PC intermittently locking up during start-up

Problem: For the past few weeks my PC has been occasionally freezing up while trying to boot windows; it stops when the screen goes all black between the green progress bar and the blue-green Vista welcome screen. Oddly, it always happens on a reboot, but only sometimes on a regular start-up. Even when it does start up correctly, it tends to hover on the blank screen for a minute or two.

I read through the tech question’s recommendations, but that all seems geared to security issues, and I don’t think that’s the case here since everything else has been ok. I’d heard of a similar problem being caused by the ram not being connected properly, so I’ve checked that it’s all slotted in correctly. I’m not really sure what other information would be useful here, so I’m just going to kind of ramble for a bit about some things that might be related, and if you want specific information I’ll reply with it.

This part is kind of a tangent, but in case it’s relevant I’m going to tell you a little about some heat problems I had before and what I’ve done since. For about the first two years I had this computer I had it in a bad spot and wasn’t really taking care of it, because I didn’t know any better. So I learned a little about heat issues, moved it to a position with better airflow, started dusting around it regularly, and periodically clearing the vents and insides with compressed air.

Last summer I had to replace my graphics card (I suspect due to damage incurred during the aforementioned early years), which I used as an excuse to upgrade even though it was probably kind of wasted on my system. Since putting in the new card, I’ve been distressed to see that my system was running a little hotter than it was before. Up until this issue I hadn’t experienced any problems, but my cpu runs around 40° C regular, maybe mid-50’s while under heavy load, whereas my gpu reports anything from 65-70° C while idle, and as much as 85° C during heavy loads. I’d read elsewhere that under 90° C was okay for a graphics card, but when I logged in to post, I saw this thread on heat issues and it’s got me worried about that.

Similarly, when I had the card put in, I needed a higher output power supply, so I went to Best Buy and had their guys do the upgrade. Because I haven’t had any problems until now I’m disinclined to think it’s a power issue, but the nature of the problem seems like a hardware thing to my (admittedly ill-informed) perspective.

Sorry for the wall of text, hope you guys can help!

After your first para I said to myself “heat issues”, and you just went ahead and confirmed it in the rest of the post. It happens on reboot more often than startup because then it is hotter.

85c is way, way, way excessive for any component. It shouldn’t be more than 70c, preferably 60c or lower. You have a problem with your fans, air flow, or heatsinks. Was the replacement video card the same model as the old one? What was it/were they? Some are known to have heat handling issues.

As I said, when I had to replace the old card, I went ahead and got a higher-end model. The old one was an Nvidia Geforce 6800 Ultra, and I replaced it with an 8800 Ultra.

So if it’s a heat problem, what would you suggest? The fans seem to be in working order (although the new power supply best buy installed doesn’t move air nearly as well as my old one did), but airflow might be an issue as the card almost completely blocks the space from the innermost hard drive rails to the back of the case (except for it’s built-in fan). I don’t really know anything about heat sinks.

OK, that model is known to get excessively hot and nVidia have been sued for allegedly knowing about this and not disclosing it.

If you can I’d taking it back and swap for a different model. Otherwise you need to get a good PC shop to investigate what can be doing about improving the cooling; more fans, replace heatsink with a better one, or whatever they can do with the gear, case and power supply you have.

If it was related to heat, he would be seeing random problems while the system was running, not just at boot. If it was power related, he should see some connection between activity and this behavior. Sure, the system does draw a lot of power at boot, but it draws even more when playing games.

It could be a driver problem or conflict. Those problems can cause BSODs, hangs, and pauses at that stage in the boot process. What version of Windows are you using?

A quick way to check if this is hardware or software is to boot the system in “safe mode” and see if the behavior still exists. If it does, then there is greater chance it is hardware related; else, it leans towards software.

Some quick suggestions (assuming it leans towards software):

  • If you recently installed software or updated drivers, try uninstalling and/or reverting to previous versions to see if that makes a difference.

  • Run msconfig to check that there are not startup items loading that should not be there. As a way to diagnose the problem, you can disable all the startup items to see if the problem disappears. If it does, then add them back one by one until the problem manifests itself.

  • If you are aware of nothing that has recently changed that you can undo, try using the Microsoft Driver Verifier to check the system drivers. It can sometimes weed out problematic add-ons.

That’s when the video card switches over from generic VGA mode to using its specific drivers (among other things).

You could try enabling boot logging as per this Microsoft article.

This NVIDIA forum post lists some generic video card diagnostic tools.

To test a video card for long-term thermal stability, almost nothing beats FurMark, but given the known issues with your video card, I wouldn’t suggest it until you get the cooling under control.

Just a WAG, but do you have Google Desktop installed? I’ve come across two computers now exhibiting long startup times like this, with no obvious spyware/virus infection, and in both cases removing Google Desktop fixed it. I’m guessing some kind of conflict between it and the Anti-Virus software.