Do you know where your HAL.DLL is?

Okay, I’m going to talk about something boring, because it’s distressing me and there’s a small possibility that the clever, good-looking sort of person that reads my blog might be able to help. I will try to make the story interesting, but you and I both know that what I’m really doing is BEGGING FOR FREE TECHNICAL SUPPORT.

The story starts with some educational software for my son. He got a special DynaVox computer for use at home (it was a loaner; we’ve since returned it). I installed some software on my computer (OS = Windows XP Professional) to help move files to the DynaVox. I should say I TRIED to install some software. The installer ran and ran, but then it stopped doing anything obvious. I now believe that installer was squatting on my hard drive and taking a massive poop, but I can’t prove that. Anyway, my machine was locked up, and after I rebooted I met a black screen emblazoned with this cheery message:

Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: C:WINDOWSSYSTEM32HAL.DLL.
Please re-install a copy of the above file.

Gosh! Thanks for the tip, helpful Windows boot program! But how do I do that?

After making unhappy noises, I used my wife’s computer to find a very helpful page at Their advice was cogent, concise, and effective. But it only works once, and then I’m back to square one. I’m able to boot successfully off my Windows CD-ROM, but every single time I reboot my PC, it goes all wobbly in the knees, mutters something about the DynaVox, and forgets its HAL.DLL all over again. It also forgets its BOOT.INI file, even when I create one and put it in the right place. I can boot my machine consistently; it just takes five minutes worth of fiddling. I put on 80s music and try to pretend I have moved back to a time when giant slow-moving computers roamed the earth.

To sum up, it appears that something between the Windows down-shutting and the Windows up-starting actively removes my HAL.DLL and BOOT.INI files. They are being sucked into a malevolent, dark vortex. Is there an incantation or small sacrificial animal that can help me?

And now my story is done. As expected, the telling was therapeutic, even if nothing comes of it. Good evening.

SPECIAL NOTE: Mac users, please do not taunt the bitter Windows user. He is grumpy and may bite.

ALSO: Yes, I ran diagnostics on my hard drive to make sure it wasn’t stupid.

UPDATE: The problem is solved at last. Many thanks to everyone who offered a kind and helpful word, and especially to my friend Zain who figured out the right Google incantation: boot.ini disappears reboot deshil holles eamus! My apologies to the good people at DynaVox. They still have a crappy installer, but it appears the blame for my vanishing BOOT.INI file must go to the Ask Toolbar which I installed that same weekend. I removed it last night, and my troubles are at an end. I feel certain that my life will go perfectly from this day forward.

7 thoughts on “Do you know where your HAL.DLL is?”

  1. Hi Ned. How about booting off the Windows CD and then reverting back to a previous system restore point? If that doesn’t work, we have some flower-eating rabbits in our yard you can sacrifice.

  2. I tried to use a restore point. It all looked like it was working, but at the end, the curtain went up and there was a sign that said “We were unable to revert to your restore point. No files were changed.”

    How much for the bunnies?

  3. I feel like the wide-eyed student here, but I went over to the About page and it pointed to another page explaining how to replace your HAL.DLL file with a clean version from the Windows CD, and that page pointed to a sponsored link to a DLL cleaner by some smug computer wonk with a bad opinion of people with DLL problems. Interested, I went over to the Wiki and found:
    “Hal.dll is the core of Windows’ Hardware Abstraction Layer, which allows applications to access devices in the system without knowledge of the specific protocol used by any one device.

    Although drivers for most hardware are contained in external files, core drivers (which are required to support the kernel) are compiled into Hal.dll. Different sets of drivers may be selected depending on whether the system uses multiple processors, the presence of an ACPI-compatible BIOS or an Advanced Programmable Interrupt Controller (APIC), etc.”

    This leads me to believe that the DynaVox software wants so badly to be run on the DynaVox computer that it is trying to convince your computer it’s wrong about it’s harware. Maybe DynaVox is trying to do one of them continue-installation-after-reboot dealies and is replacing your hal.dll and/or boot.ini files before Windows has the chance to read them (?)

    Sorry that’s not a solution, but maybe someone wiser than me can take it from here.

  4. And, it would have been nice if the error message had opened with “I’m sorry, I can’t do that, Dave.”

  5. You’re right Mike that with a name like HAL.DLL, they could have been a little more creative with the message. Although I must confess to being pretty humorless when confronted with screens like that. Anyway, the problem is solved… see my note above if you’re interested.

  6. HAL.dll?




    etc etc

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