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I have a Dell 8600 Inspiron which got a virus. The data was not worth rescuing. I just want to start from square 1, but cannot make the HDD bootable. The disk is accessible when the machine is booted from a boot disk, but the cursor just blinks at the top left of a black screen when I try to boot to the HDD. I've used almost every related tool available on my Hirens boot disk and tried others without success.

When I start an OS install from a DOS boot disk, the setup files copy to the drive, but after the initial reboot, it just hangs at the cursor again when trying to boot the HDD.

I have tried the following, among other things, to fix the disk.

  • Run full surface scan using several utilities.
  • Flashed the BIOS using a boot disk,
  • Low level format
  • remove MBR and recreate
  • Destroy and recreate partition using Acronis Disk Director, Partition Magic FDISK and others
  • Use Kapersky boot disk to scan the drive/Boot sector. Found no errors.

in FDISK, the partition is

Partition  Status    Type   Volume Label   Mbytes   System      Usage
  C: 1       A     PRI DOS    OS           95394    FAT32 L     100%

What am I missing?

EDIT: Through an act of persistent stubbornness, I eventually ended up doing the following and was able to recover the drive

  1. Use Darik's Boot and Nuke to do multiple pass wiping of the drive
  2. Remove HDD
  3. Boot from DOS boot disk that contained BIOS update and flashed BIOS
  4. Reconnected HDD
  5. Boot from boot disk and run fdisk /mbr
  6. create partition from fdisk
  7. format /s /q
  8. start install of OS from HIRENS Boot disk Mini-XP

Strangely now I can no longer boot from a USB Bootable pen drive. It works the first time, but just shows a blinking cursor after a reboot. If I re-configure it be be bootable again using the "HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool", it boots from the USB. Just like the HDD, when it won't boot on the system in question, the drive is still fully functional and passes every test I can throw at it. This leads me to believe there is still something on my system that is corrupting boot devices. Does anyone know of a virulent BIOS virus or other phenomena that might cause this to occur?

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migrated from Dec 2 '10 at 20:57

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What do you mean by low-level format? If you managed to actually do a low level format you may have destroyed the drive. – Zoredache Dec 2 '10 at 20:56
I used the Maxtor and Samsung utilities to do a "low level format" (write zeros to every sector) then re-partitioned using FDISK/Partition Magic/Acronis and reformatted using format /s and other methods. I also marked the partition as active. – Laramie Dec 2 '10 at 21:00
You could post your fix as an answer. I do find it possibly a bit unusual that you said you can -see- the hard disk drive from the boot disk, but not boot from it. I do wonder if from a DOS BOOT DISK, you could actually see it e.g. C: <ENTER> DIR <ENTER>. format it, put data on it. And not boot from it. Could be.. but I haven't seen that before. I have had a situation where flashing the BIOS let it see a big HDD. But well, I guess I never checked if I could access as a non-boot drive, from a DOS boot disk..An interesting finding if you're correct. – barlop Dec 5 '10 at 4:20

If you're able to start an OS install(I guess you mean like from a CD) from a DOS boot disk(floppy I guess), then don't start that OS install from CD. The easiest way to test your theory of whether the hard drive can boot, is to start from the DOS boot disk, then run "SYS C:" to copy boot files to the hard disk. You could do it manually too.. Format it, then copy MSDOS.SYS IO.SYS COMMAND.COM

See if the hard drive does/doesn't boot.

still blinking cursor?

if it works, then the issue was with your OS CD installation/it getting onto the HDD.

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those fatal words... "still blinking cursor". files copied fine. Was also able to do a full format (with /s option) and surface scan with no complaints. – Laramie Dec 3 '10 at 0:16
The HDD worked before the virus? The obvous quesion I shouldn't have to ask, is what happens with that hdd in other comps and/or other hdds in that comp? – barlop Dec 3 '10 at 2:21
The HDD was great until the instant I installed the virus! The data was expendable so I neglected to exercise any precautions like a boob. Given the situation, I hesitate to connect the drive to any other systems or vice versa for fear of cross contamination of any remaining BIOS/MBR viruses despite the low-level format and BIOS flash. I just completed a full Dell Diagnostic of the PC. I'm staring at the message "All tests passed" on my failing machine. Cruel. – Laramie Dec 3 '10 at 3:19
got it on my own. points for the effort and most salient response – Laramie Dec 3 '10 at 21:22

Which OSes have you tried? Have you tried installing Ubuntu for example?

Have you set the HDD first in the BIOS boot priority? Have seen this happen to Dell machines with the following priority settings even when there was no CD inserted.

  • HDD
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I've only tried Win Server 2003. I figured another OS wouldn't factor in since I can't even get the drive to boot sans OS. I tried disabling all boot devices but the HDD like you suggested. – Laramie Dec 3 '10 at 0:09
@Laramie see if ubuntu works, download the LiveCD from and install it. Dont forget to re-enable the CD drive boot. If Ubuntu boots, it's probably not your drive that is faulty. – BloodPhilia Dec 3 '10 at 0:35
But wouldn't the reduced test proposed by barlop achieve the same thing? The drive still won't boot with simple dos system files. I'm curious what another OS would lend? I'm happy to invest the time if it helps. I'm just unclear on the motive. – Laramie Dec 3 '10 at 1:04

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