It’s rough sometimes dealing with an older computer, especially when it feels like all your electronics are starting to have issues at the same time. Although I have a couple of newer computers, I still sometimes tinker around with a Dell XPS 400, purchased new in 2005. It’s actually still a fairly reliable workhorse, though I have been cleaning it up, with the ultimate goal being to retire that old system on eBay.
I started backing up the XPS’s files last week, and of course when I have my sights set on getting rid of the thing, it crashes. During startup, the system kept stalling on a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) error. I really wish I would have taken a photo of the screen, though at the time I didn’t know I would be writing about it later. What is known, however, is that part of the “stop code” on the blue screen was 0x000000D1, and the error cited at the bottom was iastor.sys
Another cog in the wheel that slowed down finding a solution is that there was some sort of apparent voltage issue with the power supply at some point. That caused the plastic to melt on the SATA and power connectors that plug into the hard drive. Not cool (or good!) But what can ya do? Until now, it’s never had any hard drive issues beyond that one day, a few years ago, when I wondered “Where the heck is that burning smell coming from?” Due to the melted connectors, I can’t simply remove the hard drive and put it in a different computer to run diagnostics.
Upon researching the problem, it started to become more clear that the boot files on the hard drive must have become corrupt. I was at a loss for what could possibly be done. After giving it a few days (and considering the issue with the melted connectors), I decided to power up the Dell but connect the SATA (data) cable to the motherboard on a different Windows XP computer. Can you guess what happened next?
The secondary Windows PC instantly recognized the Dell’s drive, and “Chkdsk” (the Check Disk program) began to run. After a few minutes of diagnostics, the secondary computer finally reached the Windows desktop screen, and the Dell drive popped up as a secondary hard drive! Hooray! It seemed to be fixed! … !!!
At that point, I shut down both computers and plugged the SATA cable back into the Dell. From there, I booted that computer up, and everything was almost back to normal. I say “almost” because the processor was doing this new thing, were it was constantly spiking at 100%. Even more strange was that the Task Manager didn’t show anything hogging more resources than usual. Finally, it occurred to me that I tweaked some BIOS setting when first trying to figure out what was going on with the Dell computer. It turned out I needed to set the computer up to share the dual core processors again, as it was then only using one of the cores.
To make a longer story even longer, if you’re getting a Blue Screen of Death and have an older computer, it might be worth a shot plugging the hard drive up to another computer to see if you can run some diagnostics. It worked for me, and I’ll finally be able to put this computer up on the auction block soon. “SOLD, for a thousand dollars!” – one can dream….
"Corrupt Windows XP Startup Drive Fixed!"
Written by Justin Kilmer
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