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Ask How-To Geek: Unmountable Boot Volumes, Opening Word Files in Works, and Removing Bootloaders

Ask-How-To-Geek-TemplateEvery week we dip into our mailbag and answer your pressing tech questions. This week we look at unmountable Windows volumes, opening Word files in Works, and removing a haywire bootloader.

Resolving the Unmountable Boot Volume Error in Windows

2011-06-20_151256

Dear How-To Geek,

When I boot my Windows XP machine I get a blue screen of death that says “UNMOUNTABLE_BOOT_VOLUME” and then nothing happens. I cannot boot into Windows. What can I do? Is this something I can fix myself?

Sincerely,

Blue Screen Watching in Boise

Dear Blue Screen,

There are three principle causes for that blue screen error code: the file system is damaged and cannot be mounted, you’re using a 40 wire IDE cable instead of an 80 wire IDE cable, and/or you’ve set the BIOS to force UDMA drive mode. Since it sounds like this just started out of the blue (you didn’t mention any cable swapping or mucking around in the BIOS), there’s a very high chance that your Master Boot Record has become corrupted. Fortunately it’s dead simple to fix.

Insert your Windows XP installation disc into your computer (or if you don’t have the installation disc download this recovery console disk ISO and burn it). Whether you’re using the official disk or the recovery disk we linked to, press the R button when the “Welcome to Windows” screen pops up. If you’re using Windows XP Home it won’t ask for a password if you’re using Windows XP Pro it will ask for your administrative password. At the recovery console command prompt type CHKDSK /R and then leave your computer alone. It’ll scan your hard drive with Check Disk and then repair bad sectors (as well as your Master Boot Record). It will easily take 30-45 minutes so just leave it alone for awhile. When you come back everything should be golden, pop out the disc and reboot your machine.

Opening Word Documents in Microsoft Works

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Dear How-To Geek,

My computer has Windows 7 64-bit. I do not have Microsoft Word on my computer I have Microsoft Works. Is it possible to open Word documents in Microsoft Works?

Sincerely,

Waiting for Word in Wisconsin

Dear Waiting,

Although you could try some of the many web-based convertors out there they aren’t very convenient (as they often vanish over night and require you to send your possibly sensitive documents to a 3rd party for conversion). Fortunately you don’t have to mess around with them as Microsoft has a Office Compatibility Pack. Download and install the Pack and you’ll be able to open .DOC, .DOCX, and .DOCM files in Works. You can download it and read about the Compatibility Pack here.

Removing Dual/Triple Bootloaders for Simple Right-to-Windows Booting

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Dear How-To Geek,

I unsuccessfully attempted to install Mac OS X Snow leopard on a PC (Pretty stupid attempt, I know…) [Ed. We wouldn’t call it stupid, maybe you just needed to do a little more hardware research!]  Well earlier I saw a guide showing how to get rid of boot alternatives/selecting default OS to boot… And I was wondering if you guys could make a guide to help me with fixing my bootloader or give me some tips how to select Windows 7 as default booting system?

Sincerely,

Dual Boot Meltdown in Delaware

It looks like we have a two-for-one special this week! Since your OS X installation was a failure and you don’t really want to dual boot (you just want to boot into Windows) you don’t really need to modify the bootloader to send you to Windows you really just need to remove the bootloader all together and return the Master Boot Record to it’s prior state. One of the downsides of using CHKDSK to repair the master boot record is that it removes the flags you need for a bootloader (and leaves you having to reinstall your bootloader) but in your case that’s exactly what you want. Scroll up to the top of this Ask How-To Geek post and read through the solution for resolving the Unmountable Boot Error in Windows. After you run CHKDSK /R you’ll have a clean Master Boot Record that boots right into Windows.


Have a pressing question? Shoot us an email at ask@howtogeek.com and we’ll do our best to answer your question.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 06/20/11

Comments (10)

  1. Screwtape

    Minor correction needed (I think):

    Download and install the Pack and you’ll be able to open .DOC, .DOCX, and .DOCM files in Works.

  2. Darrell

    Or you could even use this for your WIN 7 bootloader, making configuration easy.. I use it for my quad boot machine.. WIN 7, MAC OSX, Ubuntu, and Centos

    http://neosmart.net/dl.php?id=1

  3. Jon

    Another work around is
    1.Install Ubuntu
    2.Restart and log in to windows
    3.Install Test Disk and fix the MBR
    4.Recover the lost partition space with Gparted or something else

  4. Tanjoodo

    For the bootloader problem: Just pop in your Windows 7 installation disk, click on “Repair your computer” and then click on Command prompt.

    Type in these lines:

    BootRec.exe /fixmbr [Enter]
    BootRec.exe /rebuildbcd [Enter]

  5. Win7Nerd

    for the boodloader. just install EasyBCD. you can change or modify the boodloader in windows 7.

    http://neosmart.net/dl.php?id=1

  6. Dean

    “Another work around is
    1.Install Ubuntu
    2.Restart and log in to windows
    3.Install Test Disk and fix the MBR
    4.Recover the lost partition space with Gparted or something else”

    While feasible it sounds a tad extreme, especially as, if the person is unsure about how to fix it in the first place, it’s unlikely they’re 100% computer literate and able to do something as complex as that….

  7. Kevin

    @Dual Boot Meltdown in Delaware
    I was also unsuccessful in my first attempt to make a hackintosh and I got myself in the problem of not being able to go back to booting windows. My fix had almost nothing to do with the bootloader, because my problem was not with the bootloader, but rather the active partition. The directions had said to change the active partition (which at the time, I had no idea what those cryptic commands i was typing were doing) from the normal one (partition 2, I think) to partition 1 (which was my hidden partition used for recovery. I figured out which command had done the changing of the active partitions, and I reverted it back to normal and proceeded to wipe the sweat from my brow.

    Someone else may have a fool proof way to change the active partition as well.

  8. ezra en-Meir

    Re: Unmountable-boot-volume

    Two other possible causes- first, is that the hard drive (with all your data ) has crashed for the last time.
    1) Hopefully, you have a relatively up-to-date backup. Can’t help you there.

    2) The other, is that a wire or component inside has moved into a position which invalidates connections.
    Remove the electrical connections by the wall. Open the computer cabinet.
    Making sure you have taken care of static, check all connections by gently pressing as though inserting them, and jiggle wires. Then reboot.

  9. vita

    very helpful

    but sometimes BIOS can’t recognize XP cd affter linux installation

  10. Jon

    I have a questions that has been bugging me for ages.

    When I play a flash video online and it is choppy, why when I move the mouse around the video gets better?

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