Blinking Dash: The Sequel

Remember that one time (at band camp) that my computer wouldn’t fucking start, because it was busing blinking a little tiny dash in the upper left corner of the screen? That was the end of December (just before Christmas). You might remember me struggling to find a reasonable solution and finally giving up and re-formating the drive and reinstalling windows.

So I have been running with a fresh Windows for close to 2 months now. Yesterday (actually, technically today at 3am) I rebooted the machine and it never came back up. All I see is that damned blinking dash. And once again I haven’t the faintest clue as to what is really causing this issue. This is really irritating, because now I know it’s not just some random glitch. It happened twice already, and it will probably happen again.

Btw, as far as I can tell, the data on the HD is fine – or at least it was last time. It just wouldn’t boot. I know this is not a corrupted MBR because running FIXBOOT and FIXMBR tools did absolutely nothing last time. Neither did installing windows on the same partition without actually formating the drive which means it is not a Windws problem either.

Could it be software related? It’s possible but it kinda seems unlikely at this point. I have no clue what could have caused it. Last time the machine bricked itself while applying Windows Media Player update. This time around it was rebooting to update McAfee. Then again, I don’t reboot that machine often – it runs continuously for weeks on end. The only time it reboots is when the software forces it too. I haven’t checked the uptime before it went down yesterday but I think it has been running for at least a week. I installed several apps in the last 2 weeks – Bitpim, MS Visual Studio, Flickr Uplodr, ActiveState Perl and some CPAN modules and probably few more things. It could have been any of these.

Or perhaps it is some insidious virus or trojan that went undetected. Perhaps it is sitting there camouflaged in one of my data files, just waiting to pounce and fuck up my boot sequence. It’s possible, but you’d think that a 2 month old piece of mallware would get snagged by the on access scanner made by any mainstream AV provider, no matter how shitty or bloated their software is.

I’m beginning to suspect this might be something like Ben described in one of the previous threads – a perfectly good hard drive with few faulty sectors in the boot area. But then again I ran the quick built in DELL IDE drive diagnostics and they passed. Of course it’s possible that these things gloss over this type of things and wouldn’t notice it. But this is a relatively new drive – I think it only has like a year or so. The data drive is much older, and it is working perfectly fine. Of course that one never was a bootable drive but still.

Perhaps it’s because I have 2 drives sitting virtually on top of each other in the cramped Dell case and the heat and vibration is doing it’s damage over time? I just don’t know. I’m at a loss here. Perhaps this is a sign from above that it is really about time to invest in a new gaming machine…

[tags]blinking dash, windows, boot problems, reboot, troubleshooting[/tags]

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7 Responses to Blinking Dash: The Sequel

  1. Will Sheldon UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    My computer does this if you try to boot it with a USB flash drive inserted.

    What happens if you (boot with knoppix and) edit the c:\boot.ini file and add /sos to the end of the long line with “Microsoft Windows Professional” in it, so it looks similar to this:

    multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS=”Microsoft Windows XP Professional” /noexecute=optin /fastdetect /sos

    see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NTLDR for details, but the sos option just gives you more output, so you can see which driver (if any) is giving you grief.

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  2. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Hmm.. First thing I did was to remove all the USB appliances from the damn thing but it didn’t help. I had that happen on another computer with a KVM too. Once I removed the KVM and connected PS2 mouse and keyboard the thing started booting again.

    Simillar thing happened to one of my servers at work. I used a 320 GB LaCie drive to do some backups and left it plugged in. When the server rebooted, it wouldn’t come back up until I unplugged the USB drive.

    This time it didn’t work. :(

    I will try the /sos thing when I get home though. There are some other switches there worth trying like /basevideo, /sageboot and etc. You have given me a glimmer of hope. :)

    Thanks for the tip!

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  3. Ben UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Have you checked the rails on the power supply? Make sure you’re getting steady power at the right levels? I saw this sort of wacky behavior w/ a bad power supply once.

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  4. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Ben – nope but I don’t actually own a voltmeter, or whatever you would use in this circumstance. It does make some sense though – I replaced the Video card with a more powerful one and added a secondary HD in that box. But that was like 3 years ago and I haven’t had this problem until this December.

    Also, I can easily boot from the CD, and when I do I get full access to the HD. I’m actually backing up my data using Knoppix right now. If this was a power supply issue I don’t think I would be able to do this, no?

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  5. Kenny CANADA Mozilla Firefox Mac OS says:

    Just to help you with searching:

    “dell boot blinking cursor”

    returns 58,000 results. Something there might be relevant. For example one person claims that if you ctrl+alt+delete multiple times after waiting at the cursor that it’ll eventually give you an error message (although his would boot if left alone for 7 minutes at the screen).

    Best of luck.

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  6. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I think I accidentally left mine in the blinking cursor stage overnight – it never booted the way this guy describes it. But thanks for the tip. I’ll dig through the search a bit and maybe I find something relevant. :)

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  7. jm PHILIPPINES Google Chrome Windows says:

    press space it works for me

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