Blinking Dash: The Video

I still have no solution to this problem. Will Sheldon had some useful suggestions for me yesterday, but messing around with boot.ini did not do anything. The /sos option did not display anything. I also tried stuff like /safeboot, /safeboot:minimal, /basevideo and etc. It seems that the problem happens before NT loader even gets to parse the ini file soo none of these instructions really do much.

Ben on the other hand seems to think it might be a power supply problem. It could be but I have full access to the hard drive when I boot off the CD. It just doesn’t boot. As far as I can tell my problem is somewhat unique. I have yet to find someone having exactly the same problem. There are a lot of documented issues out there that are somewhat similar (ie share the blinking dash thing) but most actually make sense and are some sort of easily solvable driver problems.

Either way, I figured out that I take a vid of what is happening so that you guys can see the what is this thing all about. This was taken at approximately 3am in a dark room with my Nikon Coolpix S50 so sorry for the quality. Also, don’t mind the mess on my desk.

The computer usually doesn’t sit on the floor like that. It’s actually tucked in the nifty little “computer shelf” of my desk but I moved it out when I was ripping out all the USB cables from the back hoping this will fix the issue.

And yes, that is a Think Geek binary clock on top of the monitor. :mrgreen:

I wiped the drive clean and reinstalled Windows on it today. My machine boots once again. I already transfered my firefox profile from the backup drive so I’m 80% back to normal. Now I will need to slowly install all the little pieces of software that I will need. I’ll probably keep it light this time – this is bound to happen again. I just wonder when – I got 2 months out of it last time around. Let’s see how long can I go this time…

[tags]windows, blinking dash, winxp, windows problem, youtube, boot problem[/tags]

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11 Responses to Blinking Dash: The Video

  1. Ian Clifton UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Wow, that was like an exciting spy video. BTW, I think you’re neglecting the most likely answer: God doesn’t like you.

    I’d say the three most likely hardware problems are hard drive, motherboard, or power supply. You seem to have tried just about everything I would think of though, so I don’t have a whole lot of suggestions. Double-check every BIOS setting and definitely see if there is an update. Also, is there a BIOS setting or a button you can press to not show the logo and instead show useful info? Sometimes there is also a quick boot method that you could toggle.

    (When it happens again,) if you change the boot sequence so that hard drive is last but don’t boot from optical, USB, etc., what happens when it gets to hard drive after going through everything else? Presumably you would at least see some text before getting to the blinking dash, but maybe it would reveal something.

    Maybe the sledgehammer method?

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  2. Will Sheldon UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    You could always call dell (snigger)

    That looks more like a boot priority issue, but can’t be if it works with no bios changes after a reinstall of windoze.

    I’d recommended backing up your boot sector to a floppy this time around so you can try a restore next time (instructions below). I’d also have tried the F12 option to choose what you want to boot from, but it’s a bit late for that now.

    mkdir /mnt/floppy
    mount -t vfat /dev/fd0 /mnt/floppy
    dd if=/dev/hda of=/mnt/floppy/winxp-bootloader bs=446 count=1
    umount /mnt/floppy

    bs=446 just backs up the bootloader, if you want the partition table too use 512

    to restore:
    dd if=winxp-bootloader of=/dev/hda

    We have stopped buying dell’s after the sx280 fiasco, where we bought 80ish, and they all had defective capacitors – every mobo had to be replaced, but dell wouldn’t do them in one go as their insurance wouldn’t cover it unless the units had actually failed. We called the engineers out every day for about 6 months.

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

    @Ian – I actually went through just about every boot sequence scenario last time around.

    Also, this is the crippled Dell BIOS that has minimum functionality. You can’t really do anything with it. I went through it millions of times, and I don’t think there is an option for not displaying th Dell splash. :(

    @Will – yeah, it works perfectly after full reinstall – go figure. I tried fixing the boot sector the windows way by booting into recovery console and using the fixboot command. That didn’t work.

    Also my floppy drive has been busted for years. It just doesn’t work no more. I excluded it from the boot sequence in BIOS.

    Thanks for the tip though.

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  4. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    Hmmm. I know I told you about the video card last time. But now that I see the video, I am thinking about something very different. Instead of changing the order of the boot session in the BIOS, I would simply remove the booting from optical drive and see what happens… I am having a similar trouble from time to time, and cleaning the optical drive tray made wonders.

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

    Hmmm… I didn’t try that. It’s probably worth giving it a shot next time this happens. I don’t think this would be an issue though, since the CD drive seems fine – I can boot from it normally.

    I’ll try it though. :)

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  6. D.Taylor GERMANY Internet Explorer Windows says:

    WinNT. wooo, I see that all the time. Ok, it’s on an old WinNT machine that I keep at the ready in the kitchen. (Yes, Kitchen, where else would one have a ‘Computer Lab’? Close to the coffee machine.) It’s part of the NT boot loader program. They built it in so one could see it is trying to do something, and that it wasn’t just playing Dead Puppy. Of course if you actually see that on a WinXP machine it could mean that your NT Boot Loader might be corrupted, or that pieces of it have gone AWOL. Not un-common, actually. I’m not sure if this is related to Dell, as I try to avoid them. (Hard to do if one is in an instutional or Gov. enviroment in the US. Where it seems most Dells have found asylum.)
    Now you’ve gotten me wanting to fire-up my stack of old toys. Then I can see my own blinking “-“.
    …just my 2 euro cents… -d

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

    I guess this is what is happening. Theoretically though, if the boot loader is fried, you should be able to fix it with the FIXBOOT command from the recovery console, no? Or perhaps this depends on the severity of the damage.

    I wonder why it keeps coming back like this.

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  8. D.Taylor GERMANY Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Not necessarily, I’m not sure though. With XP MS changed how they set-up the boot loader, and how one tweeks it. I’d have to get my nose in the books to double check. (And I won’t be able to know just what part of the code took a dump) Since you did a rebuild anyway, and all is well (hopefully) we’ll never know. It does happen though. The cause could be any of several sourses, even a spike or drop in AC Line Voltage. So, again one never knows. Thanks for the Feed-back. Good Blog BTW. -d

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  9. MarshallV UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Hmm, my experience with hands on tech support tells me I should know this, but I can’t quite assemble the chain of dependencies I recall involved in scenarios like this. Long and short, it’s your NTFS file system’s MFT. Let’s see…

    XP does this too. NTLDR was not modified until Vista (you can use NT recovery disks to replace it). As usual, Wikipedia explains the process better than I. This is a failure of the VBR to find NTLDR in sector zero. The BIOS has already found the boot sector, loaded and executed it, but the code there contains the MFT string that should be right there. You don’t even load a kernel (step 6, M$!).

    FIXBOOT makes sure that the partition which your recovery console mounted (it forces you to target a partition) is flagged as bootable, and installs a bootloader in the first sector of that partition.

    FIXMBR rewrites the MBR, making sure to include your currently mounted partition as the boot partition (if you have multiple bootable partitions, this is a problem. You only get the one you mounted with recovery console). That doesn’t fix this either.

    Running an OS upgrade or ‘XP repair’ usually fixes this. Certainly better than this NT article I referenced ever did… but because this is caused by MFT corruption or fragmentation, you may pay for it with data loss, and it might have troubles writing to sector zero (and think it didn’t). Boot code update is actually what you need, and that article did work for me in a few cases.

    Anyway, I’ve fixed XP the MS (for NT) article way before once or twice. When that didn’t work the only solutions was chkdsk, xcopy, rewriting boot partition and loading contents back in, then fixboot and fixmbr. That works a treat, and as a real bonus you can recondition the drive surface in between by zero/one/zero filling the drive.

    My advice, never use a 1yr warrantee drive (a Dell cost-saving favorite:
    ‘what, it’s big and fast! incidentally the manufacturers quality checks graded the drive for 1yr only’). While the come with delicious frogurt, they carry a terrible curse.

    PS: the frogurt is also cursed.

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  10. @Will
    my floppy drive has been busted for years. It just doesn’t work no more. I excluded it from the boot sequence in BIOS.

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  11. Pat Flynn UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I’m sure that in the year and eight months since this was posted SOMEBODY has found the answer but I could have saved you all some trouble since I bought a new hard drive, reinstalled my software and it started up like a dream.

    For the first few times.

    Now we’re back to rolling the dice. Sometimes I get the dreaded blinking dash and sometimes I don’t and it boots fine. I’m not sure where I read that someone thought it might be USB-related but when I disconnect my USB mouse, keyboard, external hard drive and laptop cooler — that seems to do the trick and it boots normally. I thought it was overheating and that’s why I bought the cooler it sits on now. But something in the directions of that cooler, which warned how many watts it took, made me wary (my Dell only has two USB ports so I had to get a four-port adapter). Heat? Watts? What? Anybody solve this?

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