I'll try to summarize the events leading up to my problem as best I can.
I have two hard drives. I tried installing Windows Vista Business on the first one to use in a dual-boot configuration with Windows XP which was on the second hard drive. Well, the Vista installation worked fine, but when I went to boot into XP, I found Vista's boot loader hadn't recognized Windows XP. Clearly frustrated, I tried several different things until I finally decided to format the first hard drive.
I then used the repair tool that comes on the Windows XP installation CD and used the bootcfg command to make a new boot.ini file so I could get back into XP. That worked, but of course I wanted to try to put Vista back on. I thought maybe the installation had just gone wrong, and maybe if I ran it again this time it would recognize XP and allow me to boot into either.
I installed it and not surprisingly the same thing happened. This time I used the repair tool again while Vista was still on it, thinking, I don't know, maybe I can have two boot files and it will somehow work. It didn't. Then, in my anger, I used the XP installation CD and I formatted the first hard drive. Again. Only then it started to put on the XP installation files onto the hard drive, which I didn't actually want, so when it restarted (to continue with the installation) I didn't allow it to continue installing, and I went into the repair tool to make yet another boot file.
I restarted, and now, it won't boot from either hard drive. I've formatted the first hard drive a dozen times, and it won't take either XP or Vista. For XP it loads the installation files, but when it restarts it doesn't load anything off the hard drive, it just hangs. The Vista installer, apparently much smarter, tells me both hard drives don't "meet the requirements" which is very vague and infinitely frustrating.
I haven't tried formatting the second hard drive and putting XP on it because I keep files on that I would rather not lose. Plus, I think it would be useless because the Vista installer gave me the same error message for that hard drive as it did for the first. It makes me think that whatever the problem is, it has somehow affected both drives.
To the best of my knowledge, I can read and write anything to the hard drives, I just can't seem to boot from them. I haven't really tested this, but I'm pretty sure I can. Trying to make a new boot file doesn't help, either.
I don't think this problem can be solved short of buying two new drives, but I admit I don't know that much about computers. Anyone think they are salvageable by another means?
Also, if they are in fact goners, what exactly was it that caused this? Was it because I didn't allow it to continue installing Windows XP on the first hard drive?
You lost me a little bit there-am not sure whether you have a workable OS on the second drive.
But in any regard, since you are looking at and have tried to format the first drive anyway, have you tried testing that drive for integrity and zero-filling it? A zero-fill utility can usually be found on the manufacturer's site.
The first hard drive is a Maxtor. The second is a Western Digital.
I found a tool for zero-filling the Maxtor, I'm not so sure about one for Western Digital though. And if possible I'd like to preserve the Western Digital at least temporarily to see if I can copy the files off of it. Once those are secure I can do whatever I need to.
Just for clarification, the manufacturer's test utility for a hard drive will incude not only the quick and full scans, but an option for low level format. It's my understanding that this is the same as a zero fill. Some actually call it "write zeros", others a low level format.
Dban is a disk wiping utility for any hdd. But be very careful using it. It says it will wipe any drive it can see.