If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Dead as a Dodo?

Oo-er.  I was sitting eating my lunch and flicking through a couple of movie files that I had downloaded, when all of a sudden the screen froze.  The mouse cursor vanished and keyboard inputs were ignored.  The little netbook appeared to have gone on strike.  It wouldn't listen even when I told it to ctrl+alt+del.

In th end I forced it off by holding the power button down and restarted.  A brief flash of the Acer screen, and then:
Check cable connection!
PXE-E63: Error while initialising the NIC
PXE-M0F: Exiting Intel PXE ROM
No bootable device - insert boot disk and press any key
I have put the above message into Google (after resurrecting the old Lidl cheapie laptop) and it looks like the hard drive is toast.  The less alarming alternative is that it has somehow been reconfigured to boot from a network, which it never has done and is not set up for, and that all that is wrong is a changed setting.  But I have checked in the BIOS and reset to factory settings, and it doesn't help.  The BIOS does not give the option of disabling the network boot, just moving it down in priority.  And who changed the setting anyway?  I was eating scrambled egg at the time.

Last time  backed it up was ... er ... November?

This is going to be awkward.  All my money files, and six months' worth of photographs, and all my Outlook emails and calendar stuff, gone.

If anyone reading this has the faintest notion of clue, will it be possible to take the HDD out of the netbook and plug it into another computer so that I can at least recover the lost files, even f I can't boot from it?

In the words of Captain Darling:


The Lidl cheapie laptop is also showing signs of extreme unreliability (why I got a new one, as I recall), so if I seem to disappear from the face of the Interwebs, I'm probably just involuntarily incommunicado, at least until the shops open.


  1. Commiserations.

    "The Lidl cheapie laptop is also showing signs of extreme unreliability"

    Task No. 2 then, is back-up the Lidl [Task No 1 being to kick yourself, eh?]

    1. Heh, yes indeed.

      I managed to copy everything important off the Lidl laptop when I got the netbook, so there's nothing on it that needs backing up.

      But ass duly kicked nonetheless.

  2. Yes Richard, you can plug the HDD into another computer. I'd recommend doing this by first installing the HDD in one of those USB enclosures from PC World (£14 approx) and using the other machine to boot from. You should then be able to at least copy important files off the bad HDD before you begin any repair procedures. I don't think that the HDD is toast, just that the netbook isn't recognising it for some reason. You have my e-mail, if I can help further don't hesitate mate.

    1. Ditto, although I suggest check your BIOS at pre boot in case it has forgotten to go to your HDD.

    2. Hi Ripper, yes I have your email address after the Scottoiler discussion. Will ge in touch later, and many thanks for the offer.

      Anon - do you mean the BIOS of the netbook? In which case I have done that. It lists the boot order as 1. IDE0 2. IDE1 3. USB FDD 4. USBHDD 5. USBCDROM 6. Network boot. I've tried setting both 1 and 2 as priority, to no avail. 3, 4 and 5 don't exist in the current configuration, and 6 is a mystery, as the only network connection is to the router and printer. Thanks for the suggestion.

    3. Twenty_Rothmans26 April 2012 at 20:12


      Depends on your BIOS, on my Eee, I can set it to boot from IDE0 even though it's not specified as a device.

      Unfortunately it doesn't look like that sort of quick fix from here, and Ripper's suggestion will cover any eventuality.

      I have just returned my second Hitachi 2TB drive under warranty. Luckily, I did not trust it and the rest of my data are dispersed.

      One suggestion is to see if there is a video on Youtube of how to get to the HDD if it's buried - they can be quite labyrinthine.

      (20R, used to be Anon)

    4. Yes, gotcha. I don't think there is a quick fix. I am now resigned to buying a new laptop, and m only concern is to get the data off the old one. I got it out of the netbook OK, just removed a cover from the base and there it was. I have dug about and found a USB enclosure that I had been using with a Hitachi HDD as a small external drive, but the pins don't match, sadly. Otherwise I might have it all sorted by bedtime :)

      Thanks for the advice.

  3. Remove the HDD, put it in a usb enclosure, plug it into another pc and cross your fingers.
    If you are lucky the problem will have been with the PC not seeing the disk because of a cable/pc fault or the disk boot sectors of the disk so the data files will be intact.
    If you are unlucky the drive is dead. I have in the past recussitated a dead drive when the problem was caused by the external circuitry, but it meant having a similar drive to get a spare circuit board from. There are specialist places that will get data from a completely dead drive, but it tends to be expensive.

    1. See above for USB enclosure - I'll need to get another one. Not a problem, it's worth a few quid to get the data back (or at least have the chance to). But I'd need to be sure the pin arrangement was the same, which is hard to do online unless PC World have a very detailed product details policy. Comet and Curry's are the only local places for PC stuff, and I'm not confident they will have anything like this.

      I'm keeping my fingers crossed, only thing I can do.

      Thanks Woodsy.

  4. As you may already know by now, the boot sequence runs until it locates the first viable operating system on the devices listed, meaning (from the sequence you list above) - local hard disk, local CD, external floppy, external hard disk, external CD, network. You're simply dropping through to PXE (a network method of delivering an operating system) because the local hard disk can no longer function as a boot disk and there's nothing else in the sequence either. And as you're not on a network with a POXE server, that doesn't work either.
    Going from there very much depends on why the hard disk isn't visible. Woodsy's pretty much on the money with the options - worth firmly replugging all cables and trying again, but if that doesn't work, it's almost certainly a toasted motherboard (disk recoverable) or a toasted disk controller (not good news).
    You probably want a 44-pin short IDE connector to plug in to the drive. Unfortunate that you've only got a laptop to work from, as the enclosure is the practical and more expensive way to do it - if you had a desktop PC life would be simpler. Anyway, if you need any assistance, feel free to e-mail me, and if you can confirm the Netbook make and model, I can probably advise you on a suitable enclosure purchase. Might even have some appropriate bits lying around somewhere...

  5. You guys are amazing. I have spent the evening educating myself in the arcane arts of bus interfaces. The Acer HDD is SATA, and the older one (a Hitachi) is ATA/IDE, which is why the newer drive won't fit the older enclosure. I knew none of this an hour ago. However, Curry's have SATA enclosures on their website, and only a couple of quid more than PC World, and if I'm lucky I will have one in my possession by 9:05 am tomorow. Then I will firmly cross fingers, toes, eyes and whatever else is necessary, and hope that it is a motherboard issue or a boot sector failure, rather than the whole drive going tits up.

    Endo, thanks for the explanation about why it is complaining that it can't boot from the network. I understand about boot sequences (anyone who fiddled with computers in the days of DOS 5.0 and Windows 3.1 could hardly fail to know) but I hadn't sussed that it would cascade down the list, missing every one. I suppose I would have reached that conclusion in about three weeks.

    Thanks for all the advice, offers of help and general blokiness. I'll post an update when I have anything to report.

  6. I had a HD fail on me - it's more common than you'd think! My brother got most of my data back by some arcane method.

    I've Tweeted your post in the hopes that someone out there will know what you can do.

    1. Thanks, Julia - much appreciated. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it is something minor.

  7. Curry's have a USB enclosure on their website for a bargain £9.99, but of course this is not available in-store where I live. I've ordered one off the web. The Lidl cheapie is holding together for the time being, so I'm hoping that can recover the data and carry on with the old kit.

    Just had to buy new tyres for the Sprint, so a new laptop is not on the cards just yet!

  8. I bought one of these from a local shop - it comes with a power supply, adaptors and leads to deal with both 2.5" & 3.5" drives of either IDE or SATA pin configuration.

    In any case, if you're successful, get a standalone HDD and put ALL your stuff on it. For really important documents (so long as they aren't too large), a USB stick may suffice. Maplins are trying to get their shop customers to add a 16Gb model for under a tenner to their purchases at the moment. I would have bought one if I didn't already have loads of the things kicking about...

    There are several freeware utilities to help with backing up, which I can give you advise on.

    Good luck!

    1. MD, I have a 650GB external HDD that I use for all backups, and I will continue to use this. I have monthly backups for the netbook, all the way to - er - November last year. Why I kicked the habit I don't know. I have always backed up data files, reasoning that everything else is either trivial or replaceable, but I think I will follow suggestions here and get some proper backup software.

  9. The enclosures I got from PC World take 2.5" SATA drives and are powered from the USB cable. I should have stated that it would be a SATA drive in my first comment, which would have saved you some trouble in finding out yourself. Sorry about that.

    For backup software I use the excellent and free EASEUS ToDo Backup


    And also the EASEUS Partition Master, which has got me out of an awkward situation on a few occaisions.


    EASEUS also do data recovery software that can recover data from lost or deleted partitions.


    1. Yes, Easeus ToDo & Partition Master are two of my choices as well. I'm a bit concerned that they direct you to Download.com (Cnet), who have gained quite a reputation for bundling crapware & toolbars with their files. Be careful when running the installers and always choose "advanced options" to look for "extras"...

      I keep copies of older programme installers, so I can always use on of them.

      I always partition my drives first, and then arrange for the documents to be placed separate from the operating system. One point that may be relevant here - if you have password protected your PC, and then try and read the HDD from another machine, you will probably find it denies access. This needs the permissions resetting, which is straightforward - a quick search will tell you how.

    2. I determined that it is a SATA drive by comparing pictures of the pins to ones in Wikipedia :) What was confusing me was that the boot order in the BIOS starts with 'IDE0' and IDE1', so I was led to assume that it was an IDE drive. Not so.

      MD - no worries, no password protection on this drive.

      Will definitely look into Easeus ToDo when everything is back up and running. Sorry, if.

    3. Well, technically IDE is correct as it refers to the disk controller location (Integrated Drive Electronics = on the device, not the PC motherboard) rather than just the interface bus and method of connection. The ribbon connectors on original IDE/EIDE devices were actually parallel ATA, but have now pretty much universally been succeeded by serial ATA. How much control functionality for the device, regardless of connector, is delivered is down to the BIOS, with lowest-common-denominator being simple IDE emulation.

      However, like your good self (but, given my profession, in a far more skoolboy error fashion) I saw IDE in the boot order and assumed that particular NetBook was still using mini-EIDE ribbon...

  10. Ideally you want to partition the drive first. This effectively makes the HDD appear as two completely separate drives to the host PC. You then have all your documents on the new section, leaving the operating system on the original. This is best done before you store any files, or with an existing machine, if there is plenty of space left on the drive.

    Suitably divided you can then take a "snapshot" of the O/S to keep, in case the working one gets corrupted. This can be restored without touching your documents, and as it's generally only a few Gb in size doesn't need a large external drive to store. I also find this is the part that gets fragmented quickly, and keeping it separate allows cleanup & defrag tools (I use Piriform's "CCleaner" & "Defraggler") to sort it out much faster.

    I found ToDo less than ideal for document backup, and now use the portable version of "Allway Sync", which doesn't have to be installed on your PC, and run this once a month to update My Documents.

    1. Absolutely agree with partitioning as a great way to keep different functionality separate and minimise any necessary restore or upgrade work. I have a slightly more complicated standard setup (evolved for long and slightly tedious reasons to do with multiple disks) which has now settled as follows:
      Small System drive (C:, just the basic OS and office suite)
      Smallish Program Files drive (D:, all the apps I've loaded/downloaded/tried out etc)
      Larger Data drive (E:, all local documents and data, anything that changes frequently and dynamically)
      External HDD 1 (F:, 1 TB Hitachi USB drive, holds all largely static data such as my digitised music collection, and routinely backs up my profiles and E: drive)
      External HDD 2 (G:, 1 TB Hitachi USB drive, backs up everything on F:, only plugged in when I'm backing up to avoid any power surges or other unpleasantness).
      I use WinPE/Imagex and the Windows Recovery Disk tool for partition copies and bootable restore DVDs. If the OS corrupts, it's a 5-minute job to restore, the Program Files partition is largely disposable and all my data is held in 2 or 3 different places. If I need a new PC, it can just be dropped in and populated from the external drives.
      Surprisingly easy to manage and wasn't expensive or time-consuming to set up. I quite like WinMerge for syncing up files, but actually use a bunch of robocopy-based batch files that I wrote some years ago most of the time.

  11. Arggh. The enclosure arrived from Curry's today. Yes, it's the right type (SATA). I plugged it in, but Windows doesn't see it in the list of drives. It makes the bing-bong noise when you attach a drive (and the bong-bing noise when you disconnect it), and it kindly nformed me that 'your device drivers have been installed and the device is ready to use'. Also you can hear it spinning up when it is connected. But no drive listed under My Computer.

    To me, that says it's dead. Unless anyone knows better ...

  12. Those Who Know Better have pronounced: it's dead.



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