By Richard Heller
When you went to bed last night, you turned your computer off as you always do. When you turned it on this morning to check your e-mail, instead of the computer booting up and running Windows, you received a message saying Invalid System Disk or No Operating System. What should you do when this happens?
The first thing that you should check is the floppy disk drive. If you left a disk in the drive, the computer may try to start from it. If it doesnt have the necessary files on it, the computer will not boot. You should remove the disk from the drive and restart.
If you do not have a disk in the drive, things may be more serious. When Windows was installed on your computer, an emergency boot floppy should have been created. If you have that floppy disk, you should insert it into the computer and restart. After the reboot, you should be at a DOS prompt. Type in DIR C:, and press the enter key. If all goes well, you should see a list of the files on your hard drive. If the computer does show the file list, you should then type in SYS C:, and press the enter key. The computer should respond with System Transferred. After this happens, you should remove the floppy and restart. If there are no other problems, you should be back in Windows, where you should now run your anti-virus program and have it check for viruses.
If the hard drive has not died completely, and the disk is actually spinning, there are programs available that will attempt to read the drive. The better of these programs copy the data to another drive as it is recovered from the damaged drive, leaving the damaged drive intact in case the recovery is not successful. Using one of these programs requires you to purchase a new hard drive to place the recovered data on. One program is called Easy Recovery from Ontrack. It is only available from their web site as a standard edition for less than $100, or as a professional edition for $500. You should avoid using programs such as Norton Utilities; these programs change the data on the drive and can actually do more to compound the problem.
These programs take HOURS to run, as they go through everything on the drive looking for data. It will recover everything that it finds, including files you deleted months ago. After it has completed, there is still a lot of work to do in order to get the data back to a useable format. A computer dealer will charge you $500 or more, plus the cost of the hard drive.
If the program cannot recover the data, there are companies that will take the hard drive and disassemble it, place the parts into another drive and recover the data. The price to do this is over $1000, so the data on the drive would have to be extremely important to justify the expense.
Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.