pcns - blog - eric braun, owner.


jan 2008 - dell dimension 5150 no boot

Dell Dimension 5150 Tower PCNS was called out to a business for a Dell Dimension 5150 Desktop PC, Bios A06, which would not boot.  It would POST, but when Windows attempted to start, the screen would blank and nothing would happen.   This was a bit of an interesting challenge.  I was not able to boot into a BartPE preinstall environment CD, it did the same thing.  The CD-Rom drive would spin up as if it was trying to boot, then it would just stop after a minute or two, and the screen would be completely blank right after the Dell Post Screen.   The only time it would work was if the primary SATA Hard drive was disconnected although, however, a Windows 98 DOS Boot CD would boot with the hard drive attached.  After trying new SATA cables, slowing down the SATA drive to 1.5 Megabit, I started going on line.  A search on Dell Community, an on line forum where Dell customers and users post technical notes and solutions revealed numerous issues.  Evidently a Dell Dimension 5150 with a no-boot problem spans over 100 hits.  User solutions ranged considerably.  One user resolved his issue by moving his USB keyboard to another USB slot.  Another user determined he had defective memory (this Dell uses PC4200 Dual channel DDR2 modules).  Another user, on another website, stated this had occurred to his PC, and thereafter the power supply failed.  Still another tech said he had to rewrite the Master Boot Record and repair the critical boot.ini file.  I wasn't able to do that because the PC wouldn't boot from the CD-Rom drive.  Though not the case here, many booting problems can be caused by a USB Flash (or hard drive) being connected to the USB port.   Simply removing the USB device resolves the issue.  Malfunctioning USB printers can also prevent the PC from starting up.

Tip:  If your PC POSTS but does not boot, disconnect ALL usb Devices, except for the Keyboard and Mouse.

Because neither the BartPE or the Windows XP Dell OEM CD would not start with this hard drive attached there was no way to run cursory checks of the hard drive with Chkdsk.  The Dell diagnostics, on the same hard drive would boot successfully.  A quick diagnostics revealed all tests, including the hard drive, passed.   Finally I replaced the 250 gig Samsung OEM hard drive, with a 160 Gig SATA hard drive, and with no file system on the replacement drive, the BartPE and Windows XP CD's started booting and functioning as expected.  This seemed to point out a problem occurring with the Hard Drive, NOT the controller, cables, or power connections.  PCNS took the pc back to the shop.  There are just some things that can't be done on a customer site because the office has additional equipment which isn't readily mobile.  I removed the drive and installed it in a second PC, which had Windows 2000 Professional.  As Windows 2000 came up, a text screen started, stating it was going to check the NTFS file system on the drive I removed from the Dell.  On an NTFS file system, if the volume doesn't get dismounted properly a bit is set on the hard drive, indicating that the file system has to be checked for errors.  There, Chkdsk found half a dozen errors, corrected them, and the test PC came up.  I then shut down the system, transferred the Dell hard drive back into the Dimension 5150, powered it up, and Windows XP Professional happily came up, as if nothing was wrong!  No where on the Dell Community did I find a suggestion to try repairing the NTFS partition, so it looks like for now I broke some new ground, as far as dellcommunity.com was concerned.  This problem confirmed some suspicions, mainly:

(a)  Why the Windows 98 CD-Rom boot disk would work, but not BartPE or the Windows XP Operating System Disk.   This was because Windows 98 doesn't recognize NTFS partitions, and isn't evidently bothered by any abnormalities with the NTFS file system.

(b)  Why Dell Diagnostics didn't reveal anything - it checks Clusters and Sectors (the physical aspects of the drive), it does not check the integrity of the NTFS file system.

(c)  The PC may have experienced a bad shutdown - a device connected prevented the PC from shutting down properly, an errant piece of software, or perhaps the PC was left unattended, and the office experienced a power interruption.