The problem started completely randomly. It was maybe 4 or 5 months ago when it started.
One night I was on my computer doing whatever, and the next morning this happened:
I booted my computer up. I logged in to my Windows XP file thing. I waited for everything to load. And waited. And waited. It loaded the desktop background, all my desktop items, my taskbar, and 1 or 2 system tray items then stopped. I could move the mouse and click, and the start button was responsive when I rolled over it, but I couldn't bring up the start menu. Ctrl+Alt+Del didn't do anything. I Could click and drag and make the grey box, and my desktop icons would turn blue when selected, but nothing would open. Nothing more would load, not even an empty folder. (yes, I tried opening up an empty folder that I had on my desktop.) I left my computer on for about an hour, and when I came back to check on it, there was nothing on the screen but my desktop background.
I found out a few things:
Safemode has never worked on my computer, so if there's a way to make it work please tell me. Remember, though, the computer with the problem is completely unusable.
It will also freeze on the log-in screen. (The blue screen with the Windows XP files.) The icons light up when I mouse over them, but clicking doesn't do anything. I can't view my password hit, or even use the button to shut down my computer.
It takes a little while before my computer freezes. About a minute I'd say.
I'm almost 100% certain it isn't a virus, because I had 2 free antivirus programs (Avast! Antivirus and AVG Free) and I also had McAfee Total Protection. Besides, the problem was happening before I logged in to my Windows XP File, and can viruses start up at that screen?
If I had to make a guess, (and remember, this is a TOTALLY unprofessional guess and is probably completely stupid and wrong) I would guess that my computer is overheating somehow, due to a fan problem. The reason I thought of this is because it seems to have a certain amount of time before it freezes.
Any help is appreciated, and I just thought of unplugging and plugging my computer back in. (Although I have no idea how it might help.)
Just remember, the computer that is messed up is COMPLETELY unusable, so any solutions requiring me to use that computer are pretty much useless, unless someone knows how I can get on to safe mode. Right now when I try safemode on that computer I just get a black screen with a ton of drivers in white letters, and it basically stops there.
I would GREATLY prefer a solution that doesn't need me to wipe my harddrive. I'm not even sure where my recovery disks are.
I've heard of Live Discs for Linux, but I'm not sure which are good and how to even use them, and the only reason I see to use them is to check if I have viruses.
I have posted this on techsupportforum.com and the Dell Support forums, and this is the feedback I have gotten:
"It could be hardware:
1. Overheating as you suggest. However, I would expect to hear the fan speed up. Check for dusty/dirty fan heatsink. Make sure the heatsink is properly attached.
2. Something is loose. I would reseat all RAM, cards, cables.
3. Other hardware issue. Can you boot to diagnostics and run them? Run the extended tests. If it locks up here, you have a hardware problem.
If none of that helps, I would strip it down to the bare minimum (no extra RAM, cards, peripherals).
Those things I suggested are fairly simple.
You can run the diagnostics by pressing F12 at boot and selecting the diagnostics. Run the extended tests (particularly for memory).
For the others you need to open the case. Push the big button on the top rear and the side panel should come loose.
The CPU fan is at the middle front and hard to miss. The heatsink is right behind it. Make sure it looks clean and is not clogged with dust/dirt. Check the heatsink to make sure it is secure (shouldn't feel loose).
To reseat the RAM, just pull it out and put it back. Same for the cards and cables. It may sound simplistic, but this
simple act can fix many machines that crash and hang.
Your service manual at support.dell.com has lots of useful details if you need more.
If you start pulling stuff out, make sure:
1. the computer is unplugged and you pressed the power button to drain any residual charge from the PSU (the charge is not dangerous to you, but you don't want to destroy the RAM or other components).
2. you touch the metal part of the case before working inside (to discharge any static)
I'd just like to make it clear that SAFE MODE WILL NOT WORK. It goes to a black screen filled with a bunch of driver names, and it basically freezes there. I've left it on that screen for about 20 minutes with no change.
Thanks in advance!
Edited by Peterabott, 09 March 2008 - 08:54 PM.