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Freeze before bootloader, crummy workaround


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#1 Sethdood

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 11:04 AM

Hi everyone.

I've built myself a pretty nice machine which has been working well for about a year, but as of yesterday I'm only able to freely operate it from a Knoppix live CD.

First, the heart of the issue:

On both cold and warm bootup attempts, the PC with load and post bios without a problem. Can enter BIOS settings no problem, can enter RAID controller settings no problem. When it comes time to load the bootloader and pop into Windows, the PC will just stay on a black screen with a blinking curser. No activity, no way to enter safe mode, no response to any input. If I attempt to boot from a CD, I can enter the preinstall environment without an issue, but for the moast part, anything I do within that PE is useless as I can still not boot after restarting, with one exception I'll note below.

The Details:

I can modify my windows 7 installation and even fully install windows 7 onto my RAID0. When I install a new OS onto the primary drive(s), the PC acts normally for a few hours and I don't seem to have the same problem. Then, it'll randomly lock up once and I'm back to square one. I've run 9 passes on a memtest without issue, the video card is clearly working, the BIOS is working, the processor is clearly working and the hard drives are not the problem. I know this for two reasons- the first being that as of yesterday the primary drives are two brand new Crucial SSDs in RAID 0 which pass chkdsk, and the second is that is have another windows 7 installed on two WD caviar black drives in a second RAID 0 (which I have been using for the past year) which also do not boot when set to primary. I have a soundblaster X-fi card (it's a piece of crap but I like it better then Realtek) which I figured to just yank out of the system, to no avail. As a PC tech I usually use LIVE PE CDs on a misbehaving PC to see if the problem is indeed hardware based, and so right now I'm typing this up from a Knoppix live OS on what seems to be fully functioning hardware. Also, something odd- one of the fans in the front of the case is a 200mm red LED intake fan. It gets its power from the Mobo, and no longer lights up as of yesterday.

The Origin:

I was first clued in to the fact that something was wrong with the system immediately after the strom which blew down my whole dam neighborhood last week. I'm in Queens NY and we had a crippeling storm I'm sure you've heard of. When I returned home that day I found my PC totally frozen with popping sounds coming from the speakers. After a restart, there was a small HDD issue (this was on the WD caviar black RAID 0) which was fixed with a chkdsk. The system has been periodically locking up since then, but for the most part has been fully functional. The PC would always still boot into windows. Now I know as well as most of you do that as soon as some HDDs have a small problem it can just balloon into something worse, so I sent out for these two SSDs to run my OS from. This seems to have greatly exacerbated the issue, after their introduction into the system and the OS install on them, the freeze ups left me with this horrid problem. The system was able to make it past two BSODs before it would no longer boot: stop message was 0X0000004A, and they were not back to back crashes.

Diagnostic Attempts:

I removed the Soundblaster from a PCI slot on the machine and popped in a BIOS card, restarted and waited for the BIOS code during the freeze. The code came back as 00, which on an award BIOS simply means that BIOS has done its POST sucessfully and is waiting for the bootloader; big freaking help. As stated before I was able to run windows's memory test from my Windows 7 CD 9 passes through without an issue. During my TWO fresh Windows 7 installations on the new drives I loaded all most recent hardware drivers, including (what should be) the most recent RAID drivers. I can boot into the windows 7 RC with a fully responsive command prompt, and even run their startup repair tool. It is worth mentioning that a few times last night, it locked up and froze three times in that PE during attempts to repair the startup sequence. This morning it completed without an issue so I think the freezes were incidental. I've disconnected the DVD-ROM drive, some case fans and two of the 5 hard disks to see if the PSU wasn't doing the job- it seems to be fine. I'm using a few different SATA cables to connect the drives, so I switched them around and replaced the different one on the primary RAID disks. I fully reset the BIOS and had to re-enter my jumperless configuration for my RAM. Almost even replaced the CMOS battery before I thought that my system time would be all screwy if that had gone bad. It only seems to boot fine after it creates the temporary partition during an OS install, and then for a few hours after that until it decides to freeze again and bring me back to square one.

System Specs:
AMD Phenom II X4 955 BE 3.2ghz Quad Core
4GB OCZ Black Edition DDR3 SDRAM @ 1600mhz
Asus M4A79XTD EVO Motherboard
Asus EAH4890 Video Card (ATI Radeon HD 4890 1GB DDR5 @950mhz core)
2 Crucial RealSSD C300 64GB SATA III SSD in Raid 0
2 Western Digital Caviar Black 650GB HDDs in Raid 0
1 Western Digital (some old drive in JBOD) 350GB HDD
Sound Blaster X-fi Home Audio PCI
700W Cooler Master Silent Pro M Modular PSU
Cooler Master HAF922 case, modified with 3 extra intake fans
Thermaltake 120mm Ultra CPU heatsink with 2 120mm fans
Aerocool Coolpanel III fan controller
Lite-On DVD burner (generic)


I know this is long but it's quite involved. You great techs of the internet, someone please give me some ideas I may not have tried! I thank you all in advance for any ideas, and will of course let you know of a resolution.

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#2 cryptodan

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 11:17 AM

Does it boot up in safe mode via F8 after the BIOS Post Screens?

#3 Sethdood

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 11:35 AM

No, it doesn't seem to get far enough for any OS enabled things like that.

#4 cryptodan

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 11:37 AM

that to me means that there is an issue with the RAID Drivers. What happens when you try safe mode?

#5 Sethdood

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 11:44 AM

Nothing, there's no way for me to get into safe mode.

#6 cryptodan

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 11:46 AM

Are you sure that you successfully setup windows and that it is installed correctly? Sounds to me like you haven't installed an operating system yet.

#7 Sethdood

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 11:51 AM

No there are two Operating systems on this PC right now, for sure. When I load windows 7's PE and attempt to repair, as soon as I load my raid drivers they both show up in the list. Also, keep in mind they both work fine every time I find a way to bypass the problem, which is only during an OS install and immediately after.

#8 Sethdood

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 09:56 PM

My uptime on this machine while running off of Knoppix from my DVDROM drive is going on 10 hours. Why does this work but nothing else?

#9 cryptodan

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 04:19 AM

It definitely seems to me that you missed a step, Windows is no longer registering your RAID Setup, or your RAID is corrupted. I would try removing 1 of the SSD Drives from the RAID and reinstalling Windows that way.




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