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I had an older PC that died, but I still wanted to be able to access the data and programs. It seemed reasonable that I could simply convert the physical IDE drive from the dead machine into a virtual disk (VDI), plug it into VirtualBox on another computer and be able to boot from it. Converting the disk was no problem, but after starting the VM in VirtualBox I see the initial VirtualBox splash screen and then a blank screen. No errors appear and there is no disk activity.

I was able to use the Windows XP CD to load the recovery console. A visual inspection of the files on the drive confirmed the data is intact as well as the Windows directory. I ran chkdsk /r to verify the integrity of the disk and it reported no errors.

What I have already tried:

  1. Rebuilt the boot.ini using bootcfg /rebuild. No change.
  2. Ran fixboot. No change.
  3. Ran a "Repair" install of Windows XP. No change.
  4. Used fixmbr. This caused an error "Invalid partition table" to appear immediately after the VirtualBox splash screen.

Any idea what I need to do to get this to boot properly?

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

A few thoughts:

  • You may need to do an in-place upgrade, which is going to be messy if you can't actually get into Windows (in-place even works in Safe Mode, if you could get that far).

  • Your partition table may be corrupt, as indicated in the question, or simply different to the physical layout of the dead machine. You may also have two partitions, and this is confusing FIXMBR.

  • Finally, it may be something as simple as your default boot partition not being set to Active. You'll be able to sort that out with a bootable CD-ROM of Windows 9x and FDISK.

Let me know if this helps.

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You're right about the boot partition not being set to active. Unfortunately I wasn't able to actually set it using FDISK on my Windows 98 SE CD. When I would navigate to that option in FDISK, the virtual machine would freeze. – Marve Jun 30 '10 at 8:54
Give Ultimate Boot CD a whirl: (Cute Partition Manager). Since you're in a VM already, you don't even need to burn the ISO to a physical disc. – user3463 Jun 30 '10 at 20:32
Thanks for your help. This project got put on the shelf for a while and haven't gotten back to it yet. The Ultimate Boot CD is a great find! – Marve Sep 14 '10 at 6:51
Glad to hear it! – user3463 Sep 14 '10 at 19:10

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