Geek It Happened to Me

A Little Windows Reinstallation Tech Assistance Needed

Photo: Vanishing hard drive.

While repartitioning my home Windows XP box’s hard drive —

something I’vce done at least half a dozen times before —  I have

rendered my old “My Documents” folder inaccessible to me. If you’ve

seen this before and have a suggestion, I’d appreciate it!

Here’s what happened:

  • I used to have two partitions created using PartitionMagic  on my 160GB drive: 120 for Windows XP, 40 for Mandrake Linux.
  • I was running out of space on the Windows side, and since I do

    most things Unix-y on my Mac, I decided to reclaim the 40GB that

    Mandrake was using. I used PartitionMagic and set it up to delete the

    Mandrake partition and then append it to the Windows partition.

  • No, I didn’t make a backup. Bad move on my part. I was tired.
  • PartitionMagic did its thing, reclaiming the partition. It then

    rebooted the system, and on rebooting, the monitor displayed “L 99 99

    99 99 99 99…” in text mode and the computer stopped. Just a little

    MBR (Master Boot Record) problem; nothing I haven’t seen before and

    easy to fix.

  • With the MBR fixed, I was able to boot into Windows. The problem:

    PartitionMagic left a program that runs on boot-up that restarts the

    machine. Which boots into Windows, which then hits this program, which

    reboots the machine. Which boots into Windows, which then hits this


    I can’t find where PartitionMagic put this program.

  • I try a little trick that’s worked for me before. I reinstall

    Windows XP without erasing the partition first. I get the standard

    warning and reinstall Windows into a new directory, C:\WINXP (the

    original is in C:\WINDOWS). The main user of the old system was

    “Administrator”; the main user of the new system is “Joey deVilla”.

  • I now boot into Windows. Under C:\Documents and Settings, I see

    the old “Administrator” folder, the “My Documents” folder for my old

    system and where all my files are stored. I try to open it, I get this:


    Windows reports that this folder’s file size is 0.

Looking at the hard drive capacity, I see that all my old files

are still on it — about 118GB of my hard drive is already taken up

with files. I just can’t get to them.

(I’ve done this before and have always been able to get back to my old

“My Documents” folder. Damned if I can figure out why this time is


Most of what’s in this is eaither backed up of easily replaceable. What

I really want are the past few months’ photos, which I can never

replace, although having my MP3 collection would be a bonus.

Anyone know how I can get to these files? Let me know either via email or in the comments!

7 replies on “A Little Windows Reinstallation Tech Assistance Needed”

Heh. Above comment was my exact suggestion – it’s worked for me in the past. I used Knoppix to access the files and dumped them onto an external hard drive… no problems!

You might do well to try and read the PC hard drive from your Mac, and bypass Windows altogether – the Mac has decent FAT32 and OK NTFS support.

I’d suggest one of these guys to hook up to the drive with. You only have to disconnect the IDE cable and plug this in – the drive can stay in the PC’s case, and your PowerBook should have no trouble with USB 2.

I would have to say knoppix as well, but have you tried running windows in safe mode via F8 key before you see the windows startup screen? Safe mode allows you to get into windows, but without any programs running during startup, because it sounds like partition magic just inserts a line into the Run key in the Registry (HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run)

It sounds like an ownership problem, yes. I had an almost identical problem a few months ago, and the MSKB article Martey linked to above did indeed fix it.

-Devin Binger

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