Try and solve this one. (spent over 1 week troubleshooting)

By ebora
Aug 2, 2006
  1. Hey guys.

    Recently - just over 1 week ago, out of the blue, my pc started playing up (whats new lol).

    Problem: the Taskbar would freeze, as well as all of the icons on desktop. Also the programs in startup bar wouldnt load and every time i hovered my mouse over the taskbar a "hourglass" would appear.

    I restarted my pc thinking that the OS (Win XP SP2) just didnt load correctly, but this problem kept happening. Now every so often my pc would load perfectly, no problems, tho most of the time it would *uck up, like i explained above.

    Seeing that this problem was eratic, i decided id format **simple solution**.

    Once formatted and win xp installed, everything worked fine. I was happy again lol. Tho after a few restarts/shutdowns the problems started again! same symptoms!.

    After stuffing around with windows for a bit, i ended up formatting 6 times in total, and loading up 3 Different Windows.

    - Win XP SP2
    - Win XP
    - Win 2000

    The only thing i could do on my pc (when it froze up) was CTRL+ALT+DEL and run a new process. So i loaded CMD and opened up firefox. thankfully it worked. I got on the net and after a few hrs of searching around google i found that its either some Embedded Virus :S - which i doubt; or an I/O Error.....thus Hardware

    Now here's my pc Config

    AMD Athlon 64 3200+ (Stock cooling)
    ASUS A8N-SLI Premium mobo
    2 x 512MB Corsair Value RAM 400Mhz
    1 x 120GIG WD 7.2k rpm 8MB Cache HDD (Win XP Boot)
    1 x 200GIG (same specs) ... (File Storage drive)
    2 x Nvidia 6600GT 128MB (SLI)
    1 x DVD-ROM ( its old and i dont remember the brand)
    1 x Sony DVD/CD-RW combo
    450W PSU Thermaltake

    So, I started taking out drives 1 by 1.
    I took out the 2 Optical drives; no change.
    I removed the RAM and put in a 256stick; no change.
    I took out the 200gig HDD; no change.
    I took out 1 Video card; no change.

    The only thing i could see that was the problem now was either the Mobo, or HDD - i dont think its the cpu, but i havent tested it with another pc.

    I took out the 120 gig Windows Drive and put in an old 40gig Samsung. I formatted it and loaded Windows. I installed all my other drives inc. SLI and BAM!!!! IT WORKED !!! :D.......for about 3 days, till the same problems occured again.

    After yelling and screaming for a few hrs, i realized that it HAD to be my mobo.

    The next day i called up my local pc store ( and talked to the tech. After explaining all this to him, we was convinced it was my IDE controller or Chipset. So since it was/and still is under warranty he just said to bring it back and they'll fix it up for me (sweet :) )

    Now that day as i de-assembled my pc to repackage my mobo, i thought id test out the HDD's (120 & 40gig) on a seperate PC.

    This PC is older but still not too bad

    AMD Athlon XP 2800+
    Gigabyte mobo
    256 mb
    some **** Geforce

    So i loaded each HDD up on this pc as The boot drive. I tried the 40Gig first and THE SAME PROBLEM HAPPENED!!! :(

    I tried the 120gig next and the SAME **** HAPPENED AGAIN!! WTF!!!

    This is now on a completely Different mobo, Including a different chipset. Bahh!!! lol

    This means its BOTH HDD's that are stuffed, since they were the only 2 devices that i used on the old pc that came off the good pc

    2 HDD's stuffed @ the same time????? possible? ultra-rare? my pc hates me?

    Im ready to go out and buy new equipment, but im not that rich, so i wanna make sure i know what exactly is broken before i buy it.

    Does anyone have any ideas/suggestions or anything to this problem????
    Any help what so ever would be extremely appreciated!!!

    Thanks for your time guys

    email me @ or post here if u need any more info on my pc or what i have tested.
  2. Mictlantecuhtli

    Mictlantecuhtli TS Evangelist Posts: 4,345   +11

    I've had these problems too sometimes. I think it's related to IDE channels & storage devices attached to them.
  3. ebora

    ebora TS Rookie Topic Starter


    So what do ya reckon? just get a new HDD?

    Im thinkin about gettin a Hard drive of a mate and just testing **** with that.
  4. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 4,573   +65

    Could it be a mix of whatever software you install and use? Perhaps one or more of your applications you commonly install don't play nicely with Windows or each other.

    Could it be caused by a certain driver you are installing, since 2000/XP use the same drivers?

    Could it be caused by a 'bad' IDE/SATA cable?

    ... Just thinking out loud.

    What does Start > Run > Eventvwr.msc tell you? The errors are time stamped. Look for errors around the times your task bar freezes. If there's a drive problem that doesn't result in immediate failure, it will usually report the read/write errors.

    If you run a manufacturer's drive diagnostic in DOS over and over and over and over again, does it ever freeze? Does it pass all the tests? If it doesn't pass or freezes, we know it isn't just a bizarre, Windows problem that might a result of some specific hardware/software combination. If it does pass or freeze, then can be certain it is drive related.
  5. kitty500cat

    kitty500cat TS Evangelist Posts: 2,154   +6

    It seems to me that there could be a problem with the program Explorer. Open task manager, find the process Explorer.exe, and end it. Then go file-->run, and type in explorer. See if it works then.
    hoping to help
  6. kirock

    kirock TS Rookie Posts: 1,221

    I'm not sure what mean you said it did it again when you installed the HDD on your older XP machine. You can't load Windows onto a HDD and then install it into another PC and boot up from that. This is only going to no surprise there.

    It's most likely your PSU. Now thermaltakes aren't bad, but 450W with SLI 6600's and 2 HDDs and 2 optical drives and an AMD 64 3200 is running it pretty close to maximum when/if you play games or video edit. (oh and case fans as well hopefully). What are the amps on the 12Volt rail?

    When you get your mobo back, only install your boot drive, 1 optical and 1 of the 6600s and see how that goes. Another thing to check (since it's out) is the HSF on the CPU. Remove it from the cpu and apply and new layer thermal paste between the two.

  7. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 4,573   +65

    That's not entirely true. If the chipset is simliar (in this case, he replaced his board with an identical replacement), it would work quite fine.
  8. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,689   +395

    IDE or SATA cables here stick out to me (from Rick's post), likely the hds aren't bad, and everything else is different, but I bet you use the same cables and same keyboard and mouse. Try new cables, and possibly a different keyboard and mouse.. but cables are the first thing I'd try.
  9. ebora

    ebora TS Rookie Topic Starter


    hey guys, back again after much deliberating and fustration lol

    RICK: Between the 6 times that i had formatted, i only only ever installed drivers/appz/gamez ONCE. there other times, after 1 restart the PC played up again. :S. the only thing that would TEMPORARILY fix the problem was a System Restore.

    Each time i loaded up in Safe Mode and did a restore, the PC would boot up properly ONCE only, then once i restarted the PC; BAM!; it'd f'up.

    I also went threw 8 differenty IDE cables, some old and some brand new, and each gave me the same result; so its not the cable.

    Whats that do? Im @ uni atm so cant do it right now, but ill give it a shot when i get home.

    kitty500cat: it wont let me crash/end explorer and re-execute it. I can only RUN things through CMD.

    kirock: I took both HDD's that have a windows partition on and booted when on a different System. It did Boot, but only to the point where the same 'freezing' problem happened, so really it didnt boot FULLY.

    I know its not my PSU, youve gotta remember this system is 10 months old (except HDD's) and has been workin fine in the past.

    I did also remove all drives 1 by 1 like i said, and most of the time trying to get this goin i was running with 256mb RAM, 1 HDD ( either 40gig or 120gig) , 1 the bare minimum.


    Heres some new news.
    I spoke to one of my teachers @ uni, class: Adv. Operating Systems.

    She reckons that a virus was infected into my flash, my bios on my mobo. From there it multiplied onto my HDD's. thus, nomatter what mobo i tried my hdd's on the problem would always be there.

    so now ive just gotta re-flash teh bios and hope that all is well. hopefully the virus doesnt copy from HDD's -> mobo's....which will save me Flashing the other mobo too.

    does that sound probable to you guys??

    Im gonna go have a word to another lecturer and see what he thinks too. I'll keep yous updated later in the day :D

    thanks for the help guys/gals!
  10. xXGoDXx

    xXGoDXx TS Rookie Posts: 27

    I have heard soem rumor about that. soem maybe true some not. Some ***** in russia has created a bug at which it will save into your temp files and from there attack yours system( freezing up ). go to start>run>msconfig look for anything that is/ or seems unusual* dunno if its spelled right* look in your start up, system.ini, and win.ini. i think i may have some idea y your comps acting that way. if you dont find anything just delete your Temp files and your cookies. I hope this helps a bit? eh Sorry if it doesnt ;) better luck next time.
  11. kirock

    kirock TS Rookie Posts: 1,221

    Ummm, he formatted his HDD's like 6 times now, a virus would be wiped out.
    A virus residing in the CMOS is the old way of doing it, but I suppose all things come back into vague eventually. It would explain moving the HDDs to the other machine and having the problem follow.(i.e they got reinfected as soon as the OS loaded before you removed them) It would seem you probably infected your other machine's BIOS now too, if this theory holds.
  12. xXGoDXx

    xXGoDXx TS Rookie Posts: 27

    So your saying that what i have just posted could be true?
  13. Samstoned

    Samstoned TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,018

    I think older bios's had this problem ,but the newer ones
    don't let the drive write to it
    the virus that comes to mind writes to mbr
    if you just do a standard format the mbr is still there with the virus in it
    you have to do a complete erase
    that aside
    bio's still can get corrupted,
    same with the firmware on the hard drive
    if you can burrow a drive from someone flash the bios on the board and load a new system
    use only the min. of hardware you do need more PSU and xp will not run on adiff motherboard so that test is null
    last time I saw those symptoms I had bad caps on the board
  14. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 4,573   +65

    We need to keep an open mind and this kind of thinking is going to give you more ghosts to chase. If you haven't tried a different PSU, it is worth a shot since you've claimed to have tried everything else. But I'm not convinced this is related.

    Eventvwr.msc is the XP/2000 log. When explorer hangs like that, Windows usually records an error with more (hopefully) detailed information.

    What you are experiencing is is explorer hanging and I don't think this is a 'BIOS virus' or whatever, but more info on that further down. :)

    What causes explorer to hang? Software problems and drive problems most commonly. It's feasible issues such a bad CPU or memory might also cause this, but these symptoms would usually show up before XP even finishes installing. I think despite all you've done, there's something missing. You've forgotten about something, distorted or fabricated a claim, mis-interpreted something.... The anwer is here because everything in computer has an answer - and that answer may be something rediculous - but its an answer. :)

    Whether it looks like drive, memory or CPU problems or not.. I'd like you to run some diagnostic tests anyway. I want to see your computer hang or crash outside of Windows, so we can verify this is a hardware problem.

    Memory diagnostic: (Also stresses the CPU quite a bit)
    Drive diagnostics & utilites: (diagnose and 'low-level' format)

    You installed 3 OSes and explorer hangs on all of them, but why is only when Windows starts? Why not when Windows installs or some other time between not having an OS and having an OS?

    It follows the drives, which is interesting. It's not reliable data though, since you never really did a fresh install of Windows on the second system. It's compelling, but not useful unless we get a new install of XP on that old computer using your original drive to rule out software problems.

    A Windows format does not erase every sector of the drive and it also excludes the boot sector, which is the only real dangerous spot for a virus to hide.

    A 'CMOS virus' doesn't make any sense. I think you meant a virus which writes itself to the BIOS. There are recent BIOS viruses - although a rarity.

    Probable? NO. Possible? Sure. It's worth pursuing so here' how I might approach it... With a few extra 'paranioa' procedures included.

    Let's keep in mind how unlikely this is. Usually 'BIOS viruses' trash your computer, not make Windows' explorer hang. But I'd try anything once. ;)
    • Disconnect all hard drives
    • Flash the BIOS to the latest version. At this point, your BIOS will be virus-free.
    • Restart and change the boot order to CDROM first and remove any drive boot options (if possible) or place it dead last in the boot order. We don't want the hard drive to be part of the bootstrap process as it may reinfect the computer if you do not have a BIOS write-protect option.
    • If there's an option for BIOS write-protect or a jumper on the board to disable ROM programming, I'd enable that now.
    • Install the drive.
    • Use your disk manufacturer's 'low-level' format utility (See the storage forum sticky for drive diagnostics) OR the following steps...
    • Boot from the Windows XP CD and do the usual thing to get to the first 'Welcome to Windows Setup' screen.
    • Choose to 'R' for repair and 'C' for Recovery console.
    • At prompt, type diskpart
    • Erase all of the partitions
    • Create a new partition
    • Type in the command format C: /FS:NTFS (We'll do the full one just because)
    • Type fixboot
    • Type fixmbr (This part should eliminate the virus)

    You should be all clean. Don't forget to reboot and go directly to your BIOS setup screen. Enable boot sector virus protection so that it is write-protected. This will keep (most) viruses from getting into your drives bootsector/MBR again. Windows AV programs can also scan for boot viruses. You may want to scan your computer after you get your fresh XP install... Just to see if anything pops up.
  15. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 6,000   +15

    funny. nowhere is ram mentioned. Run memtest 86+ booted from a floppy. run for 7 passes.
  16. ebora

    ebora TS Rookie Topic Starter



    Last night i flashed the BIOS, simple n sweet, i think i updated to version 1001-660 or something.

    @ that time there was no HDD in the system, just my video card mobo cpu and a good old floppy :D

    next i restarted plugged in the HDD n CDROM. Tried to boot of a windows cd and it started playing up. The cd wouldnt boot, or it kept saying..

    BOOT: Couldn't find NTDLR (i think thats how its spelt)

    im lol. so i tried a diff cd. it booted and i got things on the way.

    I got to the windows Setp Partition part....

    I deleted my current partition (40gig of 120gig) and made a new one of the full harddrive size. I did the LONG ***** format NTFS, but then when it started copying the files over i kept gettin corrupt or missing file, and since it was 2am+ in the morning i hit the power button and went to bed. lol

    RICK: That low level format thing sounds perfect. Another mate of mine said the same thing so im definately gonna give it a go tonight.

    ill do it just like u said

    2 questions tho.

    Any other HDD's i keep in the system, do the same process to format them low-level, just incase they have the virus?


    Reckon its possible that it could spread to the CD-ROM? i doubt it cause of the fact its a ROM and not RAM, but its just a query.

    thanks for ur help mate. its been a fkn amazing :D


    Tedster: I normally run 2 x 512 MB Corsair. I changed them with a 256MB stick and still i got the same problem. I dont think the ram is f^ked, but ill try those tests and also the tests that Rick advise. thanks :D
  17. TCool

    TCool TS Rookie Posts: 64

    To format, did you just pop in the windows xp cd and just go through the set up again trusting it to format yer hd? If thats the way you did it, I suggest finding an alternative, such as using the command prompt and the format command. I've seen this kind of stuff happen when using the win xp cd to just run the set up off of the boot and telling it to format and reinstall windows. Apparently it doesn't actually format, I did this on a friends computer who had a virus. I selected to do a full format on his drive, and went on from there and afterwards the virus and many of his files were still there. So, if thats the way you formatted it would seem to me that a full format was never actually done therefore the original problem was never fixed.
  18. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 4,573   +65

    Okay, this is interesting. A common reason for 'corrupt' or 'missing' files during an XP install is a failing hard drive, memory... Aside from a bad CD or optical drive. This should tell us more than explorer hanging, because there's less involved than with a full, finished install of Windows.

    The answer could be something 'stupid' like you're using burned copies of Windows (which is fine), but copies created by a CD-RW that's having issues or on poor quality/incompatible media... Or it could be something very complex or unlikely such as sunspots or solar flares. :)

    So based on this problem alone and if we put aaaaallllll the previous troubleshooting you've done aside for a moment... Including facts and inferences. The problem could be a failing drive, failing memory, failing optical drive, bad media. Less likely causes might include a failing CPU, failing power supply failing board and even incorrect configuration could play a part in this, as optical and mechnical drives have unexpected results when master/slave/cable select is used improperly. While that's probably not a problem, double-check your jumpers... just to rule it out. Hopefully, if it is one of these things, the diagnostic software will pick it up. I recommend running that memory test software for many hours and run the full drive diagnostics over and over and over again, as problems can be intermittent. This will also be a good stress test for your system outside the Windows environment.

    Explorer.exe hanging also coincides with data problems really well... Which failing drives and memory are commonly associated with. So I feel this is a strong direction to continue in, even though it may defy some of the logic from earlier troubleshooting.

    Not to your CD media, but viruses have existed that write themselves to optical drive firmware... Which is really clever and possible. The symptoms you are experiecing could also be due to a failing optical drive (if we push some of your deductive troubleshooting aside for a moment).

    You might be thinking, 'What about the hard drive firmware then?!'. That would be a good point and it happens to be the only way you could still have a virus on your drive after a low-level format. However, a virus writing itself into your hard drive firmware would be supercalifragilisticexpialidoceous-improbable, as most SATA/IDE drive firmware ROMs are not programmable by anyone but the manufacturers. This usually involves a special host controller or at least additional 'in the know' programming. It's feasable on some brands and models, but very, very, very, very, very, very unlikely. Infact, it is so unlikely I wouldn't consider it. This is just FYI.
    Your BIOS was successful at bootstrapping to your MBR, but your bootloader is corrupted or missing. This probably happened because fixboot & fixmbr make your drive bootable, but the actual OS loader (ntldr) isn't on your drive since you formatted. Typically, with a fresh drive, it woudl boot directly from the CD, but since the CD found a valid boot sector on your drive, it passes the boot process to your drive if you fail to "press any key to begin setup". If you didn't get that message, there might be something else going on.
  19. Ruraltexan

    Ruraltexan TS Rookie

    With random problems like these, I would suspect the power supply is going bad.
  20. mattbaka

    mattbaka TS Rookie

    same problem

    Hi, just thought i'd let you know that over the last 2 days, i've had the same problem, with the taskbar freezing on startup, hourglass, .....
    My problem is actually happening on a new Toshiba Laptop, i beleive it is more software related, but im still trying to work it out. One site i found referred to TCP/ip getting stuck in a loop, and reintalling protocols may help.......

    I'll let you know how i go, because it seems we face the same problem.

  21. mattbaka

    mattbaka TS Rookie

    Fixed the problem on my system!

    try this see if it helps, goto "my Network Places" click on "Hide icons for UPNP networked devices"
    Fixed the problem for me and a lot of other people by the looks. Some of the other people disabled "SSDP Discovery Service" in msconfig, and fixed the problem that way.
    It seems this service was getting stuck and explorer was waiting on its call.

    Anyway..... hope this helps.
  22. ebora

    ebora TS Rookie Topic Starter

    ok. back

    Here we go!!!!!

    NEW HDD!!!!

    250gig WD Sata2 16mb cache

    REPAIRED MOBO - asus actually replaced it :D

    so heres the pc config atm


    ASUS A8N-SLI Premium
    1 gig Corsair 3200
    2 x 6600GT's SLI
    1 x 250GIG Sata2
    1 x NEW~!!~! Pioneer dvd burner 16x/soemthing
    + my 430W thermaltake PSU


    Many times now i have reformatted my pc, doing the low Level format that Rick showed me. I even have done it with this new HDD

    - Boot from XP cd
    - Recovery consol
    - diskpart (new partition(s) )
    - format c: /FS:NTFS (/Q:NTFS also)
    - fixboot
    - fixmbr
    ... install windows


    it is easily fixed. Crash Explorer. then Run -> explorer.

    works. tho only for that 1 boot. I have to do it each time i restart the PC

    This has made me come to believe that its the RAM.


    while my mobo was gettin replaced for 2 weeks @ asus
    I ran the other pc with the 1gig corsair in it with the 40 gig HDD. For a few days it ran fine, till i plugged in the 200gig Archives drive which SHOULD have the virus in it (if there is a virus).

    Now that pc is as is right now. i can get it running that once of time by rerunning explorer. But some of the files on that 200gig Archives drivce i need. So i hooked the 2nd pc up to the network and transfered some files to the other pc with the 250gig harddrive in it. After a few days (2) that problem then came up on my pc. fdATFGARGAGRAGAEGRA

    Im heading out to get McAfee now and scan every fkning file i have.

    But apart from that it might be the ram so im gonna test it out.

    If i do both those ideas, and the problem is still there. im goin to quit my Computer Science course @ uni and become a f'n Chef!!! hahaha

    mattbaka: Hide icons for UPNP networked devices. wheres that located? cause i cant see it.
  23. Samstoned

    Samstoned TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,018

    only thing left is cpu and memory or did you replace that
    that psu is no where big nuff should have a 600 watt
  24. mattbaka

    mattbaka TS Rookie

    If you open "my Network Places" its on the sidebar to the left in the "network tasks" square...... this has fixed the explorer freeze/hourglass problem totally for me....... all networking is still functioning fine.

    Good luck with your problem......

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