I'm having problems with my computer and I need some help desparately. My machine is basically unuseable, and I need to get it back up and running as soon as possible, so any helpful input would be greatly appreciated. Appologies in advance if I'm a bit verbose, but I want to be as clear as possible.
I'll start off by mentioning that not all of the info in this story might be relevant, and that I'm just telling it in the event that it could be. A short time ago I bought 512 MBs of RAM and installed it, and it seemed to work fine. Also around that time, presumably through running a registry cleaning utility or something, I'd accidentally disabled a lot of Windows XP tools like Defrag or the Search function in Windows Explorer (some necessary files were missing in the System32 folder).
Shortly after this (lets say 2 days) I decided it was about time I reformat my computer, or rather, start a new XP install on a 200gb HD I'd bought some time earlier but never really used. However, this HD had two FAT partitions on it with a Win98 install, so I run Partition Magic to repartition/reformat it into a single NTFS partition - however PM seemed to have trouble with this - though when I checked it later on a friend's computer with the Windows Scandisk, it was ok. Anyway, shortly after this point, Windows starts acting all screwy. I mean resetting without warning, left and right. It had always done this once every few days, and I never found a cause so I learned to live with it, but now it was doing it after 10 minutes of running XP.
That was all background information that may not be relevant - now moving on the the actual problem. Removing all HDs but the 200gigger, I try installing XP on it (with the intention of partitioning/reformatting it using the installer instead of Partition Magic). However, the install does not get past the initial stage with the blue screen, freezing at a line saying "Starting windows..." or something to that effect, after it'd scanned my comp. I try this several times, no dice, freezes at the same point.
Not having any ideas, I put back in my old 80GB XP HD. It refuses to boot. It gets to the point just before it shows the XP loading screen with the icon and freezes (I believe it's a horizontal bar of ascii blocks). So, I decide maybe to try installing XP on the 200GB using a friend's comp, and do so with much success (also reformatted and Scandisked it with no issues btw) - it boots fine on his comp and I was very much happy. I bring it home, and lo and behold, it won't boot - it gets to that same damn ascii loading bar. If I skip out on it with a reset, I do get the "Hey dude Windows couldn't load, do you want to start in safe mode or something?" sort of message, and nothing on that works. When I start in safe mode, it counts down to a file called pud.inf, or something like that (I'm writing this at work right now for obvious reasons, so I can't check it) - I'm assuming that's the last file safe mode loads up before running Windows. Basically, I can get to whatever is exactly before showing the graphical XP loading screen with the Windows logo - all my computer ever displays is made out of ascii text, no graphics of any kind other than the motherboard splash screen on bootup. The problem is probably with my computer and probably not the HDs, but what it is and how to fix it is beyound my understanding.
As I said I would really appreciate any help of any kind. Here is some info on my comp. If you need more info, please say so and I will be glad to provide.
AMD Athlon 2100+ processor
1024MB ram (two 512 sticks, one new Kensington, the other I don't know)
ATI Radeon 9600 128MB
Asus A7V333 mobo
Windows XP Home
both HDs are Western Digital (I think), 80GB and 200GB, NTFS
pull one of the sticks of RAM, pref the new one you bought.
make sure you've setup the CPU and memory timings in BIOS to be conservative, since it's stability we need right now.
As long as you're in your box, ensure that your IDE connection to the mainboard is solid, and no bent pins at either end (mainboard and HDD). Also make sure you've jumpered the HDD to "master" or "cable select". Check all connections then close the box, set the BIOS correctly.
Now would be a good time to have a boot disk handy as well. Floppy or CD if you have either. See if your machine will boot into a floppy drive, or from a bootable CDROM (there's a recent Tom's article on just this thing, see if your friend will burn a Knoppix install for you).
If you can boot into either floppy or CD, see if the HDD is visible. If so, try running fdisk or an equivalent to examine partitions. If you can see them fine, set one active. See if you can format it to NTFS. If so, reboot and check it again. Still visible? Try loading WinXP now.
Of course, if your copy of WinXP is warez, it might be corrupted. Best to have a valid/ known-good copy for installation.
Thank you for your help. It indeed ended up being the memory stick - the instant I removed it, it worked fine. Any suggestions as to how to get the machine working with the memory? I can't return it, nor can I prove that it's broken, and hopefully it isn't and I can somehow find a way of getting 'er running. Also what's an example of a conservative memory timing setting?