My computer has just developed an annoying little quirk: it spontaneously restarts in the middle of Windows start-up. I have Windows XP Pro SP2, and every time it gets to the part of booting up where the little gray bars fill up across the bottom of the screen (right before the Windows logo is displayed on a black background), it will all of a sudden just restart and go back to the BIOS screen. So basically, it can never get past this point, and fails to give me any sort of message or information as to what exactly the problem is.
Even stranger is how the problem started: I was just doing typical everyday work on the computer when everything froze, the mouse cursor disappeared, and it would not respond to any input. I had to do a hard restart, and that's when the boot-up problem began.
This is not the first time this boot-up restarting thing has happened either. The first time I experienced it was a week ago and I ended up doing a clean re-install of Windows to fix it. But apparently that wasn't good enough, because it has resurfaced. So rather than re-install Windows again, I'd like to find out once and for all what the cause is.
Here is what I've already done to try to troubleshoot this:
1. I tried to start up using "Last Known Good Configuration", but this didn't fix anything.
2. I tried to start up in Safe Mode, but again, the same problem.
3. I tried to enable Boot Logging so I could see at what point exactly the problem was happening, but it never seems to produce the boot log file...or at least I can't ever find it. After enabling Boot Logging, and the boot-up fails, I enter the Recovery Console and try to find the "C:\WINDOWS\Ntbtlog.txt" file, but it is never there.
4. Next I started to remove pieces of hardware from my system one-by-one, trying to boot up after each one to see if it fixed anything. Now the only things plugged into my motherboard are my video card and one hard drive. Still, same problem.
5. Then I decided to get drastic and starting disabling start-up Services using the Recovery Console. I wrote down all the services marked as "SERVICE_BOOT_START", meaning they get loaded during the boot phase. I disabled them one at a time and discovered that the problem was still happening when all of them were disabled, except for the "ATAPI" service. The catch there is that when I disabled "ATAPI" I got a Stop message during boot-up that said it could not continue because it couldn't find the "C:\WINDOWS\System32\Drivers\Ntfs.sys" file. So I can't say whether or not the "ATAPI" service is the one at fault for this spontaneous restarting business, because I have no way of checking for a successful boot-up when it is disabled.
Anyway, I've pretty much reached the end of my rope now, and I'm getting sick of re-installing Windows XP to fix this problem every time, since the true cause is something deeper than that. Any suggestions?
Here are my system specs (keep in mind only the video card and Maxtor 5T06H6 are hooked up at this point):
<b>OS:</b> Windows XP Pro SP2
<b>Motherboard:</b> ABIT KG7-RAID
<b>CPU:</b> AMD AthlonXP 1800+ (not overclocked)
<b>Memory:</b> 2x256MB Crucial CT3272Y265
<b>Video Card:</b> Sapphire ATI Radeon 9550SE
<b>Sound Card:</b> Creative Labs SoundBlaster Audigy Platinum
<b>Network Cards:</b> 3Com 3C905CX-TXM, D-Link DWL-520+
<b>Hard Drives:</b> Maxtor 5T06H6, Maxtor 6Y120P0, Maxtor 6Y200P0
<b>CD Drives:</b> Toshiba SD-M1502, Ricoh RW7200A
Ok, I have tried out all the things people have suggested so far: I swapped memory modules, did a memory tester (both MemTest86 and Windows Memory Diagnostic), checked my hard drive using both "chkdsk /r" and Maxtor PowerMax Diagnostics, cleared all my CMOS settings back to fail-safe defaults, and tried replacing my viaide.sys driver with the lastest version. Unfortunately, none of these things fixed the problem. As a side note, yes, it does let me boot up with a boot floppy, a boot CD, and the XP Recovery Console.
Now here's something new that I've discovered: I was trying to focus on booting up in Safe Mode, since Safe Mode is kind enough to actually print out the names of the drivers as it loads them. First, I disabled the "atapi.sys" driver because I knew that would cause a Stop Message, and I wanted to see which drivers got loaded before that Stop Message. Here is exactly what Safe Mode printed to the screen:
So, as you can see, when atapi.sys is <b>enabled</b>, the restart happens right at the point where hpt3xx.sys would get loaded, yet if atapi.sys is <b>disabled</b> it can successfully get through hpt3xx.sys. Does that make any sense to anybody?? Because I am at a total loss here, folks.
Same thing happened with my parents' computer yesterday. Luckily I have a hard drive of my own in there, with a separate Windows install, so I booted that up and checked things out. Sometimes during boot, their system would give the BSOD and moan about drivers, so I checked all their drivers' modification dates, found modem.sys had been changed earlier that week. I'm pretty sure it was just a hard drive spaz, anyway, I copied modem.sys from my install onto theirs (FAT32 makes this easy!) and booted straight into windows. It was still unhappy about the vid drivers (it's been a looong time since I saw 4-bit colour!), but I just reinstalled the latest nvidia drivers (and this onto an nForce 1 board!), rebooted, and it's been fine since.
I'm almost certain it was just a problem with Windows crapping itself during shutdown, it happens a lot on messy installs like this one.