Whole computer running slow, windows won't start outside safe mode

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.

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.

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More about whole computer running slow windows start safe mode
  1. A little more info:
    It gives one short beep before the mobo screen comes up, then another short, higher-pitched beep after the mobo screen goes away.
    The memory test took about 30-45 mins to complete. But I also remember that I didn't actually see the results, so I shouldn't have said it came back clean. It said it would run the scan and then restart the computer and display the results after I log on, but of course after it restarted it got to the point where it freezes, so I never saw the result... but I did see the scan at about 80% progress, and it said it had not detected any faults so far.

    I tried running astra32 to help diagnose the problem, but it won't run, I strongly suspect because I'm in safe mode. As safe mode limits my options I'm not sure how to access further diagnostic information. For some reason I'm suspecting a memory problem, but I can't find any way to check memory function in safe mode
  2. try a system restore
  3. Thanks, but I don't have a backup, and even if I did I really don't think this is a windows problem, and I doubt the restore would complete successfully.
  4. Update: 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.
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