Cannot boot message 'cannot read disk' please help

By taramurray ·
Following a windows xp system restore, the computer crashed and when booting says it cannot read disk.

Have tried the XP repair, cannot run a chkdsk as it says it's scrambled. Please help, don't want to reformat and lose stuff on hard drive but cannot access hard drive at all

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Freezer trick

by Churdoo In reply to Cannot boot message 'cann ...

It's possible, that whatever was the problem that made you think you needed to do a system restore, was actually a symptom of a failing hard drive.

It really does sound like the hard drive is tanked, but try the ole freezer trick before you start crying or calling for recovery.

Remove the hard drive from the computer and stick it in the freezer for a couple of hours. I'm serious. Then put it back in the machine and see if you can get it to boot, or slave it off of another workstation. If it will boot or if you can access it slaved on another workstation, back it up, QUICKLY; it may be your only chance.

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What exactly do you mean when you say

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Cannot boot message 'cann ...

cannot access hard drive at all

Does that mean that you Can Not perform a Repair Install or that so far you have not tried and just have been unable top read the HDD?

If you haven't tried a Repair Install follow the directions here and do a Repair Install which should get you working again


unless you have been using Windows Encrypted File System then don't do a single thing!

You will need to remove the HDD from the computer fit it to a USB External Caddy and connect to a different computer or the same computer with a different HDD fitted and loaded whichever you have available and then try to recover your Data & Encryption Key to a different HDD. You can recover your data quite easily by just copying it across to the other HDD if there was no password in use. If you where using a Password you need to Take Ownership of your Files by following these directions


To recover the encryption Key follow the directions here


You may need to change the Computers way of showing files so open any Window click on Tools and then Folder Options the click on the Tab called View and add a mark in the Radio Button called Show Hidden File & Folders. Apply the change and then open the C Drive then the Documents & Settings then your User Account and directly there you will see My Favourites and My Documents which can be copied straight across. If you want to collect your Address Book it's in a Hidden Folder so after you have chosen to show these in the same folder click on Application Data then Microsoft and copy the Address Book across to the new HDD in a Temp Folder.

For your E-Mail go back to your Account Folder and click on Local Settings, Application Data, Identifies, a Alpha Numeric String, Microsoft then Outlook or Outlook Express and transfer the entire folder to the temp Folder on the other drive.

When this is complete you can open your Mail Client and Import the Address Book and E-Mail into your preferred Mail Client.

There may be some software that you are using that store Data in it's own Folder Accounting Applications and CAD are the most common but there are some others which do this so you may need to look at your installed Software and move it across to the same Temp Folder till you have everything and then move the Data File/s into their proper places.

The My Documents and Favourites can be directly copied into their equivalent folders on the New HDD and be available and if you where using EFS you'll need to remount the Encryption Key which is described in the link above about saving the Key.

If you can not read the drive at all then you need to start considering just how much that the data on the HDD was worth as even if the HDD is working you are up for at the very least some software and time to recover your data. If you need a list of Data Recovery software post back and I'll provide a list of the better ones available.

If the drive isn't even working your only alternative then is to take it to a data Recovery House where they can read directly off the platters inside the drive and recover all your data. But this is both time consuming and expensive.


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Things I have tried.....

by taramurray In reply to What exactly do you mean ...

I put in Windows XP CD, tried recovery console, didn't work.
Tried CHKDSK, it made several attempts and failed.
Tried to go through windows install using the recovery option, but it didn't give me the recovery option.
It didn't find any windows installations, just showed the hard drive and stated that it was empty.
From windows xp cd recovery console, I cannot get anything other thant the c prompt, no directories, nothing.
I put in a boot floppy, go to an a drive, but cannot change directory to c drive.
I tried the motherboard x-press recovery disc, but it wanted a backup image to restore to and couldn't find one, tried to make one and it said disk too fragmented.
Does the freezer thing work?
May try the recovery options rather than paying someone to do it for me, will take time, but better than loosing some special photographs.
Just not too confident about doing it,
Thanks for your time

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OK sounds like the HDD has some damage

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Things I have tried.....

The first thing that I would do is test the HDD with some testing utility. The makers Testing Utility is always the best but if you want a General Purpose Set of Tools The Ultimate Boot CD will do nicely and is available for download from here


Once you have made sure that th HDD is OK you can then proceed to try some Data Recovery Software the best available is On Track's but it's by no means the cheapest and is available from here


If the drive is usable you can use this software to rebuild the MBR's and have access to your drive very quickly. The rest of the options require you to copy the contents by file name to a different HDD so that you do not run the chance of over writing any data and these are the better ones available



Unless you know Hex inside out stay away from everything here except Davory which is about 40 Euros as you'll do far more harm than good but having said that Davory works well enough for a cheap Data Recovery Product but you need to load & save what it recovers to a different HDD so that you keep the corrupted drive clear and do not overwrite any Data.










That lot is a list of the better Data Recovery Software available though by no means a complete list of everything that is available. I haven't used every one of them either but relied on recommendations of other users when it comes to most of them but your best 2 options would be on Track and Stellar with Davory a third option as it's cheap easy to use and they allow you a trial version which will allow the first 200 KB of any file to be recovered so you have some idea of what is possible to recover from the HDD. The down side is that you have to recover by File Type and you loose their names so you will end up with a list of JPG files numbered from 0 to whatever. The same applies to all the other file types as well and it is a slow process.

As for the freezer trick that is only of any use when the HDD isn't running and even then it has limited use as it's by no means 100% certain that it will work and you need to remember to put the drive into a seal-able plastic bag to prevent water getting onto the drive. Also if that allows the drive to run it will stop fairly quickly when it heats up so it is of limited use. And of no use of the MBR's are no longer there.

Hope that is of some help and not too confusing.


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Thank you

by taramurray In reply to OK sounds like the HDD ha ...

I will download the Ultimate Boot CD, sounds pretty useful. Will also be keeping everything crossed that it works.

Thank you for your help, really appreciate it.


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