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I have a Sony Vaio SVE171C11L laptop running Windows 8.1, roughly 2 years old. Have been traveling with it for a while, so it gets bounced around a lot.

Two days ago, I turned this laptop on and found that dark colors were replaced by red flickering (it's an LED screen I believe). The laptop still worked fine, but the flickering was annoying. I opened it up, put it back together, flickering went away for a bit. Was even able to watch YouTube videos, though the red flickering did come back.

Today, I turned my laptop on and saw just an empty screen. Impatiently I did a hard restart by holding down the power button; when I turned it back on, it went into auto repair mode. It gave me the spinner with a "fixing your hard drive" message for a while, then rebooted and did the same again. Then again. I decided to let it work this out for itself and left for a few hours.

At some point, Auto Repair decided that it couldn't help me, and stopped going through the same stuff over and over. Now, I get a pretty blue screen where I can choose "Continue" (which reboots and lands me back at the same screen), Use a device, and Troubleshoot. I went into Troubleshoot, Advanced Options, Command Prompt and did a chkdsk - my c: drive is fine. I can even navigate to the drive and see all the files. So, I don't think the hard drive is the issue. I also don't think the red flickering is the root cause--after I had this auto repair issue, I opened it up again and found that a cable was a little loose where it plugs into the display. Tightened up the cable, red flickering went away.

I'm not sure where this leaves me. How do I convince Windows to boot up again? (PS I have also tried "Refresh your computer" which claims it can't run. I also don't have any restore points to restore to.)

One more note: I looked at SrtTrail.txt. It says "Root cause found: System volume on disk is corrupt.

Repair action: File system repair (chkdsk)

Result: Completed successfully. Error code = 0x0

Time taken = 175110 ms"

Again, chkdsk says I'm fine, and I can go into the console and see the files on the drive.

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Posting what I did because there are a lot of ways for this to happen and someone might be searching for my unique combination of factors.

  1. The files on the hard drive were damaged but the drive itself had no issues, if chkdsk and other hard drive checking tools are any indication. I think this happened when I removed the drive while disassembling the machine and sat it on my bed. Random files were missing, including necessary files from the recovery partition.
  2. Because the recovery partition was dead, there was no way for me to "refresh" or "repair" using the built-in Vaio tools.
  3. I tried the following command line options and none helped: sfc /scannow, bootrec /fixboot, bootrec /fixmbr, SFCFix.exe followed by sfc /scannow. Try all of these commands, because in many cases, they may be able to solve your problem. Other people find that using bcdboot to rebuild the boot sector and point it to the right location helps (Google for more info). In my case, none of this worked.
  4. Because the hard drive was still functional, but the data on it was messed up, I was able to use a USB flash drive to recover most of the files I needed to keep.
  5. I then did a clean install of Windows, wiping all of the partitions already on the disk in the process.

I hope this is helpful to someone else in the future.

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