Doesn't sound like it's even loading Windows, so your HD is probably pooched. If you can, load up any random Linux distribution onto a CD and run it as a live disk (I've used Ubuntu for this in the past, anything will do) so you can check the disk's SMART status. So far I've had two experiences with dead hard drives (different computers, years apart). First time the drive spun itself to death, it couldn't even retrieve the SMART status. Second time it did return a status but it was about to fail thanks to a bootsector virus. If you can determine the SMART status, even if it is about to fail, you can still pull data off the drive using the Linux live CD, so do that ASAP, then tell her to buy a new HDD.
Isn't Linux another operating system? Would she have to purchase this? Spending money isn't an option for her right now. I'm looking for a fix that won't require buying anything. Is there a free version of Linux? I'm not too familiar with it. I've always been a Windows guy myself.
Technically speaking, no, Linux isn't an operating system. It is a kernel. But the distinction really doesn't matter in this case. Almost all versions of Linux are free and can be downloaded at their respective host websites, but there are about 10,000 different flavours of it. If you don't know anything about Linux, I suggest Ubuntu ([link]) as it is probably the most user friendly version out there. Burn the ISO to a disk and boot from the disk drive instead of the HDD (modify your BIOS boot order, it's usually really simple).
The OS is Ubuntu, but it runs the Linux kernel. Just like Windows is the OS, and the kernel is NT.
This would allow you to backup data from the ailing disk, but disk will still fail if it hasn't already. If you're not comfortable reinstalling the operating system or backing up the files using this method I would take the computer to a repair shop as soon as possible. I would leave it powered down as much as possible to avoid as much physical damage to the drive as possible in the mean time (like I said before, one my my hard drives literally spun itself to death - I'm not sure what's in there, when you shake the hard drive you can hear things rattling around now lol).
Hello! I'm just asking this out of pure curiosity, nothing to do with the thread itself. Is a Linux sort the only one that has this SMART status checker that you've mentioned? It's the first time I've ever heard of one. Thank you!
The SMART status is part of the drive itself and can be read by most (likely all) operating systems and some tools. I believe Windows does have the ability to diagnose drive issues, but in this case the drive that runs Windows won't boot (therefore Windows can't be used to diagnose the problem). Plus I'm not using Windows right now, so I'm not sure how one would determine the SMART status using standard Windows tools.
In my experience, the SMART status only becomes important when your computer is behaving abnormally bad. The average user should probably just take the computer to a repair shop when they run into issues like the OP's cousin is having.
Thank you for explaining! And it's good to hear that the status isn't needed more than emergencies. I thought I might have been missing something in the line of virus/malware scans and such as that. ^^;
Well that's a bit tricky, because it can indicate if you have something called a boot sector virus. This happened to the last drive I had to fix and I'm still not entirely sure what that is or how you get one. I just remember that came up as a probable cause during my research into how to fix the problem. As far as protecting against a boot sector virus, as far as I know your normal anti-virus should be able to handle that kind of thing. What happened was the drive started locking up, which froze Windows a few seconds after you logged in, so I started looking into the problem and came to the only thing that made any sense which was a failing HDD (which was caused by the virus). The SMART status confirmed this.
I'm no security expert, so as long as you have SOMETHING in terms of anti-virus protection you're probably covered for most of today's security threats.