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Can I recover my data after major crash?

584 Views 3 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  Rollin' Rog
My laptop, which is almost three years old and has always been a little on the temperamental side, looks like it finally gave up the ghost last night. (It runs on Windows 98 OE with the appropriate service packs installed, but I'm not sure that's relevant really.)

I was on the Net when the screen suddenly went blank (I didn't even get the "blue screen of death") and looked as if it was about to reboot. It has done this spontaneous reboot thing a few times, but this time it was a lot worse: it just came up with a single line of text which I assume was the usual boot-up gobbledegook, then it brought up a line saying "3" at the left hand end and "FATAL DMA CONT" at the right-hand end, and just sat there beeping irregularly at me. It didn't even get as far as "Press F2 to enter BIOS". I tried turning it off for a while, but just got the same thing again when I turned it back on. Tried booting from a floppy too, but that didn't make any difference.

Can anyone tell me, is this crash absolutely and totally fatal, or is there a possibility that I may be able to at least recover the contents of the hard drive?
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It sounds pretty serious when you cannot even get to the BIOS screen. Perhaps a drastic failure on the motherboard.

One thing you might try is removing and replacing the cmos battery on the board. This should reset the defaults, if that is still viable.

Make sure all the memory modules are firmly seated; and you may want to carefully remove and reseat the cpu itself, if nothing else is helping.

Do not try to start it up without good heat sinking though.

Since the problem is most likely with the motherboard rather than the hard drive, the data on the drive should still be good, and could be recovered by connecting it to another system.
Thanks for the advice.

To my surprise, once it'd been left alone for about 20 hours, it did actually boot up. Still kept crashing, but in between crashes / failed reboots (about 30 of them in total) I eventually managed to make backups onto Clik drive of all the data I didn't want to lose. With it being a 3-year-old unbranded laptop, and the company I bought it from no longer being in business, I don't think it's worth the trouble of taking it apart and trying plugging in different things, so I'm going to buy a new PC this weekend. I've set up my work PC to handle my personal email in the meantime.

Yeah it sounds like a serious hardware failure there. I think that DMA CONT stands for DMA (Direct Memory Access) controller.

If you can get it to boot up again, try this for a workaround. Go to the Device manager's Properties>settings page for your hard drive (under disk drives) and remove the check for DMA. You may need to do the same for the CD-rom.
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