Except as noted below, computer is otherwise working fine, fast starts into normal desktop, folders open, printer prints, music plays, internet connection (cable) and surfing seems same as always.
Computer is six year-old Compaq running W98SE. Browser is Firefox, firewall is ZA, AVG updated every day or two. 13GB HD, 1/2 empty. 128MB RAM.
Regular maintenance every 10-14 days is to first download updates for AVG, SpyBot S&D, AdAware, etc., then go into safe mode to (in following order) run CCleaner (which is also run before every shutdown), then ScanDisc, then AVG, SpyBot, AdAware, and finally, do a defrag. Have been doing this for many months without notable problems.
Tried above a few days ago, but when ScanDisc started it almost immediately froze at the "one bar" point during "Checking File Allocation Tables". No cursor movement possible. First Control+Alt+Delete produced nothing, second C+A+D produced a BSOD indicating task manager busy. Waited for a few minutes without change, then used tower switch to shut down. New start into safe mode (using F8) went OK, but same early freeze again trying to run ScanDisc.
Another start into safe mode, again ran CCleaner but skipped ScanDisc and ran AVG, SpyBot and AdAware without incident. Then tried a defrag but it almost immediately froze, again with no cursor control and having to use tower switch to shut off. Two more attempts in safe mode just trying to run either ScanDisc or defrag, same problem.
I then went into both Safe Mode Command Prompt and Command Prompt to try and run scandisk, but no joy. Stopped fairly quickly every attempt. Went back to Safe Mode and tried to run ScanDisk with "auto fix errors" unchecked but that failed. Have tried everything I know to generate a scandisk.log without sucess.
Thinking HD problems, I ran a Compaq Diagnostics program on the HD which produced the following message:
Hard Drive 1: Drive Protection System Test:test failed, error code: 017037001
Failure: Drive Protection System failure
Time of Error: 11:33AM 5/19/05
Hard Drive is a Western Digital WD170AA. Went to their website and downloaded a diagnostics program. Ran it in both the "Quick" version and the "Extended" version and both times it concluded with a small window indicating that it had found bad disk sectors which may be repairable. Options at that point are two radio buttons "Cancel" and "Repair". Pushing the "Repair" button produces a very strong warning that the repair could cause a loss of data and it strongly recommends backing up the drive before repairing, something I can't do with only one HD.
I do have all of my documents, photos, music, etc. burned to CD's. So my concern is not that doing the repairs might cost me a song or a document, but that it might screw-up the OS....i.e. I would crash and burn.
Despite what I've done so far, I'm a real novice. If the OS crashes as a result of the repair attempt, I would not have a clue as to how to get things back in order. So here's where I need some opinions, keeping in mind that right now everything except Scandisk is working just fine.
It seems to me my best option would be to buy a new HD, I don't need much capacity and can get one for well under $50.00, install it, and then move everything from the old one to the new one, then attempt the repair on the old one, not really caring if it works or not. Some might say it's time to retire the entire old comp, but frankly I can't affort a good new one right now and don't want something cheep from Walmart. (no offense to Walmart intended).
Sorry to have gone on so long, but wanted you folks to have a complete picture. I really encourage any and all to provide advice and point me in the right direction.