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Recently a client called with the familiar computer problems. He said that a friend installed windows Vista onto his lap top. Shortly after the Vista installation the laptop would not boot. I told him that I would come pick up the laptop and no worries that I would reinstall windows XP onto the machine and this was a common problem with Vista installations.


After getting a Dell Insperion laptop home I tried several attempts to get the laptop to boot. Next I went into the bios. I noticed that the bios was telling me that there was no hard drive installed. I next rebooted the machine while the Dell screen was loading I pressed F12. From the F12 menu you can run diagnostics on Dell laptops. This diagnostic actually told me very little about what the problem was. But the initial F2 setup screen and bios information told me more about what was wrong with the computer

Seeing that no hard drive was installed I figured that this was not exactly what I thought it was at first. Either it was a Vista problem or a hard drive failure. I tried an old trick of putting the hard drive in the freezer for about an hour and then reinstalling the hard drive. The hard drive was reinstalled after chilling for an hour. This time my attempts to boot up or a little different. The hard drive made loud clicking noises and you could hear the spinning platters inside. Still no boot up was taking place. I determined that the hard drive had failed completely in would not boot likely the client said he did not need any information that was on the hard drive. If this was a case and he wanted some information he would have been out of luck. While the client could have sent the hard drive out for special hardware or recovery services is probably would have been more expensive than worth it. The client mentioned that this was a gaming laptop. My next step was to find a suitable hard drive replacement


I did some quick searches on the model number and found that prices ranged from anywhere from $130-$200. I know laptops are a little more touchy than desktop PCs so I was a little worried about just buying an off-the-shelf hard drive replacement. I decided to find a store that had the exact model number so there would be no question whether I had the right part or not. My first attempts to search for a hard drive war at local stores. Websites like Staples, OfficeMax and local PC repair shops. As you probably Re: no these stores are not generally the best places to search for computer parts. They have a small selection, and usually are a little overpriced.

My next option was to search the Dell support website and look for the cost of a hard drive from Dell. In order to find parts on the Dell website you need to enter a service tag number from the bottom of your laptop. I quickly found this number entered it into the Dell website. Will this is what I should have done in the first place before ever searching for parts online. I have a checklist that I used in order to determine what processes I will take in order to fix a client’s computer. I now need to edit that checklist and make sure that I check for war and key information first. This laptop looked to be about four years old, and I did not expect it to still be under warranty. Much to my surprise, it still have 32 days left on the warranty.


This is great news because I had already called the client explaining to him that he was the need to purchase about $130 hard drive and that it would take approximately 2 hours to repair the machine. This is great news because now delves on a send out a hard drive, and the installation disks to repair the computer. I dreaded calling Dell support system because my experience in the past has been that I’ve been on hold for over two hours or been on the phone for that amount of time waiting for tech repair people to figure out what they needed to do to help me. You know what I’m talking about we’ve all been there. This time, my expectations were low. However, I was only on hold for about 10 minutes when a rep came on the line and asked how he could help me. I explain that this computer was for client in that it needed a new hard drive. The rep asked me to boot up the machine and run at 12 diagnostic on it. He asked 12 diagnostic screen confirmed that ever there was a hard drive failure. Note that there was no way to actually tell what this sequence of numbers meant, only the rep could decipher this number. He quickly confirmed that I was correct and that the hard drive was failed and that he would need to send me a new hard drive. Here’s where I came into a little bit of trouble from Dell. After explaining that the hard drive was not for me but for a client I needed to verify the client’s name and address. This is where I should have known the full name of my client. I did have his address. I knew the client’s name and knew the clients address, but didn’t have his last name, and I mentioned that the computer was four years old and that in the client recently moved, this was going to be a problem. I could not confirm the client’s name or his old address when he originally bought the Dell. So I had to hang up from Dell and retrieve this information. Several times I tried to call the client, and I eventually got through to him and got his last name, and his previous address.

Dell gave me a ticket number so that when I called back a would not have to reexplain the whole thing. The Dell rep asked me to confirm the client’s full name and address, which I did and he shortly. Then after that explained that he would be sending the re installation disks, and that he would put some notes on the disks for me to install.

Much to my surprise within 24 hours, the new hard drive and installation desks showed up at my door. So I installed the new hard drive, and input the new windows XP CD. Note that there was no notes on the CDs, and also the rep explained to me that since the laptop was several years old that they were not the regular reinstallation disks, but they were just regular windows XP install desks. I also had another CD with drivers and manuals for the laptop.

Installing the new hard drive

I received a 80 GB hard drive, which was an upgrade from the 60 GB. One of the first things I needed to do was partition the drive. You do this during the installation process. Windows XP will prompt you to install on a drive of your choice or choose to create a new partition. This is where I made mistake number two. I chose to give a partition about 5 GB of space. And install Windows XP on the rest of the 75 GB. What I actually did was I created a 5 GB see drive in the 75 in gigabyte D. drive. No problem you’re thinking right? Well, windows XP installed on the 75 GB D. drive and left to C drive empty. I knew this was going to be a problem. So I tried to use the disk management software from the control panel to change the drive letters. I have done this before on other XP computers, but for some reason it would not let me change the drive letters.

So, what I did was I deleted a partition using a program called wipe disc. Windows would not allow me to delete see drive, because it presumes that this drive is where your main installation is and what. And it does install some system files automatically to any drive letter assigned to C. So I couldn’t change the drive letters, and I couldn’t delete to see drive and Windows XP was installed on the D. drive. So I got out my thumb drive, which had a copy of wipe disc on it. And I proceeded to manually delete the C drive.was hoping after I deleted the C drive that the installation that was on the D drive would automatically change to drive letter C. However, it did not. Now the hard drive would not boot at all. I could not even use my thumb drive to get into the system to delete the D drive.

I was scratching my head trying to figure out how to get this computer back up and running to reinstall Windows XP and re partition the hard drive. Then I had a great idea a few months ago I created a boot CD from Bart PE. Bart PE if you haven’t heard of it is an awesome program. Bart PE, allowed me to install a CD into the CD drive and boot from the CD. Then I was able to get into my thumb drive and delete the drive completely. Next time I tried to boot onto the hard drive. I had installed the Windows XP disk repartitioned the drive appropriately, making sure that I was installing Windows XP on the see drive and that that partition was large enough for the job.

My next problem was installing the drivers, which I mentioned Dell had sent me an installation disk. After several attempts of installing basic drivers that ran the network cards, I was getting nowhere . As you can probably figure out trying to get software onto a computer that doesn’t have a network card is very cumbersome. If I could just get that network card to work I did then connect to my local network and download everything else that I would need to set up the computer. None of the drivers for anything I was trying to install would work. I’m starting to think that I was going to be unable to fix as PC. What I did next, I would recommend to all computer users who like to current repair their computers.

SIW.exe is an awesome program that tells you everything about the computer. You are working on. And I mean everything! This program tells you, almost anything that you need to know about the computer. What hardware, software, Bios versions are on your computer. After comparing the driver names and information that I was getting from S. IW. I concluded that Dell had sent me the wrong driver CD. I then went on to the Dell website from my home laptop entered the service tag number of the clients laptop and from there. It found the correct drivers to install. Downloaded some of the basic drivers onto my thumb drive, then move them over to the laptop I was repairing. Within a few minutes I had the laptop network card working, and from there I could download every other driver that I needed. That pretty much wrapped up the repair for this laptop, and I was ready to call the client and tell him the good news. Below is a quick list of things that I did to repair this laptop. And if you run into a similar situation that you should also follow these guidelines for repairing your hard drive.

  1. can you boot into Windows?
  2. If so, your hard drive is working for now. If you cannot press asked to during bootup and check to see if the bios information reads the hard drive.
  3. If it is intermittently working. You may want to try a program like SpinRite. This is a great disk diagnostic tool, but only works if your hard drive is spinning.
  4. If you find you have about hard drive. Check the clients were a team formation.
  5. Obtain a new hard drive and installation desks.

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