"Primary Hard Drive Failure" - help requested

Hello all...I was hoping someone might be able to shed some light on this little issue.

I have recently been experiencing some issues with my PC, specs as follows:

MSI K7N2 Delta ILSR motherboard (currently using onboard GFX/sound)
Corsair Twin X DDR RAM (1024mb)
Maxtor 80gig HD
CTX 12x DVD drive
Windows XP (Home)

I have a few other devices installed (firewire card, unused Audigy) but nothing major.

When running Windows, my PC recently started behaving in a rather alarming fashion - for no apparent reason, programs would start to close, and when I put my cursor over the "Start" icon on XP, it would vanish, leaving a green button with no text. Eventually, everything would disappear from the screen - leaving just the desktop background. CTRL-ALT-DEL brought nothing up at all, and the only solution was to turn the PC off and reboot.

This continued for a while, with the PC rebooting every time without issue - but the problem would happen again, albeit at erratic intervals.Recently, however, I got a "primary master disk fail" message when rebooting, and the system would halt. If I left the PC off for a couple of minutes, it would then boot again. I should note here that booting up is pretty slow, and nowhere near as fast as I would expect.

I concluded the HD was broken or getting that way, and replaced it with a smaller drive which had seen very little use. To start with, everything was fine. However, after working without issue for a short period, my PC is now behaving EXACTLY the same as it was before I replaced the old 80 gig Maxtor drive with a 30gig Seagate drive. In short - different drive, same results.

Does anyone have any ideas as to what might be wrong? Currently I am testing out a different IDE cable, in the hope that it could be a faulty cable. I have also moved my DVD drive to the primary IDE cable, acting as a slave for the HD - previously, it has been on the Secondary Master.

Advice gratefully received, I'm lost. :(
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  1. Don't be so quick to blame hardware...

    It actually sounds like a software problem, IMO. When you installed the 30GB Seagate, did you use a fresh install of Windows or just an image? Maybe making a clean install on the Seagate and testing that for awhile will answer your question. A lot of your problems seem to be involved with a bad install (or a cluttered one), I'd bet that a clean install would really fix things for you. If you don't want to reinstall windows, the next best thing I can recommend would go to "Run...", type in: msconfig. Within that, uncheck everything you can, especially on the boot tab.

    However, if you have been using clean installs, and still have this problem, it's most likely hardware. The first place I would look is the unused Audigy card, making sure the drivers are installed (yes, even if you don't use it). Second place I would look would be the PSU, though you don't have too much hardware that draws power, your PSU may be faulty (accounting for the few minute delay between restarts when your computer crashes). Next, your mobo might not want to do everything you're asking it to do. Next place I would look would be cooling, though unlikely, some symptoms make sense (having to wait a few minutes between restarts, slow startups [throttled-back processor due to heat], and crashes).

    Hope that helps.

    Damn Rambus.
  2. I did a clean install both times, and formatted properly (not the quick version).

    I actually installed the audigy card yesterday anyway, so we'll see how that goes.

    The power supply is fairly beefy, and I don't *think* that would be the problem. Overheating certainly isn't the issue - I have 7 fans inside the case, and temp sensors everywhere. If things were hot, I would know for certain (unless the temp censors are broken! :o).

    I moved the CD rom drive to primary slave last night, to see if that helps any. I guess I'll find out soon enough...

    Thanks for the help though, its appreciated. Any further ideas are welcomed. :)
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