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One day, you turn on your HP laptop and Windows fails to load because you get some kind of hard drive error. The specific error depends on which version of Windows you use and what exactly is wrong. Maybe it is getting hung up on an 'imminent hard drive failure' error and you need to press F1 to continue, or it could be the generic 'invalid system disk' error meaning that it can't boot from the drive. If you get a 'hard disk not found' error then it means the hard drive is not being detected at all. Either way, you're dead in the water until you get the matter resolved. In this article, we'll discuss a few things you can try to get your HP laptop up and running again.
(Image credit: HP.com)
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Invalid System Disk
If you turn on the computer and get an 'invalid system disk' error or something similar, the first thing you should check is if you have a USB flash drive or CD/DVD disc in the optical drive. If so, remove them and then reboot the laptop. If it works after that, it means you have the CD/DVD drive or USB ports set above the boot order in the BIOS. The main reason for this to be turned on is for running diagnostics if you wish to boot from something other than the hard drive, but it can sometimes cause problems if non-bootable media is inserted.
To keep this from happening again, go into the BIOS (press F1 at startup) and scroll over to the boot options section and change the boot order so that the hard drive is first. If you ever need to actually boot from a CD/DVD or USB drive, you'll have to change the boot order back.
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Hard Drive Disconnected
Laptops are designed to be modular, meaning that you can pop out things like the battery, CD/DVD drive, and even the hard drive. The process to remove a hard drive varies depending on which model HP laptop you have. Typically, you have to slide or unlatch some kind of release before you can physically remove the drive. Some models even use a small screw to hold it in place. This is so that the hard drive won't accidentally fall out of the machine.
You may need to consult HP.com to find instructions on how to remove the hard drive. It is possible that the latching mechanism meant to secure the hard disk has been unlocked or is not working properly, and therefore the hard drive has come unplugged. First you should turn off the computer, then undo the latch and remove the drive. Take a look inside to make sure that there are no obstructions like clumps of dust or paper scraps that might be causing interference. If everything is clear, reinsert it to make sure it is making a solid connection.
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Check BIOS Settings
When you first turn on your laptop and see the HP logo, press F1 to go into the BIOS, then look under the storage options to see if it lists your hard drive in there. You should also have the option to run a 'DPS Self Test' on some model HP machines, and this is a thorough hard drive testing utility. It takes as long as an hour to run, but it's good for finding problems. If your hard drive doesn't even show up in the BIOS, then it could mean you have a hardware problem related to motherboard or hard disk failure.
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Motherboard or Hard Drive Failure
It is possible, and very unfortunate, that your motherboard may be going out. If that's the case, then hopefully your HP laptop is still under warranty and you can get it replaced. Otherwise, you'll be facing a major expense. One thing you can do is to try another hard drive and see if it works, then you could at least isolate the problem to whether it is the hard drive or the motherboard. Not everyone has a spare hard drive laying around, though.
If it does turn out that you just have a bad/dead hard drive and your HP laptop is out of warranty, you can purchase another drive and reinstall everything. If you have system restore CD's or made your own when asked to after you first bought the computer, you could use them to set up your new hard drive to restore the PC to its original factory software settings.
If your hard drive still works but the operating system is corrupt and preventing booting up, you can also use a Linux ISO to recover your data from the dead drive.
Author's personal experience in the IT industry.