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Author Topic: Reluctant Bootups and Win 2K Weirdness
Flashfire
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Icon 1 posted April 24, 2004 12:13      Profile for Flashfire   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Hi guys,

My husband's computer is having severe problems at the moment that I can't figure out...1/3 of the time, it'll boot up fine, no problems; 1/3 of the time, it'll boot but sloooooooooowly, like molasses; and 1/3 it'll get halfway through Win 2k startup and BSOD with an "unreadable boot device" or "unknown hard error" message.

The computer is your standard PC running Windows 2k; it has an IDE motherboard,512 meg RAM, 2 20 gig HDDs, graphics card, sound card, modem and CD ROM. Fairly run-of-the-mill. It was recently upgraded to Win 2k -- we wiped the harddrive and did a clean install, so there shouldn't be any conflicts with old drivers...

I thought it was the IDE slots on the Motherboard to begin with, as there were IDE errors in the Windows Error Log for a while, but the BIOS recognises everything fine, with no problems, and we've booted it to Knoppix and it sees everything fine. [Confused]

A memory test is running on it now to see if that's the problem -- I'll let you know how that turns out when it's done (in 24 hrs. *sigh*). If it's not bad RAM, then I'll be completely at my wit's end.

If anyone has an idea or two about what's going on, I could really use the help. [Smile]

--Flash, ready to wipe the hard drives again and install Red Hat and WINEX...

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"No silicon heaven? That's absurd!
Where would all the calculators go?"
--Kryten, Red Dwarf
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My Web Comic: NSTA: Semper Vigilantis

Posts: 368 | From: State of Denial | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged
The Famous Druid

Gold Hearted SuperFan!
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Icon 1 posted April 24, 2004 16:24      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Sounds to me like a faulty hard disk.

When they're going bad, they often go through a phase where you can only read a sector sometimes. If the read fails, it'll try again, and again, and again, until it finally gives up. If the bad sector is in one of the windows files that gets read during startup, this would produce exactly the symptoms you've described.

My advice would be to back up everything of value on the hard disk, then remove the disk and drop it from a very very high place onto the politician of your choice. Hard disks are cheap, and it's really not worth stuffing about trying to save a flaky one, your programs and data are worth far more to you than the cost of a new disk.

If you're broke, or just of a geeky inclination and like to do these perverse things, you could try running a hard-disk checker on the drive, and identify the portion of the disk that's bad. You can then either

a) rename the file that occupies the space to BAD.BAD and then get a known good copy from somewhere to replace it. This should mean Windoze will never try to access the bad portion.

b) use a disk partitioner to entomb the bad sectors in a partition of their own. This is what I did with my old flaky laptop drive, It had some bad sectors about half-way through the C drive, so I shrunk C to be a little bit smaller than half, then created a D partition to span the bad sectors, then a new E partition to let me use the other half of the drive. Worked fine for a year or so, then the whole drive just died one day. [Frown]

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If you watch 'The History Of NASA' backwards, it's about a space agency that has no manned spaceflight capability, then does low-orbit flights, then lands on the Moon.

Posts: 10669 | From: Melbourne, Australia | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
Flashfire
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Icon 1 posted April 25, 2004 10:10      Profile for Flashfire   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well, TFD, I told him about your reply -- and he is absolutely certain it IS NOT THE HARD DRIVE. [shake head]

Right. Personally, I agree with you -- I'll try to convince him to let me move his stuff to a spare drive I've got and see if that one acts the same.

If it does, well, then we begin replacing pieces of computer until the problem is solved or he has a whole new machine. [Smile] Thanks for the help.

--Flash, playing the harddrive hokey-pokey

Oh, the Memory Test was perfectly fine, BTW. 3 passes, 0 errors, so it's not the RAM. Oh well.

--------------------
"No silicon heaven? That's absurd!
Where would all the calculators go?"
--Kryten, Red Dwarf
-------------------------------
My Web Comic: NSTA: Semper Vigilantis

Posts: 368 | From: State of Denial | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged
Elvermere
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Icon 1 posted April 27, 2004 22:45      Profile for Elvermere     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'll have to vote with TFD there, it sounds like a HDD on the way out.

Second option would have to be a motherboard error. A small crack, gets bigger with heat, can cause all sorts of chaos.

Try swapping the Motherboard after the HDD.

my $0.02 worth

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Duct Tape is like the force.
It has a light side and a dark side and it holds the universe together.

Posts: 113 | From: Perth, West AU | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged
maven
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Icon 1 posted May 17, 2004 13:30      Profile for maven     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
i strongly disagree with the hard drive theories (but liked the janky fixes from druid, haha).

the two most common things to go out on a system are the power supply and the memory. to test this, one at a time, replace the parts with parts you know are good. try the RAM first, then the power supply. if you have more than one stick of memory, remove the stick farthest away from the processor, make sure you didn't bump any cables and dislodge them, then try booting. if you still have problems, switch it with the one you just took out, and try it by itself. if everything boots up the way it's supposed to, then you know what the problem is.

since these things only happen 1/3rd of the time, i'd say signs point to your RAM. intermittent errors are almost a dead giveaway that memory is to blame. memory errors can disguise themselves as disk errors. for instance, when something stored on a bad memory block is written to disk, the files written become corrupted. this might explain unusual behavior from your software or operating system.

the power supply doesn't sound like it's bogged down with alot of things to support, so unless it just went bad, i'd say it isn't the problem. check memory first, then the power supply. good luck.

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"Never offend people with style when you can offend them with substance."

Posts: 32 | From: East Peoria, IL | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged
Orpheus
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Icon 1 posted May 17, 2004 18:26      Profile for Orpheus     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'd have to cast my vote with the HD theory, though I recently worked on a friend's computer where the problem was the HD and the ribbon cables so if you have extras maybe check that too. Actually the computer had a LOT of problems, whoever put it together decided two centrally located screws were enough to hold the HD in place and as a result it could rock back and forth like a see-saw. I have no idea where all the problems started and I'm sure there were more than I found.

I wouldn't rule out the power supply either, but that could be a bit tougher to test unless you have a spare sitting around.

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my cats make me crazy

Posts: 554 | From: Galveston, TX | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged
Gibbonboy
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Icon 1 posted May 17, 2004 19:44      Profile for Gibbonboy   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I've had problems similar to these in several machines over the past year or so. In every case, it's been the power capacitors on the motherboard. See if any of the larger capacitors are swollen or leaking brown electrolyte. Check out Badcaps.net for more information, I had to find out on my own the first time it happened to me, now I pretty much check the caps whenever there's some otherwise unexplainable weird behavior. Costs me less than 3 dollars to fix each machine, buying parts from Mouser. The soldering is generally easy- just make sure you buy caps made in Japan, not Taiwan or China, where the bad lots were made. Hope it helps.

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"It's not the end of the world, but you can see it from here."

Posts: 155 | From: A Very Small Hole in the Forest | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged
Spiderman

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Icon 1 posted May 17, 2004 21:11      Profile for Spiderman     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Starting to sound like an echo in here....

I'd point a finger at the hard disk as well...it wouldn't happen to be a Maxtor? [Razz]

Try a util like TFD mentioned and though a somehwat lengthy process, I'd try a low-level format utility (after backing up your data of course). Basically writes zeros to the entire drive. I've found this to take care of seemingly unresolvable problems before.

majorgeeks.com may have utilities to do the abovementioned though I'm falling asleep as I type and so don't feel able at this moment to verify that.

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Math problems? Call 1-800-[(10x)(13i)^2]-[sin(xy)/2.362x]

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csk

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Icon 1 posted May 17, 2004 21:20      Profile for csk     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I had the unreadable boot device on one of our machines at work here just the other day. Win2K ASE, and it would happen on every boot. I reinstalled Win2K, and it went away. Still not sure why it happened, though. It's a $AU25,0000 IBM xSeries server[1], though, so I'd hope that it's not dodgy hardware.

[1] On loan, like our little company could afford something like that [Wink]

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6 weeks to go!

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Alephcat
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Icon 1 posted May 18, 2004 07:45      Profile for Alephcat   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
the college I work for has just finished getting rid of a batch of Fujitsu's, which had exactly the same symptoms, was/is it a Fujitsu by any chance?

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"You have the right to search in silence. If you give up the right to search in silence, anything you say can and will be modded down in a court of public opinion."

Posts: 300 | From: Chester | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged
maven
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Icon 1 posted May 18, 2004 10:27      Profile for maven     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Alephcat:
the college I work for has just finished getting rid of a batch of Fujitsu's, which had exactly the same symptoms, was/is it a Fujitsu by any chance?

i also heard western digital has had a recent shit-storm of problems with their drives. something like a 75% fail rate/dead on arrival. had something to do with moving into a new facility.

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"Never offend people with style when you can offend them with substance."

Posts: 32 | From: East Peoria, IL | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged
Flashfire
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Icon 1 posted May 19, 2004 12:58      Profile for Flashfire   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Sorry to keep you in the dark so long, I probably should have posted the results earlier. However, just so you all can rest easy, I'll fill you in:

First of all, the HDD was a Western Digital, so there were bunches of fun little utilities we could run on it. So we did, and discovered that it was throwing errors left and right. Then we ran over to Fry's and bought a brand-new Seagate 80 Gig, which I tried to talk my husband out of the whole way home. (I wasn't successful -- he still has it. [Frown] )

Anyhow, we hooked it up, installed Win 2k and everything ran smoothly. Works fine now -- no abnormal crashing or anything. So, AFAIK, it was the HDD after all. Must've been one from that bad batch maven mentioned. Of course, this doesn't preclude other problems -- it just means that was the major one. If other things start going wrong, I'll keep your suggestions in mind.

Thanks guys, I appreciate the help.

--Flash, knowing is half the battle

--------------------
"No silicon heaven? That's absurd!
Where would all the calculators go?"
--Kryten, Red Dwarf
-------------------------------
My Web Comic: NSTA: Semper Vigilantis

Posts: 368 | From: State of Denial | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged


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