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Everything Slows Down, Then Stops Altogether


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#1 Syneph

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Posted 07 November 2009 - 06:34 AM

I'm running XP Pro Media Center Edition, with latest SP on the following rig:
invidia/ECS PN2-SL12 Extreme Mobo, Intel Core 2 Duo 6600, XFX 8800 GTX video card, Sound Blaster Elite Pro Sound Card, WD Raptor 160 gb boot HD, Seagate Barracuda 500 gb storage HD, 1 Plextor and 1 ASUS DVD drive.
Used the Tweak Hound website tutorial for installing XP properly.
Not heavily used, not a lot done. Checked emails, stored a few photos, and an hour or 2 of music, copied 1 DVD, and kept my AVG security and Windows Updates meticulously current before ever doing anything.
Everything ran fine for a few months, then noticed trouble acquiring and holding onto web pages, applications slower and slower to open, everything slowing down, and then everything froze altogether, with Hard Drive activity light staying on continuously. Finally, system could not get past the pre-Windows startup screen. Couldn't get into the OS at all.
Used jumper to reset CMOS, but no improvement.
Carefully checked and rechecked BIOS, but everything is set properly.
Thought maybe I had a bad boot drive, replaced it with brand new Western Digital Velociraptor, got through most of the re-install of XP before same problem occurred before I could start installing any apps, drivers, or programs. System would not even boot up, leaving me stuck in the startup screen, unable to get XP to start.
Put the first HD back in, which had complete OS and 90% of my apps & drivers, but still could not get past the startup screen. Again, the hard drive activity light was on continuoously and I could not get into Windows at all.
Had a local techie recommend I go into Task Manager and check to see if CPU usage was abnormally high, and to check the number of programs/apps that run upon startup, but I cannot sign into Windows to try anything. When I power up, I'm stuck in the startup screen, with the Hard Drive activity light on continuously.
I am dead in the water, with no clue how to proceed.
Any ideas whatsoever would be greatly appreciated, as I have NONE myself.
Thank you VERY much!!!

Syneph

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#2 hamluis

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Posted 07 November 2009 - 10:15 AM

Hi :thumbsup:.

First question...who put your system together (Dell, Gateway, HP, etc.) and what is the model number?

<<Used the Tweak Hound website tutorial for installing XP properly.>>

How did you install MCE? I thought that most/if not all MCE systems came with it preinstalled, with most using a recovery partition to give users the opportunity of returning the system to initial functionality.

Do you have an owner's manual for your system...that details the types of corrective action you might be able to take on that system?

Louis

#3 jsmart7

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Posted 07 November 2009 - 11:01 AM

Throughout this whole process, did you ever format and install the OS. If not, then try it. This solves 99 percent of software problems, because it seems the problem is software based.

#4 Ken-in-West-Seattle

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Posted 07 November 2009 - 11:52 AM

http://www.amazon.com/Microsoft-Windows-Ce...s/dp/B000JTFVM4

MCE 2005 was finally released as a retail product a few years back. For nearly 4 years IIRC, it was available only via OEMs due to microsofts restrictive license and hardware requirements for the 02 version.

-----------

Endless drive activity light CAN mean something on the ide chain is buggered. I did not see whether your using sata or ide, but often ide cd or dvd drives can go "a little bit bad" and screw up any master /slave devices connected to them.
Sata drives have another very different set of clues.

It sure can be software, and a dizzying array of it can go horribly wrong, but testing the hardware first can save some headaches.

The tool I use the most is a simple ubuntu linux live cd. It loads entirely in memory and does not write to the drive, but it mounts it so you can see what's on there. If it fails to install, you have hardware faults of some sort. Memtest 86 is also on the main menu.
If it cannot mount the drive, then you may have a bad drive or ide function on the mainboard.
There are more esoteric uses and tools on there but just seeing if it will install is a quick and dirty way to eliminate nagging doubts about your hardware. It is free and is a downloadable ISO image. Find it with google.

#5 Syneph

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 04:39 AM

Hi :thumbsup:.

First question...who put your system together (Dell, Gateway, HP, etc.) and what is the model number?

<<Used the Tweak Hound website tutorial for installing XP properly.>>

How did you install MCE? I thought that most/if not all MCE systems came with it preinstalled, with most using a recovery partition to give users the opportunity of returning the system to initial functionality.

Do you have an owner's manual for your system...that details the types of corrective action you might be able to take on that system?

Louis


Thank you very much for replying. Very kind of you. I put it all together myself from scratch. Researched things for several months and consulted with savvy friends, took my time, did everything the right way. There is no overall model #,only the numbers on the individual components. From Tiger Direct, I bought an OEM system builder copy of XP Pro SP2 with Media Center built in.

I have manuals for each of the components, but not for the overall unit. I do have 2 excellent reference books for XP,
most notably a really huge and comprehensive volume from Microsoft Press called Windows XP Inside Out. I am continuing to dig thru it in my spare time for clues and may yet find something helpful.

Last thing I tried was to install XP Pro MCE SP2 from scratch on a brand new Western Digital Velociraptor 10,000 rpm
160 gb SATA HD. During install, the problem began showing itself again and I could not even finish installing the OS when it all ground to a halt. Wouldn't that indicate a hardware or BIOS problem rather than a software thing? I ran the thing problem free for several months without Service Pack 3, and only installed SP3 after carefully checking for possible problems. ALthough my troubles started after installing SP3, I don't think that necessarily means anything, because, since then, the problem was present while reinstalling XP Pro MCE SP2 on the new HD, before I ever got around to doing the SP3. I think that in the next few days, I'll try to reinstall from scratch again just to verify the problem exists without SP3. And I'll go in and check the BIOS for the 4th time to make sure it's set properly, hopefully with my knowledgeable friend on the phone while I do it.

I can also try putting back in my first boot HD, a Western Digital Raptor 10,00 rpm 160 gb SATA, with the complete OS and most of my apps & drivers. This was the boot drive I was using when things originally started going wrong, the one I, at first, thought must be faulty and replaced. But this attempt doesn't sound very promising unless I find an incorrect BIOS setting or something else before I try it.

I appreciate your time and any suggestions yo might have. Thank you thank you thank you!!

#6 Syneph

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 05:38 AM

Throughout this whole process, did you ever format and install the OS. If not, then try it. This solves 99 percent of software problems, because it seems the problem is software based.


Thanks very much for taking the time to reply. Yes, I have reformatted the HD and reinstalled XP Pro MCE SP2 on the same HD I was using when the problem began, a Western Digital Raptor 10,00rpm 160 gb SATA, which was only moderately used for a few months. Before doing so, I used the jumper to reset the CMOS and checked the BIOS settings again. By the time I had installed most of my apps, drivers etc., the problem had reappeared and eventually it all ground to a complete halt again. That's when I thought the HD might be bad. I obtained a replacement HD from Tiger Direct,
a brand new Western Digital Velociraptor 10,00rpm 160 gb SATA, reset the CMOS, checked the BIOS, and started a fresh install again. This time, the problem started during install, and things ground to a halt again before I could finish installing the OS. So, it seems highly unlikely that both HDs are bad. The 1st was nearly new, under warranty and used moderately for a few months, and the other was brand new, from a reputable dealer, in factory packaging, enterprise grade with a 5 year warranty.

So, doesn't this sound like either a BIOS issue or a motherboard issue?

In the next few days, I'll check the BIOS settings for the 4th time, this time with my tech savvy friend on the phone while I do it. And then I guess I'll try a fresh reinstall again.

Before the problem began, I was running the thing with no problems, without Service Pack 3. After carefully researching potential problems, I installed SP3. It was fine for a while, and then the problem began. But I don't think there's any reason to blame SP3, since the problem occurred again during a fresh reinstall, before I got SP3. ( My copy of the OS is
XP Pro SP2 Media Center Edition). The problem would not even let me finish installing the basic OS with only SP2. SP3 was not in play at all yet.

I can also try putting the first boot HD back in, which has the complete OS and most of my apps and drivers, but that wouldn't make sense unless I first find something in the BIOS that needs changing.

I really appreciate you taking your time to respond. Thank you thank you thank you!! Syneph

#7 Syneph

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 06:21 AM

http://www.amazon.com/Microsoft-Windows-Ce...s/dp/B000JTFVM4

MCE 2005 was finally released as a retail product a few years back. For nearly 4 years IIRC, it was available only via OEMs due to microsofts restrictive license and hardware requirements for the 02 version.

-----------

Endless drive activity light CAN mean something on the ide chain is buggered. I did not see whether your using sata or ide, but often ide cd or dvd drives can go "a little bit bad" and screw up any master /slave devices connected to them.
Sata drives have another very different set of clues.

It sure can be software, and a dizzying array of it can go horribly wrong, but testing the hardware first can save some headaches.

The tool I use the most is a simple ubuntu linux live cd. It loads entirely in memory and does not write to the drive, but it mounts it so you can see what's on there. If it fails to install, you have hardware faults of some sort. Memtest 86 is also on the main menu.
If it cannot mount the drive, then you may have a bad drive or ide function on the mainboard.
There are more esoteric uses and tools on there but just seeing if it will install is a quick and dirty way to eliminate nagging doubts about your hardware. It is free and is a downloadable ISO image. Find it with google.


Ken, thank so much for replying. All components are SATA, nothing IDE.

Now, let me run this by you. The problem originally started on a nearly new, light to moderately used Western Digital
Raptor 10,00 rpm 160 gb SATA HD. I used the jumper on the mobo to reset the CMOS, rechecked the BIOS, reformatted the drive and started a clean reinstall. I got the OS installed, and got about 90% of my drivers & apps installed when the whole thing ground to a halt again. I thought the HD must be bad. From Tiger Direct, I got a brand new Western Digital Velociraptor 10,000 rpm 160 gb SATA HD, in factory packaging, with a 5 year warranty, formatted it and started a clean install again. During the install, the problem started again, and it would not even allow me to completely get the OS installed before grinding to a halt again. Since the problem occurred on 2 different HDs, doesn't that make it extremely unlikely that both HDs are bad, and that my problem is either in the BIOS or the mobo? Can't I reasonably proceed on the assumption that HDs are not the problem?

You mentioned the Ubuntu Linux Live CD as a troubleshooting tool. Is that something I can download on my workplace computer, onto a CD, take home and try? Last time I powered up, I couldn't even get past the startup menu page. Couldn't get Windows to start up at all. Will that CD work by inserting it with only the startup menu page showing?
I will check out the Ubuntu Linux Live CD and download it onto a CD and try it if I can. And is the Memtest 86 part of the Ubuntu Linux Live CD, or is that something I have to get separately? I'll check that out.

Thanks so much, Ken. I really appreciate your time and trouble. Syneph

#8 hamluis

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 09:51 AM

No error messages re any of this?

Have you thought about the PSU as a contributor?

Louis

#9 Ken-in-West-Seattle

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 11:06 PM

When something happens that does not make sense on a pc, replace the power supply. I keep 3 sizes of "known good" power supplies handy for the first round of testing of computers there users tell me are doing things that don't make sense.

Oddly the amount you pay for a power supply does not seem to influence its reliability :thumbsup:

In the last three years I have had to replace 5 of the very expensive, "highly rated" cool looking PS (several brands, with the modular plugs and led fans) with basic 500w generic 50.00 power supplies. If they had failed completely or caused a fire the troubleshooting would have been easy and fast. But no. They caused sudden reboots, failed diskwrite errors and USB erratic read issues. A couple had had the mainboard replaced more than once. I don't usually get to see them until the warranty expires.


RE the linux boot cd.

Are you familiar with burning an ISO image to cd? Do you have a burner and software that will burn an ISO image to disk? Some programs that will do it do not make it an easy option to find.

This wikipedia chart will help you check the programs you might have installed at work.


This link has detailed info on how to burn the Ubuntu cd from the downloaded ISO file as well as links to the live cd page.
https://help.ubuntu.com/community/BurningIsoHowto

I read recently that banks are starting to suggest to business customers that they use the live cd for web transactions since it cannot be hacked or altered and bypasses any trojans or keyloggers that may have been installed on the windows part of the system.
Google found the link:
http://lifehacker.com/5381466/use-a-linux-...-online-banking
and
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/securityf...d_down_non.html

#10 hamluis

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 10:25 AM

FWIW: How To Test Your Computers Power Supply (PSU) - Video - http://www.metacafe.com/watch/729606/how_t...wer_supply_psu/

Louis




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