Complex Problem With Windows Repair--May Involve True Image

Discussion in 'Acronis True Image Product Line' started by robie88, Jun 7, 2005.

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  1. robie88

    robie88 Guest

    Hi! I'm hoping that I can get a hand on this problem I'm having this week. I have windows xp pro installed on my active partition. I started to have a problem with windows' interaction with a certain program, and being unable to fix it through a re-install of that software, reg cleaning, etc., I decided it might be time for a windows repair. Prior to that, I installed my image of the partition made by TI, but that image was quite recent, and seems to include whatever errors are causing the software problem I was having. BTW, TI worked flawlessly!

    Using my original windows disk, I went through the "upgrade", in-place repair of my installation. When the windows repair finished I found myself unable to boot the computer. What happened is an un-ending loop that keeps bringing you to a screen that, among other stuff, says "wiindows did not start successfully. A recent hardware or software change might have caused this". The screen then gives choices to boot into safe mode or to 'last good configuration', etc. However, the computer will not boot into any of those modes, it just always brings you back to this same screen. FWIW, right before it stops on this screen, I have seen a very very quick glimpse of the BSOD screen, but way to brief to read any info from it.

    So what does all of this have to do with True Image? Well, the one other time I had this identical experience was also since I've been using True Image and I am considering whether the problem, post-xp repair, is that Windows doesn't know what to do with the Acronis drivers installed with True Image, and/or can't properly interpret whatever modifications might have been made in the MBR or bootcfg, etc. by the Acronis install, once that XP repair is done.

    So I'm wondering if any of the Acronis folks here have ever heard of a scenario like this or have come across something like this and can advise? Right now, the only thing I can see is to do a complete re-format of the drive, which is a shame particularly when the Acronis imaging worked so well. I can re-install my most recent TI image, but as I said earlier, that image seems to already include the original problem that led me into all of this.

    One final consideration, where I could also use some help---If it is something with the Acronis drivers or boot information altered by the Acronis software, it certainly is a consideration to uninstall Acronis prior to the Windows repair. However, I've never had much luck with that, and have had experience with uninstalling Acronis only to find that there seems to be some problem in the boot information that will again cause problems with getting xp running. So, if any of you have observations regarding uninstalling Acronis so that MBR info is re-written in a usable form, it would be appreciated.

    Sorry if I went on for a bit, just trying to be clear. Thanks.
     
  2. sandokan

    sandokan Registered Member

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    Use the Acronis util to write a fresh MBR.
     
  3. robie88

    robie88 Guest

    hey sandokan, thanks for your response. I did try that earlier but got no different result, booting kept bringing me back to the same screen I mentioned in my post. When that didn't work, I also tried windows recovery console to see if that could correct anything with the mbr or on the disk itself, but again, the same result.

    It's almost as if the intent of True Image is to use the acronis image you've created if you get into trouble, and because of that, there's no way to bring your disk partition back to an 'original windows state' so to speak, because the intention was that you would not have to go back to that if you had the acronis image. Circular reasoning at its' finest!

    There must be someone who knows what is changed in the mbr when you install acronis--it seems to me that understanding that is the key to fixing this--unfortunately it appears that even uninstalling acronis does not change back the mbr to whatever it was in the first place. I'm still able to examine what is on the disk with Winternals ERD Commander, if you are familiar with that software, so if I could learn what needs to be changed on the mbr I could actually do it manually.

    thanks.
     
  4. MiniMax

    MiniMax Registered Member

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    Robie, do you have a spare partition where you can install a fresh copy of WinXP? That (and the WinXP Recovery Console) will allow you to completely recreate the MBR, BOOT.INI and all the other essential boot stuff. And, once you are up and running in the 2nd WinXP, you can add switches like /SOS to the boot-entry for the non-bootable WinXP, replace NTLDR, NTDETECT, etc, etc.
     
  5. robie88

    robie88 Guest

    hey minimax, thanks for the suggestion. I was able to use the repair console on this installation, but the "repairs" did not work. I tried "fixmbr", "chkdsk", and when that didn't work I tried "fixboot" on a second effort with repair console. I'm not exactly sure why it would have made a difference were I to try another install on a different partition, but I do have another partition to work with. Is there some reason you feel there might be a different conclusion by using repair console on an install from another partition? I'm happy to try it if there is some reason that you think it would work differently from having already accessed repair console on the partition that I've been having trouble with.

    To be honest, at this point I'm thinking maybe the best approach would be to try re-formatting the problem partition, do a fresh install of xp on that, install True Image on that clean install, and then see if it will at least allow me to restore my acronis backup. Thankfully my "secure zone" is on another drive :D I think it gets to a point where you've tried a few re-writes of that mbr file and then it's hopeless. I think the only thing that could save the mbr now is if I had a copy of precisely what should be in that file and then manually re-write the file when exploring the partition with Winternals.

    I think for me this experience brings up something of a deficiency in the Acronis software. While I'm a big fan of True Image, and it has saved my neck on many occasions, I think the software should, prior to making changes, create a backup of these small, continuously problematic windows files like the "mbr", and "ntldr", etc. There really should be some "failsafe" for when you are presented with a problem that True Image cannot resolve.
     
  6. MiniMax

    MiniMax Registered Member

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    Well, there is a whole bunch of options you can add to the boot entries in BOOT.INI, and it is helluva lot easier to use Notepad from a running Windows to do that, than trying to copy a pre-made BOOT.INI file onto the hard disk from the Recovery Console. Check out the list here. I would start by adding options like /BASEVIDEO, /BOOTLOG, /NOGUIBOOT, /SOS and variations of /SAFEBOOT and see if I could get the damaged Windows up and running in some minimal configuration. When it fails to boot, you can also look through the log file created by /BOOTLOG (%SystemRoot%\Ntbtlog.txt), you can see with /SOS things like the last driver/utility Windows loads before giving up, etc, etc.

    I assume you can do the same from the Recovery Console, but it is easier to do it from a temporary Windows install.
     
  7. robie88

    robie88 Guest

    thanks again. I guess that will be my project for tonight. I'll give it a shot and let you know how it worked out. I appreciate the suggestions.
     
  8. Acronis Support

    Acronis Support Acronis Support Staff

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  9. robie88

    robie88 Guest

    I had to wait till this weekend to find the time to work on this, and finally straightened it out. I also finally figured out a few things with True Image that I never knew before. Some of that stuff may help the next person out, so I will explain....

    Apparently what was causing the problem and the error messages I was receiving when attempting to boot my computer was not a corrupted MBR file, but rather, no MBR file at all. I always believed that when you used Acronis to image your "Active" partition that the MBR and boot.ini file, and all those nice little files that always seem to create a problem for people, would be part of the Acronis image. I gather that is true, but only if your active partition represents THE ENTIRE DISK from which the image has been taken. If there are other partitions on that same disk, your "image" will NOT include those "boot-related" files. FWIW, when searching here regarding the errors I received, I see that other people also did not realize that this is how the imaging works, leading them to conclude that files were corrupted that in reality were non-existent. That leads me to believe that Acronis needs to explain this fine point a bit more clearly.

    So, to resolve my problem what I had to do was not simply do a "repair" install of windows, I had to do a full re-install, including partitioning, and then import my Acronis image of the partition that I wanted to use. Otherwise, what you are doing is repairing the MBR with the Windows repair install, and then when you import your image, you basically are deleting the mbr leaving you with a system that can't be booted, since the 'single partition' image doesn't include the MBR or boot.ini.

    I think this may be an area that Acronis needs to work on, first to explain a bit better, and second to perhaps offer some additional options like giving you a choice of what boot files will be used, and from where, when you are working with imaging or restoring active partitions. I certainly don't think that most people would intuitively concluded that this is how Acronis works, and so clearly some explaining is necessary. Would you really think that under certain circumstances you could restore an image, just so that your computer could not be booted any more?

    Anyway, thanks for the input I received--in the end I'm glad I recovered my data and got everything working again.
     
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