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Unusual (to me) XP Boot Problem


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#1
imSophie

imSophie

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I've run across an unusual (to me) boot problem and it is frustrating. You'd think after more than 20 years of working with (and building my own) computers, I'd have seen just about everything, but this is a new one for me.

I'm running XP with SP2 installed. I won't install SP3 because I've seen it cause too much trouble on other systems and won't subject mine (or myself) to that mess. I'm not a big Windows fan. I learned computers on a CPM system then promptly fell in love with DOS and still prefer it. Oh well.

I developed a freeze problem about a week ago. When it continued on a daily basis, I started uninstalling software, starting with the most-recently installed. The freeze problem worsened. Eventually the system would begin to load XP, but in the process of loading my desktop items, it would reboot. Got caught in a vicious reboot cycle for a bit. Wouldn't even stabilize long enough for me to disable my desktop items.

Eventually, chkdsk would run (on startup) through steps 1 and 2. Step 3 would show "unspecified error", and XP would boot. Unsuccessfully.

Finally, when I turned it on after giving it (and myself) a day's rest, I simply got a black screen for several minutes before the "boot to Safe Mode" menu appeared. The system, at this point, was not even showing the POST screen. When the Safe Mode menu appears, there is a timer (for booting normally) on the bottom which is not running. It simply shows "0". The menu will not respond to keyboard input to allow me to boot to Safe Mode (or anything else). I have a USB/serial cordless keyboard which I have set up as serial since USB won't work in Safe Mode. I tried a "tethered" serial keyboard, but still got no response.

I've tried booting from the XP CD to access Repair Console, but it won't even do that. I don't remember if my BIOS is set up to allow booting from CD, but I can't access the BIOS to find out.

I'm hoping this isn't a hardware problem, but if it is, can someone recommend good data recovery software (if it is a drive problem)? I have 3 HDDs in my system (totaling 400+ GB). The boot drive contains important data. My other 2 drives are nearly full at this time. I really don't want to reinstall XP. After a reinstall, it takes me weeks of 8+ hour days to reinstall my software. At any given time, I have in excess of 4 million files on my system.

Any suggestions would be appreciated. I've borrowed a friend's CPU to allow me to get online and (hopefully) find a solution. I'm an old woman. My nerves don't handle this type of frustration as well as they did decades ago.

Edited by imSophie, 17 August 2009 - 10:36 AM.

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#2
dsenette

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by serial keyboard do you mean ps/2? (maybe hooking up a punch card reader would help hehe...sorry...old people jokes) if yes to the ps/2 question...it still won't accept input to allow you into bios right? does the screen show up during boot that tells you the button to press to get into the bios (i know you know what button to press...just seeing what part of post is showing and what isn't)...

as an attempt....unplug the machine from the wall and take out the CMOS battery (looks like a watch battery) then hold the power button in (with the machine still unplugged) for 5 to 10 seconds....then put the battery back in, plug it all back in, and try to boot up...does it let you into the bios now?
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#3
imSophie

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I didn't realize how old I am until you mentioned the punch card reader! I was pretty good with the punch card machines. Now you've got me remembering all kinds of "old" things. Oh lord! Like IBM's first "memory" typewriter.

No part of the POST screen shows at any time. I simply have a black screen for several minutes until the Safe Mode menu appears and will not accept any keyboard input. (I guess the vernacular has changed over the years. It's a PS/2 keyboard.) I'm already lost having to use a "tethered" mouse and mousepad again. I miss my USB "air" mouse (which is great, BTW, and saved me from surgery on both wrists).

I forgot about removing the CMOS battery. It's been a few years since I ran into any major problems of any kind, so I suppose I was due for a big one. I'll try the battery trick after the grandkids go home tonight and let you know how it goes.

Thanks!
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#4
imSophie

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It worked! Thanks so much. I removed the CMOS battery and used canned air to do a basic cleaning inside my case. Cleaned the battery. Made sure all cables and plugs were seated. POST ran fine. Fixed BIOS settings. Chkdsk ran flawlessly this time. Booted to Last Good Configuration. All drives are accessible. All previous settings as before. Everything is apparently working fine.

It had probably been at least 15 years (maybe more) since I had to remove a CMOS battery. Never had one go bad, but did have a similar problem on an old system. The last computer I had to do it on was a 286; yeah, one of those dinosaurs.

Again, thanks!
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