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WinXP: Multiple restart problems after shutdown/powerdown


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#1
BrooklineTom

BrooklineTom

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My system is an older (2003) Gateway tower running WinXP/SP3. It has been mostly reliable. I replaced the power supply (after the original failed) in January. I've upgraded the memory to 2G, and added (years ago) a 400G second HD.

Since earlier this year, I have been having trouble restarting after an apparently clean shutdown/power down. Some symptoms include occasional disk corruption (both drives) requiring CHKDSK on restart, occasional BIOS complaints on restart ("Memory size decrease" or something to that effect) that go away after I do an F10, similar aggravations.

The system is (apparently) reliable and stable while running; whatever is wrong happens only during a shutdown/power-down/restart sequence.

Yesterday, after another clean shutdown, I got the dreaded black screen with "Missing Operating System" message when I tried to restart. This was solid during multiple attempts to restart yesterday afternoon and evening.

This morning, when I tried to boot from the recovery CD, the system hung at the blue startup screen (after recognizing the CD). When it hung, the floppy drive light was stuck on (no floppy in the drive). The floppy hasn't worked, and I haven't used it, for years.

I removed the recovery CD and put it in the other DVD reader (I have two) and rebooted. This time, the system booted from the HD. It began running chkdsk on a memory stick inserted in one of the USB ports. I pulled the stick, chkdsk stopped, and the system booted to a clean and stable desktop.

Except ... it added an *extra* floppy drive. The system now reports *both* A: and B:, both floppy drives, when there is only one.

I'm running a full backup now, and typing this from a different machine.

Any ideas about what might be causing these failures? The power supply is a few months old. Am I looking at a motherboard issue? Is this related to the failed floppy drive, and if so, what should I do about it? The BIOS looks fine. I expected the "Missing Operating System" complaint to mean that I needed to run fixmbr (from the recovery CD), but then the OS loaded just fine (other than the apparently-corrupted thumbdrive). Surely a corrupted HD won't fix itself -- is this a hard drive spin-up timing issue?

BTW, based on comments I found on another site, I've turned off ctfmon (from MSOffice 2003). Some folks have reported that it causes problems during shutdown.

Finally, my problems began last winter when NAV2009 was attempting to nag me about my subscription expiring at the same time that Windows Update was in the middle of installing SP3 (I think!). Both happened overnight, and that was the first time that the system forced chkdsk to run on startup. At that time, the result was that I lost all my user information (Outlook express settings and data, Office registrations, etc.). I've been seeing these shutdown/powerdown problems since then. Could NAV2009 be doing something nasty during shutdown/powerdown? Oh, and yes, the NAV2009 full scan runs clean with no issues found.

I eagerly await any suggestions...
Thanks,
Tom

Edited by BrooklineTom, 09 June 2009 - 12:04 PM.

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#2
Broni

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Step 1: get rid of Norton: http://service1.syma...005033108162039
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#3
BrooklineTom

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Are you suggesting that NAV2009 is causing these specific problems, or are you suggesting that NAV is, in general, bogus?

If the former, can you say a bit more about how and perhaps provide some links where I can learn more? I ask because that's a reasonably major change (I'd have to select, purchase, install, and come up to speed on an alternative). A pointer to an alternative that you recommend would be helpful as well, if it isn't too much of a hassle.
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#4
Broni

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No, it's not a bogus, but it's a horrible piece of software, IMHO, and a good bunch of other people.
I can't say 100%, it's gonna cure your problem, but that would be the very first thing, I'd try.
You don't have to install anything else, yet.
Just for the testing purposes, download Norton Removal Tool, physically disconnect from the internet, run the tool.
After restart, enable Windows firewall.
Reconnect to the net, and run the computer for a while, see how it goes.
Obviously, since you won't have any AV at that time, don't download, or install anything. Don't go to any unsafe web sites.

If it doesn't help, reinstall Norton (I assume, you paid for it).
If it does help, plenty of choice:

- Avast! free antivirus: http://www.avast.com...avast-home.html
- Avira free antivirus: http://www.free-av.c...load/index.html

- free PC Tools Antivirus: http://www.pctools.com/free-antivirus/
- free PC Tools Firewall Plus: http://www.pctools.com/firewall/

- free Comodo Internet Security (firewall + AV): http://www.personalf...all.comodo.com/
NOTE. During installation, Comodo will also allow you to install AV only, or firewall only, if you prefer to combine one Comodo product with some other product.

If you decide to install Avast, or Avira, make sure, Windows firewall is turned on, or use PC Tools Firewall Plus, or Comodo firewall..
If you decide to install Comodo Internet Security, or just Comodo firewall, make sure, Windows firewall is turned off.

IMPORTANT! Make sure, you use only ONE antivirus, and ONE firewall.

Edited by Broni, 09 June 2009 - 03:13 PM.

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#5
BrooklineTom

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Thanks, that's very helpful advice.

When the backup finishes, I'll be exercising the shutdown/powerdown/restart sequence several times anyway. I want to do it once with the current configuration to see if removing ctfmon helped. If the problem remains, then my next step will be to remove NAV and see what happens. I'll probably disconnect the machine (physically) from the net while I'm without antivirus software (I keep the firewall on all the time, and connect through a gateway/firewall).

I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, I've ordered a new motherboard just in case. It's only sixty bucks.
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#6
Broni

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Sounds like a plan :)
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#7
BrooklineTom

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Houston, I think we have a problem.

I think this is a hardware (motherboard?) issue. I rebooted and restarted multiple times this morning, all clean. I was hoping that removing ctfmon solved the problem.

Not so. I turned the system off, and let it cool for several hours. When I (just now) attempted to start it, it came up as far as the black screen after the WinXP startup screen. Then, instead of the normal blue "starting" screen, it went back to the original Gateway/BIOS restart screen. It then paused in the screen that warns that the system failed to start normally. It seems that whatever is going on is heat-sensitive. That doesn't sound like software to me.

I have a new motherboard, I think it's time to install it. My next decision is apparently which brand of thermal compound to buy.

As always, I'll keep you posted.
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#8
Broni

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Not good :)
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#9
BrooklineTom

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I seem to be almost there.

I replaced the motherboard and, at the strong recommendation of an in-store tech (where I bought the thermal compound), the C: drive as well. I had a moment of extreme fear and trepidation when I found a bent pin on the corner of the CPU chip, right at the registration corner. I carefully straightened it (thankfully it did not break off) and it slipped into the ZIF connector without any trouble. I'm reasonably certain I didn't bend it taking the chip out of the old MB, so I'm guessing that it got squashed during manufacture. I guess it's a spare pin (!!!???). Anyway, it's straight and connected now.

The system is behaving *much* better. Apparently because of the new drive, the overall performance is much improved. The old drive was a Seagate (ST3120023A) 120GB 720rpm IDE drive spec'd at 555Mbps max transfer rate. I replaced it with a Western Digital "Caviar" (WD5000AAKB) 500GB 720rpm drive with a max "buffer to disk" transfer rate of 972 Mbps. Whatever the numbers, the machine is running like a greased pig. Startup and shutdown times are noticeably faster, maybe twice as fast. Everything seems to run *fast*. Really fast. I can't wait to fire up FSX.

Now for the not-so-great news.

This morning, I shut it down and let it cool for about 3 hours. It booted cleanly to the desktop -- and then (while I was making coffee) something bad happened. When I returned, it was in the middle of rebooting. It dropped me into the BIOS, and the BIOS event log (which was clean) reported the following:

PRE-Boot Error
Memory Size Decrease

In the BIOS screen itself, all the memory is present and accounted for. It has been so everytime the BIOS has come up. I've seen this error before, and always ignored it.

I did an F10 save-and-exit, and it booted to the "Start Windows Normally" complaint screen. I proceeded, and the system came up cleanly (and, did I mention, *really* quickly!). I ran the WinXP memory diagnostic for about an hour (7+ passes) and it showed no RAM errors (2G -- 4x512M). When I rebooted after running the diagnostic, the system came up cleanly.

The motherboard, power supply, and C: drive are new (or nearly so, the power supply is six months old).

I'm thinking that one of the RAM sticks may be flaky, such that it fails while cold. I have a hard time imagining a SW problem that can cause this "Memory size decrease" fault in the BIOS, but what do I know.

I suppose I could get a can of cold-spray and start cold-stressing the RAM sticks, but I'm thinking I'll leave well-enough alone. Two of the sticks are original, two are newish (six months?).

Your thoughts?

Thx,
Tom
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#10
Broni

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Unfortunately, I'm not a hardware guy, so you better wait for some hardware whiz.
I don't want to give you any bad advice...
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