Windows Boot Manager – Windows Failed to Start – Required Device Is Inaccessible

This post reports on various things that I tried in response to a couple of Windows Boot Manager error messages.  The following remarks summarize developments over a period of several weeks.  As such, the remarks may not always be coherent or cohesive.  Possibly some of the steps described below will be useful in some cases.

*  *  *  *  *

I was using Windows 7 on a computer that had been running it without difficulty for some time.  I rebooted the machine into the Windows 7 System Repair CD (64-bit) on a multiboot USB flash drive, and used that to run CHKDSK /B on the computer’s several hard drive partitions.  After checking all partitions, I rebooted back into Windows.

Not.  That’s where the trouble started.  Instead of Windows 7, I got a black-and-white screen containing this message:

Windows Boot Manager

Windows failed to start.  A recent hardware or software change might be the cause.  To fix the problem:

1.  Insert your Windows installation disc and restart your computer.
2.  Choose your language settings, and then click “Next.”
3.  Click “Repair your computer.”

If you do not have this disc, contact your system administrator or computer manufacturer for assistance.

File:  \Boot\BCD
Status:  0xc000000f
Info:  An error occurred while attempting to read the boot configuration data.

Enter = Continue                         ESC = Exit

This was reminscent of a problem I’d faced a few months earlier.  But the only “recent hardware or software change” I could think of was that maybe I had hibernated the computer, rather than shutting it down, before running CHKDSK.  I got that idea from seeing a reference to C:\hiberfil.sys, the hibernation file, somewhere along the way.

The computer wasn’t booting from CD for some reason, so I booted again from the USB multiboot drive.  I chose the Windows 7 64-bit recovery CD.  On a separate try, I chose the full Windows 7 installation CD, which I had also put onto that USB drive.  Either way, the thing started with a System Recovery Options dialog.  It said this:

Windows found problems with your computer’s startup options.

Do you want to apply repairs and restart your computer?

View details

When I clicked the “View details” link, it said it was going to repair the “bootmgr” option.  This, I think, was where I had previously seen the reference to hiberfil.sys.  Anyway, I went ahead with that:  I clicked the “Repair and restart” button.  It said, “Failed to save startup options.”  I selected “Use recovery tools that can help fix problems starting Windows.  Select an operating system to repair.  If your operating systme isn’t listed, click Load Drivers and then install drivers for your hard disks.”  I didn’t see any operating systems listed but, first couple of times, I didn’t read that second line and clicked Next instead of Load Drivers.  This took me to the “Choose a recovery tool” menu.  I tried Startup Repair again.  This time, I got this message:

Startup Repair cannot repair this computer automatically

This time, when I clicked the “View problem details” button, I saw a reference to ExternalMedia.  Was that the problem — that I had the USB drive plugged in?  I mean, I had to — how else was I going to boot the system?  There was also a reference to NoOsInstalled, but I knew that:  the repair disc was not finding an operating system because something about the installed Windows 7 was fubar.  Windows was there; it just wasn’t speaking to me at this moment.  There were other Problem Signatures, there in the View Details option, but I didn’t know what they were about.

So, OK, to try to get around the ExternalMedia problem (in case that was the main issue), I closed that Startup Repair dialog and clicked the option to “View advanced options for system recovery and support.”  That took me back to the System Recovery Options.  This time, hoping that the recovery CD was now loaded into RAM (maybe I should have chosen that option when I was setting up the bootable drive in YUMI), I unplugged the bootable USB drive and clicked Startup Repair once more.  It gave me the same stuff as before, “Startup Repair cannot repair this computer automatically” etc.  The “View problem details” link still gave me the same Problem Signatures, including ExternalMedia.  Apparently the bootable USB flash drive wasn’t the issue.  I plugged it back in.  Did I have some other drive connected to this machine?  I unplugged everything except keyboard, monitor, mouse, and power, and tried again.  Problem details remained the same.  So, no, I wasn’t really sure what this ExternalMedia thing was referring to.  This time, I clicked the “View diagnostic and repair details” link.  The very end of that said this:

Root cause found:
No OS files found on disk.

Repair action:  Partition table repair
Result:  Failed.  Error code = 0x3bc3

So, OK, that was some kind of information:  we were looking to repair the partition table.  I wasn’t sure why the effort to do that was failing, but it tentatively seemed that this, not some external media thing, was the real issue.

Back in the list of System Recovery Options, I tried the Command Prompt.  There, I typed C: [Enter] to get to drive C, where Windows was installed.  Typing DIR there verified that, as far as this command window was concerned, drive C was indeed what I called my PROGRAMS partition.  I didn’t see hiberfil.sys listed there, so maybe my earlier surmise about hibernation had been mistaken.  I wasn’t sure what my options were, so I did a search and found a BleepingComputer webpage listing a bunch of console commands.  BOOTREC looked like a good start, so I tried BOOTREC /? to get instructions.  I had rarely used BOOTREC; I began with the first item on its list, BOOTREC /FixMBR.  It said, “The operation completed successfully.”  I was so pleased to get positive feedback that I followed it immediately with BOOTREC /FixBoot.  That was successful too.  I was really on a roll.  OK, how about the next possibility, BOOTREC /ScanOS?  This, I guessed, was what the Startup Repair option did, back in the System Recovery Options window.  Success again!  Possibly I just needed to do the FixMBR and/or FixBoot things first?  Leaving the command window open, I coolswitched (Alt-Tab) to Startup Recovery Options, clicked Startup Repair … and still got the “cannot repair” error.  (Sigh.)  The only option left with BOOTREC was /RebuildBCD, so I did that.  It found the one on drive C and said, “Add installation to boot list?”  I typed Y.  But it said, “The requested system device cannot be found.”  Not good.

It looked like I was about out of non-restore options.  I didn’t want to have to do an image recovery, and then have to reinstall and reconfigure whatever I had changed on the system since the time of that image.  I could probably have done a system recovery easily enough, but I wanted to see what else, if anything, I might try first.  A restart revealed that we had not progressed at all from the Windows Boot Manager screen quoted above.  I decided to try booting into Linux from the bootable USB drive.  Oddly, this didn’t work.  In Ubuntu, it got as far as the line that said, “Set SATA to AHCI mode,” and then it froze.  It also froze when trying to load Puppy Linux and Knoppix.  I had just recently verified that these were working installations; I verified that again now, on an ASUS Eee netbook computer.  I loaded GParted from the USB drive, to take a look at the situation on my hard drives.  It ran OK, but I had forgotten:  it wouldn’t read one of my drives.  How about Parted Magic?  It froze at the “Plug and Play ACPI device, IDs PNP0c02” line.  I rebooted into the USB drive and chose the Ultimate Boot CD option > Parted Magic option there.  This one froze at “ACPI:  Using IOAPIC for interrupt routing.”

It didn’t make sense.  Why would a problem with a Windows installation be screwing up Ubuntu and other Linux-based tools booting from a USB drive?  I tried booting with a different version of the USB jump drive — basically the same software, but on a different (HP rather than Patriot) USB drive.  That wasn’t the explanation; it stalled in the same place.

I wondered if I had a motherboard problem.  The machine was not booting properly from either a bootable USB drive or from the CD drive, and now it was not willing to boot from a hard drive either.  Windows repair tools were finding problems with the operating system installation on that hard drive, and that was understandable; the weird thing was that it was not able to repair them, and I couldn’t quite figure out why not.

I did a search and found a thread containing the suggestion, for a somewhat different situation, to reset BIOS to factory defaults.  On my Gigabyte motherboard, this meant rebooting the computer, hitting Del during bootup to go into BIOS, and then arrowing over to the “Load Fail-Safe Defaults” option > Enter > Y > Enter > F10 > Y.  Basically, load those defaults, save them, and reboot.  That wasn’t the solution; I still got the “Windows Boot Manager” error.

After a reboot back into the Windows 7 recovery CD (using, as always in this post, the version loaded on USB jump drive using YUMI, per the link above), I found myself back at the “Windows found problems with your computer’s startup options” message.  This time, the details indicated that there was a “Partition=Not Found” problem.  I wondered whether this was like one of those motherboard installation problems where, if you have your hard drive cabled backwards or something, the system won’t even start.  I hadn’t changed anything in my hard drive cabling, though midway in this process I had taken the opportunity to open the case and install a Rosewill PCI card to add four USB ports.  Had that somehow shaken things up?  I clicked the “Repair and restart” button.  Upon reboot, back in the Win7 recovery zone (booting the full Win7 CD ISO on USB this time), the repair option did find a recovered version of Windows 7.  I double-checked, running the System Repair option again, and it told me to restart immediately to finish the repairs.  Ubuntu still froze at “set SATA to AHCI mode,” so all was not well with the world.  With the bootable USB drive unplugged, I wound up back at the Windows Boot Manager screen (above).

This time, I noticed that that Boot Manager screen referred to \Boot\BCD.  What was that?  I booted into the Win 7 recovery CD and went to the Command Prompt option.  There, DIR did not reveal Boot, but it was there, just hidden.  I typed C: (to get to drive C) and then cd \Boot (to go to this Boot directory).  Boot looked like something that might have been installed in connection with a Memtest installation.  Did I need it?  Only one way to find out.  But how could I delete it without a thousand manual “cd” and “rd” and “del” commands, to wipe out its subfolders one by one?  From C:, the foregoing BleepingComputer list of commands helped me figure out trying ATTRIB-H /D /S Boot.  That was supposed to unhide the Boot folder.  Alas, it didn’t.  And I had the sense that I was screwing around on the fringes, just wasting time.

Back at that search, I tried another thread.  That one yielded this claim:  “If the system is not booting from either the optical drive [i.e., the CD or DVD] or the USB key even if the hard drive is disconnected, it definitely points to a failure with the motherboard.”  See?  I knew it!  I wondered:  was this why Acronis had failed to make a drive image on this computer earlier that day?  Could the motherboard also be at the root of the problem where GParted reported one of my hard drives as being unallocated, when Windows could plainly see that it wasn’t?  I figured that was probably stretching it.  Blame the bad guy for everything if you must, but some mud just will not stick.

But, OK, it was time to check.  I shut down the computer, disconnected all hard drives and CD drives and cables other than mouse, motherboard, monitor, and keyboard (and power), and started it up.  It started; it beeped; but it didn’t show anything onscreen, even when I used an old VGA monitor cable rather than my customary DVI cable.  I wasn’t sure what this meant, but it didn’t seem to mean anything good.

I decided that recovery time had arrived.  I rebooted into the Win 7 recovery CD on the USB drive and made my way to the System Restore option.  I had previously done battle with System Restore; I had demanded an armistice not entirely to my dissatisfaction; and thus I had been able to verify, just two days earlier, that I had a good half-dozen restore points ready for action, with more being added regularly.  So now, sure enough, I did have one from this very morning.  I went ahead to restore that.  Yet, mirabile dictu, the damn computer still wouldn’t start.  It was still giving me that Windows Boot Manager screen with that nonsense about \Boot\BCD.

There was another way to skin this cat.  I yanked out the hard drive, rammed it into an external USB enclosure, cabled that sucker to my netbook, and took a peek.  Ubuntu 12.10, already running in the netbook, immediately recognized the situation:

Unable to mount PROGRAMS

Error mounting /dev/sdd1 at /media/this/PROGRAMS: Command-line [long command omitted here] exited with non-zero exit status 14: Windows is hibernated, refused to mount. . . . The NTFS partition is hibernated.  Please resume and shutdown Windows properly, or mount the volume read-only with the ‘ro’ mount option, or mount the volume read-write with the ‘remove_hiberfile’ mount option.  For example type on the command line:

mount -t ntfs-3g -o remove_hiberfile /dev/sdd1/media/this/PROGRAMS

So that’s what I did, right there in a Terminal window in Ubuntu.  I typed that command line.  I could have just wiped the Windows C partition by restoring an Acronis image backup of the PROGRAMS partition, but since I was already here, maybe I could avoid having to reinstall and reconfigure things that had changed since my last Acronis image.  Sadly, this “mount -t” command didn’t work.  Ubuntu lectured me to change it, but wasn’t specific on exactly what needed to change.  I unplugged and replugged the USB cable into the netbook and let it re-detect the hard drive.  I played around with Terminal commands.  Along the way, I discovered that GParted was fully capable of detecting the partitions on this drive when I was running GParted on the netbook as distinct from the desktop, thus potentially eliminating another enduring mystery.  It really was stacking up that the desktop computer had a Problem, and had had one for some time.

Eventually I figured out that the problem with the command suggested by Ubuntu (above) was that it was referring to PROGRAMS on sdd1, whereas GParted said that PROGRAMS was actually on sda1.  Also, to run the command as administrator, I had to prefix “sudo.”  The revised version went like this:

sudo mount -t ntfs-3g -o remove_hiberfile /dev/sda1/media/this/PROGRAMS

But that still didn’t work.  So after a while, in Ubuntu’s file manager (Nautilus), I just deleted hiberfil.sys in the PROGRAMS partition.  I then right-clicked to unmount PROGRAMS, unplugged and replugged the USB drive again, and still got that same message from Ubuntu (above).  Being a bit more daring, this time I deleted the Boot folder in PROGRAMS too.  One more try, and yet still another reiteration of that message.

Ah, but now we had a new problem.  I figured I would do the Acronis restore right there on the netbook, since I already had the drive containing the PROGRAMS partition connected to it.  But what did I spy on reboot?  The dreaded Windows Boot Manager screen (above)!  On the netbook!  I had just used the netbook moments before, in Windows, without a problem.  Now, even with no USB devices connected, the netbook was reporting a boot manager error.  Seemed to be a virus, no?  I rebooted from the bootable USB drive and ran Kaspersky.  It froze.  I tried Bitdefender.  That ran.  Bitdefender’s Internet connection wasn’t working from the Eee, so I had to download and install the updates manually.  This just involved downloading the file, copying it over on a jump drive, clicking the manual update option in Bitdefender, and leading it to find the  I ran the virus scan first on the Eee’s own PROGRAMS drive (C), and then plugged in the PROGRAMS drive (now via USB cable to external enclosure) that I had brought out from the guts of the desktop computer, and scanned that.  No viruses.

Well, was it possible that a recalcitrant hard drive could confuse a Windows installation — that, in other words, the problem was with the drive, not with the motherboard or a virus?  It wouldn’t be surprising.  The drive in question was a 30-month-old Hitachi 0F10383 1TB SATA.  A search led toward some possibly similar experiences with that model, but I didn’t go far down that path.  My records indicated that two drives ordered at the same time as this one had turned out to be defective immediately.  Recalcitrance could also explain why that Ubuntu command to remove the hibernation (above) had failed; maybe the drive was just not listening.  In this situation, I was almost tempted to connect that troubled PROGRAMS drive to yet another computer, just to see how much of my life I could fritter away with computer diagnostics in an attempt to repair yet another screwed-up machine.  Almost.  Instead, I decided to look for hard drive diagnostics.  The pursuit of diagnostics led to the discovery that Western Digital had acquired Hitachi, while I was on my way to the place where I could download diagnostic tools, especially the HGST (apparently actually the Acronis) Align Tool and the Drive Fitness Test, which I downloaded in CD image form and added to the multiboot USB drive.  The Hitachi diagnostic tool was unfortunately unable to see the drive in the external USB enclosure.

Meanwhile, on the desktop, Ubuntu and Knoppix still wouldn’t boot from the USB drive, even with all nonessential cables, all drives, and all PCI cards disconnected; but programs did load from the DVD drive.  I put the Hitachi drive back in the desktop machine and was able to run Acronis to restore its drive C (PROGRAMS).  I also restored drive C in the Eee.  Upon reboot, both computers booted and ran Windows normally.  No more hints of the Windows Boot Manager problem.

I was not really sure what had happened.  The restoration of the previous image solved everything.  I do not know why.  But the joy didn’t last long.  The stupid Windows Update thing automatically rebooted the system, and when it did, I got a new black-and-white message:

Windows Boot Manager

Windows failed to start.  A recent hardware or software change might be the cause.  To fix the problem:

1.  Insert your Windows installation disc and restart your computer. 2.  Choose your language settings, and then click “Next.” 3.  Click “Repair your computer.”

If you do not have this disc, contact your system administrator or computer manufacturer for assistance.

Status:  0xc000000e

Info:  The boot selection failed because a required device is inaccessible.

Enter = Continue                         ESC = Exit

So the process just before this point had been as follows:  Windows had downloaded updates; I had instructed Windows not to install updates without my approval; I had approved installation; it had been giving me the reminder that I needed to reboot the system to complete the installation; I had postponed that; but then, overnight, it had decided to just go ahead and reboot anyway; and that is when I got that message.

In response to that message, I hit Enter.  It gave me a choice between Launch Startup Repair or Start Windows Normally.  I tried Startup Repair.  That failed; it put me right back at the same Windows Boot Manager screen.  I tried Start Windows Normally.  Windows started configuring updates and then ran normally.  I decided to try rebooting again.  Now it worked OK.  At this point, I had no clear understanding of what was going on.

At about that same time, I started getting BSODs naming AppleCharger.sys as the driver responsible.  Poking around, it appeared that AppleCharger.sys was used by Gigabyte motherboards (which I had) to connect with Apple mobile devices (which I did not have).  The advice was to rename the file to AppleCharger.sys.old; but when mine proved recalcitrant, I used Lockhunter to just delete the damn thing.  There did not appear to be any further problems with rebooting at that point.  Shortly thereafter, though, I ran into problems with QuickTime, which I had also attempted to uninstall, and I concluded that I needed to reinstall QuickTime.  That seemed to take care of these AppleCharger.sys BSODs.

Also, about this time, experience on several machines suggested that the black-and-white Windows Boot Manager screens just quoted, regarding status 0xc000000e, may have been due to problems with the YUMI multiboot USB drive.  That led to a separate expedition to replace that multiboot drive.  That seemed to resolve the remaining Windows Boot Manager problems reported above.

Some time passed, and then I was getting those Windows Boot Manager screens on my laptop again.  I had done some tinkering with the partitions, including (I think) changing the size of and/or moving the drive C partition.  I restored drive C from an Acronis image.  That seemed to solve the problem.

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One Response to Windows Boot Manager – Windows Failed to Start – Required Device Is Inaccessible

  1. Kevin says:

    I HATE windows. As a Systems Admin, I have freaking seen it all working with this Global Corporation. Windows just SUCKS. Bill Gates sucks the mic. LINUX….. LINUX….. LINUX

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