Disk Boot Failure

Jul 31, 2008
Hi guys and gals,

I'm getting a fantastic 'DISK BOOT FAILURE, INSERT SYSTEM DISK AND PRESS ENTER', which was great for a while, but now I'm bored of it and want it to go away. Help!

Let me explain how I've managed to screw my PC up. Firstly I had a dual boot setup, with Vista Home Premium installed on an SATA drive and XP installed on a PATA drive. I also had a third PATA drive for my music collection. Everything hunky-dory. Then I decided I didn't need XP anymore so removed it from the dual boot wotsit (so now PC just boots Vista without asking). When I tried to format it however, Windows wouldn't let me as it was marked as a system disk. So I gave up ('If at first you don't succeed...'). Still, everything was working ok and just meant I had XP on a disk I wasn't using.

Then yesterday I removed the XP drive and popped in a brand spanking new SATA drive. Upon booting the machine I get aforementioned error message. Hmmm. So, I looked in the BIOS - all disks are recognised as expected and boot order was 1. CD/DVD 2. HDD. So then I removed my lovely sparkly new SATA drive and put my horrible dirty old XP PATA drive back. Same error message. So then I tried sticking in the Vista DVD and rebooting, which did in fact let me back into Windows - hurrah! However, subsequently, everytime I boot WITHOUT the Vista DVD I get the same error message and everytime I boot WITH the Vista DVD it launches the Vista installation program - argggghh! Haven't run the installation yet (too scared), thought I'd ask for advice first.

So, apologies for the long-winded saga but hopefully by giving you all my life story you can help me fix the problem (preferably without losing my current installation of Vista!). Before anyone shouts at me via emoticons or any other means for not searching the forum or google, I did do this but couldn't find anything helpful, honest.

AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 4200+ 2.20GHz
GeForce 8800GTS
1xSATA 320GB HDD with Vista Home Premium
1xPATA 120GB HDD with XP



Aug 7, 2007
I'm thinking the boot manager on your XP disc was handling start up duties. When you played with that, it got corrupted...
Jul 31, 2008
Ok running the Vista repair from the DVD did the trick, but one question...

Before I ran the repair I took out my XP HDD and put in the new SATA drive. After repairing and booting into Windows I looked in disk management and saw my other PATA disk is now marked as a system disk, and there is a boot system folder created on it. So, if the OS is installed on one of my SATA drives why does Windows need to write boot information to another drive?

Jul 31, 2008
Ok, so actually the issue is only partly fixed...

1. I boot my PC and get the fantastic original error message
2. Put in Vista DVD and reboot, taking the option to boot from DVD
3. Run the repair doodah
4. The repair function tells me there are no problems (hmmm, I disagree!)
5. Reboot (with DVD in drive still)
6. This time, DON'T take option to boot from DVD
7. Windows boots properly in all its wonderous glory

Seems that it will only boot when the DVD is in the drive (even though I'm not booting from the DVD)?? Any ideas??? Please?!
Jul 31, 2008
Anyone?! This is driving me nuts now! I've tried running the repair from Windows recovery environment, and also tried rebuilding the BCD from scratch using bootrec, but still no joy. One thing I do notice is the drive letter assignments are different between Windows and the Windows RE, but from what I can gather this is normal?

Any suggestions will be greatly received!

pat mcgroin

Nov 21, 2007
I think this will help you.
I posted the whole article for clarity but I think you should start at step 7

here is a article from the windows secrets new letter that should be of help.

Make your computer dual-boot Vista and XP

By Scott Dunn

It's getting harder to buy a new computer with Windows XP installed and — after Microsoft stops selling XP on June 30, 2008 — it will become nearly impossible.

Fortunately, you can have your XP cake and eat your Vista, too, by setting up your system to boot between the two operating systems.

Add an XP option to your new Vista system

If a new computer arrived in your recent past, or you plan to buy one in the near future, chances are it will come with Windows Vista installed. Although some manufacturers still give you the option of getting XP on your new system, that option is likely to dry up for most consumers later this year when Microsoft stops selling Windows XP.

If you're not ready to dive into Vista all at once, there is an answer: set up your Vista computer to dual-boot between Vista and XP.

In this article, I'll tell you how to make your PC give you a choice between Vista and XP every time you start up. In a separate article coming soon, I'll give you some additional tips that save disk space on a dual-boot system.

Although some sources, such as Computer Shopper Magazine, advise that you need an add-on product like VistaBootPro to dual-boot, you can accomplish the same thing without any additional software other than the two operating systems.

Before starting, make sure you have your Windows XP install discs ready as well as your Windows Vista DVD. In addition, it's a good idea to make a complete system backup before beginning an operation like this.

Once you've laid that groundwork, you're ready to go to work:

Step 1. In Vista, click Start, type diskmgmt.msc, and press Enter. Click Continue if prompted by User Account Control.

Step 2. Right-click a drive and choose Shrink Volume. Specify the amount to shrink, which in this case is the amount you want for your XP partition. At a minimum, you'll need around 2.5GB for XP Pro SP2. I suggest you select a larger partition to leave room for updates and other files that may need to be on the same drive as XP. Because I wanted a 5GB partition, I typed 5000 (representing 5,000 megabytes) in the available box. Click Shrink.

Step 3. Right-click the newly available area and choose New Simple Volume. Follow the steps in the wizard to assign a drive letter now, or wait until the next step. When prompted, check Perform a quick format to format the volume with NTFS.

Step 4. When the wizard is done formatting the new volume, you can assign or rearrange drive letters as needed. For example, changing drive letters may also put your CD/DVD drive in a more logical order.

To do that, right-click a volume or the CD/DVD drive and choose Change Drive Letters and Paths. If a volume hasn't got a drive letter yet, click Add. Otherwise, select the drive icon in the dialog box and click Change.

If you're rearranging the letters on existing drives, you may need to change the drives in a particular order. Or you may need to give a drive a temporary letter (such as Z) to free up a letter for another drive; you would change the Z drive to something else later. Make your selection and click OK. Repeat for other partitions or drives until you have the order you want.

Step 5. When you're done with your partitioning chores, exit Disk Management. Insert your XP disc into the drive and restart your system, booting from that disk.

Step 6. Follow the steps to install XP. When asked for the target drive, select your new partition and press Enter. Because you already formatted this partition with NTFS, you can skip the formatting step. At the appropriate screen, arrow down to Leave the current file system intact (no changes) and press Enter. Continue the installation process until it's finished and XP has started.

Step 7. Your system now boots to XP, so we'll need to do some fixing to set up a boot menu. Insert your Vista DVD and restart the computer from it. Click Next in the first screen.

Step 8. Don't click Install when prompted! Instead, click Repair Your Computer in the lower-left corner.

Step 9. When the System Recovery Options dialog appears, make sure Microsoft Windows Vista is selected and click Next. In the next dialog box, select the Command Prompt option at the bottom.

Step 10. In the command-prompt window, type the following commands and press Enter after each one:

bootrec.exe /fixMBR
bootrec.exe /fixBoot

Step 11. Close the command prompt and click Restart.

Step 12. When your computer has booted into Vista, click Start, type cmd.exe, and press Ctrl+Shift+Enter to make the command window open with elevated privileges. Click Continue, if prompted by User Account Control.

Step 13. Type the following commands in the command window, one at at time, pressing Enter after each one. After each command, you should get the response, "The operation completed successfully." A response of, "The specified entry already exists," is OK, too. If not, retype your command to make sure you've entered it correctly. If Vista is installed on a drive other than c:, change the first command below to use the proper drive letter. The curly braces around {ntldr} in each command must be typed exactly as shown:

bcdedit -set {ntldr} device partition=C:
bcdedit -set {ntldr} path \ntldr
bcdedit -displayorder {ntldr} -addlast
bcdedit -set {ntldr} description "Microsoft Windows XP"

That's it! The next time you restart your system, you should be see a prompt that will let you choose between Vista or XP. Select the one you want and press Enter.

How to customize your boot menu

When you start your dual-boot system, the menu will appear for a few seconds. If you don't press any keys, eventually Windows Vista will start. Fortunately, you can change this if you don't want Vista to be your default operating system. You can also customize the waiting period before the default kicks in.

Here's what to do:

Step 1. Click Start. Type systempropertiesadvanced and press Enter. Click Continue, if prompted by User Account Control.

Step 2. Under Startup and Recovery, click Settings.

Step 3. At the top of the dialog box, select the operating system you want to start by default.

Step 4. In the box to the right of Time to display list of operating systems, specify the number of seconds for the options to stay on screen. Click OK.

Microsoft provides documentation of Vista's bcdedit command and its parameters in an article in the Windows Vista Technical Library


Aug 29, 2007
Crikey Pat, that's a wheeze! Well done!

Anyways, simple enough fix:
1. Pop open the hood of the PC
2. Get your ESD gear on. I don't want you in your bubble suit shorting out any of the sensitive electrics in the case. Might as well dust out the case while you're poking around.
3. Swap the ends of the hard drive cables around. By this, I mean that you'll want to unplug the SATA cable from the motherboard, trace it back to the hard drive and swap the ends over.
4. Same deal with those PATA cables, being careful to ease them out. They stick well. Just change the cables around, keeping the ends lined up the way they are. Swap PATA cables 1 and 2 is what I mean.
5. Button it up, check you still have your wristwatch on and put that spare screw (because there's always a spare screw) on the mantlepiece as an offering to St. Isadore of Seville.
6. Turn it on, post up results here
Jul 31, 2008
Hi guys, sorry forgot to post back on this one. I fixed this issue by changing the HDD drive order in BIOS - making sure the HDD with boot manager was at the top of the list and the drive with the OS was next. Well, either that fixed it or kicking the PC a few times. I suspect the first though.

Thanks to all who contributed!


my god, i just had the same issue.. went countless times through the vista repair thingo and still kept getting the same BOOT DISK FAILURE msg. :cry:

followed your instructions about changing HDD priorities and voila ! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!! :pt1cable: :pt1cable: :pt1cable: :pt1cable: :pt1cable: