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UPDATE!!! Is there a way to reinstall Windows without loosing all personal docs, etc?

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Hi guys, I am trying to repair a computer with a blue screen of death that reoccurs when trying to start up in all modes available. Can anyone tell me if there is a way to reinstall windows without l… Read More
Happysteveo Avatar
7y, 10m agoPosted 7 years, 10 months ago
Hi guys, I am trying to repair a computer with a blue screen of death that reoccurs when trying to start up in all modes available. Can anyone tell me if there is a way to reinstall windows without loosing any documents that haven't been backed up?

Will rep anyone that helps, thanks.
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Happysteveo Avatar
7y, 10m agoPosted 7 years, 10 months ago
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1 Like #1
You can run a repair install which will just overwrite the previous files, you can also install and opt to rename the current folder and re-install into a new windows folder. With both of these options you do NOT format the chosen partition.
Having said that it makes good sense to back up all of your files to a thumbstick or external drive to be sure
#2
cool, thanks for that. Just wanted to confirm it was possible before I press the button, etc.
#3
dcx_badass
Boot into linux off a memory stick and back it up to an external hard drive.


When I install linux and boot up will it show the docs and settings folder that was on windows?
#4
oh right. is there a particular version I need to put on the memory stick?
1 Like #5
Stevo, before you reformat, have you ran a hardware diagnostics? BSODS can occur due to faulty hardware - RAM is a particular favourite.
#6
DragonChris
Stevo, before you reformat, have you ran a hardware diagnostics? BSODS can occur due to faulty hardware - RAM is a particular favourite.


yeah I did that and it gave some error codes and to ring Dell about them for more info?
1 Like #7
The repair install may be the better option as it leaves the registry intact and allows faulty drivers to be repaired. The Linux option does not allow for backup of the registry which will require installed programs to be reinstalled again. If you are not concerned about installed programs and just backing up data files then the Linux option may be prudent if you want a clean Windows install rather than a repair install.
#8
Its mostly photos that need to be saved if poss, do you think its best to go down the linux route?
#9
Happysteveo
Its mostly photos that need to be saved if poss, do you think its best to go down the linux route?


As it is mostly photos and you are not concerned with installed programs then by all means have a go using Linux providing that NTFS is supported (if you are using NTFS file system). There's no harm to be done and if you can't access NTFS partitions from Linux then you can use repair install. If you are not using NTFS Windows partition then there should not be a problem with Linux.

Personally, I would go for booting into Windows Safe Mode to recover your photos before having a go at Windows Repair Install.

The comment above about faulty RAM is a possibilty. Memtest can be used to test for faulty RAM.
#10
Happysteveo
yeah I did that and it gave some error codes and to ring Dell about them for more info?


Then it's a hardware fault. What point in the diagnostics did it get to? Don't bother reformatting, it won't fix it if your h/w is faulty.

During the diagnostics, did it tell you what test it was doing when it failed? E.g. memory stress test, or show an icon in the corner showing the type of test?
#11
ElliottC
As it is mostly photos and you are not concerned with installed programs then by all means have a go using Linux providing that NTFS is supported (if you are using NTFS file system). There's no harm to be done and if you can't access NTFS partitions from Linux then you can use repair install. If you are not using NTFS Windows partition then there should not be a problem with Linux.

Personally, I would go for booting into Windows Safe Mode to recover your photos before having a go at Windows Repair Install.

The comment above about faulty RAM is a possibilty. Memtest can be used to test for faulty RAM.


He said he ran the diagnostics, and it gave him an error code - It's a hardware issue.
#12
thanks. I am getting the blue screen in safe mode as well. Not sure if the computer will boot from memory stick though.
#13
Two errors so far,

1) the self test failed the read portion of the test
2) uncorrectable data error or media file is write protected
1 Like #14
Which diagnostics are you running, the full set from the Dell site? If so it should tell you what part the system is failing on.

edit: Sounds like the hard drive itself is failing unfortunately, I'd probably go for mounting the drive on another system at this point

There is a bootable Windows system that can access NTFS partitions without issue and gives you a more familiar Windows like interface although you have to build the CD yourself with a Windows CD (unless using a torrent system):

http://www.ubcd4win.com/

Alternatively you can buy a cheap kit (around a tenner) which will allow you to simply connect the hard drive to another PC over USB which you may need to do if the hardware in the system is faulty and prevents you booting any recovery tools.

John
#15
I'm running the dell tests at the beginning of startup. Thanks for that info, sounds like it could be the way to go.
#16
Happysteveo;6028739
I'm running the dell tests at teh beginning of startup. Thanks for that info, sounds like it could be the way to go.


It sounds like you've still got the dedicated Dell partition intact which is the way to go, there is a more basic version of the diags but it gives very little information back.

John
#17
DragonChris
He said he ran the diagnostics, and it gave him an error code - It's a hardware issue.


Yes possibly a hardware issue which is why I suggested Safe Mode to eschew certain drivers and allow recovery of photos. I also mentioned RAM as a possibility and to use Memtest which operates at a low level.

Also Dell's hardware diagnostics does not run at a low level. It runs using Windows API which means that if there is a software issue, the Dell Diagnostics program also misreports errors.

Write protected media file is not necessarily a hard drive fault. It can be locked by a service which runs when Windows starts up. A safe boot may unlock the file.
#18
Johnmcl7
It sounds like you've still got the dedicated Dell partition intact which is the way to go, there is a more basic version of the diags but it gives very little information back.

John


Yeah I think so as well. I am doing tests in a section called "Windows Blue Screen"
#19
ElliottC;6028809
Yes possibly a hardware issue which is why I suggested Safe Mode to eschew certain drivers and allow recovery of photos. I also mentioned RAM as a possibility and to use Memtest which operates at a low level.

Also Dell's hardware diagnostics does not run at a low level. It runs using Windows API which means that if there is a software issue, the Dell Diagnostics program also misreports errors.

Write protected media file is not necessarily a hard drive fault. It can be locked by a service which runs when Windows starts up. A safe boot may unlock the file.

The Dell diagnostics run outside of Windows, the system boots from either a hidden partition or CD - failing a read test and write protect errors are the usual signs for a failing hard drive.

John
#20
ElliottC
A safe boot may unlock the file.


When I try safe mode it leads to the blue screen.
#21
Happysteveo
thanks. I am getting the blue screen in safe mode as well. Not sure if the computer will boot from memory stick though.


The computer can boot from a memory stick. Download Dell's flash boot utility from http://www.filewatcher.com/m/CW1310A0.EXE.3598032.0.0.html

You will need to set the BIOS to boot from flash drive or press F12 upon restarting the machine to use selective bootup.
#22
If its a failing hard drive does that mean I wouldn't be able to recover the photos from it? And would I be able to put a fresh Windows install on to clear up the problems?
#23
Johnmcl7
The Dell diagnostics run outside of Windows, the system boots from either a hidden partition or CD - failing a read test and write protect errors are the usual signs for a failing hard drive.

John


Ah, the Dell diagnostics I have used are within Windows. Low level diagnostics will point to hardware faults as mentioned earlier but a Linux or Windows bootable flash disk may allow for data recovery.

I still don't believe the hard drive is at fault. A locked file is not caused by a faulty hard drive but caused by file attributes.
#24
Happysteveo;6028850
If its a failing hard drive does that mean I wouldn't be able to recover the photos from it? And would I be able to put a fresh Windows install on to clear up the problems?


At this point it's really impossible to say, it depends how many failures the Dell utility is showing - if it keeps erroring on the the read test then a lot of the data may be lost but if it's just a small amount then you may be lucky. On drives with slight damage you can usually see the file listing and copy data from some areas but then get transfer errors in other areas. Once you have the data backed up (or what you can find) you can wipe the entire drive and then try a fresh copy of Windows, if it's still erroring then the drive is probably for the bin.

John
#25
ElliottC
The computer can boot from a memory stick. Download Dell's flash boot utility from http://www.filewatcher.com/m/CW1310A0.EXE.3598032.0.0.html

You will need to set the BIOS to boot from flash drive or press F12 upon restarting the machine to use selective bootup.


Thanks, will give this a go once the tests have finished.
#26
Johnmcl7
At this point it's really impossible to say, it depends how many failures the Dell utility is showing - if it keeps erroring on the the read test then a lot of the data may be lost but if it's just a small amount then you may be lucky. On drives with slight damage you can usually see the file listing and copy data from some areas but then get transfer errors in other areas. Once you have the data backed up (or what you can find) you can wipe the entire drive and then try a fresh copy of Windows, if it's still erroring then the drive is probably for the bin.

John


My mistake. I thought it was a locked file. It isn't locked. It's write protected.
#27
Johnmcl7
At this point it's really impossible to say, it depends how many failures the Dell utility is showing - if it keeps erroring on the the read test then a lot of the data may be lost but if it's just a small amount then you may be lucky. On drives with slight damage you can usually see the file listing and copy data from some areas but then get transfer errors in other areas. Once you have the data backed up (or what you can find) you can wipe the entire drive and then try a fresh copy of Windows, if it's still erroring then the drive is probably for the bin.

John


Cool, thanks once again! :-D
#28
Happysteveo
Thanks, will give this a go once the tests have finished.


If it is a relatively recent Dell model it will boot from flash drive.
#29
ElliottC;6028860
Ah, the Dell diagnostics I have used are within Windows. Low level diagnostics will point to hardware faults as mentioned earlier but a Linux or Windows bootable flash disk may allow for data recovery.

I still don't believe the hard drive is at fault. A locked file is not caused by a faulty hard drive but caused by file attributes.


Dell machines should ship with a basic diagnostics system (which is engaged just after POST but doesn't show anything more than PASS/FAIL for the main components) and a more advanced one on hidden partitions, you can also download a bootable USB of the diags if the diags partitions aren't there. I agree with you diagnostics in Windows are unreliable so I'd never use them when a proper dedicated system is available.

The reason it shows a locked file is because it hasn't been able to write to the drive - as part of the diagnostics package it tries reading and writing a small portion of data so you tend to see a read error following by a write protected media error. If the drive has a software corruption it will pass the Dell diags as it will be able to read/write the data without issue, obviously the diags don't care that it's not the right data. The error message for the write failure is misleading as it's specifically a hard drive test (not for flash cards as well) hence it's not going to be write protected.

John
#30
Johnmcl7
Dell machines should ship with a basic diagnostics system and a more advanced one on hidden partitions, you can also download a bootable USB of the diags if the diags partitions aren't there. I agree with you diagnostics in Windows are unreliable so I'd never use them when a proper dedicated system is available.

The reason it shows a locked file is because it hasn't been able to write to the drive - as part of the diagnostics package it tries reading and writing a small portion of data so you tend to see a read error following by a write protected media error. If the drive has a software corruption it will pass the Dell diags as it will be able to read/write the data without issue, obviously the diags don't care that it's not the right data. The error message for the write failure is misleading as it's specifically a hard drive test (not for flash cards as well) hence it's not going to be write protected.

John


It's not a locked file though (which was what I thought). Write protected files are also mandated by attributes like locked files but the repeated read/write errors do point to a possible hard disc error.
#31
Johnmcl7
but doesn't show anything more than PASS/FAIL for the main components)
John


I have got error codes for the problems as well so will give dell a ring in the morning to get more info about them.
#32
ElliottC;6028904
It's not a locked file though (which was what I thought). Write protected files are also mandated by attributes like locked files but the repeated read/write errors do point to a possible hard disc error.


It's not a write protected file, it's just a write fail - the diags are just doing a simple low level read/write, nothing more. I've seen numerous Dell drives with these errors (it was very common on three to four year old laptops here) and it's been the drive everytime, it's just not a well worded error as it shouldn't include the protected media part "uncorrectable data error or media is write protected"

John
#33
ElliottC
If it is a relatively recent Dell model it will boot from flash drive.


Its about 1.5 years old so hopefully it'll be okay.
#34
Johnmcl7
It's not a write protected file, it's just a write fail - the diags are just doing a simple low level read/write, nothing more. I've seen numerous Dell drives with these errors (it was very common on three to four year old laptops here) and it's been the drive everytime, it's just not a well worded error as it shouldn't include the protected media part "uncorrectable data error or media is write protected"

John


John, I am very impressed with your knowledge. Thinking about it, low level diagnostics should not be writing to an existing file which may or may not be write protected. They do read and write to unused portions of a hard drive.

May I ask where you gained your experience (via PM, if the question is a digression)?
#35
Happysteveo
Its about 1.5 years old so hopefully it'll be okay.


The flash drive should be bootable. A couple of people mentioned hardware faults and I now agree but it is still worth booting from a flash drive in order to salvage any data files.
1 Like #36
Nothing fancy I'm afraid, the company I work for used Dell as their sole computer supplier (changed to Lenovo this year) with around 2,000 Dells on site. I did Dell's training to so that I'm a Dell Certified Diagnostics Engineer which simply means I can order the parts direct from Dell without going through their usual tech support, you have to read through the diagnostics procedures then pass a multiple choice exam on it. We used to see this error frequently on the older laptops particularly those who carried them around under their arm while still powered up.
#37
ElliottC
The flash drive should be bootable. A couple of people mentioned hardware faults and I now agree but it is still worth booting from a flash drive in order to salvage any data files.


Cool. The test is still going(over an hour now) but will give it a go when its done. Thanks for the help and link. :thumbsup:
#38
Johnmcl7
We used to see this error frequently on the older laptops particularly those who carried them around under their arm while still powered up.


The person who's computer it is says that the problem started when she had just downloaded an automatic windows update and turned off the computer by mistake while it was installing, and she has had the blue screen ever since.
#39
Johnmcl7
Nothing fancy I'm afraid, the company I work for used Dell as their sole computer supplier (changed to Lenovo this year) with around 2,000 Dells on site. I did Dell's training to so that I'm a Dell Certified Diagnostics Engineer which simply means I can order the parts direct from Dell without going through their usual tech support, you have to read through the diagnostics procedures then pass a multiple choice exam on it. We used to see this error frequently on the older laptops particularly those who carried them around under their arm while still powered up.


Well, you have learnt well. I was an IT Editor for 14 years and with QA certification but you obviously think quicker than I do with regards to diagnosing PC faults. It is very commendable you have corrected myself and others without any insular remarks.
#40
Happysteveo
The person who's computer it is says that the problem started when she had just downloaded an automatic windows update and turned off the computer by mistake while it was installing, and she has had the blue screen ever since.


Ah, turning off without issuing a shut down can result in cached data not being written to the hard drive (correct me if I am wrong, John). I now believe that you have corrupted Windows files and that a boot up from flash drive may be able to restore your files. A Windows repair install may or may not work. It will repair the Windows system files but not driver files.

However, the Dell Diagnostics read/write failure still remains a mystery to me.

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