Update: I've dropped the HDD in question into my main desktop and ran Malwarebytes. No problems. I restored to before a major Windows update. No dice. Unplug the newly installed Logitech Unifying Receiver from the front USB3 port and into a rear USB2 port? That. Did. The. Trick.
WTF Logitech? Your stupid mice & keyboards are responsible for failed Win7 boots??? Get your s**t together!
Wow...usually I can resolve my own issues pretty effortlessly, but now I'm absolutely stumped.
So, going a little ways back, I have a HTPC with an SSD and media HDD. I replaced the SSD a few months back due to complete failure (the first I've ever experienced btw). The new one worked swimmingly until I decided to install a second media HDD. I powered down the HTPC (start-shut down), plugged in the new HDD (everything identified in BIOS first) and from this point on I have a storm of issues:
1. Windows will not get past the first two or three frames of the loading screen animation (the one with red, yellow, green, and blue squares) on a normal boot.
2. Going into safe mode with command prompt hangs while loading some drivers. Can't identify which ones unfortunately...
3. Initially I thought the issue was with AVG, since Windows hung while loading AVG drivers. I first downloaded AVG Rescue CD, put it on a USB and found that it went black after trying to run it. Downloaded Hiren's boot cd and deleted AVG drivers (which is the AVG prescribed fix), still no solution to my problem. Good news though (I think...) is that Hiren's Boot CD can write/read from the HDD in question. So it's not like my last SSD that totally disappeared from BIOS.
4. I've put Win7 on a USB stick, and it freezes at the same spot as #1 -- first 2 or 3 frames of the Win7 loading screen animation. I can't run the mini Win 7 on Hiren's Boot CD either. So basically I can't run a recovery, or so it seems.
5. If for whatever reason it's BIOS, I can't flash it because the utility (MSI) needs to be run on a USB stick placed in an MSI motherboard. Maybe I haven't probed this issue too deeply and could find a workaround somehow, but I usually don't have to go 5 steps deep in diagnosing a problem!
I'm not necessarily frustrated that I may have to format my Win7 drive and totally reconfigure XBMC. Obviously all files are on the other drive which is presumably OK. It's that this is the second SSD in a few months that seems to have gone haywire. I'm worried that it's an underlying hardware issue or even undetected virus (I run AVG and update it religiously) that's ruined one SSD and on the precipice of ruining another.
Does anyone have any ideas beyond what a smart googler can find in half an hour? I can't get to any form of safe mode to even start to format the HDD.