Help diagnose this computer failure problem....

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Ronald Epstein, Apr 24, 2005.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Thank Goodness I just ordered a new computer.

    The one I am using now has a sudden problem...

    My two year-old Dell Inspiron is having
    a bootup problem that came on rather suddenly.

    The computer boots up and gets as far as
    the Windows XP login screen (where you put
    in your password), but as soon as I click
    on the username, the computer freezes.

    Sometimes, the computer will go as far as
    actually loading beyond the login screen but
    before it can complete loading all the software
    there is a freeze.

    I doubt a virus is at fault. I have a firewall
    and two separate virus detection programs running.

    It seems to be a possible hardware issue or
    perhaps there is a corrupt file the computer
    cannot read when it goes through the load process.

    In any event, I am hoping that one of you
    cyberphiles out there can help me diagnose the
    problem.

    Many Thanks!
     
  2. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    First, try to boot in safe mode.

    If that doesn't work, there are some dos commands to check the HD for errors. I think it is chkdsk and then chkdsk -f to fix any erros. You may also need to use the fixmbr command to repair the boot record.

    If you can get in in safe mode you may be able to use the Windows XP System Restore thing.
     
  3. Eric Samonte

    Eric Samonte Screenwriter

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    Hmmm....my guess is that Dell has a 2 year warranty on it? And they just sent an code to activate a "sleeper bomb" to go off. Hey it happnes to most stuff when the warranty expires...

    Kidding aside. I'm no PC whiz but safe mode is ur best bet like Seth says but I've not done though DOS commands in a while. Sounds like a good idea though.
     
  4. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Seth,

    I disabled the Windows XP restore. Reason
    being, it uses a lot of resources and I have
    everything backed up to an external drive.

    Problem is, in this case, I can't access the
    external drive if Windows doesn't entirely load.
    The external will benefit me if I have to format.

    As far as your suggestions of using
    SAFE MODE and DOS....

    Never used SAFE MODE. How do I get into it
    and what will it do for me?

    Also, how can I get into DOS to run the
    commands you suggested? I have used DOS before
    but that was prior to Windows 95.

    Thanks!
     
  5. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    I certainly understand disabling System Restore. It is a pain until the rare occasion that you need it.

    You *should* be able to boot into Safe Mode by tapping the F8 key while the computer boots. Hopefully this will take you to a boot menu where one of the options will be Safe Mode. If you can boot into Safe Mode with no problem then you probably have an issue with Windows (i.e. the registry).

    Let us know what happens when you attempt Safe Mode and we'll go from there.
     
  6. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Hitting F8 during boot-up (right after the Dell logo appears) will get you a boot-up menu and give you about 30 seconds to make a choice from 6 o 7 menu items. You'll probably want to use "Safe Mode" itself. This loads Windows with a minimal set of options and drivers, with the GUI in standard VGA mode. This should allow you to run scandisk from within Windows (rather than chkdsk from a DOS prompt) and just generally check under the hood to see what might be wrong.

    Regards,

    Joee
     
  7. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Safe Mode is your friend. I'm surprised, with your extensive computer use, that you've never had to use it. I've had to use this over the years to deal with both Win98 and WinXP issues.

    As Seth said, press F8 during bootup, and you'll be presented with a menu of two or more options, ranging from Safe Mode with no media or network access, to normal bootup. Start with the most limited safe mode and see if that boots. If so, reboot and try the next more advanced option, typically enabling CD access and network access.

    If that successfully boots, reboot and try a normal startup. Sometimes, that's all it takes, and things will revert to normal behavior. Otherwise, you can use safe mode to attempt to repair the problem, or perhaps to do a backup before trying more drastic solutions, like an OS reinstall.
     
  8. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Thanks for the advice thus far guys!

    Okay, here we go....

    Went into SAFE MODE three times.
    SAFE -> WITH NETWORKING -> COMMAND PROMPT

    No problems. Once I did the COMMAND PROMPT
    I typed "Chkdsk" (no quotes) and the system
    went through a 3-stage check with no errors
    reported.

    Now, I don't know if I should have used any
    other command at the DOS prompt or not. I can
    tell you that "chkdsk -f" did not work.

    Tried rebooting into normal windows again
    and this time it went much farther -- almost
    loading my startup programs completely until
    it crapped out.

    What should I do next?

    I am going to try and reinstall Windows XP
    if it will permit me. The problem is it's
    an SP1 disc installing over SP2.

    I'll wait first to hear from you folks.
     
  9. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Trying to reinstall XP SP1 over SP2 doesn't sound like the best of all possible options. I think if it comes down to a reinstall you'll be better off doing a wipe of the hard drive and clean install of SP1, followed by an update to SP2 and subsequent security updates.

    Before I did that I'd want to see if one of my start-up programs wasn't having trouble. Start up in Safe Mode again, and check your start up group. Make note of what's in there, then delete all those short-cuts. Next go to "Start", "Run" and type "msconfig" in the "open" box, then hit "OK". This will open up the start-up configuration applet. Since not all programs that start automatically are in the start-up group, this is the place to disable the others. Be careful on the "Start-up" tab. Only uncheck things you're absolutely sure of, as there are Windows components and other necessary items that you may not recognize based on the file name and location.

    See if you can boot normally into Windows and then start enabling start-up programs one at a time until something bombs out. Then re-install that app.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  10. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    Yeah, I'd say it's definitely one of your startup programs if you were able to boot into safe mode. I know you have lots of utility software. Do you have to have a registry cleaner? I think the Norton SystemWorks package comes with one. If you ran something like that in safe mode it may be able to fix your problems. You should probably also do a quick run of your virus scanner and adaware in safe mode just to cover everything.

    Oh yeah, and Joe gave great advice about msconfig, hopefully that will help you to narrow down which program is causing your problem.

    If you decide to reinstall, I would format it first. That should save you any troubles with installed SP1 over SP2.
     
  11. LewB

    LewB Screenwriter

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    FWIW, I think the correct command is 'CHKDSK /F'
     
  12. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    Good call Lew, thanks for correcting me on that. Anyhow, Ron you probably don't need to worry about chkdsk /f if chkdsk didn't return any errors.
     
  13. Chris

    Chris Lead Actor

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    Ron-


    Do this:

    Boot into safe mode (normal)
    right click on my computer.
    Choose "manage"
    Go to event viewer (here, we're specifically concerned with "SYSTEM EVENTS")

    Some of these events will have a red error which mark them as "unable to start in safe mode" those we aren't worried about.

    Look for those dating farther back to see if you have any red "X" marks linked to an application or program going farther back. If it's connected to a program or item, you may use MSCONFIG to prevent that program from starting on the next boot.
     
  14. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Guys,

    The SAFE MODE was the key.

    Using MSCONFIG I was able to start
    windows with minimal drivers, access my
    external hard drive and restore windows
    to my last backup.

    All is working well.

    Thank You all so much!
     

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