Unmountable Boot Volume Error In Windows XP

I don’t know what you did to your computer to make this unmountable boot volume error pop up but whatever it is, it’s not your fault. Just like you, I had my fair share of Windows XP errors myself – including a boot volume that became unmountable. I managed to get rid of it using tools that are freely available. Hopefully, you do too.

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Reasons Why This Error Pops Up

There are three possible reasons why you are having an unmountable boot volume error whenever you start your Windows XP powered PC:

  • It could be that you are forcing a UDMA Mode in your BIOS that your hard disk or cable can’t support.
  • The filesystemof your hard drive is damaged, or it cannot be mounted.
  • Using the wrong cable to connect your hard disk to your PC’s main circuitry.

Words like UDMA and BIOS or filesystem might be a little bit new to you, don’t worry, no need to know more about those stuff. Read along and let’s just try and fix that problem alright?

Maybe You Forced a High DMA Setting in Your BIOS?

I put it in here first because this is the most easily do-able possible solution for an unmountable boot volume error – and this is also the most technical part… You may skip this if you want to try out the other two solutions first.

*Warning: I would suggest you try this only as your last resort because wrong BIOS settings could make your PC unusable.

To try this solution, you need to go into your PC’s BIOS. You can get to your BIOS to try and fix this unmountable boot volume error by pressing either of the following keys:

F1 or Del or Shift F1 or Shift Del

You do this the moment you start your PC. Just press one of the keys I mentioned repeatedly until you get onto the BIOS settings screen. What you want to look for is a UDMA setting. Now, depending on your hard disk, and the cable you use to connect it to your PC’s main circuitry, you cannot force this any higher than what your hard disk and cable can support. You might want to try one setting at a time until you fix the unmountable boot volume error – starting from the lowest setting up to the highest. Or you can load the Fail-Safe setting of the BIOS. Your PC may run slower than usual because the BIOS will be changed to more conservative settings. If that does not fix the unmountable boot volume error, time to look at the next possible cause, a corrupt filesystem or a filesystem that cannot be mounted.

Windows Cannot Mount Your Filesystem

Contrary to popular belief, your PC does get corrupted some time out of daily use. Think of the filesystem as the way Windows XP organizes your files. If it goes haywire, Windows does not know if files exist – it then gives up and says “unmountable boot volume error” along with technical stuff. Thankfully, there’s a solution for this – and the solution might be just lying around: It’s the one you used to install Windows XP on your PC.

What to do when an Unmountable Boot Volume error pops up because of a corrupted Filesystem…

First, go get a copy of a Windows XP installation CD. It does not matter if it’s not yours, you will be just using it to start up your PC anyway. Go ahead and get or borrow one. Remember the first solution? The BIOS solution? Well, you’d be going to your BIOS one more time because you are going to change how your PC starts up.

Why do you need to go into the BIOS again? Usually, your PC looks for the startup information on your hard disk. But because your hard disk cannot be mounted (hence the unmountable boot volume error), you need to start your PC using a Windows XP installation CD. And to do this, you need to change the Boot Device setting to tell your BIOS to look for the information on a CD instead of your hard disk.

You already know how to get into the BIOS right? In case you forgot, it’s the F1 or Del or Shift F1 or Shift Del key. While on the BIOS settings page, look for the Boot Devices or Boot Device Priority settings and change the first device to CDROM and the second device to HD-0.

The important thing to remember here is to set CDROM as the FIRST boot device.

After you’re done, open up your CDROM drive and pop in the Windows installation CD. Save and exit to restart your PC. If all is fine, you will now be starting your computer using the installation CD. When you see the “Press any key to boot from CD…” message, follow it. Windows XP will now load all its startup files and after it finishes, you’d be asked what you want to do next. It will ask if you want to install or repair or quit. What you want to do is a repair to access the Recovery Console where you can issue the two commands that can try to repair a corrupt file system for you.

So go ahead and press “r”. You will now be taken to the Recovery Console, a special environment where you can issue powerful commands to try and fix and do maintenance work on your PC. When it finishes, you will be asked what Windows installation you want to get into. Usually, it is the first, so you can press “1”.

A possible roadblock… To gain access to the Windows installation you plan on fixing, you need to know what the Windows XP Administrator password is. If you cannot remember it, we cannot continue. Sorry – you are left with the last possible free unmountable boot volume error fix, changing hard disk cables. Or, you may use third-party commercial software to recover the administrator password for you.

If you do know it, let’s continue with this unmountable boot volume error fix shall we?

A CHKDSK and FIXBOOT command away

After logging on successfully, you can now use two powerful but free tools to try and get rid of that error. And they are CHKDSK and FIXBOOT. Both are free and comes in every Windows XP install CD. CHKDSK scans your hard disk for errors and tries to fix them while FIXBOOT fixes your hard disk’s boot record.

Issuing the CHKDSK and FIXBOOT commands to fix an unmountable boot volume error
Type the following to use CHKDSK to look for corrupt sectors and try to recover lost information. There is a space between chkdsk and /r:

chkdsk /r

After pressing the Enter key, this command will now display a message about the progress of the scan. This could take some time depending on how big your hard drive is and how full it is. When done, CHKDSK will tell you what it found and what it did as well as other information. After this, let’s to a FIXBOOT, just to be sure.

A Quick FIXBOOT to finish things up…
Here is the FIXBOOT command to fix your hard disk’s boot record:


After pressing the Enter key, you will be asked if you want to write a new Boot Record… say yes by pressing “y”. When you’re done, you can now restart your computer by typing “exit” (without the quotes). Hopefully, by the next restart, the unmountable boot volume error is gone. If it’s still persistent, time to do one more possible solution before going the paid route… Changing hard disk cables.

A Cable Change Might Be in Order

You changed the BIOS settings, issued CHKDSK and FIXBOOT but somehow that boot volume error is still popping up. Time for the last fix that I know of, changing hard drive cables.There might be a slim chance that a 40-pin cable was used to connect the hard drive to your computer’s motherboard instead of an 80-pin one. The 40-pin cable is seldomly used right now and actually causes problems. To check whether you are using the right cable for your hard drive, you will have to take a peek on your computer’s case.

An unmountable boot volume error can sometimes be fixed by a simple change of hard drive cables

If your computer is fairly new, the cable that connects your disk to your motherboard must be like the one above (the one with the thinner wires in it). You will have to buy a new one if you use a legacy 40-pin hard drive cable.

None of the above worked. What to do

After going through all of the available possible solutions listed here and still, the problem is not gone, you still have another option… Use third-party software.

I know of one that allows you to start up a computer, then fix a blue screen of death from there – which happens to be what you want to get rid of right now. I have captured a screenshot of it for you and if you look at it closely, (hint: under Windows Recovery), you would find that it explicitly lists getting rid of a blue screen as part of its job. Included in a software package called bootsuite, I strongly recommend it because you would have access to more than 40 powerful tools that you can use to either fix a computer problem, or keep your PC in good shape among others (think swiss army knife of utility programs).

As you can see, fixing computer problems like this simple unmountable boot volume error did take a lot of steps. Just like the other people who fixed their problem using what I have shared as a guide, I do hope that I have helped you out on this one.

Believe me, there are other computer errors much worse than this one just waiting to happen – some even requiring you to swap and test other computer parts just to diagnose and fix the problem. Just remember not to panic and the Internet is your friend. I hope an unmountable boot volume error won’t bother you anymore.