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XP SP3 slowed, intermittent booting, then no boot at all


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#1 Arney X

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 01:00 AM

Hi, all! I believe I have a hardware problem, possibly a worn out component somewhere. Here's why:

I'm running Windows XP Home SP3 on an HP 754n desktop. I've upgraded the RAM from 512M to 1G, and the HDD from 80G to a new out-of-the-box Maxtor 500G (IDE). Both upgrades were done about a year ago with no problems. I installed the 80G drive as my G drive, slave to the 500G C drive, and emptied it a few months ago.

Back in May (2011) I had a TDL4 virus, and during the course of removing it my system was compromised & never restored to full working order. HP offers a utility which restores the machine to OEM defaults, essentially replacing the programs without touching the data. I've tried it once & it worked beautifully (which is more than I can say for HP tech support). I don't remember the name of the utility, and during the course of searching for the utility, the following issue came up:

The system started running EXTREMELY slowly; I could hear each bit processing. Soon, upon rebooting, I started getting errors preventing me from rebooting from HDD consistently. Without warning I would get the DISK BOOT FAILURE, INSERT SYSTEM DISK AND PRESS ENTER message. Sometimes I would press enter without inserting the disk & it would reboot, then I would have to insert the disk or it wouldn't reboot. When inserting the disk, sometimes it would reboot without using the disk, sometimes it would ask if I wanted to boot from CD (then boot normally without my response), and sometimes it would go through the blue screen Windows reinstall procedure. When it proceeded to the Recovery Console, I would F3 to escape and it would reboot, or I would go to Repair Windows (but I didn't know what to do from the cursor prompt, so I exited & was able to reboot anyway). Eventually it got to the point where it wouldn't boot at all & I got the message: SETUP DID NOT FIND ANY HARD DISK DRIVES INSTALLED IN YOUR COMPUTER. Finally, when F1-ing from the HP splash screen, I received the message PRIMARY MASTER HARD DISK S.M.A.R.T. STATUS BAD. WARNING: IMMEDIATE BACK-UP YOUR DATA AND REPLACE YOUR HARD DISK DRIVE. A FAILURE MAY BE IMMINENT. This told me that the system wasn't recognizing either the C drive or the G drive.

After attempting to contact a few friends who have helped me in the past, I got no response & came back here. When the system began slowing down mysteriously, I ran Malwarebytes a few times, with no reports of infection. I tried deleting some startup items, but that didn't seem to help. I defragged the system, also to no avail. All these actions seem to say that there is a problem with the hardware interacting - specifically the system to the HDDs. Therefore, I'm about to try reseating both drives, and if that doesn't work I might swap out the IDE ribbon. That's all I can think of for now. Which brings me to you.

Any suggestions are appreciated & helpful. I'm running off an alternate desktop right now (Windows 7, SATA drive), with IE8 running as it was on the affected desktop. Thanks in advance for your help.

- Arney X

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#2 AustrAlien

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 01:14 AM

Disconnect G: drive completely for now to eliminate one potential problem and make trouble-shooting simpler.

When you enter the BIOS Setup Menu, is the one hard drive now detected and identified there ... perhaps with only the model number? If not ... turn computer off and turn power off ... and disconnect both ends of the IDE ribbon cable and replug them back in (to refresh the connections). Is the hard drive now detected and identified in the BIOS Setup Menu?
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#3 AustrAlien

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 01:33 AM

When convenient, lay the box on its back on the floor or on a table, and with a good light, examine the motherboard carefully for any sign of a potential problem. In particular, examine each of the capacitors and look for any bulging or leaking at the top of the caps.

See the pic in this recent post #18 for a good idea of what you might be looking for.
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#4 AustrAlien

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 01:55 AM

PRIMARY MASTER HARD DISK S.M.A.R.T. STATUS BAD. WARNING: IMMEDIATE BACK-UP YOUR DATA AND REPLACE YOUR HARD DISK DRIVE. A FAILURE MAY BE IMMINENT.

This S.M.A.R.T. warning can generally be relied upon to indicate that your hard drive (in this case your PRIMARY MASTER ... the 500 GB Maxtor) is about to fail. Unfortunately, by the time that warning is displayed, it is often too late to act upon, and in your case it appears that way also.

It would be reasonable at this stage to accept the fact that the hard drive has died and make arrangements to move forward. If you have important files that you wish to recover from the failing hard drive, that may still be possible. Since it is likely to be your first priority, I will include instructions below for you to attempt to retrieve copies of your important files.
NOTE: If the hard drive is NOT detected and reported correctly in the BIOS Setup Menu, do not proceed, as there is no way of accessing the hard drive if this is the case.

Note FYI: The term "system disk" refers to the hard drive with the Windows system on it ... not the Windows XP CD.

=========================

If your computer is not able to boot into Windows or simply not able to access the internet, you can use a LIVE Linux operating system run from a bootable CD or flashdrive instead of Windows, to access the internet, to access files on the HDD(s) and do other tasks.

:step1: Using a working computer:
  • If you wish to use a LIVE CD ...
  • Download the Linux version of your choice (usually an .ISO image file).
  • There are many options to use for a LIVE CD. I suggest that you try one of the following:
  • Puppy Linux (smallest download file size at 128 MB)
  • Linux Mint 11 Katya (versions for a CD, and larger versions that need to be burned to a DVD disk)
[*]Burn the .ISO image to CD: If you do not already have a suitable burning program for writing .ISO images to disc ...
  • Download and install ImgBurn.
  • Ensure that you UN-check the box agreeing to install the Ask toolbar during the installation.
  • Place a new (blank) CD disc in the drive tray.
  • Choose Write image file to disc.
    • Under Source, click on the Browse button: Navigate to and select the .ISO file that you wish to burn.
    • Place a check-mark in the box beside Verify.
  • Click Posted Image
[*]When the CD has been burned and verified as successful, it will be bootable.
[/list][*]OR ... if you wish to use a LIVE flashdrive ...
  • Go to UNetbootin - Homepage and Downloads and at the top of the page, click on Download (for Windows) to download the application.
  • Follow the instructions further down the page under the heading Installation & Screenshots.
  • Run the application to download and install the Linux version of choice to your flashdrive.
  • I suggest that you try one of the following:
  • Puppy Linux (smallest download file size at 128 MB)
  • Linux Mint 11 Katya (download file size depends on version)
[/list][/list]
:step2: Boot the problematic machine from the LIVE CD or flashdrive.
  • (You may have to configure the Boot Menu or BIOS Setup Menu to boot first from the optical/CD drive or the flashdrive, which ever you are using.)
  • Choose to run the Linux operating system from the CD or flashdrive without making any changes to your computer.
    Do NOT install Linux on your hard drive.
  • When the Linux operating system loads ...
  • You will be able to navigate to all the files on your HDD.
  • You can backup your files by copying them to a flashdrive or an external hard drive.
  • Before using the internet (if you choose to use Puppy, for example) you may have to:
  • Configure/set up the internet connection
  • Download a favourite browser
    (With Linux Mint the foregoing should not be necessary.)
[/list]You may find one of the following guides useful:
Recover files from Windows XP hard disk using Puppy Linux

Recover files from Windows Vista hard disk using Puppy Linux

Recover files from Windows 7 hard disk using Puppy Linux

The easiest way to copy files/folders in Puppy is to drag-and-drop from one window to another. To do this open a window showing what you want to copy. Open another window showing the location that you wish to copy to .... and move the windows so that you can conveniently see both at the same time.

Now, simply drag the items you wish to copy from one window into the other. Simple.

----------------
Recent news, November 2011: You may be interested to have a look at the following:

The most popular Linux is...

No itís not Fedora, openSUSE, or even Ubuntu. Itís Linux Mint.


AustrAlien
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#5 Arney X

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 01:58 AM

That's why you're an Inquisitor. Done. G: drive disconnected & C: drive reseated. System boots "normally." Upon this first successful reboot, though, I got a system message that reads: "You have used the System Configuration Utility to make changes to the way Windows starts. The System Configuration Utility is currently in Diagnostic or Selective Startup mode, causing this message to be displayed and the Utility to run every time Windows starts. Choose the Normal Startup Mode on the General tab to start Windows normally and undo the changes you made using the System Configuration Utility." There is then a check (tick) box next to "Don't show this message or launch the System Configuration Utility when Windows starts." To what "General" tab is this referring, and what do I do now?

#6 Arney X

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 02:00 AM

Sorry, I was typing while you wrote your last two responses. Let me catch up.

#7 Arney X

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 02:14 AM

Upon visual inspection of motherboard I did not detect any orange (or any other) seepage emanating from the capacitors or any other board-based component. All items seemed shiny & new...albeit dust-covered. I tested network connection by accessing websites successfully. I tested HDD storage by accessing & transferring data to a flash drive. No hiccups so far, except that the system is still running slowly.

#8 AustrAlien

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 02:26 AM

Back up your important files to another hard drive while you still have the chance to do it!!!

Having dinner atm: Back in a little while.
AustrAlien
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#9 Arney X

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 02:35 AM

Thanks. Will do. Indications seem to point to the old G: drive failing; possibly that's what the S.M.A.R.T. warning was referring to? At any rate, I'll begin backing up the C: drive. What should I do about that System Configuration Utility message? It's waiting for my response. Also, it will take hours to back up the C: drive. Enjoy your dinner.

#10 AustrAlien

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 03:01 AM

The SMART warning was quite specific about which drive was in trouble:
  • PRIMARY MASTER

Re: The System Configuration Utility message

I don't know what exactly has been changed to start bring up this message.

Assuming you have no good reason for configuring the it otherwise, return it to normal.

If you are not currently looking at the utility (it has a number of tabs, one of which ... the first ... will be the General tab), go to Start > Run and type msconfig and press <ENTER>. You should now be looking at the General tab of the System Configuration Utility.

Select "Normal". You will be asked to reboot to make the change. I suggest you do not re-boot at this stage, for fear of not being able to boot successfully again. Instead, connect a USB external hard drive or flash drive and proceed to backup all important files. This is your first and immediate priority.

Edited by AustrAlien, 12 December 2011 - 03:02 AM.

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#11 Arney X

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 03:08 AM

Good point. Thanks.

As mentioned, I am currently backing up the C: drive onto that 500G external drive (over which you & I originally met). I suppose I should not perform any simultaneous function until after backup is completed. True? I'll address the System Configuration Utility after backup.

#12 AustrAlien

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 03:18 AM

Correct: The Sys Config utility setting is of no consequence in the current situation.

Remembering the conversations in your previous topic, you are most likely to have set up the system using CABLE SELECT on both hard drives. When you got into the box and disconnected the second (slave) hard drive:
  • Was it on the same cable as the Maxtor hard drive, OR the optical drive?
  • Was it attached to the middle connector of the cable, OR the end connector of the cable?
I am trying to confirm without doubt exactly which hard drive the SMART warning was referring to as the PRIMARY MASTER.
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#13 Arney X

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 04:00 AM

Yes, both drives were set to Cable Select. The old G: drive was on the same cable as the Maxtor C: drive, and it was attached to the middle connector of the ribbon cable. The Maxtor is attached to the end connector.

After setting System Configuration Utility back to Normal, I remembered why it was altered: In my original post I had mentioned that I had deleted some startup items to see if that would help the system. The system never rebooted after that change. This message was the result of that change. In setting the utility back to Normal, all settings were restored, and I'll deal with them again at a later date. It may be a moot point if I restore system settings to factory defaults after we're through here.

In the meantime, Windows Backup Utility is busily chugging along...Backup Progress box tells me the procedure will take more than a day & a half to complete. Can that be accurate? The C: drive has 160G on it.

Edited by Arney X, 12 December 2011 - 04:06 AM.


#14 AustrAlien

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 04:11 AM

In that case there is no doubt at all the the SMART message relates to the Maxtor 500 GB hard drive.

While your XP system is busy ...

On your Windows 7 system download SeaTools and burn a bootable CD ready to test the Maxtor after you have completed backing up all files to your satisfaction.
(... if you have not already done this: I posted this in your previous topic!)

When you are ready, then boot the problematic computer with the SeaTools CD and test the hard drive. Having received the SMART warning already, you can expect it to FAIL the tests, and not be repairable. You should make arrangements to purchase a new hard drive to replace the Maxtor.

Test a Seagate manufactured (or Maxtor branded) hard disk drive using SeaTools for DOS run from a bootable CD.

:step1: Please download SeaTools for DOS (CD) from Seagate's SeaTools for DOS web page

or use the following direct download link to download the latest version of SeaTools for DOS:
Download SeaTools for DOS ISO Image

The downloaded file name is SeaToolsDOS223ALL.ISO
[/list]
:step2: Burn the downloaded .ISO image to a CD using the appropriate burning software.
  • If you do not already have a suitable burning program for writing .ISO images to disc ...
    • Download and install ImgBurn.
      Ensure that you UN-check the box agreeing to install the Ask toolbar during the installation.
    • Place a new (blank) CD disc in the drive tray.
    • Choose Write image file to disc.
    • Under Source, click on the Browse button: Navigate to and select the .ISO file that you wish to burn.
    • Place a check-mark in the box beside Verify.
  • Click Posted Image

    When the CD has been burned and verified as successful, it will be bootable.

:step3: Boot from the CD.
  • (You may need to access the BIOS Setup Menu or the Boot Menu and change the boot order to enable booting from CD before hard drive.)
  • From Basic tests on the Main Menu, run the Short test and then the Long test.

    (The long test will take some considerable time to complete.)
    The results will be shown as either a PASS or FAIL.
    There is a chance that during the Long test, you may be offered the opportunity to attempt repairs on the hard drive:
  • If so, go ahead and attempt to do so, but ONLY after backing up all important personal files.
[/list]Note: You may wish to view the following ...
Please let us know the results of the tests.
AustrAlien
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#15 AustrAlien

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 04:20 AM

Windows Backup Utility is busily chugging along...Backup Progress box tells me the procedure will take more than a day & a half to complete. Can that be accurate? The C: drive has 160G on it.

Windows time ... it's widely known as a joke ... is NEVER accurate.

It would have been far quicker to backup to an internal hard drive ... the one you had previously connected ... except perhaps that it may not have been big enough. Transfer of data over a USB connection is slow ... even when using the USB2.0 standard.

It's not the time that it may take that is now worrying me: It is the fact that you are using the Windows XP Backup Utility. It is not something I would have recommended using. Even if it completes successfully, there is no guarantee that you will be able to successfully recover what it has backed up when you attempt to do so later. (I don't mean to unnecessarily alarm/worry you ... but it is a concern to me.)
AustrAlien
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