Please help the Steinhardts' home computer...

… it hasn’t been feeling well of late.

I have a “put together myself” computer that has served me faithfully for two and a half years.

It has an Asus motherboard, with an Athlon 800MHz CPU and 384MB RAM.

I am running Windows XP Professional. The machine is a stand-alone.

The first problems started a few days ago when my son mentioned to me that the computer froze while he was playing a game. However, upon doing a hard reboot, the problem went away.

Then, a few days later, the computer wouldn’t do anything upon starting. It wouldn’t even do a POST. I let the computer sit overnight and again in the morning, the problem was gone.

Now, when I turn on the computer, it runs the POST, and goes to the black Windows XP screen and stays there forever. It will not finish loading Windows.

I can, however, run the machine in Safe mode.

A friend of mine suggested that my hard drive may have become severely defragmented over time. So, last night I went into Safe mode and sure enough, it was highly fragmented. I ran the defragmenter and shut down the machine. However, upon restarting it, I still have the same problem.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Please?

Zev Steinhardt

Who makes your hard drive? Go to their web site. Find a tool to diagnose your PC’s hard disk for failure.
Run this tool against your hard disk. Make sure you use the mild version of the test, not the one that wipes your hard disk drive.
If your HDD is failing, that could explain your symptoms, although it could be another thing.
If this fails, I’d start removing PCI bus devices one at a time, and seeing if the removal of any of those fixes your problem.
Beyond that, I’d suggest corruption of Windows.
Start by rolling your system back to a previous date.
Start --> Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> System Restore -> and then rollback to a date prior to your problems.
If that doesn’t work, I’d try “Backup Data, Format & Reinstall” as the next step.

I would start with software issues before pulling hardware (just my preference tho’.)

In safe mode, go to Start->Run and type in “msconfig” (w/o quotes) and hit <enter> on the keyboard. Click on the “Startup” tab.

Uncheck everything in this window and click “OK”, reboot when asked.

If you can now get into Windows, you will get a warning message saying that you’ve run the system config utility. Click “Yes” and the Utility open back up. (don’t bother checking the “do not show this again” box, because if you can get into Windows, the next steps taken will reset that box each time we go into the msconfig utility)

Now comes the fun (that is, fun=tedious :)) part:
Go back to the Startup tab and re-check the first item. Click OK. Reboot. See if you can get back into Windows. If so, go back into the system config utility and check the 2nd item. Wash, rinse, repeat. When you can’t get back into windows, go into safe mode and uncheck the last item you checked. Check the next item after that and reboot. Continue this process until you’ve checked everything out in the Startup tab.

Occasionally, you’ll have everything rechecked and can get back into Windows fine from then on - not a problem. Sometimes just having a “clean boot” is all that’s needed to clear out conflicting instructions from a bad startup, bad installer programs, whatever.

Also, if you don’t recognize a program that’s starting up, check to see what program that is. You might be surprised what kind of garbage is starting up whenever Windows starts!

If you’ve unchecked everything and still can’t get back into Windows, I would use either “Safe Mode with Networking” (if you have a broadband connection) or another person’s computer and get the most recent video drivers for your system and install those.

Finally, I would also get Spybot Search and Destroy and/or Ad-Aware, run them thoroughly, make sure your virus scanner is up to date and run a complete system scan.

Once all that is done, then I’d start looking at hardware issues that Jonathan mentions above

Come back if you’re still having problems


A simpler way to do what critter42 suggested (and that was a great suggestion) is download a problem called Hijack This, read the instructions and run it.

Make yourself a log file and then post it in the Security section of Tech Support Guy’s forum

If you’ve got any spyware, those guys will give you excellent info on how to remove it completely. They’ll give you tips on using AdAware and SpyBot, too.

Not to say that this forum isn’t kicka$$ but those guys over there focus specifically on problems like this! I had some horrible stuff going on with my machine for 2 weeks and they fixed it for me in 10 mins.

Oh, and if your problem endsup not being spyware or hard drive, yeah reinstall.

Another thing you can try is to unplug it from wall for a minute or more. & plug back in.

If it wouldn’t POST, then its not a software, virus, config, or other error of that family. It’s hardware.

POST occurs before the hard drive is even accessed to load the OS.

Potential power supply, heat (check your fans), CPU, MB or memory problem. Narrow it down, doesn’t it. But, it’s hardware if it won’t post.

If you have more than one memory chip, try running with only one for a test. Check that all your fans work. If it’s dusty clean it out with your vacuum hose & the fuzzy brush thing. Verify all your cables & cards are tight.

Sorry - these are hard to find.

I thought I was pretty knowledgable about PCs, but I have no idea what a POST is. Is it an acronym?

      • POST = BIOS startup–>Power-On Self Test.

Ah, I see. I’m familiar with it, just not the nomencature. Thanks.

Freezing during a game and POST problems definitely indicates looking at hardware, and in particular heat/fan issues first.

When was the last time you cleaned it?

I was going to mention overheating too. Open that puppy up and turn it on to check the air flow around the processor. I bet you lost your processor fan.

Folks, re-read the OP:

It’s getting through POST fine. It’s hanging during XP startup (the black screen with the white bars at the bottom), which indicates either a startup program or a service isn’t starting. It could be hardware, but I tend to think it’s a software issue at this point.

Also, it may not be spyware/adware causing the issue (and I’m leaning to spyware not being the cause, but I won’t rule it out completely), in which case Hijack This is useless other than telling you what is starting up, which msconfig already does.

D’oh. I completely forgot about this in my previous response: If you go to Start->Control Panel. Click on “Switch to classic view” (or words to that effect) on the left-hand side.) The control panel will then look the way it normally does in Win9x/Win2000. Double-click on “Administrative Tools”, then on Event Log. It would be helpful to note what time the computer says, try to reboot in to normal Windows, then boot back into Safe Mode. Then look at each entry on the left, especially “Application Log” and “System Log”. Look for entries on the right with Red Xs that match the time you noted earlier. Most errors you can punch into Google and after a little research, find out what they are and what (if any) fixes there are for the issue. There might 2,3,4 or more errors that correspond to that time. That’s ok…it might be one error that cascades down and causes other errors. Find the earliest and work forward. If there’s an error you can’t find info for, post it here and I’m sure one or more of us can find at least something on it.

Let us know how it’s going,

Oh, now that I think about it, it’s most likely a service, rather than a regular start up item that’s not starting properly since it’s hanging on the black screen and not getting to the splash screen or the blue screen


I’m with whuckfistle. This sounds like a classic case of a dying CPU fan.

But, since AMD has only recently implemented a proper temperature-sensing shutdown/slowdown routine, your chip might be fried anyway.

Still, critter42 offers a valid alternative. Just remember this: do not, under any circumstances attempt to diagnose your software ailment if that CPU fan is not whining like a banshee (and they do).

I’ll chime in to support the posts from Belrix and ftg. If the computer didn’t POST at one point, there was a hardware issue. Even if it does POST now, the hardware problem is likely the cause of instability and/or failure to load Windows normally.

As suggested by others, start by a cleaning as overheating is a definate possibility (you did mention the computer froze while playing a game), and checking the fan. Beyond that, the most likely culprit is memory. Defective RAM will prevent the computer from booting, and cause various unpredictable errors. Try spare RAM, or if you have two sticks, remove one of them, and try them in different slots.

There are many other possibilities, including a failing hard drive (which corrupted Windows system files), a defective motherboard, or a defective CPU (among others), but start with the most common/obvious problems.

Of course, system restore is worth a try; you never know and it will save you much trouble if it does in fact work.

Since you are able to get into Safe Mode, have you tried selecting, from the same menu where you choose safe mode, Last Known Good configuration? It’s worth a try anyway.