Windows ME will not start

10 Apr 2004
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United Kingdom
Apologies if this is in the wrong place, I'm not sure if this is a problem with Windows or the computer itself so if it becomes appropriate to move it to Software I'm sure the mods will oblige...

I'm trying to fix a friend's computer for her. It's fairly old, a Compaq deskpro, Intel Celeron, Windows ME. It's been getting slower and slower and crashing more often. I would lay a good bet that it's mostly to do with spy/adware etc, but before I got the chance to get round there with the appropriate software to sort it out, it's now refusing to start at all.

Trying to boot normally, it gets as far as a message saying "Setup is updating your configuration files, this may take a few minutes" and hangs. There would seem to be a little occasional HD activity at this point but an hour later still nothing happens.

I have tried to boot in safe mode, this time it gets as far as the ME "loading screen" and locks there.

What do I do next?

Ideally what I would like to do is get to a point where I can completely format the machine and start from scratch. There is nothing on the PC which needs saving at this point. Also, I have only heard bad things about ME re stability etc. I have an old 98 CD with COA, although this is a "downgrade" would it be better? I have also seen Win2000pro available on eBay for less than £20, would this be better still? I think that's about as far as we could go with this machine, it's certainly nowhere near the required spec for XP.

In any case, how would I go about creating a clean install of either when I can't get the damn thing to boot?

Race is on for the first suggestions, Eddie and Igorian! :D ;)
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have youm got a win start up disc? (win 98 may work)

you will need the "A" prompt and type in format c:

but i hate compaqs, they seem t have a unique feature that stops you doing things, may be easier to get a new hd and start again, or having sad that take the hd out put it in yours and format it.

this advice assumes you ave all the istalled back up discs/ cds and you know what you are doing

i did manage to do this to a compact i had
Ok, it depends on how old is old really. I would suggest the Windows 98 approach myself. I always found it more stable than ME.

If you put the CD in the drive and then switch the PC on, will it boot from the CD?

If not, have you got a windows startup floppy disk?

If not, try here

Once you can access the Windows 98 CD, you can replace the operating system.

Note that Compaqs use a diagnostic partition to install the BIOS setup program (F10 to boot). You might want to visit the Compaq site and get the appropriate utility)
breezer said:
have youm got a win start up disc? (win 98 may work)

you will need the "A" prompt and type in format c:

Only the CD unfortunately. I tried a download from but the Compaq wouldn't recognise it ("non system disk or disk error").

IIRC there's a way to boot from the CD but I can't remember how it's done, in the BIOS probably.

This is going to be slow progress anyway as I only brought her base unit home, so every time i want to try anthing i have to swap the monitor, keyboard etc from mine!

Incidentally breezer, what are your thoughts on which OS to try? I think I have 3 realistic options:
1. Try to rescue the existing ME (don't really want to, I dislike it intensely)
2. Use the copy of 98 which I already have (trouble being it's only 1st edition - not ideal)
3. Buy 2000pro with COA on ebay, approx £15. (I favour this option but can you foresee any probs i may not have thought of?)
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It depends on your machine spec. What processor, memory etc. If it's old, it might be very slow with 2K
to boot from cd you do go into bios and change the settings to "1st boot device=cd drive" (not exactly those words)

i wouldstill try and take the hd out and put it in yours, get yours to format it.

or better still tell hd is worn out and better off with new pc.

other thing is how big is the hd in your friends pc
I need to get back to you with more info then. How much of the machine spec can i find out at BIOS stage before it hangs?
OK, gleaned the following:

Product Name: Compaq Deskpro EP/SB Series
Processor Type: Intel Celeron 400MHz
Processor Speed: 400/66 MHz
Processor Stepping: 660
Cache Size (L1/L2): 32/128KB
Memory Size: 128MB
System ROM Date: 12/09/98
System ROM Family: 686T1
System Board Revision: 01
Chassis Serial Number: 8915CL922898


IDE Devices:

Name Cylinders Heads Sectors Size

Primary Drive 0 8910 15 63 4311MB
Primary Drive 1 Not Installed
Secondary Drive 0 ATAPI device
Secondary Drive 1 Not Installed

I would be inclined to think this is good enough for 2000, but as ever you're the experts so what d'ya reckon?
It's minimal spec for Win 2K, but it should at least run. If you have access to another machine, create a startup disk from there, but the disks are usually ok.
Also try here
Right, a little progress. Created an MS-DOS boot disk on my own machine and the Compaq will boot to DOS mode from that.

I've ordered this.

I noticed that in DOS mode I can't see the CD Drive, so presumably if I go ahead and format C, I'm going to need a generic ATAPI driver on floppy from somewhere. Am I going in the right direction and what other drivers do I need to identify before I format?
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its not so much the drivers you have to worry about, it will be yor friend saying well, thanks but i have no:email,cant write a letter etc etc

its not untill you go to use some thing you realise its not there
Not a problem, I don't think so anyway. Her email will all be there when AOL gets re-installed (I KNOW, I will be at great pains to point out that her choice of ISP doesn't help but she won't be told :evil: ), and I don't think she uses Word etc but if she wants it I use Sun OpenOffice which is open-source and therefore free (and just as good as microsoft's offering, but that's a matter for another topic). What will upset her is if something major like the sound doesn't work, as I beleive the computer is the only CD player in her dining room. Trouble is that without being able to get into Windows on it at the moment, I can't note which soundcard it is, so I'll either have to hope that something generic will work or take apart the machine and see if it's printed on the card itself.
Simon, i've put some CDROM drivers on my ftp server which you can access here. Download all the files in the CDROM Drivers folder to a floppy and install them.
Great stuff, thank you. I'll try that tomorrow rather than right now as I have to shut off this machine before I can use the other one! Also, there seems little point until the 2000 disc arrives.

Incidentally, the link to your FTP folder wouldn't work in Firefox, had to use IE. Is that normal? Cheers for all your help by the way, there'll be a virtual pint at the end of this one!

Next thing, the sound (and so on) issue. As I can now boot the thing to DOS mode and access C, is there anything in the Windows folder which might give me a list of installed devices, or would that just be too easy?
can you tell me which model deskpro it is? It should have a 4 digits I think
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