Desktop computer- Windows Xp problems

The thread on “do you still use your desktop” got me thinking to ask here for help.
My desktop is a Dell Dimension e521 with Windows Xp. I think is “giving up the ghost”. At startup I get a blue setup screen with a message about a diskette error or something and if I get past that (sometimes) the normal Google screen will come up but won’t be able to type anything in the search bar even though the icon is flashing. The keyboard works as I have used the arrows/return key to move around on the setup screen. Switched keyboards and that didn’t help.

My B-I-L who is an IT person isn’t able to come over and physically look at it due to the social distancing thing. He did remind me that it is over 15 years old and things don’t last forever.

Thoughts on what to try? I like it for typing/creating documents not necessarily for the “power” of a desktop along with the larger screen size than my laptop.

I don’t have an answer (although your brother-in-law is right that a fifteen-year-old computer may well be dying) but if the laptop system is newer you can almost certainly connect the external monitor, keyboard and mouse to it and use that instead.

Windows XP does not come up with a Google screen usually; do you mean the logon screen? After that the desktop screen should load.

Of course also check the RAM, that the disk is still alive, etc

Try opening up the case and check the cable connections. If you don’t need the diskette drive, you can probably disconnect it. If there’s a lot of dust in the case, take it outside and blow it out. But it may be a problem with failing electronics. There are lots of tiny components which degrade over time and may make the system more finicky.

Does the keyboard work in any application or is it just messed up in the browser? If you can type in some other program (like Notepad) but the browser doesn’t work, it might be something in how the browser accesses the keyboard interface.

XP is no longer supported. If this machine has recently been connected to the internet it may well be riddled with malware and other nasties, since many vulnerabilities have been discovered (and exploited) since support ended.

If you like the operating system, it couldn’t hurt to try eventually buying a new SSD and working desktop (maybe you can get a used one only 5 years old for free), clone the disk onto that, and keep using it. But that sounds like it will still require the IT guy to do some physical tinkering.

If you are not attached to it, just to the larger screen+keyboard for typing documents, those can be attached to a laptop first of all, and of course you can always backup your documents and restore them onto a desktop running a more recent version of Windows (or Linux or Mac OS or what ever). Even browsers like Firefox and a lot of other software simply stopped releasing updates that run under Windows XP, and it will potentially be an increasing PITA if you are actually using it daily and suddenly find you cannot install a useful utility.

Sorry, I got ahead of myself and skipped a step. I get to the screen with the icons, mouse still works so I click on Chrome icon and it brings up the Google screen. No passwords to log on so I don’t need the keyboard to reach this point.

I have been running a free antivirus (AVG) and a free malware program. Those when I click on the icon it looks like it is loading but then nothing. When this first happened I also tried to go back to a restore point (as suggested by my B-I-L and the same thing, looks like it was doing something but then nothing.

I agree that if it’s just the screen size you like, should be easy to connect the laptop to the external monitor. If you don’t know what connector you need, take a picture of the sockets on the monitor, and any socket on your laptop that’s not a USB, and send them to your BIL, who should be able to tell you what cable & adapter you need to connect them. If the desktop keyboard isn’t USB, then a new USB keyboard is like $15.

If you really still want a desktop, most computer stores should be able to sell you a refurbished desktop with Windows 10 for $120 or so, which will certainly be faster and more reliable than the old junker (which you really shouldn’t be using for anything online at this point; WinXP is too vulnerable even if you do have a working antivirus etc.)

The diskette error is something wrong with the physical computer: there might be a diskette in the drive, the tiny battery may have failed, the motherboard may be failing, any of this possibly causing an error in the settings of the physical computer. This may or may not be related to the second problem.

Can you open and start anything else?

Normally an icon flashes when a program is opened, then stops flashing.
The flashing icon is calling your attention to a modal status (often a messagebox). You can’t type anything in the search bar as long as the icon is flashing.

No I can not open anything else. I can do the “disk cleanup” and “defragmentation” though.

Maybe my terminology is wrong. A straight up and down line is flashing like at the end of the sentence I am typing now. Like it wants me to type something but won’t let me.

That sounds like you’re in insert mode; what happens if you click on the Insert key on the keyboard? It should toggle to overwrite mode.

The diskette error may be due to a bad floppy disk drive. I doubt you actually need the drive, so you could disconnect the power cable to it.

The hard drive may have accumulated a lot of bad sectors. If you dare, you can try running the disk checking and repair software. Not sure if that is available from the desktop in XP. I do work with a lot of XP systems, but haven’t had to do that yet.

It may be in the disk properties menu. Right click on C drive. Click properties and try to find Tools menu. I can’t recall what it is called. But it is in the same area as defrag I think. I am at home so can’t access an XP system right now.

In XP it might tell you that Check Disk won’t run until the next boot up. Just enable it, then shutdown and power back up. The check disk will happen during boot up. It can take quite a while to complete.

I know I have done it in the past without anything going bad. But I can’t say it will work well for you.

I would get a second hard drive for this computer, so you can store everything you don’t want to lost on it. Or the next time you are able to logon, move everything to a high-capacity flash drive.

After you have done this, if you still have the disk you installed XP from, you can reinstall it, or run a repair. You may lose your data, or may not, but if it reinstalls, you should be good.

You can also take the opportunity to expand the RAM, if it can be expanded, upgrade the processor, and get it in spec for Win10, then upgrade the OS.

I should have added, I understand the love for XP. It was a great OS, fantastic for it’s time, and a huge leap over Win98SE. I kept it instead of Vista, or Win7, albeit, I did have one machine which came with Win7. That was actually my first Win10 machine, because I didn’t like 7, so I switched to 10 as soon as it came out.

As great as XP was, it’s old now. It’s like having the very best car that was manufactured in 2000. It may be running very well, but it still has the safety features of a 20-year-old car; even a non-premium car from 2020 will be safer, and may even offer a few things that weren’t available in 2000, like bluetooth, which can facilitate handsfree phone use.

That might be easier said than done.

A computer of that age might use an IDE drive, not SATA. Good luck finding one of those in working order.

And some older computers don’t handle USB flash drives well, or at all.

Do you mean a message like “Non system disk error”? If you have a floppy disk drive, make sure nothing is in it when you turn on the power. Beyond that, if you are occasionally getting that message, it could be that your hard drive is failing. Make sure you backup everything important, because once the drive fails for good, it’s likely anything on it is gone for good.

There are other reasons as well not related to disk failure that could be causing the issue. It could be a failing hard disk controller on the motherboard, or a bad or loose cable to the drive. But with that age, and the fact that hard drives are mechanical contraptions, lead me to suspect that the most likely culprit is the hard drive itself.

Well, now I have a list of things to try.

I already told my wife a few weeks ago that I think it is on its way out so if she wanted to save any pictures, documents, etc… she should get a flash drive and try saving them. Most have duplicates somewhere else so not a huge deal if we can’t save them.

I did stop at Staples and checked on a new desktops or all in ones. What a worthless place now, 6 employees standing around, appears only 2 can help in the computer department and only 1 of them apparently is knowledgeable enough to answer any questions. I hate to say this but I miss Best Buy that closed up in our town. Plus 90% of them had no prices as they were “out of stock” so the guy would have to flip the price tag over to do a comparison.

While waiting close to 15 minutes for help I was talking to an acquaintance (also waiting) who suggested a local computer repair shop that might sell refurbished ones. Stopped by there but they have limited hours and were closed.

Chiming in late, but it looks like drive problem rather than monitor problem.

You don’t necessarily need to get a new desktop. If you like your laptop, you can essentially use it like a desktop. Just like you plug your keyboard, mouse and monitor into your desktop, you can do the same with your laptop. Since the laptop also as a screen, you can configure things so that both the standalone monitor and the laptop screens are both active and you have 2 monitors at the same time. You can also configure things so that just the standalone monitor is active and the laptop screen is blank, which would be more like your desktop setup.

As mentioned above, you need to replace the NVRAM battery on the motherboard.