'Apparently' the hard drive on my laptop failed yesterday. Out of the blue I got a couple of popup windows complaining about some dll not being able to load, and then the windows blue screen of death. I thought maybe my machine got too hot, but I tried rebooting after letting it cool off and it didn't do anything after the Dell splash page during the boot. So I ran a BIOS diagnostic and got the following error:
Msg: Error Code 2000-0142
Msg: Unit 1: Drive Self Test
Failed Status Byte=77
I called Dell and they basically confirmed what the diagnostic test said - my hard drive was fried.
Not wanting to give up on my hard drive that easily, I googled to see what I could do. I discovered I could try to repair windows using the Windows Recovery Console. So I found my Windows CD and booted from it and went to the Repair option. Once I had entered the Admin password, I got a command prompt and after a bit of searching around I discovered that most of my hard drive seemed to be intact. This, however, was still in the dos prompt of the Windows Recovery Console. I couldn't back up my files to a USB from there.
I tried chkdsk, chkdsk /p, and chkdsk /r - those all worked successfully. Yet my machine still wouldn't book. So I preused the list of commands available to the Windows Recovery Console (here) and tried a few more - bootcfg, fixboot, and fixmbr. In the end, it was fixmbr (which repairs the master boot record on the specified disk) that ended up working for me.
My laptop is 4 years old now. I removed the battery a couple of months ago, and with problems like this starting to happen, I going to start shopping for a new one. Hopefully this info helps someone out there though.