Posted 15 July 2011 - 05:35 AM
Thanks in advance for any help offered.
So, long story short:
My brother gifted me a PC game (Elder Scrolls: Oblivion) and I started it a few days ago. My laptop, a six year old Dell Inspiron 9300 (running XP Pro) was above the minimum system requirements but the game kept crashing (specifically getting BSODs with inconsistent error messages). I kept trying to fiddle with things in the game and on my computer (preventing an HP printer process from initializing on startup, turning down my Sound Acceleration, and even attempting to remove some old proprietary spyware [Starforce?] with an officially sanctioned removal tool). The Blue Screens kept occurring though (the common explanation is faulty memory which may be relevant). I finally hit a BSOD that gave me an "IRQ NOT LESS OR EQUAL" error.
Upon rebooting my computer I noticed that the taskbar did not load (nor did any icons). This is actually a problem I have from time to time but normally just rebooting again (and sometimes once more) will fix it. However, this has not been the case this time around and, in fact, I am unable to perform a normal "Restart" and instead must perform a hard shutdown to reboot. Whenever I am prompted to perform a "Restart" the computer lags and gives me an error message about "explorer.exe" being unable to close and Do I want to "End Now", etc. Even when I select End Now, I just hang on the desktop indefinitely. To solve the lack of a taskbar, I first tried to do the obvious fix which is starting "explorer.exe" from the Task Manager (opened with Ctrl-Alt-Delete). This, seemingly, did nothing. I then tried to perform "sfc /scannow" from the command prompt. Oddly while I was waiting for the sfc scan to start/finish, the taskbar and desktop icons loaded on screen in the background. In addition, a My Documents window opened (twice) for no apparent reason. I'm not sure if the appearance of the task bar was a delayed reaction of trying to start explorer.exe or the sfc scan but I WAS able to replicate it. The problem, however, is that while the taskbar and all associated content seemed to load, two important items did not (both times I replicated this): My Sound Device (SigmaTel C Audio) and my Wireless Internet Device. When poking around in the device manager, I saw that both devices were displayed as being functional (no question marks or exclamation points), but whenever I tried to open the audio volume menu or "Network Connections" the computer would spit out an error message saying the the devices had either failed to initialize or failed to be found at all.
I then tried the much lauded CHKDSK function from the command prompt (specifically CHKDSK /r, though I'm actually not sure if that's the one that fixes things) and on my first attempt, the CHKDSK was executed at startup and the computer booted normally! Everything seemed to be fine (I had internet and sound). While trying to clean some things up and do some maintenance (after deleting the game), I rebooted the system again with no trouble BUT was faced with another empty desktop upon startup. Since then, I've been able to get the non-Sound/Internet taskbar to reappear but never the fully functional one. I thought that perhaps the CHKDSK was what fixed it (albeit temporarily) but I've been unable to get CHKDSK to run on startup anymore. I've tried to recreate the exact conditions but it refuses to run (both CHKDSK /r and /f). It might be related to the boot.ini?
Since then, I've added the devices that I disabled from startup back (in an attempt to make things how they were before this started happening) and have had no real luck figuring out what to do next. Oddly, I've managed to get Safe Mode working (with networking enabled) so, still soundless, I'm actually writing this on the machine in question while operating in Safe Mode. I guess this means that there's a particular device or part of the boot.ini that's causing the problems when I try to boot normally? One final note, XP came pre-installed on my laptop and I'm almost positive that I never received a recovery disc of any kind, so attempting to repair from the recovery console doesn't appear to be an option presently.
I know that's a lot of info but I wanted to be thorough and give a clear picture of the situation. For anyone who has any help to offer, let me know if you need any more information and thanks again.