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XP machine totally freezes after loading windows


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#1
Timothy422

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Hello,

Love the site! :) First time post!

My wife has a Dell Dimension 4600 (~3 years old) that is running Windows XP SP2. Over the last several days it has started completely freezing up (no mouse, keyboard, or other control) -- only choice is to pull the plug. She said this first happened while she was reading email and web browsing. I tested it several more times since then and it each time it froze shortly (10-30 sec) after loading windows and showing the desktop. IMPORTANT: it froze without ANY user input on my part -- I was just moving the mouse around and waiting for everything to finish loading. A few other times it has worked fine for a while then froze up while my wife is using it. We have not made any hardware changes, but I'm not sure what she may have done software wise.

After pulling the plug and restarting, I've frequently gotten an "unmountable boot volume" error and have to run CHKDSK to fix it. I'm assuming this is a symptom from having to pull the plug on the machine.

I'm not sure if this is a hardware problem or if I have a serious malware infection. I'd be happy to take this issue to the Malware Forum, but I was hoping someone could narrow it down first.

Thanks!
~Tim
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#2
happyrock

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try starting it in safe mode with networking...does it still crash
even if it does not hang or crash...follow the instructions below

Windows XP is set by default to reboot your computer when it hits a critical error. For most users I suppose this is a good thing, as no one likes to see the BSOD (blue screen of death). But in this case, we actually WANT to see the BSOD because it contains some useful information in diagnosing the problem. In order to force your computer to show you the BSOD, need to tell it to stop auto restarting on critical errors.

Right-click...My Computer... and then click ...Properties...
Click the ..Advanced tab...
Under Startup and Recovery.. click ..Settings... to open the Startup and Recovery dialog box....
Clear the ..Automatically restart.. check box, and click OK the necessary number of times...

Restart your computer for the settings to take effect....

Edited by happyrck, 25 February 2008 - 05:07 PM.

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#3
Timothy422

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Hi,

I tried booting in safe mode with networking, but that hung up too. It happened on the login screen where you select either "administrator" or the user. I tried it twice, once it hung right when I clicked the admin button, the other time when I was doing nothing and just waiting.

If I can change that reboot error property, will I be able to see a BSOD even though the system hangs?

BTW, my wife told me again today that she was able to use the computer for a while today before freezing. Also, I've noticed that the you can hear the hard drive make a click sound right when the system hangs.

I'm trying a third time now, but have to repair a hard drive error first.

~Tim
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#4
Ztruker

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Any hard drive that makes clicking noises is dying. Your best bet would be to replace the existing drive with a new one. Install XP, SP2 (if necessary) and all updates, then mount the old drive as a slave and copy all your data from it to the new drive.
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#5
Timothy422

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Ztruker,

Thanks for the info. I'm also starting to suspect the hard drive. The last few times the system crashed, I ran CHKDSK after powering down and it reported finding disk errors. When I ran CHKDSK /R to repair the errors it would get part way through the repair process and then stop at a fixed percentage. Last night I even let it run all night long but it was still showing the same % complete this morning. That's a definite clue!

The thing that bugs me is this hard drive is only about 16 months old. It's a replacement for the original drive which only lasted about 2 years as well. Those were not even the same brand (first was Western Digital, second was Maxtor), so I'm trying to think of what could be common between them -- besides bad luck. Do you think maybe my case has poor ventilation or something?

Anyway, thanks for the help.
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#6
Ztruker

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Well, you could monitor the drive temperature, see what it shows. I use HDD Temp Monitor for this. It's small and sits in the System tray. Shows Celsius or Fahrenheit.

Most hardd drives have a 5 year warranty so you should be able to get a replacement from Maxtor.

Edited by Ztruker, 26 February 2008 - 08:59 PM.

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#7
happyrock

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BTW, my wife told me again today that she was able to use the computer for a while today before freezing.

if she can get on again ...then

Right-click...My Computer... and then click ...Properties...
Click the ..Advanced tab...
Under Startup and Recovery.. click ..Settings... to open the Startup and Recovery dialog box....
Clear the ..Automatically restart.. check box, and click OK the necessary number of times...

it sounds like the drive is on its way out to me too...do like Ztruker said ...replace the drive then slave the old drive to get your data off...if the drive totally fails... the data will be expensive to get back
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#8
Timothy422

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Hello,

I thought everyone might appreciate a follow-up to this topic.

I replaced the HDD and reinstalled XP on the new one from scratch. I then started reinstalling applications and everything seemed to be going well until yesterday when my wife was using the machine. She said it froze up again. Later, after rebooting and repairing disk errors, she was working online and I reached in to tidy up some cables. As soon as I touched the ribbon (IDE) cable for the HDD, she said the machine froze again. What the...? I tried lightly touching the cable several more times, and each time the HDD made a strange noise. I couldn't believe it! The cable was obviously bad. I'm not sure if the cable was bad when the old HDD failed, or if it broke while I was swapping hard drives and copying files back and forth, but it definitely was bad at this point. I replaced it and the system has been running great ever since. I still can't believe it.

I guess the lesson is when they say to rule out hardware problems first, make sure to check EVERYTHING, not just the major components. Some food for thought...

~Tim
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#9
Ztruker

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Ugh, that's a tough one. Normally you would not be messing about inside the computer when it's up and running, so you would not find this kind of problem. You typically just unplug then replug everything to make sure all are firmly seated.

Good find. Maybe the old drive is still good after all?
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