Weird problem & Fix Vista Laptop

I had a weird problem with a MSI VR600 Laptop. Customer said he had not installed anything recently and was vague about whether Windows had recently installed an update - typically not much help narrowing down events prior to the problem. The old story - turned computer on and now it's not going.
I have since got the laptop running but I wanted to present the problem and what I did to get it going again in the hope of getting a reason this error occurred and what else I could have done to fix the problem. Laptop is running Vista Basic no SP1. Customer had no installation disk, either a recovery or original media. When I turned on the laptop it came up with the MSI MegaBook on the post screen, that disappeared and then all I was left with was a black screen, no cursor, no hard drive activity nothing. Left it sitting for a while - no change. I then took the HDD out of the laptop and connected to my work bench unit running XP Pro, made an image of the HDD using Acronis then ran chkdsk on the hard drive. No errors found. Re-connected HDD to laptop, no change, black screen. Booted up laptop using my Vista disk and entered WinRe and asked it to repair the computer. It complained that something was out of order with the boot process and said it had repaired it and required a restart. Did this but there was no change. Again just a black screen.
I then did a HDD test (WD), short and long test - passed. Ran a RAM test on both modules and seperately, all passed. Hooked HDD up to the bench unit and had a look at the HDD using computer management and could see 3 partitions, a 5.8GB hidden 00x27 partition which I assume has the image of the Vista on it and WinRE, a 34GB partition which had a Vista installation on it and a 75GB partition labelled Data with hardly anything on it. I formatted the HDD leaving the hidden partition there, put it back in the laptop and installed Vista using my disk. Install started fine it went through the process and then it required a reboot. After it started from the reboot it again stopped at the black screen. I was sick of it by then so I formatted the hard drive again, this time deleting all partitions. I then installed Vista again and this time it went through perfectly and completed the install. I then re-imaged the clients HDD from my back up, then using computer management I deleted the hidden partition, put the HDD back in the laptop and presto it booted up with no delay to the desktop login. What caused this and what could I have done differently to get the system back up and running again? Therein lies the question ??

Any insights into this would be appreciated.

Hi Bob, welcome to Neosmart Technologies.

Corrupted updates or system files... typically common on pre-vista installed machines. For some reason either MS or the OEMs with thier custom versions have messed up the images they pre-install on thier machines, causing pretty much a mandatory re-install to fix everything and upgrade to SP1. There are some other steps you could have tried in regard to simply getting the install to boot again, such as trying last known good configuration from the advanced boot options menu with f8 befoe Vista tries to load, using system restore from WinRE, or running a command prompt there and running an offline check of the system's files with system file checker (sfc.exe). A new isntall + SP1 should leave the machine running as new with little problems. I've described the hassle i've had with my Dell desktop in other threads in the past, but a re-install fixed everything.
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Thanks kairozamorro for your response.

In addition to what I posted I did try system restore from WinRE and after the restore was finished it rebooted to the black screen. When I did get the system to boot after deleting the hidden partition the first message I got actually was that the system had been successfully restored to blah date but it didn't help me with my non booting problem. I didn't think about running SFC because I didn't think it would help me in my boot problems because the system was running Ok before it decided to not boot into Vista. I don't think 'last known good configuration' would have helped either. I am still wondering why it booted after the hidden partition was deleted. Thanks again for your input .
Was the hidden partition marked "active" ?
The only thing I can imagine which could cause the behaviour you mention, is an active hidden partition containing a 3rd party boot manager used for factory reset and recovery purposes, where the anonymous bootloader got broken, and therefore ignored the state of the OS partition whatever you did to it.
This is all sheer speculation of course. I have a self-built system, so I have no practical experience of OEM recovery techniques, I was just thinking about the symptoms and effects you described.
I would have expected a Vista "repair" to circumvent it though, unless they had some kind of write protection on the MBR to prevent it being reset to point at the Vista bootmgr.