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Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional Resource Kit, Second Edition
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Chapter 27: Troubleshooting Startup continued

Recovering from Hardware-related Problems

Hardware-related problems typically appear early in the startup process and symptoms include warning messages, startup failures, and Stop messages. The causes are typically due to improper device configuration, incorrect driver settings, or hardware malfunction and failure. You can also use the suggestions provided in this chapter for troubleshooting hardware issues that are not directly related to startup.

Checking Your Hardware

Always remember to check basic issues first before attempting to remove and replace parts:

Review your system documentation Refer to your motherboard and device manuals before installing new peripherals for helpful information including safety precautions, firmware configuration, and expansion-slot or memory-slot locations. Some peripheral manufacturers recommend that you use a busmastering PCI slot and advise that installing their adapter in a secondary slot might cause it to function improperly. For more information about system resources, see "Managing Devices" in this book.

Confirm that the power cords for all devices are firmly plugged in and that the computer power supply meets hardware specifications Computer power supplies are available in different sizes and are typically rated at 200, 250, 300, and 400 watts or larger. Some computers are equipped with even smaller power supplies (less than 100 watts) and installing too many devices into a system with an inadequate amount of power can cause reliability problems or even damage the power supply. See the manufacturer's power specifications when installing new devices and verify that your system can handle the increased electrical load.

Verify that you correctly installed and firmly seated all internal adapters Typically, peripherals such as keyboards and video cards must be installed and functioning to complete the startup process without generating error messages. A faulty video card can cause the POST process to fail on some systems.

Verify that you correctly attached cables Check that you have firmly seated all cable connectors. Search for damaged or worn cables and replace them as required.

Verify that you correctly configured any jumpers or dual in-line package switches Jumpers and dual in-line package switches are used to close or open electric contacts on circuit boards. For hard disks, jumper settings are especially important because they can adversely affect the startup process if not correctly set. For example, configuring two master ATA disks that are installed on the same channel or assigning duplicate SCSI ID numbers to devices in the same SCSI chain might cause a Stop error or error messages about hard disk failure.

Verify that system firmware and peripheral firmware are up-to-date You can sometimes trace instability and compatibility problems to outdated ACPI firmware. If your computer has firmware that is known to cause problems and an update is not yet available, technical support might advise you to disable ACPI and reinstall the operating system for stable operation. Although the option to disable ACPI is an option found on some x86-based firmware, it is recommended that you leave this setting at the default value (typically enabled).

To correctly disable or re-enable ACPI, you must first change firmware settings and then re-install Windows XP Professional to avoid a Stop 0x000000A5 or ACPI_BIOS_ERROR message, or a Stop 0x00000079 or MISMATCHED HAL message. Because of the numerous registry and system file changes required, you must rerun Setup (an upgrade installation does not work). For more information about checking firmware versions, see "Troubleshooting Concepts and Strategies" in this book.

If Setup does not respond when you are installing the operating system, the cause might be the firmware for your CD-ROM drives. Try upgrading the CD-ROM firmware to the latest version.

Test your hardware by running diagnostic tools If the problem occurs after the POST routine finishes but before Windows XP Professional fully loads, run any diagnostic software that the manufacturer of the hardware adapter provides. This software typically includes self-test programs that allow you to quickly verify proper operation of a device and might enable you to obtain additional information about the device, such as model number, hardware, and device firmware version.

Determine if new hard disks were recently installed Adding new hard disks to the system can cause startup problems. For example, in a two-disk system with Windows XP Professional installed on the first partition of the second hard disk, the Boot.ini file might be referencing a path to the operating system. The path might use a multi( ) format similar to the following:


For the newly installed disk, you might need to update Boot.ini references so that they point to the correct location. For example, to restore the ability to start Windows XP Professional, you might need to change the multi path so it is similar to the following:


Adding new disks might also affect how logical drive letters are assigned to partitions. For more information about diagnosing and resolving issues due to changed logical drive letters, see Microsoft Knowledge Base articles Q234048, "How Windows 2000 Assigns, Reserves, and Stores Drive Letters," Q249321, "Unable to Log on if the Boot Partition Drive Letter Has Changed," and Q225025, "Setup Changes Drive Letters After a Partition Is Deleted and Reinstalled." To find these articles, see the Microsoft Knowledge Base link on the Web Resources page at

Configure ISA devices in Plug and Play mode If ISA devices are present, always configure them in Plug and Play mode if possible. Plug and Play is the default mode for ISA devices that comply with Plug and Play. If necessary, you can switch from Plug and Play to manual mode by using jumpers or software provided by the manufacturer. Use care when configuring ISA devices in manual mode because the operating system depends on the user to select the correct hardware and Device Manager resources. Manually selecting resources is more likely to cause an error because Windows XP Professional cannot resolve resource conflicts for you.

Manually assign interrupt request (IRQ) line numbers for each hardware device Some x86-based motherboards force IRQ sharing across two or more expansion slots (or integrated devices) regardless of the adapters installed. In some cases, IRQ sharing can cause conflicts after you install new hardware. If you have a non-ACPI computer equipped with firmware that supports changing IRQ assignments, as a troubleshooting method, try manually changing the IRQ assigned to a problem device.

Because systems that use the ACPI HAL ignore IRQ assignments stored in firmware, you are only able to manually change IRQ settings for non-ACPI (Standard PC HAL) systems. Some x86-based systems enable you to toggle ACPI functionality. To disable or re-enable ACPI, you must first change firmware settings and then re-install Windows XP Professional to avoid a Stop 0xA5 message or a Stop 0x79 message. Because of the numerous registry and system file changes required, you must rerun Setup (an upgrade installation does not work).

For more information about system resources, see "Managing Devices" in this book. For more information about Stop messages, see "Common Stop Messages for Troubleshooting" in this book.

Verify SCSI configuration If your computer uses or starts from SCSI devices and if you suspect that these devices are causing startup problems, you need to check the items listed in Table 27-20.

Table 27-20  Checklist for Troubleshooting SCSI Devices

ChecklistDescription for Each Item
All devices are correctly terminatedVerify that each SCSI device is correctly terminated. There are specific rules for termination that you must follow to avoid problems with the computer not recognizing a SCSI device. Although these rules can vary slightly from one type of adapter to another, the basic principle is that you must terminate a SCSI chain at both ends.
All devices use unique SCSI ID numbers Verify that each device located on a particular SCSI chain has a unique identification number. Duplicate identification numbers can cause intermittent failures or even data corruption. For newer devices, you can use the SCSI Configured AutoMatically (SCAM) standard. The host adapter and all devices must support the SCAM standard. Otherwise, ID numbers must be set manually.
The BIOS on the startup SCSI controller is enabledVerify that the SCSI BIOS is enabled for the primary SCSI controller and that the BIOS on secondary controllers is disabled. SCSI firmware contains programming instructions that allow the computer to communicate with SCSI disks before Windows XP Professional starts. Disabling this feature for all host adapters causes a startup failure. For information about disabling or enabling the BIOS, refer to the documentation provided with your SCSI controller.
You are using the correct cablesVerify that the connecting cables are the correct type and length, and are compliant with SCSI requirements. Different SCSI standards exist, each with specific cabling requirements. Consult the product documentation for more information.
The firmware settings for the host SCSI adapter match device capabilitiesVerify that host adapter BIOS settings for each SCSI device are set correctly. (The BIOS for the SCSI adapter is separate from the system motherboard firmware.) For each SCSI device, you can specify settings, such as Sync Negotiation, Maximum Transfer Rate, and Send Start Command, that can affect performance and compatibility. Certain SCSI devices might not function correctly if settings are set beyond the capabilities of the hardware. Consult the documentation for your SCSI adapter and device before changing default settings.
SCSI adapters are installed in a master PCI slotVerify that you installed the host adapter in the correct motherboard slot. The documentation for some PCI SCSI adapters recommends using busmaster PCI slots to avoid problems on x86-based systems. Refer to the manufacturer's documentation for your motherboard or computer to locate these busmaster PCI slots. If your SCSI adapter is installed in a non-busmaster PCI slot, move it to a master slot to see if the change improves operation and stability.

For more information about the SCSI standard, see the SCSI link on the Web Resources page at For more information about SCSI termination, see articles Q92765, "Terminating a SCSI Device," and Q154690, "How to Troubleshoot Event 9 and Event 11 Error Messages," in the Microsoft Knowledge Base. To find these articles, see the Microsoft Knowledge Base link on the Web Resources page at

Simplifying Your Hardware Configuration

Hardware problems can occur when you have new and older devices installed on your system. If you cannot resolve problems by using safe mode and other options, such as rolling back drivers, temporarily disable or remove ISA devices that do not support Plug and Play. If you can start Windows XP Professional with these older devices removed, this is an indication that they are causing resource conflicts and you need to manually reconfigure the resources assigned to them. For more information about rolling back drivers, see Windows XP Professional Help and Support Center, and also see "Tools for Troubleshooting" in this book.

When you are diagnosing startup problems related to hardware, it is recommended that you simplify your configuration. Avoid troubleshooting when you have several adapters and external peripherals installed. Starting with external and ISA devices, disable or remove hardware devices one at time until you are able to start your system. Reinstall devices by following the manufacturer's instructions, verifying that each is functioning properly before checking the next device. For example, installing a PCI network adapter and a SCSI adapter at the same time can complicate troubleshooting because either adapter might cause a problem. Simplifying your system configuration might enable you to start Windows XP Professional. You can then gradually increase hardware complexity until you reproduce the problem, which allows you to diagnose and resolve the problem.

ISA devices can cause problems because the PCI bus does not have a reliable method for determining ISA resource settings. Device conflicts might occur due to miscommunication between the two bus types. To avoid ISA and PCI conflicts, try temporarily removing ISA devices. After you install a new PCI device, you can use Device Manager to determine which system resources are available to ISA devices. Then reconfigure the ISA devices that do not support Plug and Play so that you eliminate any conflicts. If the problems continue after you reinstall ISA devices and you cannot resolve them with assistance from technical support, consider upgrading to newer hardware.

Simplifying your system configuration also helps when problems prevent you from installing Windows XP Professional. For more information about simplifying your hardware configuration to resolve setup problems, see article Q224826, "Troubleshooting Text-Mode Setup Problems on ACPI Computers," in the Microsoft Knowledge Base. To find this article, see the Microsoft Knowledge Base link on the Web Resources page at Also, see "Troubleshooting Concepts and Strategies" in this book.

Checking the Operating System Configuration

Installing new hardware or updating drivers can create conflicts, causing devices to become inaccessible. You can isolate and troubleshoot these problems by using System Information and Device Manager.

To use the System Information tool to view problem devices

  1. In the Run dialog box, type msinfo32, and then click OK.
  2. Click Components, and then click Problem Devices.

To use the System Information tool to view shared and conflicting resources

  1. In the Run dialog box, type msinfo32, and then click OK.
  2. Click Hardware Resources, and then click Conflicts/Sharing.

To use Device Manager (Devmgmt.msc) to view system resource usage information

  • In the Run dialog box, type devmgmt.msc, and then click OK.

For more information about using Device Manager and resolving hardware conflicts, see Windows XP Professional Help and Support Center, and also see "Managing Devices" in this book.

Diagnosing Disk-related Problems

Disk-related problems typically occur before Windows XP Professional starts or shortly afterwards. Table 27-21 provides a list of symptoms, possible causes, and sources of information that you can refer to.

Table 27-21  Diagnosing Disk-related Startup Problems

Symptom, Message, or ProblemPossible CauseWhere to Find More Information
The POST routine displays messages similar to the following:
Hard disk error.
Hard disk absent/failed.
The system self-test routines halt due to improperly installed devices.See "Recovering from Hardware-related Problems" earlier in this chapter.
The system displays MBR-related or boot sector-related messages similar to the following:
Missing operating system.
Insert a system diskette and restart the system.
The MBR or partition boot sector is corrupt due to problems with hardware or viruses.For more information about recovering from MBR or boot sector problems, see "Troubleshooting Disks and File Systems" in this book.
The system displays messages about the partition table similar to the following:
Invalid partition table.
A disk-read error occurred.
The partition table is invalid due to incorrect configuration of newly added disks. See "Troubleshooting Disks and File Systems" in this book.
You cannot access Windows XP Professional after installing another operating system.The Windows XP Professional boot sector is overwritten by the other operating system's setup program.See "Troubleshooting Disks and File Systems" and "Tools for Troubleshooting" in this book.
In an x86-based system, one of the following files is missing or damaged:
  • Boot.ini
  • Ntoskrnl.exe

Required startup files are missing or damaged, or entries in the Boot.ini are pointing to the wrong partition.See "Troubleshooting Disks and File Systems" and "Tools for Troubleshooting" in this book.
The Windows loader or EFI boot manager displays messages similar to the following:
Couldn't find loader.

Please insert another disk.
Ntldr or IA64ldr.efi is missing or corrupted.See "Troubleshooting Disks and File Systems" in this book.
CMOS or NVRAM disk configuration settings are not retained.The CMOS memory or NVRAM is faulty, data is corrupted, or the battery that retains these settings needs replacing.Follow the manufacturer's instructions for replacing or recharging the system battery. For Itanium-based systems, refer to system documentation for how to start the Nvrboot.efi tool. For more information about Nvrboot.efi, see Table 27-6 and "Startup Phases for Itanium-based Systems" Earlier in this chapter.

Infrequently, disk-related issues, such as corrupted files, file system problems, or insufficient free space might cause Stop messages to appear. For more information about maintaining disks and troubleshooting disk-related problems, see "Disk Management" and "Troubleshooting Disks and File Systems" in this book. Also, see "Common Stop Messages for Troubleshooting" in this book.

Resolving Shutdown Problems

At first glance, shutdown and startup problems might appear to be unrelated, but they can stem from the same causes. Components that cause startup problems might also interfere with the shutdown process.

System shutdown is an orderly process and involves the following:

  • Winlogon sends specific messages to devices, system services, and applications, notifying them that you are shutting down the computer.
  • Winlogon waits for applications to close open files and allows them a certain amount of time to complete clean-up tasks, such as writing unsaved data to disk. Typically, every enabled device, system service, and application replies to the shutdown message request, indicating to Winlogon that shutdown can safely occur.

Shutdown problems can be caused by:

  • Device drivers or applications that do not respond to shutdown messages.
  • System services that do not respond to shutdown messages or that send busy replies to the system. Busy replies might be due to a deadlock condition where two or more processes attempt to access the same resource. Because each process has a request for the other's resource, neither process can finish.
  • Faulty or incompatible drivers, services, or applications.
  • Hardware changes that cause device conflicts.
  • Firmware incompatibility or incorrect changes to firmware settings.

To resolve problems that prevent shutdown, use Task Manager to close the unresponsive application or service.

To end an unresponsive application or service

  1. Start Task Manager by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+ESC.
  2. Click the Applications tab.
  3. The Applications tab provides status information and displays each task as either Running or Not Responding.

  4. Click the item labeled Not Responding, and then click End Task.

Resolving Power Management Problems on x86-based Systems

Putting your computer on standby or in hibernation requires firmware that uses Advanced Power Management (APM), or preferably, that is ACPI compliant. To avoid problems, review your system documentation or the manufacturer's support Web page for information about determining whether your firmware is current. Using updated firmware is especially important when you use ACPI functionality.

To determine whether your system is using ACPI features

  1. In the Run dialog box, type devmgmt.msc, and then click OK.
  2. In the console tree, expand the Computer folder.
  3. If the computer description includes ACPI, as Figure 27-5 shows, Windows XP Professional is using ACPI functionality.

Click to view graphic
Click to view graphic

Figure 27-5  Using Device Manager to determine ACPI functionality

For information about using Device Manager, see "Managing Devices" in this book.

To determine if your computer supports hibernate and standby features

  1. In the Run dialog box, type powercfg.cpl, and then click OK.
  2. In the Power Options Properties dialog box, verify that a Hibernate tab exists. If present, select the Hibernate tab, check the Enable hibernation box, and click Apply.
  3. In the Power Options Properties dialog box, verify that an Advanced tab exists. If present, verify that Standby and Hibernate are selectable options in the Power buttons drop down lists.

If the Standby and Hibernate options are not present, then your computer does not support these features.

Symptoms of Power Management Problems and Their Causes

When a computer is entering or leaving hibernation or standby, the following might occur:

  • It displays an error message such as "Unable to enter Standby mode," or the option to configure the standby or hibernation feature is not available in Control Panel.
  • It cannot leave standby or hibernation.
  • It runs differently after leaving hibernation or standby, and you notice audio, mouse control, or video distortion problems.
  • It displays Stop messages, such as 0x0000009F: DRIVER_POWER_STATE_ FAILURE, when the system is leaving or entering standby or hibernation.

Typical causes include:

  • Your hardware does not properly support standby and hibernation. Verify with your computer or peripheral manufacturer that your hardware supports standby or hibernation. Older hardware might not be ACPI-compliant or might predate recent revisions in the Advanced Power Management standard.
  • Your system firmware is out-of-date. Upgrading to the latest system firmware can resolve problems, especially for ACPI systems. For x86-based systems that are equipped with an APM-based (non-ACPI) BIOS, disabling APM might eliminate startup problems, such as instability or Stop errors, until you can obtain an update. For more information, see article Q237673, "How to Troubleshoot STOP Error Messages After Enabling Advanced Power Management," in the Microsoft Knowledge Base. To find this article, see the Microsoft Knowledge Base link on the Web Resources page at
  • Your peripheral firmware is out-of-date. Peripherals are typically packaged with diagnostic software that allows you to check the firmware version installed. You can then visit the manufacturer's Web site to determine whether an upgrade is necessary. Firmware updates for various devices, including SCSI adapters, modems, CD and DVD-ROM drives, and video cards, might be available. If you find updates for several devices, install them one at a time to better observe the effect of each update.
  • You are using outdated driver files that do not support power management. Using out-of-date drivers might cause incompatibility problems, preventing the system from entering or resuming from standby and hibernation. Be sure to check for the latest Windows XP Professional updates to all your devices (especially audio and video). If you find updates for several devices, observe the rule of simplicity and install them one at a time to better observe the effect of each update.
  • You are using incompatible software that installs components that either interfere with or do not support power management. Are incompatible versions of software present on your system? For example, CD-ROM mastering software meant for other versions of Windows might appear to function properly in Windows XP Professional. However, the software might be the source of a message similar to the following:
  • System Standby Failed. The device driver for the 'XXXX CD-RW' device is preventing the computer from entering standby. Please close all applications and try again.

    The preceding message might be misleading because the problem might not be caused by the CD rewriter driver. You query the Microsoft Knowledge Base or review messages on the newsgroups and find recommendations to update your CD authoring software. Following this advice, you install a Windows XP compatible update, which restores the ability to put the computer on standby and in hibernation.

Recovering from a Failed Standby

When a computer is on standby, the CPU enters a low-power state until an event, such as user or network activity, causes the computer to come out of standby. Using standby conserves power and is typically much faster than shutting down and restarting the computer.

If your computer cannot return to normal mode after being on standby, try the following:

  • Disconnect any devices that you attached after putting the computer on standby. Avoid plugging in devices while the computer is on standby. For best results, bring the computer out of standby first, and then attach peripherals, such as universal serial bus (USB) devices.
  • Avoid major changes to the computer's state after putting the computer on standby. For example, if you place an undocked portable computer on standby, avoid resuming the computer while it is docked. Computers that are not ACPI-compliant might be more sensitive to this type of state change.
  • Reset your computer. If your computer does not restart when you press the reset switch, turn the computer off by pressing the power switch. Some computers require that you press down the power switch for at least four seconds. If your computer does not respond to the power switch, consult your owner's manual to determine how to completely turn off the computer.

Improper shutdowns might cause unsaved data to be lost. Windows XP Professional can detect whether an improper shutdown occurred and might start Autochk to correct file system problems during the startup process. For more information about Autochk and Chkdsk, see "Troubleshooting Disks and File Systems" in this book.

Recovering from a Failed Hibernation

When you put a computer in hibernation, Windows XP Professional writes all memory content to the systemdrive\Hiberfil.sys file before shutting down the system. When you turn the computer back on, Ntldr uses firmware calls to locate the startup disk. If Ntldr finds a Hiberfil.sys file on the systemdrive root, the information is read back into memory and the computer resumes exactly where it left off without going through a full startup sequence. If the Windows loader cannot locate the Hiberfil.sys file, it processes the Boot.ini file and proceeds with normal startup.

The Hiberfil.sys file can exist in one of the following forms:

  • A complete memory image several megabytes in size (equal to the amount of physical memory).
  • A text file named Hiberfil.sys that uses a slightly modified ARC format pointing to the boot partition of the last hibernated operating system. That boot partition contains the actual Hiberfil.sys file, which is a full memory image of the hibernating operating system.

In either case, Ntldr locates and reads the Hiberfil.sys memory image and continues without displaying the Boot.ini startup menu.

The modified ARC path specified in the Hiberfil.sys file conforms to one of the following formats:

  • linkmulti(W)disk(X)rdisk(Y)partition(Z)
  • linkscsi(W)disk(X)rdisk(Y)partition(Z)
  • linksignature(V)disk(X)rdisk(Y)partition(Z)

Ntldr checks the integrity of the Hiberfil.sys file and if the file is damaged, displays a prompt similar to the following:

Delete restoration data and proceed to system boot menu

If you confirm the prompt by pressing ENTER, Windows XP Professional deletes the Hiberfil.sys file and proceeds with normal startup.

To minimize problems, avoid major changes to the computer's state after putting the computer in hibernation. For example, if you hibernate an undocked portable computer, avoid starting the computer in a docked state. Computers that are not ACPI-compliant might be more sensitive to this type of state change.

For more information about using the standby and hibernate features, see Windows XP Professional Help and Support Center. For more information about power management, see "Managing Devices" and "Supporting Mobile Users" in this book. For more information about troubleshooting standby or hibernation issues, see article Q266169, "Troubleshoot Problems with Standby Mode, Hibernate Mode, and Shutting Down Your Computer in Windows 2000," in the Microsoft Knowledge Base. To find this article, see the Microsoft Knowledge Base link on the Web Resources page at

Additional Resources

These resources contain additional information related to this chapter.

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Last Updated: June 2, 2003
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