I tried to upgrade a laptop to SP3, which broke it. I later found out SP3 doesn't work on that 2002 laptop. I can't uninstall SP3, or fix SP2, because the hard drive is now not detected during setup (I've read that's the problem you get). I put the hard drive in a USB drive case and plugged it into my other laptop, and I can read (& write to) the disk okay. (The hard drive won't fit in my other laptop, so I'm using USB.) I need to get that disk back to SP2, or fix whatever files got screwed up causing the disk to not be recognized. I don't want to do a re-install as there are 80GB of files on it I need, and they won't fit on the HD of my other laptop, and also because I no longer have some of the install CDs for software on it. What do I need to do to fix that drive from my other laptop? (I don't want my working laptop (XP SP3) to get screwed with by putting an SP2 disk in the CD drive, or the non-o/s data on the other hard drive screwed with.)

  • i don't think you can... i think you'll need to buy/borrow another external drive to backup the important files, then reinstall windows xp on the "dead" laptop, then upgrade it to sp2 and make sure it doesn't update further. but maybe someone else has a better solution for you. Apr 19, 2010 at 15:57
  • Even if I backed it up, the "dead" laptop doesn't recognize the hard drive is there now - some files need fixed (that's in the post).
    – Carl
    Apr 19, 2010 at 16:05
  • @jason: depends on what you mean by "doesn't recognize". if the BIOS can recognize the drive but the system can't boot, windows can install from CD (reformat for instant problem-files-go-away). if the BIOS can't recognize the drive at all, "some files" aren't the problem. Apr 20, 2010 at 5:34
  • You'd think - but to repeat, BIOS sees it, but after the Windows install CD runs through a bunch of stuff, it finally says there's no hard drive, so it can't continue.
    – Carl
    Apr 20, 2010 at 14:49
  • Please see me last comment after the answer below (it's long).
    – Carl
    Apr 20, 2010 at 23:48

1 Answer 1


I'd recommend putting the drive back in the original laptop and installing XP (with slipstreamed SP2 if possible) over top of the existing installation, without formatting. This should get the OS working again, and theoretically will retain your applications and application settings. Though I'd still recommend backing up important data - just to be on the safe side.

  • The computer doesn't recognize the drive is there now - so I can't do that. (In the post.)
    – Carl
    Apr 19, 2010 at 16:04
  • If the laptop doesn't even SEE the drive, then it's not an OS issue. If it's just the Windows SP3 Setup that doesn't see it you can boot using an XP Install CD and install over top of the existing (botched) installation.
    – ggutenberg
    Apr 19, 2010 at 16:07
  • The laptop (BIOS) sees the drive. Windows doesn't. I've read in multiple places this happens with this computer ->SP3 - apparently some file is modified causing Windows to think the drive is something else. I want to focus on getting the boot record rebuilt, and SP2 repaired - from another computer.
    – Carl
    Apr 19, 2010 at 16:52
  • Right. So put the old drive back in the old computer, and boot up using a Windows XP Install CD. If the CD does not include SP3 it will see the drive and let you install Windows over top of your existing installation, without formatting anything. This should fix your boot problem and repair Windows in the process. Then you'll just need to install SP2.
    – ggutenberg
    Apr 19, 2010 at 19:00
  • 1
    I don't think you ever said the Windows install disk doesn't detect the hard drive. But if that's the case, it seems that your problem is related to drivers. The Windows install CD doesn't care if your MBR is present or not. In fact, it's got a command-line mode to help repair issues like this. Have you tried booting using Knoppix or something similar? I'm curious to know if your drive is visible under a different environment on the same computer. Also, Knoppix likely has tools for fixing the MBR if that's really the issue.
    – ggutenberg
    Apr 19, 2010 at 20:27

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