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Re: Can't start windows
The issue you are having is that your computer is not seeing the harddrive or the boot drive. This could be a simple fix from the bios by telling the computer what device it needs to boot from which in this case is your hard drive.
You say that it did work and it was working how long ago was that? It also could be more serious in which you hard drive has crashed or exceeded its MTBF (which means "mean time before failure").
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This may mean that your computer is trying to boot from a non-bootable drive. Try hitting f12 when you restart the computer and select which drive would have your OS on it. You want to change the boot sequence to diskette drive as your 1st choice. The order should be Diskette Drive, Internal HDD, USB storage Device, CD/DVD drive.
Check your BIOS, by pressing F2 and see if the hard drive is recognized. It should indicate the MFR next to the hard drive listing. If it's not there, then you might have a bad hard drive. If it is there, try re-installing the operating system with the set-up disk.
You can also go to the Dell website, enter you service tag number, and get technical support for your particular laptop. It might have a recovery partition in the hard drive to recover to factory settings.
Your BIOS is looking for a drive to "boot" from and does not see your harddrive or CD-rom.
You may have a harddrive failure or bad drive controller.
One way to see is to load your operating system disc in your CD-rom and see if the computer sees the drive and boots up. If it boots, try to locate your "C" drive. If you can't locate the harddrive, it's a good bet it's damaged.
If the CD-rom doesn't boot, it is most likely a bad drive controller or cable.
Is there a hard disk installed inside the computer? try reconnecting it.
The motherboard, the hard drive, or the connector could be faulty in this case.
Remember to unplug and remove battery if you open the laptop, the hard drive is in most cases in the bottom under a cover with few screws or in some dells its on the side with few screws and comes out from the side instead from the bottom.
The first thing to try is removing and reseating the hard drive. Sometimes the drive just looses it's connection with the motherboard, reseating can resolve that.
If that doesn't work, you can get a 2.5 in USB hard drive enclosure, and see if you can read the drive in another system, and recover you files that way.
Most likely though is the hard drive has failed. If this has occurred, then your options are limited. You can contact a data recovery service, but that is expensive. Http://www.ontrack.com or http://www.drivesavers.com are a couple options. You can contact them and get an estimate of the cost if the other options do not work.