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Right, got a PC sat in front of me that will not boot from any of my several offical, clean Windows XP CDs. It'll load the 11.04 Ubuntu disk okay, but not a Windows one.

Both CD-ROM and HDD appear in the BIOS.

For the fun of it I have:

  • Swapped the CD-ROM for a new one
  • Swapped the IDE cable
  • Changed jumpers from cable select to master / slave
  • Tried running the CD-ROM only
  • Opened the manual boot selection menu and chosen CD-ROM
  • Removed all front facing ports from mobo headers (USB,card reader, sound etc)

Nothing works, the machine in question is an eMachines 3240.

Can anyone suggest something I may have missed.

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Just to double check, you say both CDROM and HDD appear in the BIOS, but does the CDROM come before the HDD in the boot order list in the BIOS? – BBlake Sep 14 '11 at 16:49
Good point, yes it does... in fact to be sure I've even brought up the manual boot selection menu and selected CD-ROM. – Ben Everard Sep 14 '11 at 16:50
Once you select the cdrom from the boot menu, start tapping the enter key, keep tapping it rapidly, see if it boots from the disc. – Moab Sep 14 '11 at 16:55
Yup, tried that... no joy. – Ben Everard Sep 14 '11 at 17:01
have you tried with other copy of windows xp? (other cd/dvd). it's more than other cd written in the lowest speed. It seems that your machine has a motherboard with a sata conector, maybe your copy of xp it's too old (sp1) and don't have the properly sata drivers – n00b Sep 14 '11 at 17:16

The Windows XP boot CD has this strange behavior where it won't boot if there is a certain level of corruption in the Master Boot Record (MBR) of your hard drive. Ideally it should ignore the hard drive when booting from CD, but it doesn't do that.

I had a similar problem -- I had a hard drive that was wiped with random data, and wanted to install Windows on it, but the Windows CD would hang when booting even though various Linux CDs would boot fine. Ultimately I had to use Gparted on a Linux CD to create a partition on the hard drive, then the Windows CD booted and let me install Windows.

You might get Windows to boot via GRUB. Install Ubuntu to a non-Windows partition, and have it put GRUB in the MBR. Then boot Windows from the hard drive by choosing it from the Ubuntu GRUB menu.

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Okay, I booted from an old random HDD which just so happens to have a copy of Ubuntu installed, I load Gparted which warns me that the original HDD has bad sectors, it says it could be the physical disk but recommends I run a chkdsk /f /r, I did a chkdsk yesterday, but only with the r and p flags. Lets see how I get on with this. – Ben Everard Sep 14 '11 at 17:54
I hope you copied off your important data or already have a backup of it before doing that. Writing/modifying sectors on a failing hard drive can result in more loss of data. – Mike Rowave Sep 14 '11 at 18:21
Yeah no sooner did I see the original BSOD I knew it would be a chkdsk job and thus removed all the data from the disk. I booted into Ubuntu and ended up formatting the Windows HDD. Still couldn't boot from CD-ROM until I plugged in my SATA CD-ROM... so might have a solution, fingers crossed. – Ben Everard Sep 14 '11 at 18:52
Remember to switch the hard drive controller to IDE mode in the BIOS settings before reinstalling Windows, because Windows XP doesn't natively handle SATA hard drives. Then after reinstalling Windows and the SATA drivers you can put it in SATA or ACHI mode. Or just keep it simple and leave it in IDE mode. – Mike Rowave Sep 14 '11 at 19:11
It's not a SATA HDD, it's a SATA optical drive. The SATA CD-ROM worked immediately, the machine now has a fresh install of XP on it. Thanks for your help. – Ben Everard Sep 15 '11 at 8:00

One possibility: XP is now 10 years or so old. If your new PC contains hardware that isn't supported by the XP CD-ROM (e.g. SATA?) XP might not be able to boot.

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