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Why Hardware Issues Are Never Fun

28-Jan-07 05:37 am EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Not to boast too loud (mostly for fear of the consequences), but I’m generally regarded in my own family as "the expert" when it comes to computer technology.  So when my cousin startred having trouble with her computer a couple months ago, I was immediately enlisted to help.  And I was glad to – she’s been good to me over the years.

Her main issue was that the system would perriodically reboot itself off for no obvious reason.  Initially puzzled, I eventually learned that there was a serious problem with her hard drive.  When attempts to format the drive failed completely, I decided to try installing a new one.  Of course, this would require a new installation of Windows XP.  And, since she didn’t have a setup disk, I’d have to borrow one from work.

The next time I arrived to fix things, I went to work configuring and formatting the new Western Digital drive.  The Asus motherboard (Intel CPU) didn’t automatically discover the drive – which surprised me a little, if only because I can’t think of when that’s occurred in recent memory.  However, I was able to follow instructions provided with the BIOS manual and set the cylinder and head values in the hard drive section of the BIOS config screens successfully.  And the drive also seemed to format successfully, and run setup fine – copying all the setup files to the hard disk (HD) in the usual way.

And then, trouble erupted again.  Following the installation of setup files to the HD, the system booted and the usual Windows XP screen appeared, followed by the typical setup screen (the one that appears to continue the setup process).  And then, suddenly another error dialogue appeared, dispalying (among other things) three dreaded words: "Manifest Parse Error".

What in God’s name is that?

Enter Microsoft’s support website (Q331881):

"Manifest Parse Invalid at the Top Level of the Document" Error Message When You Try to Install Windows XP

View products that this article applies to.

This article was previously published under Q331881

Article ID      : 331881
Last Review  : April 29, 2003
Revision       : 1.0


When you try to install Windows XP, you may receive the following error message:

Manifest parse invalid at the top level of the document.

Back to the top


This issue may occur if the Vctrl.man file that is on the Windows XP CD-ROM is damaged.

Back to the top


To resolve this issue, use another Windows XP CD-ROM to install Windows XP. If this option is not available to you, contact the Microsoft Order Desk to order replacement media from Microsoft.

Naturally thinking that I did, in fact, have a bum CD from the office, I subsequently returned with a fresh, new, replacement CD thinking my troubles were over – only to be disapointed again.  Now confident the CD was, contrary to the article’s suggestion, to blame…I’ve started fishing for other answers.  In fact, there are only two that pop into my mind:

  • both of the machine’s CD-ROM drives are inoperative, generating read errors at the same point in the setup process, regardless of what Windows XP CD is used, and
  • there is a read error with the new HD because of improper BIOS configuration.

…and to think all this hassle caused by a problem that could originally have been classified as a ‘nuisance’.

My cousin is bringing her PC over at some point in the next few days so I can examine it here and easily swap hardware in and out to eliminate further problems.  And in the meantime, I’ll try consulting with others to get any other ideas as to what might be the cause of this issue.

But it isn’t making me any more enthused about troubleshooting hardware trouble anytime soon – I gotta say.  I’ve always wished a nice dialogue would appear to tell you what the problem is, as sometimes happens in the course of software development….

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Terry Glavin


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