Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gotcha of the Day: HP Mini boots to Grub Recovery Prompt, not Windows 7

Our next door neighbor brought over their HP Mini Laptop which was having some serious boot issues. You'd turn it on, and rather than booting to Windows 7, it would leave you at a prompt like so:

error: no such device XXXX
grub rescue>

Apparently, the previous owner of the laptop installed Windows over the Linux distribution that came with the laptop. Hence the unexpected mix of the Grub boot loader and Windows 7.

Here's how I got this sucker booting again (I'll spare you the false starts and just give you the recipe that worked):

  • Downloaded the very cool Ultimate Boot CD
  • Followed the instructions to generate a bootable USB thumbdrive
  • Plugged in the thumbdrive, turned on the laptop, and hit F9
  • Selected the thumbdrive from the list of bootable devices
  • Selected UBCD FreeDOS from the menu
  • Selected the first option for booting, and watch lots of exotic looking messages scroll by
  • Selected Launch to access the UBCD applications
  • Selected HDD Boot Management
  • Selected MBRWork
  • Selected option 5, Install standard MBR code and confirmed my selection
  • Hit escape a bunch of times to get back to a DOS prompt
  • Pressed Control-Alt-Delete and held my breath
  • Watched in amazement as Windows booted

Looks like my guess that the Master Boot Record got hosed was right. Whew. Looks like those low level Linux installs of years ago really paid off.

My suggestion: prepare the Ultimate Boot CD on a thumbdrive now, and have it ready to go. Sooner or later, you're going to need at least one of the many tools it offers.

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