camera mod, but I never ran the modded version in the RAR file, as the readme had notes on where to change the camera parameter in the binary and I wanted a different value.) Anyway, despite the fact that I trust that file and have never run it and it's been on my PC for years without issue, I let MS SE quarantine the file anyway, in case it was confusing the repair utilities somehow.

Also updated and ran Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, full scan on the SSD.

Before any of the operations where I wasn't booting to the working older install of Win7 (in other words, when I was booting to the repair CD, a USB stick, or attempting to boot from the SSD), I made sure that the SDD was a primary and active drive. In addition, the SSD was the only connected HD in those situations.

I also attempted to run Windows Defender Offline (on a bootable USB stick), which was something of a frustrating experience as it hung several times, all apparently before actually scanning anything. I ran the Windows Defender Offline Tool that downloads and creates the bootable USB stick and then run it again to make sure the virus definitions were up-to-date. So far, all went fine. Then I booted to the USB stick, where WDO booted and asked me which drive to scan (which is a screen I didn't see in the tutorial), then it consistently took a *long* time to get to the main GUI of the program (the one in this image in the tutorial), on the order of 15 minutes. Then, despite my having updated the virus defs with the WDO Tool, it said my defs were outdated and it wouldn't let me scan without updating the definitions. And there it hung, stuck at about a 1/3 the way along the progress bar while downloading definitions. For hours. I let it run for at least 6 hours last night and then repeated the process from scratch (formatted the USB stick) and it hung again - I did other things and let it sit there with no change in the progress bar for an hour before rebooting. I even tried disconnecting the PC from the network (easy since it's a wired connection to the router) before booting to the USB stick. It still insisted on updating the already-updated virus defs and (obviously) never got anywhere with it. Anyway, unless someone insists that it's the One True Virus Scanner , I am done with WDO.

I ran SFC several times, all with my SSD as the only drive connected (that drive unsurprisingly shows up as the C: drive then). The first time I let it run for hours, since "this process will take some time" is a bit open-ended. Clearly it wasn't doing anything, so I rebooted to the repair CD again and tried again, first testing with SFC /VERIFYONLY to see if anything had been fixed. That resulted in "There is a system repair pending which requires a reboot to complete. Reboot Windows and run sfc again." So, booting to the repair CD again, I re-ran "sfc /scannow /offbootdir=c:\ /offwindir=c:\windows" and this time got "Windows Resource Protection could not perform the requested operation." Having read that this process may take several tries, I rebooted and tried it again. This time it hung again (at least a half hour with no indication of anything happening). Rinse and repeat four more times, but no better results. BTW, for the last couple reboots, I was testing if the PC would boot to C: in between booting to the repair CD. It never got past the blinking cursor.

(BTW, I think SFC is the tool I was hoping would work. I have used it before a few years ago and forgotten that it was a tool for fixing munged system files. Maybe there is some other way to use it? Anyway, it wasn't working here.)

I also rebooted to the repair CD several times and ran startup repair (also with the SSD as the only connected drive). It found C: as a Windows 7 installation each time, but never found any problem with the install. The drive was never bootable after any of those tries.

BTW, I have a theory and a possibly relevant question. The theory is that I might have caused the initial trouble with the system files by powering down before the system had finished shutdown. What happened was, while swapping graphics cards, before one of the swaps I told the system to hibernate instead of shut down, which I don't normally do on desktop machines, but I was thinking it would be quicker somehow and decided to try it. The monitor went black and I thought that Windows had entered hibernate, but the light on the PC was still on. After waiting something like a minute, I held the power button to force a power down. I think that's where I caused my trouble, forgetting that this system (unlike my laptop) has 12GB of RAM and it may well have taken much longer to enter hibernate than I was used to. And, in fact, I see a 9 GB hiberfil.sys on the SSD. Anyway, I suspect that that bad shutdown, rather than the graphics card swaps or an SSD failure or a virus is the origin of my current troubles. I am tempted to delete the hiberfil.sys, but I guess I should wait on that.

My question is, if I boot to the Windows 7 64-bit upgrade DVD that I used to upgrade from Vista in the first place, will there be an option to fix or reinstall Windows 7 in a way that doesn't require that I reinstall all of my software? I would think that there is, since I didn't have to reinstall everything when I upgraded from Vista. If that's possible, perhaps that's the way to go? I have my personal data backed up anyway (as I said, that drive functions perfectly and I have no trouble getting to it when booting from the older drive). I would just really really like to avoid spending the next several weeks reinstalling software and tweaking python and cygwin and various utilities and game options all back to work the way I like. :-)

Anyway, it's getting late here and I think I need a little rest from this. Thanks again for your help and for any further suggestions.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.

14 Oct 2013   #4
MrZork

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 

Ok, tried something else which has me wondering if the files SFC checks aren't the issue.

I booted to my working Windows 7 installation. In that configuration, the working Win7 install is on C: and the non-booting Win7 installation is on G:, the SSD. I opened a command prompt using Run as administrator. Given the trouble I had before, I wanted to see what sfc /verifyonly reports on a working installation and then see what it reports on my non-booting installation when SFC is run from the working installation.

Here's what the session looked like:
Code:
Microsoft Windows [Version 6.1.7601]
Copyright (c) 2009 Microsoft Corporation.  All rights reserved.

C:\Windows\system32>sfc /verifyonly

Beginning system scan.  This process will take some time.

Beginning verification phase of system scan.
Verification 100% complete.

Windows Resource Protection did not find any integrity violations.

C:\Windows\system32>sfc /verifyonly /offbootdir=g:\ /offwindir=g:\windows

Beginning system scan.  This process will take some time.


Windows Resource Protection did not find any integrity violations.

C:\Windows\system32>
I note that the second run took about the same time (a few minutes) to complete as the first. However, it never displayed the "% complete" progress line.

Anyway, if SFC is checking that the system files (including those used in booting) are ok, then maybe the "Windows Resource Protection did not find any integrity violations" line means that I should be looking elsewhere for the problem?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Oct 2013   #5
MrZork

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 
another try at SFC

I gave SFC another shot today (actually, four shots).

With only my SSD HD connected (set to primary and active), that drive is the C: drive. I booted to the Repair CD and ran sfc /scannow /offbootdir=c:\ /offwindir=c:\windows in the command window. The first time, several minutes later SFC finished with Windows Resource Protection could not perform the requested operation. Once again remembering the warning that SFC may not be able to do everything in one pass, I ran it again (same process) three more times. Each of those last three times it hung. I waited at least 45 minutes for each attempt.

Perhaps I am running SFC incorrectly?

Anyway, going back to review the Troubleshooting Windows 7 Failure to Start list.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Oct 2013   #6
gregrocker

 

At this point I'd want to know the drive is sound. If it's under warranty ask Tech Support to help you determine this so they'll be ready to RMA it. Rescue any needed files first using Copy & Paste - in Windows Recovery Console. I would also delete the hiberfile when you are in there.

There may also be drive diagnostics on the SSD model's Support Downloads webpage. Look also there for any firmware Update, which may resolve the issue.

Confirm that System Reserved (preferred if you have it ) or C is the Partition Marked Active before running Startup Repair - Run up to 3 Separate Times. Remember that all other drives and peripherals must be unplugged.

Otherwise all of the steps possible to start unbootable Win7 are in Troubleshooting Windows 7 Failure to Start
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Oct 2013   #7
MrZork

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 

Thanks again for your reply.

I suspect that the drive itself is okay. That the trouble started right after I did something dumb that can mess with Windows makes me suspect that bungled hibernate as the cause. Unfortunately, aside from the surface test which was clean, I haven't been able to find a diagnostic utility for this SSD (a Crucial M4-CT512M4SSD2) so that I can be sure. Can you recommend one?

But, I was able to find a BIOS update (now at 070H) and, after some effort, to delete my stubborn hiberfil.sys. I am going to give both the SFC and the Startup Repair x3 processes another shot. BTW, how long should I let the SFC command hang before giving up on it?

BTW, as noted, the SSD is always the primary and active drive in these processes, as per the following screencap (where the SSD is Disk 1)
Working backup Win7 boot drive, need to fix main Win7 boot drive-partitionwizard-setup20131014.gif
But, I have seen mention that the small partition at the beginning of that drive can also be set to active. Does it make any difference which it is?


My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Oct 2013   #8
gregrocker

 

What is the 306mb FAT partition sitting on the boot sector of Disk1? Was it intended to boot G at some point? It doesn't correspond to any of the partitions on the source drive you cloned/imaged, so why would it be there - except to interfere?

Highlight Disk1 in PW, from Disk tab select Rebuild MBR, OK, Apply.

Power down to unplug the other HDD, boot into Win7 disk to run Startup Repair - Run up to 3 Separate Times.

If there isn't a good reason to have the 306mb partition, then use the PW disk to delete it, create a New Primary Partition there labeled System Reserved, Modify>Set to Active, OK, Rebuild MBR, OK, Apply steps. Reboot into WIn7 DVD to run the Repairs again.

If these fail then I'd test the drive and if okay reinstall or reimage. Your data is already safe, right?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Oct 2013   #9
MrZork

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by gregrocker View Post
What is the 306mb FAT partition sitting on the boot sector of Disk1? Was it intended to boot G at some point? It doesn't correspond to any of the partitions on the source drive you cloned/imaged, so why would it be there - except to interfere?
LOL. It looks like that might have been the boot partition. But, it does correspond to the partitions on the original install that I ghosted over, which is Disk 2 in the screencap above. The 306 MB partition has the same files in it as the first (62.72MB) partition on Disk 2. Here is a screencap of that:
Working backup Win7 boot drive, need to fix main Win7 boot drive-partitionwizard-smallpartcontents.gif
To me, those look like boot files. I don't know why the sizes of the partitions are different. Possibly some roundoff difference in how I partitioned the new disk when I ghosted to it. I recall that I wasn't able to make that partition the exact same size for whatever reason.

Is it possible that I should be trying to fix the boot process on that little partition, instead of on the larger one? Is there a way to go about that? It doesn't have a drive letter in that PW screencap and there was only "C:" shown in the list of Windows installations that comes up in the Startup Repair screen booted from the repair CD (with only that HD connected).

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by gregrocker View Post
Highlight Disk1 in PW, from Disk tab select Rebuild MBR, OK, Apply.

Power down to unplug the other HDD, boot into Win7 disk to run Startup Repair - Run up to 3 Separate Times.


Going to give those things a shot. I will delay deleting that 306 MB partition, since I think it was the boot partition and it was working before.


My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Oct 2013   #10
gregrocker

 

It's the Dell Diagnostics partition. See if you can boot it now: Run Built-In Diagnostics for Your Dell Computer | Dell US. If not you can delete it. There are no boot files there.

Then try again with C marked Active and all other HD's unplugged to run 3 Startup Repairs.

If it fails use PW CD to create a Primary partition in the 300mb space, label it System Reserved, Modify>Set to Active, OK., Rebuild MBR, OK, Apply. Reboot into DVD to run 3 repairs again.

This is all that can be done to start Win7 if you've already completed the other steps for Troubleshooting Windows 7 Failure to Start. Sometimes Win7 is irreparable.

Follow the steps in Clean Reinstall - Factory OEM Windows 7 to get and keep a perfect install, the opposite of the Factory Preinstall you had. Unplug all other HD's.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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 Working backup Win7 boot drive, need to fix main Win7 boot drive




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