Over the course of a several months I've noticed a problem when starting Windows. At some point while loading the desktop, Windows will freeze. I'll still have control of my mouse, but nothing responds. Mousing over the taskbar generally shows an hourglass, and my only option is to do a hard reset. Sometimes it doesn't get as far as loading the taskbar. Other times, it will appear to load everything but still freeze.
This doesn't happen every time. In fact, I'm using it right now. Because this only occurs sometimes, it's been extremely difficult pinpointing the issue.
I've noticed it had gotten worse over time. In fact, last week it began freezing at the "loading your personal settings" screen, and would do so consistently on every reboot. My first step was a Windows XP installation REPAIR using the XP CD. That managed to make it usable again but it didn't stop the unpredictable startup freeze.
I then did a full reinstall of Windows XP over my previous installation without reformatting. I got a program called Rollback RX (which is similar to Norton GoBack except it works better and doesn't steal your soul). I installed Rollback first thing so that as I began reinstalling all of my drivers and software I could find which one causes my PC to freeze. This was not easy since the problem only happened "sometimes" anyway. As I installed programs, if my next reboot froze, then I'd roll back to the point before I installed it and skip that program. I began to notice that the freezing still seemed to happen at random and it became more apparent to me that WHAT I was installing didn't seem to have an effect either way.
So I thought maybe since I didn't reformat, I left some kind of problematic file on the hard drive. So I started over again. This time I reformatted the drive and installed Windows XP again.... and, again, began taking the same steps I mentioned above. I got the same results, and the PC froze at random startups.
I know faulty RAM could cause freezing. I have two RAM sticks, each 1 gb, and set up in dual channel. I removed one and tried booting with just one. Still froze. I then swapped them. Still froze. Tried different slots, too.
After the reinstallation of XP, I've now noticed that the system also sometimes freezes on shutdown, during the "Windows is shutting down" screen, though this isn't as serious, it deserves notice.
Because of the fresh reformat and installation of XP, I've ruled out malicious content such as virus or malware. Someone suggested Rollback may be the culprit, however I've had this problem prior to ever using Rollback.
It came to my attention that bad sectors on the hard drive could cause such a problem, so I booted from the XP disc and ran CHKDSK through the console. It immediately told me the volume contained unrecoverable problems.
(as a side note, I have been running 4 hard drives: 1 for the OS, 1 for important data like documents, and 2 for storage of music and other not-as-important stuff. The first 2 are very old 80gb IDE drives, and the SATA storage drives are very new).
I used CHKDSK to check the 2nd drive as well, and that one came up clean. I decided to back up my 2nd hard drive, swap it with the system drive, and try running the OS off of that one instead. After all that trouble, my PC still freezes at random.
Both drives are the same age (probably 7 years or more), so I'm wondering if perhaps the drive are causing the freezing even though CHKDSK isn't finding anything on this one.
My next step is to try installing Windows on one of my new storage drives, which I'd really like to avoid. However, if it installs and does not freeze at all, then I'll know the hard drive was the problem.
The thing is, I want to know from experts out there, or someone who had similar issues, if there is something else I am missing. What else could be going wrong? I have no idea what the problem is. I'm no amateur at this, and I'm usually the one people come to when they have problems, but since I can't pinpoint the cause of Windows freezing like that, I don't know how to fix it.
I really hope someone had the patience to read all of this and is able to offer some kind of help. Unless things get really bad, I won't take any further steps for a while in hopes that someone here can offer an alternative to reinstalling AGAIN.
Thank you so much for your time...