So my friend gave me his laptop, an HP zd8000 (about 5 or 6 years old with XP Media Center), said the hard drive needed to be wiped. So I booted it up normally, and Dunecat showed up on his desktop, so it got that far. It seemed fine then, but it just wouldn't boot up all the way. Task manager said it had been disabled by administrator, so I logged onto administrator but the computer just froze when I tried from there. So I moved on to safe mode.
In safe mode, I was able to get task manager running, and everything seemed to be good, so I thought "It's just some viruses, I'll clear these up." But about 30 minutes after the lappy started up, while I was weeding out evil, the power shut down instantly. (I should also mention that this laptop has no battery atm, so I didn't think it was a big deal, I just figured that the cord got bumped) Then I tried to boot it up again and it started, got to BIOS, and promptly shut down again. It was NOT noticeably hot, and all fans are working. An hour later, it started up for 30 minutes, and did the same thing. So I reformatted.
I set it on the installing screen, went out to eat, and came back an hour and a half later only to see it still on, but with WinXP finished with that step. It felt good. BUT 20-45 minutes later, it shut down again, still not hot. And when I tried to boot it up from the crash awhile later, WinXP will not load except in safe mode. I did not download or change anything. I did not connect the laptop to the internet.
What I want to know: is this an easy fix, or is it just the result of an old laptop sputtering out?
Turned out it was actually overheating, even though it felt cool compared to most other laptops I've owned. Thought "Whatever, I'm wasting my time" and then blew compressed air into the fans. Pantloads of clutter flew out, now it works great! (In relative terms, of course.)
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Perfectly feasible to user older laptops with XP -- key is to add memory.