Computer won't start - totally clueless.


I am now at the mercy of the Internet community. My underwhelming knowledge and patience have taken me as far as they will go on their own.

For nearly 9 months now, I have battled my homebuilt system. All I have asked from it is stability and modest performance. It has responded with complete failure.

To begin, I finished construction of my current system in August 2004. It is born of some parts I purchased at that time, some that had been around from over a year prior. I also added a new graphics card in June 2006.

Windows XP Professional SP2
Asus A7N8X Deluxe
2 x 512 Corsair 3200 XMS
Athlon XP 2100+
ATI Radeon X850
Sound Blaster Audigy 2
Western Digital 250GB SATA 2 16M WD2500KS

Last summer, I noticed general performance flaws with the computer. First, it seemed as though a large amount of files (mp3s and pics) had disappeared without my direct action. Chalking it up to human error or virus, I reimaged Windows.

Soon after, I noticed that the computer would often lock up during boot. As it would load into the login screen, or shortly after I would log in, an audible clicking "pop" could be heard from inside the computer and a high, revving wheeze, similar to when you first turn on the computer. When the computer would load, I noticed no performance issues, except a bizzare situation where I could not click and drag to select multiple files within Explorer. I chalked this up to another bad Windows install, or a faulty hard drive. On close inspection, I was able to isolate that the clicking was coming from the hard drive. I pulled out my WD IDE drive that I had purchased in 8/2004 and upgraded to my current HD in 2/07.

After agonizing over how to get this SATA drive to work with my mobo, and going back and forth with driver and bios updates, everything seemed to be working okay for a while. However, a day before my computer reached its current inoperable state, I once again heard the audible clicking from the HD, and received an error in Windows to the effect that corrput files were detected, and that I should reboot and do a full disk check.

When I attempted to reboot, I never got back into Windows. This is the message I was presented with:
"Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:

You can attempt to repair this file by starting Windows Setup using the original Setup CD-ROM.
Select 'r' at the first screen to start repair."

I did attempt to do such a repair process, but did not know what I was doing. Using some online guides, I did a full disk check and repair, but this had no effect.

So, first off - how do I get this computer off the ground again and back into Windows, or is this install completely screwed?

Second, how can I return this system to overall stability? How do I isolate which aspect of my computer is causing these problems? Can it be coincidence that after to fresh installs on two different hard drives that similar problems keep propping up? If it's not the hard drives, what else could be causing things to go corrupt? The mobo? The CPU? The only hint I have is that my CPU had been unable to recognize lately its normal settings - no matter what I did in BIOS to change frequency and voltage, I could never get the chip to recognize as a 2100...

Any help you could lend would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
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  1. well... its very possible that you just got another dud hdd, it happens, sometimes a whole batch of drives will be bad... and the clicking your describing sounds like another hdd is failing... ...i had 3 maxtors and 1 ibm all fail in the same time frame a few years back... and intermittant failures off and on from relatives computers... ...after the clicking, you said it couldnt get into windows, because a file was missing... again, right after audible clicking again from the hdd... so, i mean, as long as you have your data backed up on a few different drives and media, you should be okay... ...what you could do though, is just rma the drive with the manufacturer, and get a replacement, and that wont cost you anything but shipping really

    as far as your bios not recognizing your cpu... it could be the cmos battery dying, because its not retaining the settings anymore (but that would mean its possibly not retaining the date or other settings either)

    other things that can cause data corruption/loss are overclocking, faulty memory, failing hdds as youre seeing, viruses/malware, improper shutdowns, which tends to cause registry errors and such too, low quality/underpowered psu (which is a very real possiblity in your situation, since you didnt even list it)... just anything thats out of place really
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