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Dying Hard Drive or Failing Memory? Or Other?


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#1
darthsmozers

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This is an update on my previous topic from about a month ago, found here:
http://www.geekstogo...Bl-t211521.html

At the time, I was trying to diagnose issues with my Acer laptop (Windows XP) with the limited insight I had. Since then, I have tried a few things and attempted to research online. Here is my update. I'm trying to now figure out why the situation is getting worse, and if it actually is the HD or something else (like memory?)

Original issue:

Note: This laptop has fallen onto a carpeted floor on two occasions. Otherwise, its only just over 2 years old, purchased in summer 2006.

Laptop would boot fine, but after only a few minutes (most often using IE) I would get a blue screen. This degressed into delayed write failure messages and delayed typing/mouse responses before the inevitable blue screen. As I said, this was most often when using the internet, as opposed to say typing a document or playing with MS Money or other simple programs. (Could this be because the use of a web browser requires more memory usage than a simple program like Word or Money? I don't even know... just a guess.)

This degressed further into boots not always being successful. When successful, it would be the same old song and dance: Boot, work for a few minutes, delayed write failures, blue screen. When unsuccesful, the boot would be the usual Acer splash screen with F2 and F12 options at the bottom, followed by a black screen with a white blinking cursor. Most often, the cursor would be a bit faded with a quicker pulse. This lasts indefinitely and requires a cold shutdown holding the power button. Occasionally, the blinking cursor would be more bold/solid with a slower pulse. This leads to a successful boot!

During the above symptom (black screen with semi-successful boot), I find (oddly enough) that a physical shaking of the laptop often leads to a successful startup (might this be jiggling something into place within the laptop? not recommended, i'm sure...)

A few weeks ago I tried a couple of solutions. First, I tried to burn a recovery DVD using Acer's eRecovery tool. I also bought a new hard drive, but upon booting it, I had the same 75/25 chance of a successful boot past the black screen/white cursor. I tried to use the burned boot disc with the new hard drive, but it was not successful. It stopped part of the way through. Acer wants me to purchase a new recovery disk.

The latest development: After a successful boot, Windows starts but only the wallpaper is visible. No icons, no toolbar or Start button. I can control+alt+delete to see all the running processes. I can also use that to start a new task and browse the web or work in a program as long as I know the .exe name (i.e., msmoney.exe). I went a roundabout way to scan for viruses: opened Excel, went to Open, and found the C drive, right clicked and chose "scan for viruses". None found. Definitions are fairly up to date (a week?) As I said, I can open MS Money or Excel or a website in IE using the "new task" feature under the Task manager. However, I cannot open Windows Explorer or else I get errors.

One program that stopped working a while back was Photoshop. It would load and then say something about being unable to load photoshop; not enough memory.


So after all of this, I looked up some symptoms of failing memory. It mentioned things like blue screen, boot issues, inability to load large programs like photoshop, etc. But, some of the issues (delayed write failure) tend to point to hard drive issues.


Given all of the above (and I apologize for the length of this post), might anyone be willing to offer their 2 cents for this inexperienced user? Should I return the new hard drive and give new memory a shot? What is the knowledgebase as far as the inability to see windows desktop icons and the start menu with no sign of a virus? As my laptop is seemingly on life support, what should I do?

I appreciate any and all help. And I thank you for reading this novel.

Regards,
Jason

One program that stopped working a while back
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#2
darthsmozers

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#3
darthsmozers

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Might anyone be able to offer any insight? :)
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#4
The Skeptic

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What about the memtest86 that you were supposed to run. Did you accomplish that? It's very important. You should run it for 1-2 hours without any errors showing up. If you need guidance about how to create the bootable CD please let us know.

You said that you bought a new hard disk. Did you reinstall windows from scratch? The problem that you describe can be easily the result of a failing hard disk so it's important that we understand what you did, exactly. At the same time other symptoms could indicate to software corruption (photoshop, taskbar, no icons etc.) due to malware or one of many other reasons.
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#5
darthsmozers

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memtest86 cd was created from the download page of the provided website. is it supposed to boot automatically? i have the cd drive set as the primary boot but it bypasses it and goes to Windows.

the recovery DVD i made using acer's eRecovery did not work, and i have to buy a new disc as my laptop is out of warranty (2 years).

i have an old XP disc from a few years ago. can i use it for anything?

thank you so much and sorry for being so inexperienced.
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#6
The Skeptic

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You have to boot your computer with memtest in the CD drive. It should boot and start scanning the memory immediately.

Did you burn memtest as in ISO file? it's not just simple burning. You can use the program BurnCDCDD which is used exclusively to burn ISO files. It's a very simple tool. Download and burn the first option that shows up (ISO. not ZIP).
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#7
darthsmozers

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Oh, I see now. Yes, last time I simply threw the .iso file onto a blank CD. I see that the program you mentioned actually created a bootable disc for me. I'll try it out when I get home today. Thanks!
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#8
darthsmozers

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You have to boot your computer with memtest in the CD drive. It should boot and start scanning the memory immediately.

Did you burn memtest as in ISO file? it's not just simple burning. You can use the program BurnCDCDD which is used exclusively to burn ISO files. It's a very simple tool. Download and burn the first option that shows up (ISO. not ZIP).


I ran start>run> sfc /scannow and it completed without issue (I am assuming, as I went out and came back to find the status bar was no longer on the screen.)

I then popped the new Memtest86 disc in and it booted right up. I had it running for almost 3 hours. I cancelled it so I could log onto here and ask this question: How long will a full test go? Are there any configurations I should set prior to running the test? I am going to run it again over night so that it has the whole night to run.

Surprise! Upon escaping from the test and logging back on to Windows, my desktop and start menu have returned! i don't know if its a result of the sfc /scannow or now, but thats good news! No telling yet if the other symptoms will persist (my guess is they will but who knows?) but this is a surprising and welcome first step.

If you could tell me what to look for with Memtest I will report back here tomorrow!

Sincerely,
Jason
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#9
The Skeptic

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If there were errors in memtest you would see them as red data lines. If you didn't, after 1-2 hours, then there is no problem on this side.

In a previous post I asked "You said that you bought a new hard disk. Did you reinstall windows from scratch? The problem that you describe can be easily the result of a failing hard disk so it's important that we understand what you did, exactly". Please answer this.

Latter I continued with "At the same time other symptoms could indicate to software corruption (photoshop, taskbar, no icons etc.) due to malware or one of many other reasons." To reach I final conclusion I must know the answer the answer to the previous question.
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#10
darthsmozers

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there were some data lines with a red background... 400+ at last count.
i can attach a photo to this email of the error log summary if necessary. well, later on anyway, because it seems my photoshop is still saying its having a RAM problem...

i do have the new hard disk, but no i have not installed a new OS on it yet. Not knowing what I was doing, I tried to use the Acer eRecovery CD on it which failed part way through. I believe I then placed the new HD into an external case in order to format it clean. Should I use the Acer recovery disc on it again, or my old XP copy from a few years back? Is the nature of the Acer Recovery disc such that it can only be used on the existing HD?
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#11
The Skeptic

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According to memtest your RAM is faulty and must be replaced. If you have more then one memory modules please run memtest again with only one module left in the computer. Run the test and then run it again with the another module, one at a time. This will help us to find the defective module.

Please note: the results are not final because there is a possibility that some faults in the motherboard will create an apparent memory failure. Usually this is not the case but I have seen that a few times. So, the next step should be to locate the faulty module and replace it. Until this is done there is no point in going further with the analysis.
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#12
darthsmozers

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I will test individual memoery modules this evening. Thank you for your continued help, Skeptic.

Attached is a shot of the memtest while it was still running.

DSCN4886_1000w.jpg
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#13
darthsmozers

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TheSkeptic, I hope you're still out there.

Attached is one of the memory modules being tested. I left it on overnight. (timestamp 10+ hours?)

DSCN4988_500w.jpg
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#14
The Skeptic

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It doesn't look good at all. Take this module out and try another one.
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