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Windows 10 crashed on my Dell Vostro 260. It froze up and then just crashed, I have no suspects. I was just web browsing and checking mail. Norton and Malware bytes are up to date, so I do not suspect a virus. I haven't downloaded anything suspicious.

Upon reboot I get an error

Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \system32\hal.dll Please reinstall a copy of the above file.

Here’s the problem though:

F8 safe boot does not seem to work. Bios does not seem to detect SATA 0, which is my boot drive. SATA 3 is detected and only has an image file on it.

F12, boot options, brings up a small menu that brings up 4 options: select boot drive SATAxxxxx, SATAXXXX (dvd drive)., setup, diagnostics - setup gets me to the normal bios menu.

I have Macrium reflect backups and Windows utility backups. I do not think I have boot disks but I am not sure.

Diagnostics utility is detecting hard drive 0-0-0 and OS boot drive 0-0-0. Diagnostics utility shows boot path as MBT of hard drive 0-0-0

My hard drive previously, recently passed SMART scans and another software testing scan. No bad sectors were ever found that I know of.

Any troubleshooting tips, advice? My boot drive is dead isn’t it? The only thing I can think of is to swap cables between SATA 0 and SATA 3 to see if the drive is recognized, but if not, that means it is dead, correct?

If the drive is dead and needs replacement how do I restore the old system if no boot disks can be found? I have another PC that can download boot disks, but I can’t remember if the boot disks are specific to a computer.

UPDATE: I decided to run the Ubuntu Live CD and it was showing an OS drive and my SATA III drive. I couldn’t access the OS drive due to some error, so I powered down and unplugged and then powered up to check the bios again.

Now my computer is booting and my hard disk drive is detected by the BIOS. The only odd thing is at least one of my desktop shortcut icons is in the wrong place and I think I am missing some, but my most recent document is available.

Should I take all this to mean that my hard disk drive is failing or that the power connection is faulty? No errors were found with CHKDSK or HD Sentinel.

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  • What make and model of PC is it?
    – Moab
    Oct 4 '15 at 22:41
  • One way to check the drive is to remove it and use a sata to usb adapter, then connect it to another PC, see if you can browse the drive.
    – Moab
    Oct 4 '15 at 22:42
  • Sounds like you could try windows repair although not sure how you do this under Windows 10. Your boot record seems to be intact. But yes the evidence points to bad hard drive/sectors from what you said. If it were me I would pull HD out and connect to another computer. See if you can get your files that way (then follow that by testing HD with test utility) and then reinstall Windows fresh to new hard-drive if you found lots of bad records/sectors during testing.
    – B. Shea
    Oct 4 '15 at 22:44
  • It is a Dell Vostro 260. 3-4 years old.
    – Plecos
    Oct 4 '15 at 22:47
  • I do not have SATA to USB cord unless that is what is going from the mobo to the drive. My other pc uses ide, but I will check on the cord.
    – Plecos
    Oct 4 '15 at 22:51
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Did you delete any system files, like ones directly stored in the root directory of the main hard drive (C:)? I had this problem before, although the problem wasn't with hal.dll, it was with boot.ini.

I was using Win XP, though; it is different with Win 10.

The story of how stupid I was to create this error is a long one (tell me if you want to hear it), but basically I used my Win XP install disk and a burned cd with this software on it (only to reset my admin password. I had NO idea what it was, although my account was the only one available from the "Choose User" menu). I entered system recovery and used bootcfg /create to recreate the boot file. I used this guide, but you may want to use the one talking about the BCD Store file instead, since you have Win 10.

This is only if you think the problem is with the BCD Store file.

However, to answer the main question, no, your drive is probably not dead.

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If you're using Windows Backup, be sure you have a "system restore" CD/DVD [which the backup program can create]. Then, backup all data to a USB hard drive [specify that you want a system image and files on all drives]. Other backup programs usually have something similar.

The restore CD can be booted from and can restore a system drive from the USB's system image. I had a total wipeout and was able to recover fully to a new drive with this. I had my Win7 install disks, but I didn't need them as the bootable CD was enough. But, I had done all the prep before my drive started getting flaky [and finally croaking]. You may get lucky, if you do it quickly.

Check the S.M.A.R.T. data for the drive in question. There are utilities to check/display this data. It will give you a clue (e.g. excessive I/O errors, etc). Check the pending remap sectors count). The program will usually tell you "this value is too high and indicates imminent failure", etc.

Also, check your drive's temperature via the SMART monitor program. If it's above 40 deg C it's a bit too hot. Beyond 50 and you're in trouble. Also, if the drive is too cold (below 25C), that can have problems as well.

Check the airflow on the drive, particularly if the drive data says it's hot. Ensure all fans are spinning well--replace as required.

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