In the light of Microsoft’s release of Windows Vista’s first Service Pack, I was inspired to finally format my laptop’s hard drive. I had been using it non-stop since September. My laptop, a Dell XPS M1710, thankfully shipped with a Vista DVD, as opposed to the usual ‘recovery partition’. I popped in the disc and rebooted.
A few dialog boxes in, right before I was able to select a partition for Windows to inhabit, Setup exclaimed with great fanfare:
Windows installation encountered an unexpected error. Verify that the installation sources are accessible, and restart the installation. Error code: 0xE0000100
And.. That’s it. No Vista for me, I reckoned. In search of solutions (of which I found none), I ended up doing some research on this glitch in the Windows Vista installation process. It turns out this exception doesn’t pop up very often due to its extensive prerequisite conditions (taken from Microsoft’s Knowledge Base article):
Install media is based on an image the manufacturer created.
The manufacturer used the System Preparation tool (Sysprep) to create this image.
The hard drive is partitioned into 2 or more partitions.
The Windows partition is larger than 40 GB.
The size of the partition is a multiple of 4 GB.
Admittedly, these are a lot of prerequisites, which explains why so few on the Internet have encountered it, let alone found a solution. Nonetheless, many people buy pre-manufactured computers, especially in the realm of laptops, so the vector for this issue is larger than you think.
Microsoft’s bogus fix
Here’s the funny part.
Microsoft proposes the following solution: a hotfix to the DVD image. Great, but the catch here is that normal consumers are incapable of making such modifications to the image. Only official system builders, who own of the appropriate software – acquired from Microsoft, through their licensing program – are able to make these alterations.
This basically translates into: tough luck. You’re pretty much left in the cold with this largely undocumented issue.
It turns out, though, that Microsoft isn’t entirely to blame.
P.S.: In case you’re interested, this hotfix has to be requested from Microsoft through a special form. Just for the heck of it, I made an attempt at getting my hands on it. Of course, my request got denied fairly rapidly.
After having mucked around for a couple of hours, I came to the conclusion that Dell’s custom MediaDirect partition (their pathetic attempt at media center software) was invoking this. It somehow managed to corrupt the partition table, rendering Setup incapable of reading it.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to solve this. First off, check whether your computer/laptop is still eligible for warranty. If so, you can take a chance at trying to repartition the drive (this is what I did):
- If you still have access to a working version of Vista, be sure to try out Windows’ own partition manager and remove the conflicting partition. I don’t guarantee this’ll work, but it’s worth a shot, since it can be done while Windows is running. At this point, make sure you have BACK-UPS.
Start > Control Panel > System and Maintenance > Administrative Tools > Computer Management > Disk Management (left pane)
- In case you don’t have access to Windows, try a third-party partitioning app. A great open-source one is GParted. This is a 50 Meg live-cd that can be downloaded for free. Again, this may not work and you may need to try a whole slew of other software.
You can also (try to) request a new install DVD from your manufacturer. Most are hesitant to this, though, so be prepared. They’re most likely going to charge you an unreasonable amount of money or brush you off entirely.
If all else fails, you could also try to request a new hard drive to replace the defective one.
If you’re unlucky and you have to wait for a new install disc or hard drive, you might still be able to use your computer in the meantime. Without Windows. You could try to install a flavor of Linux. It’s free and not by any means perfect (like Windows), but it gets the job done fine. I’d suggest you try Ubuntu Linux, the most popular Linux distribution of this time. It’s newbie-friendly and loaded up with a lot of stuff to get you going. You may like it. And in case you run into trouble, there’s a great community waiting to save your ass, any time of day/night.
If you’re one of the lucky ones to have encountered this error, I’m curious to hear from you!