One of the scariest computer errors you can see. Upon seeing these 5 words, you should do three things:

  • Panic
  • Stop panicing and take a swig of a relaxant
  • Check to see if there is a diskette in drive A:.
9 out of 10 times you do that check, there will be a diskette in the drive you forgot to take out. (Final Fantasy fanfics perhaps? Pr0n on wheels? Or that l33t piece of Perl script you wrote for nate?) Pop that sucker out and give your machine a three-finger salute. Problem solved, and the day is saved, thanks to...

The Powerpuff Girls!

Unless, of course, there is no diskettes in the floppy drive. If this is the case, panic again. Then hunt through your supply of CDs and disks for some bootable media and the installation disc for the OS of your choosing. Good luck bringing your system back up. And if you can't find any bootable media, I have been looking for a server to run, so if you want, drop me an email...address is in my homenode.

This message is stored in the boot record of the drive, so if you get this, you know at least part of the drive is readable and uncorrupted.

This tells you that the bootstrap loader can't find IO.SYS. (for DOS/Win folk. I think the message is different for other OS's) Either it doesn't exist, or the root directory has gone screwy.

Much worse is the message Missing Operating System, which is a message from the system BIOS indicating that even the boot record is not valid.

Let's see the powerpuff girls save you then...

Of course, this is a favourite thing for boot sector viruses to print out on loading. The user obligingly removes the floppy disk, presses any key, and the virus writes itself to the hard drive. Well done.

Relly nasty viruses will keep a copy of the original boot sector, so if there is something in it that absolutely has to load (one of those nasty 'let a 486 access large hard disks' programs, for instance), you then won't be able to access the drive without loading the virus. catch-22.

Best way to protect against these viruses is to set the bios to boot off the hard disk first, and only set it to boot off the floppy when you need to. If you forget, and see this message, hard reboot. Don't press any key, and don't control-alt-delete, as quite a few can survive a soft reboot.

It's a good thing preemptive multitasking and lack of real dos modes make windows 9x, linux, etc. incompatible with most viruses ability to TSR, so they don't spread as well as they used to... They tend to only be able to spread from the infected floppy to the hard disk, and to any floppies inserted before the hard disk is booted. They (generally) can't stay in memory and infect every floppy disk put in the machine anymore. With use of floppy disks declining, these viruses are becoming less and less of an issue.

Which is a Good Thing.

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