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I now know that this was stupid, due to Windows ability to screw itself over beyond all repair, but I was trying to fix a dead hard-drive from a laptop by connecting it to my desktop, formatting it, and installing Windows XP on it (which is what it had to begin with).

That was going fine - until I got part way through, and the drive was bad, so I needed to boot my desktop up to run a real CHKDSK on the laptop drive. I had to unplug the laptop drive to boot from my desktop, because otherwise it's trying to boot from the laptop drive now. To my surprise, my desktop no longer knew how to boot.

[Insert much time and frustration, but no changes]

So then, with the laptop drive unplugged, and out of the picture, I put in the new Windows Vista Recovery Disc I created from an image online, and ran the start-up repair wizard. It says it's not able to help. So I run the commands I saw recommended on other posts:

BootRec /fixmbr
BootRec /fixboot

/fixmbr seems to run fine, but /fixboot says:

The system does not contain a recognized file system.
Please make sure that all required file system drivers are loaded and that the volume is not corrupted.

I also tried:

BootRec /ScanOs
BootRec /RebuildBCD

Both complete with the same depressing message:

Total identified Windows installations: 0

So my question is: WTF!?

I know Windows Vista is there. I just have no clue how to make my computer find it.

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It sounds like you didn't select the external drive when you attempted to install Windows XP. –  Ramhound Aug 26 '11 at 16:46
    
Oh, I definitely did select the right drive :) Windows XP is, in fact installed on the external drive. However, (as I now know) the process for installing Windows XP includes automatically installing it's own boot-loading system on your primary drive, regardless of what drive you're installing Windows on. It assumes you want to boot this computer from that drive. That's where my problem started. The entire filesystem of the Vista drive (C) is still intact... minus the part that makes it boot. –  mltsy Aug 26 '11 at 17:42
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2 Answers

up vote 0 down vote accepted

If XP is still bootable, install EasyBCD in XP to fix the Vista bootloader.
http://neosmart.net/dl.php?id=1

See my post here for instructions and screenshots

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Well it's hard to say what really did the trick, but I tried installing Windows XP on a secondary internal drive so I could get EasyBCD running, which, after much labor, I did (had to get connected to the internet before it would install itself), and then I accidentally deleted the bootloader options (by pressing Reset BCD or something like that), and the next time I put the Vista recovery CD in, it detected a startup problem, fixed it and my system was working again! In the interim I had also attempted to move the BCD file, and a couple other random tricks. Who knows. I'll give it to you ;) –  mltsy Sep 9 '11 at 21:16
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This article(Recovering the Vista or Windows 7 Bootloader from the DVD) is a possibly answer for anybody who doesn't get it fixed using EasyBCD.

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