People Still Get Blue Screens, Unmountable Boot Volumes

Crashed train station display
Creative Commons License photo credit: sethschoen

One of my most popular blog posts of 2008, judging by comments and hits on the post overall, was this one – Unmountable Boot Volume (Dell, Fix) – where I outlined in October 2007 some steps that can be used to get around that boot volume blue screen error on Windows XP.

Since I published the post, I haven’t had a blue screen error. Primarily because I moved over to a Mac and started using OSX, but that’s another thing altogether.

I’m amazed at how many people still get the issue – but moreso by some of the comments. Specifically people being told by customer support and technical support agents that the hard drive must be fried, people will lose all their data and they really have no hope.

I’ve been there. I’ve worked in a call centre. I’ve read the instructions from the screen as you step through the case. But I’ve also used my initiative and given people a few “off the books” instructions that would see them right, because you’ve experienced something similar yourself.

To those of who who managed to repair your drive from the steps included in the blog post and went on to become a regular reader and commenter in other areas, I’m glad I was of some assistance to you. To those people who seek out advice from blog posts and the web and get their own second opinion online, more power to you.

Sure enough, in the long run your hard drive might kick the bucket, but at least you’ve taken the initiative to seek out a solution online. Hopefully, when you arrive on it, it works for you too.

If you’re having an unmountable boot volume issue, click here for some steps to help you through it.

Unmountable Boot Volume (Dell, Fix)

Recovery Console

So you’re using your Dell laptop (in this case a Dell Inspiron 1501 running Windows XP Professional) with no problems, turn it on one day and you get that gorgeous blue screen of death telling you that you’ve an unmountable boot volume. You call Dell support and they take you through diagnostic tests, get you to boot in safe mode (which won’t work by the way) and then they tell you to launch the recovery console or reinstall Windows.

Reinstall? No sirree!

Getting around this problem today (see previous post) here’s what I did (not my laptop as the MacBook Pro doesn’t throw up those kind of errors)…

  • With the laptop on the blue screen, grab your Windows XP CD (might be branded as a Dell Reinstallation CD), pop it into the CD drive and reboot the laptop.
  • When prompted, press any key to boot from CD, allowing a minute or so for drivers to load in the background.
  • From the first menu you see, press ‘R’ to launch the recovery console. This will launch a dos-prompt driven recovery console allowing some basic disk commands.
  • Enter your first command: “chkdsk /r” (give about 20-30 minutes to run).
  • When completed, follow up with “chkdsk /p” (give about 2 minutes to run).
  • Finally, follow up with “fixboot c:”. This will quickly test the boot sector and prompt you to write a new one. It is likely that the boot sector on your drive has become corrupt, once you agree to write a new bootsector, allow a half minute or so for the task to run until prompted with a success message.
  • Type ‘EXIT’ to quit the recovery console and restart the laptop.

That… should be that. It helps to have the original Dell XP disc though. A standalone version wouldn’t display the recovery console menu on launch but the Dell OEM version does (purple coloured CD including Service Pack 1a – it’s been a while). Of course, if the disc doesn’t boot when you restart the computer it may be possible that you’re BIOS is looking to the hard drive before the CD. In that case you’ll need to enter the Dell BIOS (pressing F2 for setup on immediate restart). See here (Dell support) for specific details.