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So, given the following information, is it possible to rescue my windows 7 install, or reinstall it? if so how?

Moving my machine to my new place, I set it up and turn it on to find the BIOS complaining it needs to recover itself.

One recovered BIOS later and I try to boot my install of windows 7, resulting in a black screen and a blinking caret/cursor. No boot logo, no "loading windows".

I then attempt to load a windows 7 recovery CD with identical result.

Booting the windows 7 setup dvd however gives me the "loading windows install files" screen, followed by this:

win7 setup DVD

For reference, the only USB devices attached were a standard USB keyboard with no fancy features, and a Razor copperhead mouse. Removing the mouse made no difference. Removing my second HD made no difference.

So I burnt Ubuntu. Ubuntu worked. Tests show no issues with any hardware, my primary drive, the SSD windows 7 is installed to, was functional, read write tests passed, performance tests showing 260MBps+ read write speeds. No bad sectors, SMART reporting all fine. No RAM issues.

I then burnt a Windows XP Live CD, which loaded and ran with no issues:

y u no boot win7

chkdsk

Just to be sure, I went to the ASUS website and downloaded an update for my BIOS, entered setup, flashed, verified the BIOS setup/EFI UI was working, and proceeded to boot windows 7. Same result. I have tried setting up the SATA interface as IDE/AHCI/RAID with no change, disabling various chipset features, disabling VIA IDE controllers, forcing my CPU to 1 core, loading optimised defaults, etc.

So, given the above, is it possible to rescue my windows 7 install, or reinstall it? if so how?

Immediate Tools available:

  • A macbook running bootcamp with OS X 10.6 and Windows 7
  • An Ubuntu 10 live CD
  • A Windows XP live CD

Hardware:

  • ASUS P8H67-M-PRO
  • Core i5 2300 Sandybridge
  • OCZ Vertex2 60GB SSD
  • Inno3d GTX 550 Ti 1GB
  • 4GB DDR3 1333Mhz (2x 2GB)
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+1 for explaining waht you have done its worth the experts to suggest you something else you didn't try. –  avirk Aug 30 '11 at 13:18
    
If you disconnect the SSD and then boot the Windows 7 recovery disc do you get the same error? Just trying to rule that out... –  Mokubai Aug 30 '11 at 13:29
    
I will attempt this when I return home ( and thanks avirk, Ill update the question as I have more information ) –  Tom J Nowell Aug 30 '11 at 14:05
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Note that that is not "no issues". chkdsk is very clearly reporting an error, there. –  JdeBP Aug 30 '11 at 18:49
    
I booted back into the XP live CD and attempted to run chkdsk again with /f and /r, after its completion I rebooted. No windows 7 logo. –  Tom J Nowell Aug 31 '11 at 18:55
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1 Answer 1

up vote 1 down vote accepted

One potential issue that could be happening if you have an early series SandyBridge based motherboard is that there is a problem with the SATA controller, to quote AnandTech:

The Failure Manifested

I asked Intel how we’d know if we had a failure on our hands. The symptoms are pretty simple to check for. Intel says you’d see an increase in bit error rates on a SATA link over time. Transfers will retry if there is an error but eventually, if the error rate is high enough, you’ll see reduced performance as the controller spends more time retrying than it does sending actual data.

Ultimately you could see a full disconnect - your SATA drive(s) would not longer be visible at POST or you’d see a drive letter disappear in Windows.

The problem is supposedly limited to the SATA 3gbps interface, if you are using the 6gbps ports then you should be fine.

The I/O error you are seeing could be Windows 7 telling you that you have this problem.

If this is the case then you should be able to RMA your motherboard as Intel issued a recall on them some time ago.

Likewise there's a page on PCAdvisor: Intel Sandy Bridge recall: what you need to know

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=( Though only the DVD drive is plugged into the 3gbps ports, the other drives are connected to the 6GBps ports. –  Tom J Nowell Aug 30 '11 at 14:04
    
Is there any means of detecting if this is the case from Ubuntu? –  Tom J Nowell Aug 30 '11 at 14:06
    
Hmmm, that may not be the problem then, as it apparently only affects the 3gbps ports, aside from trying my other suggestion (commented on your question) I'd be tempted to also either try booting with the DVD drive disconnected (with the SSD connected) or move the DVD to a 6gbps port. At least then you could rule out whether it was the DVD or SSD. –  Mokubai Aug 30 '11 at 14:15
    
Indeed, I've been searching for my 4GB USB drive to see if I can try booting without using the SATA ports at all –  Tom J Nowell Aug 30 '11 at 15:03
    
It may not have been the issue, but the motherboard was indeed faulty, though wether it was the SATA controller or not I am not sure. I also found that the replacement part refused to pass POST until a RAM stick was removed –  Tom J Nowell Dec 4 '11 at 0:39
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