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PC wont boot into Recovery Partition or from Reinstallation CD

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PC wont boot into Recovery Partition or from Reinstallation CD

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I recently ran a spyware checker which identified and removed some threats. My PC rebooted itself immediately, rather worringly, and then stalled at the Press Ctrl I for Configuration Utility message after the initial Dell.com splash screen. I can access the Boot Menu and Configuration Menu, but I cannot access the Dell Restore utility using Ctrl and F11 because I cant get the PC to boot that far nor can I boot from my Dell Reinstallation CD despite setting the boot order to boot from CD first........so I am really stuck.  Does anyone have any suggestions please?


Dell Dimension E520 running Windows XP Media Centre Edition 2005

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  • Do you have data on the hard drive that you need to recover?  Also, do you have the DVD/CDs that allow you to re-install the system?  If you have data on the drive that you do not want to lose, you may wish to consider purchasing a new hard drive and installing the operating system on it.  In that way you can connect the original drive as a secondary drive to allow recovery of the data.

    Next, have you tried using F8 to get to the Advanced Startup menu?  If you can reach that you can try selecting to boot from the last known good configuration.  EDIT:  Forgot to mention that you need to restart the computer and press F8 before Windows begins to load.

    If you cannot reach the F8 menu, you can still try the PC Restore feature. Since access to this feature occurs ahead of the start of Windows I don't see how your problem prevents you from reaching it.  In order to use it, restart the computer, wait until the self test is nearly complete, and press CTRL and F11.  Release both keys simultaneously when you see a blue stripe appear at the top of the screen.  This stripe remains for about two seconds, after which you see a message (you might need to read very quickly as it doesn't stay long) about loading the descriptor for PBR-2 or perhaps PBR-4.  This should bring up the PC Restore menu.  Remember, however, if this operation is successful, all your data will be overwritten and you will have only the software that was installed by Dell when your computer was delivered.  Before trying this you may wish to consider my statement at the beginning of this post.

    Dell Forum member since 2005

  • Thanks for your help, much appreciated.

    Unfortunately I cannot get into the Restore Menu as the PC boot up sequence just stalls at Press CTRL I for Configuration Menu. I have tried F8 a few times but still the same result. I do have a few things on my Hard Drive I wouldnt mind retrieving if at all possible but they are not absolutely critical. I have considered buying a new hard drive, installing my operating system on it and then adding it as a secondary drive to try and recover. ...and it seems this is my only way out of this mess at the moment.


  • Are you using a RAID?  Does the machine get through self test before the RAID status screen appears?  I think you are having trouble with the boot sectors on either your drive or the array.  If you have RAID 0, trouble with either drive would hang you up during boot.  If you have RAID 1, the computer would normally boot if either drive was working properly.

    What does your RAID status screen say about the drives?  If there is a hardware problem the status screen should have a message to that effect.

    Dell Forum member since 2005

  • Although I have two hard drives they are non RAID. I use the secondary disk purely for storage purposes.The startup sequence lists RAID Volumes as None defined and then lists both of my physical drives as Non RAID Disks, before it then says Press Ctrl I to enter Configuration Utility. The next screen would be the Dell splash screen where I could get into the Recovery Console.....but it doesnt get that far and I do not receive any error messages anywhere during the boot up process to this point.


    Thanks again for your time

  • Do you have any USB storage devices attached to the machine?  The computer might be waiting for the device to report whether or not it can be booted if you have such a device.

    Dell Forum member since 2005

  • The only things I have attached currently are my USB mouse and keyboard. I unplugged everything else.

  • Did you try booting the computer with the second drive disconnected?

    Dell Forum member since 2005

  • No I haven't tried that yet, do you think it's worth a shot? I'll give it a try. I was going to remove that drive anyway as I'm ordering a replacement Hard Drive and thought I'd try the new drive without my second hard drive connected at first.

  • Disconnecting your second hard drive should disable the RAID status screen since you are not using RAID and won't have more than one drive anymore.  I'm pretty sure you have a failure on your boot drive and if you have nothing else to make the computer wait for boot code I'm thinking you may see a helpful error message.

    Dell Forum member since 2005

  • OK, this is what happened.


    I removed my secondary data drive completely and restarted. First of all BIOS complained that I didnt  have my secondary drive, so I disabled the slot and rebooted and the sequence stopped shorter than before,,  obviously as you said it no longer displayed the RAID ,but unfortunately no error mesage....it just stopped. When I tried to boot again from CD, it prompted me to hit any key to boot from CD, and changed to a grey screen while the CD Drive spun away, then wound down....BUT nothing. So out of interest I removed my problematic drive and tried booting up with no drives installed just to see what would happen. Lo and behold It actually booted to the Windows Recovery Menu on the CD  but obviously when I selected any option it complained that I didnt have a hard drive.

    This has really got me stumped.

    Incidentally, I have also tried to boot from USB Floppy, using a Win 98 boot disk, but I just got a message asking me to remove disk.

    I have just ordered a new Hard Drive and am keeping my fingers crossed that I can install Win XP onto it from CD as my primary drive, and then subsequently try to add my problematic drive as a secondary drive to see if I can recover the data on there before I replace that with my current secondary data drive.


    Once again thatnk you for your time, its appreciated

  • Excellent troubleshooting!  You have confirmed my suspicions about your primary drive.  I just hope that once you have the system up and running again that the drive is not so far gone as to prevent you from recovering your data.

    Best of luck to you!

    Dell Forum member since 2005