This Windows XP machine started refusing to boot, with a User32.DLL error. Booting from the Setup CD and running the Recovery Console, the primary drive does not seem to be accessible. Running "chkdsk /r" gives the message:

"The volume appears to contain one or more unrecoverable problems..."

Additionally, running the Windows Setup disk partitioning step simply shows "" in the list of available drives/partitions.

What's the next step here? Is this HDD just completely busted?


Before doing anything drastic, try the simple. Pop the machine open, remove the drive from the PC, and clean the cable ends and contacts with an approved contact cleaner, let it dry thoroughly, and put it back in, being sure to fully seat the cables at both ends. Note: both power and data cables.

In my time repairing PCs, about 50% of problems were caused by poorly-connected cables.

If this fails, try a different data cable.

THEN worry about the exotic stuff.

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It sounds like it's busted. You could try putting it in another computer and maybe using something like SpinWrite or SpinRight (not sure, never used it myself but it's been mentioned on here before, can probably do a search for it or someone might have a link).

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I had a similar problem on a computer once (the drive was still recognized, but Windows hung reading it).

I used a Linux resuce CD (any distro will do) and ddrescue (part of most distros) to boot the sick system, and copy the whole partition to a fresh external drive (via USB). ddrescue is very nice for copying partly defective media: It will automatically skip defective parts of the drive when reading, then try to read them once everything without errors is copied.

You could try booting from a Linux rescue CD to see whether it still sees partitions. If it does, you might be able to rescue them as in my case. Once you have a copy, you can try to recover from it without fear of damaging the original.

If you cannot even see partitions, then the other answers might help. Or, if the data is important, consider a professional data salvaging company.

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If SpinRite fails and the disk is unreadable and you've still some unbacked data on it that you need to save, you might use :
Hard disk recovery - the freezer trick, as is also documented in
Hard drive recovery and cryogenics.


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