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Computer won't start outside safe mode, runs very slow

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August 24, 2009 7:53:11 PM

A problem I seem to keep having with the forum setup at this site is that I can't choose which forum to post in if I don't know what the problem is. I posted this last night in the Homebuilt section for lack of a better idea but got no real response, so I'm going to try it here now. I doubt it's the CPU that is to blame, but I don't really have any better ideas right now.

I was using the computer all day, and had a bunch of programmes running all at once. After many hours I started getting some windows error messages telling me it needed to shut a programme down, but I couldn't actually see what programme it was referring to. I wasn't actually paying much attention as I didn't have anything vital running and it was just a run-of-the-mill windows error message. But it kept coming back again and again, though I couldn't see what programmes were shutting down, if any.
Then, the computer just went blank and restarted. I thought that was a bummer, but I was ready for a break anyway so I left it for several hours. I come back to a blank screen. Windows has not restarted. I cut the power and restart and the first phase goes OK, I get the little "Windows is loading" progress bar, but it loads a little longer after that is gone, then the curser appears, and then nothing further. So I figure windows is screwed and I'm gonna need to reinstall. Again, a bummer, but not the end of the worlds.

So the next time I restarted, the loading screen that comes from my mobo stays on the screen for a long time, about 20 seconds. And that I figure it a bad sign cause that's got nothing to do with software (as far as I know) and it usually blips past so fast I can barely see it. I have put the windows disk in for a repair and/or reinstall by this stage, but it takes forever to ask me whether I want to boot from disk, and then the DVD barely turns over and it takes a long time to load the next screen.
I did use the windows disk to run a memory check which came up clean, and then a system boot fail repair (it was called something like that, the description says it's a repair to run if windows fails to boot) and that almost immediately tells me there are no problems with windows.

Still, it won't load up past that blank screen (which usually comes right before the desktop appears) and the first stages of the boot process are running extremely slow. Luckily I can use safe mode and safe mode with networking, which is how I am reaching you now.
And strangely enough, once loaded up in safe mode, things do seem to be running fine. I can even run some old, low-powered games without difficulty (other than the crap graphics cause the GPU isn't being utilized).

I'm hoping like [bleep] that somehow this isn't a hardware problem, cause I just went two weeks without my computer when my GPU went down (long story, was misdiagnosed and I ended up with new GPU AND new redundant mobo) and I'm really not in the mood to go through this again so soon. But it's hard to see how this could be fixable without getting a new part. Since getting the new mobo and GPU I have had a few minor issues; the mobo beeps one or two times more than usual during startup, and the GPU does occasionally suddenly spins its fans very hard and loud. I asked about these things on this board but no one seemed very interested, and as I was happy to have my beasty up and running and there didn't seem to be any serious problems I eventually ignored them.

I am running 32-bit Windows Home Premium Vista, on a k9a2 cf-f motherboard, X2 4600+ CPU, Radeon 4870 512mb version GPU, 2 gigs PC2 6400 RAM (Corsair or Kingston, can't remember which I went with in the end) Antec Truepower 550W PSU. The GPU and mobo are like a month old, the rest about two years, and until the recent problem it was a very stable build.

I used memtest86 to test my RAM and it found no problems. Not sure how reliable that is or how much it tells us, but there it is.

So please tell me, how do I go about finding out who's to blame? I'm sure you'll need more information, so just tell me what you need to know.

Thankyou.
a b à CPUs
August 24, 2009 8:04:44 PM

Jurosem said:
A problem I seem to keep having with the forum setup at this site is that I can't choose which forum to post in if I don't know what the problem is. I posted this last night in the Homebuilt section for lack of a better idea but got no real response, so I'm going to try it here now. I doubt it's the CPU that is to blame, but I don't really have any better ideas right now.

I was using the computer all day, and had a bunch of programmes running all at once. After many hours I started getting some windows error messages telling me it needed to shut a programme down, but I couldn't actually see what programme it was referring to. I wasn't actually paying much attention as I didn't have anything vital running and it was just a run-of-the-mill windows error message. But it kept coming back again and again, though I couldn't see what programmes were shutting down, if any.
Then, the computer just went blank and restarted. I thought that was a bummer, but I was ready for a break anyway so I left it for several hours. I come back to a blank screen. Windows has not restarted. I cut the power and restart and the first phase goes OK, I get the little "Windows is loading" progress bar, but it loads a little longer after that is gone, then the curser appears, and then nothing further. So I figure windows is screwed and I'm gonna need to reinstall. Again, a bummer, but not the end of the worlds.

So the next time I restarted, the loading screen that comes from my mobo stays on the screen for a long time, about 20 seconds. And that I figure it a bad sign cause that's got nothing to do with software (as far as I know) and it usually blips past so fast I can barely see it. I have put the windows disk in for a repair and/or reinstall by this stage, but it takes forever to ask me whether I want to boot from disk, and then the DVD barely turns over and it takes a long time to load the next screen.
I did use the windows disk to run a memory check which came up clean, and then a system boot fail repair (it was called something like that, the description says it's a repair to run if windows fails to boot) and that almost immediately tells me there are no problems with windows.

Still, it won't load up past that blank screen (which usually comes right before the desktop appears) and the first stages of the boot process are running extremely slow. Luckily I can use safe mode and safe mode with networking, which is how I am reaching you now.
And strangely enough, once loaded up in safe mode, things do seem to be running fine. I can even run some old, low-powered games without difficulty (other than the crap graphics cause the GPU isn't being utilized).

I'm hoping like [bleep] that somehow this isn't a hardware problem, cause I just went two weeks without my computer when my GPU went down (long story, was misdiagnosed and I ended up with new GPU AND new redundant mobo) and I'm really not in the mood to go through this again so soon. But it's hard to see how this could be fixable without getting a new part. Since getting the new mobo and GPU I have had a few minor issues; the mobo beeps one or two times more than usual during startup, and the GPU does occasionally suddenly spins its fans very hard and loud. I asked about these things on this board but no one seemed very interested, and as I was happy to have my beasty up and running and there didn't seem to be any serious problems I eventually ignored them.

I am running 32-bit Windows Home Premium Vista, on a k9a2 cf-f motherboard, X2 4600+ CPU, Radeon 4870 512mb version GPU, 2 gigs PC2 6400 RAM (Corsair or Kingston, can't remember which I went with in the end) Antec Truepower 550W PSU. The GPU and mobo are like a month old, the rest about two years, and until the recent problem it was a very stable build.

I used memtest86 to test my RAM and it found no problems. Not sure how reliable that is or how much it tells us, but there it is.

So please tell me, how do I go about finding out who's to blame? I'm sure you'll need more information, so just tell me what you need to know.

Thankyou.


Ok, the bad news... Its the hardware.....

Im aiming towards the hard disk drive.

Hard disk drives will do everything that you said.

Listen to the hard disk drive - open the case and listen to the hard disk drive, if its stuck in a loop then bingo you have your answer. I change more hard disk drives than any other pc component. I got over 50 old ones infront of me right now.

Let me know what the noise is on the hard disk
could be video card but im aiming for hard disk drive :(  sorry
a b à CPUs
August 24, 2009 8:39:58 PM

I am inclined to say hard rive as well, however I failing power supply could also cause the symptoms esp when under load. ( except the long boot times..) however you will get blue screens due to power problems... my first thought is try a dif hard drive or run a full test on it... if you still have the prob after hard drive, then i would start looking at psu and then mainboard
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August 24, 2009 9:15:19 PM

In safe mode, can you look back at the event logs and see if there are any thrown errors? Since it isn't a blue screen thats just rebooting, it might not have left a bugcheck event, but that would be helpful.
August 24, 2009 9:50:49 PM

Hmm, interesting. I kind of discounted the harddisk because a) I thought it couldn't explain why the mobo loading screen stayed up for so long and b) it's hard for that to explain the CD drive running so slowly. Or so I thought. But if you think the harddrive can explain both of those then that's very useful. I do have more information now, however:

Two new factors. I tried "last good configuration" and to my immense surprise, it worked.... sort of. Windows has loaded up, but I'm getting a mass of windows error windows shutting everything down, although I seem to have most basic functions available. So it's getting tempting to think a reinstall would fix things. But that can't explain the slow start-up before windows even gets in on the act, can it? Which brings me to the second point:
I was premature in saying memtest found no errors. I ran it again, and this time let it go for several passes, and on like the third pass I think it found 3 errors and halted. No idea what the information it displayed means, and I couldn't store it any way, but I did take photos of the screen with my digital camera ;) 
So this sounds like good news I guess, if the problem is in the RAM or the harddisk. It may sound odd to call those good news, but compared to the GPU or CPU or Mobo those are relatively easy to replace. Unfortunately I don't have any replacement RAM sticks or harddisks around to test the problem. And it's now late and I need to go to bed and can't be fooling around with the hardware.

I'll also include the error code from one of the windows messages:
Problem signature:
Problem Event Name: BEX
Application Name: wermgr.exe
Application Version: 6.0.6000.16386
Application Timestamp: 4549aeda
Fault Module Name: StackHash_27f2
Fault Module Version: 0.0.0.0
Fault Module Timestamp: 00000000
Exception Offset: 01912a99
Exception Code: c0000005
Exception Data: 00000008
OS Version: 6.0.6000.2.0.0.768.3
Locale ID: 1033
Additional Information 1: 27f2
Additional Information 2: 325055436168101a578479ab72a66d1a
Additional Information 3: 21e2
Additional Information 4: c8b0deb27397de66dbbb0cb7ca788765

The "Exception Offset" changes with each message, but the rest of the information is the same for each message, I think. By the way, what does BEX mean? I tried looking it up and just found a lot of similar posts by other confused people.

And finally, given that the GPU failed about 6 weeks ago, and now it looks like the harddisk or RAM, does this seem likely the result of a deficient PSU? And is there any way of reliably checking this?

Thanks very much to those who replied.
a b à CPUs
August 24, 2009 10:00:51 PM

a HDD on the way out can often be detected by booting the pc and place your hand on the outer casing of the driver (not the circuit board side) - except the rotational biration (very low) you shouldnt feel anything. If you feel as though the drive is"clunking" then it points to a drive failure

a b à CPUs
August 24, 2009 10:12:56 PM



Im still betting on the hard drive as i origionally said

by reloading the o/s your only delaying the inevetable

go and buy a 500 gb with 32mb cache you wont regret it ( or a bigger one if youve got the dosh )
a b à CPUs
August 25, 2009 7:30:07 AM

TEST YOUR HARDWARE
a b à CPUs
August 25, 2009 8:21:32 AM

If it can run in safe mode OK but not in normal mode, I would be tempted to run msconfig and have a look under 'startup' and 'services' to see if there is something dodgy trying to run at boot up.
August 25, 2009 1:06:44 PM

wermgr.exe is windows error messaging. There are many types of malware out there that poses as this program. I would run a full system malware and virus scan to make sure that this is not the case. It sure sounds like the machine is "infected" with something.
I would also turn off the windows error reporting service or disable it untill you can get this problem cleared out.
September 2, 2009 6:01:40 PM

I've taken a long time to get around to updating this thread cause I've been busy, and because the problem has been temporarily resolved, and because I wanted to give time for any more gremlims to appear.
So to begin with, I had the harddrive out of the case as suggested, even held it in my hand during startup. I don't have a baseline to compare with, but while it was not particularly loud, I think there was noise and movement enough to indicate proper operation. I then tried disconnecting it and starting up... and the very slow mobo screen still arrived. So that seems to pretty much rule out the harddisk, yeah?

So then I tried the RAM, and for a short while, seemed to have found the culprit. I either took out the second stick (I have 2 X 1Gb) or did that and then replaced the first with the second, I don't remember which it was, but the computer booted fine with one stick but not the other. To confirm I switched sticks (possibly for the second time) and sure enough, it failed to boot at all (even to the mobo screen). Confident that the issue was resolved, I switched sticks again and put my computer back together, then took the offending party and placed it on the living room table.
When I tried to boot, I got a dead screen. After a moment of panic, I realised I must have just gotten confused and put the bad stick back in again. So I went into the living room to switch once more.... and heard my computer slide off the desk and smash into the floor.
A fearful attempt at reboot showed no response at all. Luckily I soon found the mobo power connector had come loose. The problem this caused was that now when I tried to boot up I got the same red text message "Overclocking attempt failed" that I got when I first tried to boot up after installing the new mobo and GPU a little over a month ago. I solved this the first time by going to the BIOS and restoring default settings, but this time all I needed to do was switch the primary boot device to the harddisk instead of CD drive... and the computer started up without problem. Even the slow mobo screen was gone.
I put both sticks of RAM in, still good. I tried each individually... still good.

I then noticed some suspicious files on my computer. Something masquerading as Mset.exe, except that it showed up in my user folder and had the icon of the windows chess game. I terminated it in task manager, where it showed up three times in the processes list, and deleted it. When next I restarted, there was a new file in the same place, with a name that was a long string of nonsensical letters. I looked both of these up, and the returns I got were basically long strings of information that people were posting in forums asking for help. The threads all seemed to be discussing malware, though I could find no specific mention of the files I searched for nor anyone complaining of symptoms close to mine.

So, can't be good I figured, and did a reinstall. This went smoothly.

So now my computer seems almost to be running fine. I think I did get a couple error messages after the first or second boot after this all happened. And then after a day or two I did get a blue screen of death. (I have the minidump file, but no idea what to do with the information within) After this I haven't had any major problems.

So, how to proceed? Does it seems likely that the RAM is still faulty, considering the errors eventually reported by the memory86 test, and the fact that removing one or both sticks is what triggered a return to normalcy? Is there any way (short of sticking the RAM in another computer, which I do not have) to determine how well the RAM is working?
If the problem was malware (or another software issue) all along, could that explain everything that has happened, including the slow mobo startup even without an attached harddisk and the appearance of a blue screen even after a fresh install?

It no longer seems urgent, since things are running OK now, but I fear if I don't determine what happened it'll come back to bite me on the arse.

Thankyou.
September 2, 2009 6:34:39 PM

I would run a chkdsk on your hard drive and also enable SMART reporting in your BIOS for the hard drive(s). Possible outcomes:

A) Chkdsk finds nothing wrong (reinstall Windows)
B) Chkdsk finds issues, repairs them but Windows doesn't boot (reinstall Windows)
C) Chkdsk finds issues, repairs them, and Windows starts magically working (yay)
!