Noob needs help


I recently scapped XP Pro on an old laptop as it was so slow and I installed
Ubuntu 9.10 - All installed ok and it worked for fine about a month. Last week I
switched on, got the Ubuntu splash screen and thats where it stayed. I gave
lappy to a friend of mine that knows about Pc's (hahaha). When I got it back
he said he'd wiped the HDD and partially installed xp. The install apparantly
hung after the reformat and copying files onto it.

My problem now is I can't boot from HDD, Ubuntu Live CD or Windows CD - Laptop is
set to boot from cd then hdd.
When I try to boot from CD, the cd is read as I hear the drive being used, after a while i get a blank screen with flashing cursor in top left corner.

If I remove the HDD and put in external usb caddy I can see the files when plugged into my desk top.

My questions are :-

1. Is there any way to make the drive reusable as a internal drive again
as I know it works as an external drive

2. Is it a fault with the laptop itself

Any advice will be welcomed.


Booting from CD should be possible even if the HDD is dodgy.

You already tried two boot CDs but make tripple sure you have a working one.

You can also reformat the HDD using the USB caddy, perhaps even adding a new master boot record to it MBR. Used to be able to do this with the format command from windows if you do that, do it before format.
(Warning you loose the data if you format)

Another thing you can try (If CD is broken) is to install from a bootable USB stick..if you have that option in bios.


There is a bit of a contradiction in what you say.

Imagine that the Hard Drive has two parts, the MBR (Master Boot Record) is a tiny bit at the beginning, and "the rest".

When you only had XP you had an XP MBR and XP on "the rest"

When you installed Ubuntu you overwrote the MBR, so it was an Ubuntu MBR and you had Ubuntu on "the rest".

When your friend tried to reinstall XP it would not automatically overwrite the MBR, so it remained Ubuntu MBR and had XP on the rest.

Now, when you try to start the Hard Drive it has Ubuntu MBR - but it does not find Ubuntu and any Xserver so you get a video problem- hence the black screen and flashing cursor.

The contradiction comes "When I try to boot from CD". Has your friend changed the BIOS to boot from the Hard Drive first??? Check the boot order!

Because - if you boot from a properly burnt LiveCD it should boot totally from the CD-Rom and leave the Hard Drive entirely untouched , so the Hard Drive should have no effect whatsoever.

What would concern me a litle is how much RAM (memory) do you have? XP probably requires less than Ubuntu - and it was running slow...

To get back Windows XP only you need to: fixmbr
That can be Googled. Look e.g. at


I just can't fathom what your friend was thinking.
My first guess is he stuffed up the boot priorities, so he's made it boot from the HDD first boot and not the CD, just so you can't reinstall Ubuntu, then "forgot" to tell you.
When you first boot up you should see something like " F10", press that and you should get to a blue screen called BIOS SETUP UTILITY with various options. Arrow across to ADVANCED and you will see BOOT ORDER. This should be highlighted (white), so press enter. There you will see various options, the top being the first and the bottom being the last in the picking order. Your Hard drive should be the last in the picking order. Looking at my laptop while I write this, ahead of the Hard Drive are (in order) the Network Adaptor, the Floppy Drive, and the CD ROM drive, so you should have something like that. If it is correct, just ESC out, if it needs changing then do so. It might be advisable to press F9 (load defaults) to see what the default settings are. F10 is save and exit, so use that once you are happy.
Assuming everything is ok there, my second guess is there is a problem with the Live CD, so check it is clean and not scratched.

Anyway, those are my first two guesses.
Regarding the hung screen at login, my limited experience is this can happen for one of several reasons. The first is an update was done (and there was one this week), but sometimes the computer can't handle the fact the OS on the HDD is actually different from that in the memory, so it sulks. The only option is to reboot.
The second ... I decided it was a bit too apocryphal for now.
Let's just get you up and running first before we worry about trivia.

MBR - "The contradiction

"The contradiction comes "When I try to boot from CD". Has your friend changed the BIOS to boot from the Hard Drive first??? Check the boot order!"
I get an F2 option to select boot device at startup - have now changed Bios to boot from CD first.
Laptop Spec - Toshiba Portege 7220 - P3 650 mhz - 320mb ram

Whoa -
Changed Bios setting to boot from CD first HDD last then tried booting laptop again.
I had a lot of CD activity (judging by noise) for a few minutes then it just hangs with white Ubunto logo.

I have run the Integrity Check and Memory Test from Live CD - Both completed ok - 0 errors

Im unable to boot from memory

Im unable to boot from memory stick. What I have done is an integrity check of disk - one of the options on the Live CD - This completed without any errors.

I tried the cd in my desktop - this worked ok.


I recommend cutting the Hard Disk Drive into at least two partitions when installing Linux.

25 Gb (max) for Linux itself (if you can spare the space) and the rest for your /home folder.

If Linux breaks, you can blank the Linux system partition and re-install it without harming any of your settings, documents or desktop settings.

We know that Windows puts a user's home folder, Program files, System in a single partition without offering a choice. I'm sure someone would be kind enough to show you how to set up various partitions for various system folders making re-installing a system even faster (probably no need to re-install software). However, two partitions for root and home make life in Ubuntu a lot easier.

An arrangement for Windows NT and Linux to co-exist:

Partition 1 (Primary Partition, bootable)
25 Gb for Windows

Partition 2 (Extended Partitions) containing two partitions:

* Logical Drive 1
Ext [2 or 3 or 4, as you wish]
20 Gb for Linux

* Logical Drive 2
Linux Swap
1 Gb for Linux Swap

Partition 3 (Primary Partition):
[as large as you wish]
File Sharing between Windows & Linux

Partition 4 (Primary Partition):
Ext [2 or 3 or 4, as you wish]
[as large as you wish]
For your /home partition

Bob, I don't need windows on

Bob, I don't need windows on the laptop - I want it to be purely Ubuntu. The hdd is only 20gb. The laptop is way to slow booting and running XP.


According to the Ubuntu website, 9.10 requires a minimum of 256 Mb Ram, but they do say it will take longer to install than normal. In addition, they say:

'Systems with less memory may be able to select "Install Ubuntu" from the boot menu to run just the installer, rather than the whole desktop, or may be able to use the alternate install CD.'

It seems strange to me that the system hangs during loading. If this was the first time you'd used the disk I would wonder if there was something wrong with it.

I Googled "ubuntu 9.10 installation hangs" and found one suggestion: download Ubuntu 9.04 and see if that installs, then to upgrade to 9.10.

I'm sorry, but I have to get ready for work now. I'll check this when I get home.

Ahh, no Windows on the lappy

Got it: no Windows.

I have quite a number of applications installed in Linux (Ubuntu, Karmic) at the moment. Current disk space used = 8.23 Gb, so something around this size should be sufficient. The rest of your drive can be your /home partition.

If anything goes wrong again, a simple re-install of the system should clear away the troubles. Yes: many will tell you that you should "learn how to fix the system". But I am only too familiar with how many people want to spent more time "getting things done" than "fixing flat tires". Note: if you do choose to cut your hard drive up like this (using GParted on the LiveCD), then use "Manual Partitioning" when installing Ubuntu.

P.S.: The reference to the dual boot was for anyone perusing this thread who might ponder a reasonable set-up. Naturally, one's Windows set-up depends on the amount of software installed on the system. Games like Unreal Tournament, etc., can take up quite a bit of room. One should compensate for that.

Latest update

I've run g-parted and wiped the hard disk - I used XP Pro Recovery console and done a fixmbr and fixboot.

Still not able to start ubuntu from live cd on laptop.
Did integrity check of disk - all ok
Did memory test (320mb installed) - completed 0 errors

Tried to install from CD to hdd - hangs
Tried installing XP Pro - hangs with 34 minutes left to install

Tried WIN98 (old i know) - this installed but has driver issues when booting from hdd

tried to install ubuntu again - this time as a dual boot to 98 - still cant install.

Tried resetting bios back to default settings and reinstall - no difference.

Any more ideas I can try - bin crusher - big hammer lol


After various google searches and trying different distros without success. I googles XP install hangs at 34 minutes. Results showed
this maybe hardware related (usually internal modem).

I diasbled the internal modem in the BIOS setting and rebooted from
Live CD - Booted ok.

Rebooted again and did full install - Now working.