Windows freezes, forces reboot

By renosaurus · 24 replies
Feb 1, 2011
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  1. Hi guys,

    so I'm at a loss here. I know a little about computers but this is way over my head.
    recently my pc wouldn't shut down. after some time, I ended it's suffering by shutting the power.
    two weeks or so later my pc suddenly freezes midsession, out of nowhere. I restart my pc, and it works again. however in the following days it takes up to 6 reboots to get my pc working, otherwise it would freeze, and I have to hit the reset button.

    at this moment, my pc isn't working at all! it starts windows, but either freezes at the windows welcome page, or 10 seconds after my desktop appears.

    now, I've tried installing windows at another hd, but the same problem. somtimes my screen freezes, then my monitor goes black only to reapear in a second. then my desktop works again, if I'm lucky, for a second or 2. then freezes again.

    sometimes windows will even force a reboot, but not always.

    I would format my HD, were it not that I have important files on there which I really need to recover.

    I'm running windows xp, (i've seen the BSOD in XP(once), for the first time in the 7-8 years I have this pc). Somtimes I get a message from windows telling me my system has recovered from a serious error, but usually my monitor just freezes again after. I've made it myself, but I have no idea what video card is in there right now. I have a 500 gb HD, which isn't even half full. I did not instal any updates whatsoever recently. not even system recovery or safe mode work right now.

    I've tried probably every option available after hitting F8, from resetting a directory (can't remember which one) to letting windows search for errors, but no error where found.

    I'm desperate, but I need those files!

    Can anyone please help?

  2. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    Your best move would be to get your hard drive out and hook it up to another PC and save all your important files to a DVD or external hard drive. Then you can reformat and reinstall the OS, unfortunately that may not cure the problem.

    The symptons sound like a failling hard drive or it could be a faulty memory module. It could also be a malware infection.

    Remove the memory modules and clean the contacts with a soft pencil rubber (up and down not from end to end) then try to run the machine with just one module, if no change swap the modules until you have tested all that you have. Obviously if you only have one module you cannot do this but still clean and reseat the module you have.

    If that doesn't improve things follow the guide below to test the hard drive, you will need to use another PC to make the disk as instructed.

    If the hard drive is OK I will give instructions to post your dump files from the BSOD which might reveal something.

    What make and model of PC is it.

    Please answer any questions and tell me all your observations as you go through my suggestions.

  3. renosaurus

    renosaurus TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Ok so I do have a laptop, but I have no other desktop available right now. also I don't have way to secure me against static(my dad has a wire to put in the power outlet), I can fix that.

    I was afraid you where gonna say that. I thought I had been hacked, so I removed my pc from the internet. That didn't help at all.

    Ok, will do tomorrow. Right now, it's a little to late, I'm off to bed soon. I have in fact 2 memory modules in there. Will test them both.

    All I can remember is that I have a western digital drive in there (500 gb) but that one is relative new. my OS was on another drive, 60 gb, which is VERY old, just as old as my pc I think. So I installed on the western digital windows XP, and tried to run from there. Didn't work. I will test them if you say it needs to be done, but two HD dying on the same time seems a little too much coincidence to me. and I don't believe in coincidence.

    Has a record of that been saved on my pc? can you (or I) access it, even though windows wont run?

    It's my own pc, I assembled it myself., an asus motherboard(I have NO IDEA which one anymore) with 1 gig memory, and I think the gforce 6600, but I'm not sure. it has a pentium 4 2,8 gh,
  4. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    Did you install XP on the WD drive while the older drive was still connected? If you left the other drive connected did you change the boot order and reset the jumpers on each drive, without doing that little would change as it would still be booting from the old drive.

    I agree it is most unlikely that both drives have failed together but a good possibility that the older drive has. There is also a chance that if you have an infection it has spread to the other drive.

    If your check with the memory modules make no diference I would remove the old drive and then do a clean install on the WD. First make sure you have set the jumper on the drive to master.

    Touching a wire connected to earth is adequate protection against static.

    If the PC had a full system failure causing a BSOD it will have saved a .dmp file.
  5. renosaurus

    renosaurus TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I installed winxp on the WD, and at start-up I changed the bios. then I got an option which OS I wanted to run. Yesterday evening I started thinking, maybe my OS already was on the WD, since I looked at how much space was left on the old one, and it was actually almost empty.

    I'll try installing a new OS on that drive first.

    Now, does installing windows also use the memory banks? I would say it would, in which case they are fine, because installing windows didn't cause my pc to freeze. I think it's a software problem. Maybe we could start by recollecting the BSOD?
  6. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    I do beleive that installing windows would use some memory but it might not be using the area where a possible fault could be. So, that doesn't prove that your memory is OK.

    With a fresh install on the newer WD drive, with just the motherboard drivers installed and no other software, run the PC without the other drive installed and if it still crashes it has to be a hardware problem.

    Follow this to post your dump file.

  7. renosaurus

    renosaurus TS Rookie Topic Starter

    ok I'm sorry I should have mentioned this.

    I could have figured out myself where I needed to upload the file, but where can I find the file itself? and if it's within windows itself then it's of no use, because my pc won't run long enough for me to recover it...

    also, I didn't even get the chance to install any drivers, for when I started the fresh winxp installation, it already froze when I was still configurating it.
  8. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    OK, have you tried this suggestion with the memory modules.

    The dump files are within windows.

    It is sounding more like a memory module so try the above and report back.
  9. renosaurus

    renosaurus TS Rookie Topic Starter

    ok I did. I removed all (turned out to be 4) memory banks, and cleaned them carefully with a tissue. but not one of them gave a result. None of them solved the freezing...
  10. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    OK, sounds like your memory is ok but the contacts should be cleaned with a soft rubber (as I suggested) to remove any oxide, using a tissue will not achieve this. Having now tested the PC with each individual stick installed, with no change, does point the finger elsewhere.

    Did you do a fresh install on the WD drive with the old drive disconnected?

    Also, do you have onboard graphics? If so connect the monitor to that and remove the graphics card before the fresh install and pull out the CMOS battery from the motherboard, wait ten minutes and put it back in.

    Are your drives IDE or SATA? IDE uses a wide ribbon cable and Sata has a thinner cable.
  11. renosaurus

    renosaurus TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I only did a new winxp install on the WD with the old one still installed. But could that matter? If my OS is on the WD, and I run that one, how can it freeze if the old one(which I hardly ever use) is broken? Ever since I got the WD, I have not used that disk anymore. I do not think that's the problem.

    I think the old one is the master, and the WD the slave, but I have to check the bios to be sure.
    The old one is IDE, the new one SATA.

    But since the old one is the master, can't I change it to slave? might that help?

    I cannot connect my monitor to the motherboard so I'm assuming I do not have an onboard graphic card.

    ( I took a tissue because I didn't want to accidently destroy it. besides I did not see any oxidisation, the connectors looked as if they came right out of the box)

    My gut instinct(if I have one) tells me the problem is software related. I actually wanted to run windows from the CD, not install it. That way, I can remove my documents, and format the entire disk.
    I thought I could do this with a windows CD? was i mistaken? or did I do something wrong?
  12. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    The WD drive is SATA, I should have asked about that earlier.

    Are you installing SATA drivers at the beginning on the XP install. If not that is why it won't work as XP has no SATA drivers so to install it correctly on a SATA drive you have to get the SATA drivers from the motherboard manufacturers site, put then on a floppy disc and install them when prompted.

    I can give instruction to integrate your XP disc with the drivers which you can do on your laptop, making a new OS disc. On the other hand if you have a floppy drive and you can get to use a working PC with a floppy drive it will be a much easier process.
  13. renosaurus

    renosaurus TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I will try but first, correct me if I'm wrong.

    I've had this WD disk easily longer than 4 years, and its always worked. I never had any problems with it, and I've installed my pc a couple of times, mainly cause of a virus.
    But to find out after 4,5 years I do not have the correct drivers, no I'm sorry I don't buy that.

    I don't care about the pc, mayby my registry or bios are running dry. I don't care, all I want is to remove 8 gb, prefferably by dl disc. But if I can get my pc running in safe mode, I'll remove them by usb. if the pc turns out to have died, I will give him a propper buryall, but I couldn't care less. all I want is those files.
    How can I boot my pc from a cd? I know it can be done, I've seen someone do it before.
    Do I need a windows recovery disc or something? if so, how can I get/make it?
    Also please tell me, why do you think it's hardware related? (just curious)
  14. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    Are you saying that you succesfully installed Windows XP on this SATA drive without using additional drivers. If so, then you are one of the lucky ones, XP does contain a few SATA drivers but not many, guess it has the one you needed. Sata drivers are specific to the OS and the motherboard so there are a lot of them to choose from. Vista and windows 7 have drivers built in. On the other hand you may find that the disc is running in IDE mode, that should be visible in the bios.

    Hard drives can malfunction within or week or last 10 years or more but many fail around four to five years of age under average use. Testing both drives with the manufacturers diagnostics would be the best way to eliminate them from the problem. I still think it would be worth trying to run the PC with the old drive removed, can't quite understand your reluctance to try this.

    I believe most disc cloning and back up software like Acronis True Image come with a boot disc, that you create yourself, which can be used to boot the PC and transfer DATA from your drives.

    I have always got the PC to work by diagnosing what is wrong with it first or I have removed the drive to another PC to extract all the data. I have therefore never needed any software to save data from a drive that will not boot up, so if you want to do it that way (the hard way IMO) you'll have to search online for something.

    Let us know how you get on.
  15. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    Just for the hell of it I had a search for a boot disc that would transfer files. I could not find any free ones from a trusted site and there were a lot of sites in the search results that are not trusted, so beware.

    I did find this on a trusted site and it only costs 10$. Click the "About" button for the full spec. Looks like a usefull tool.
  16. renosaurus

    renosaurus TS Rookie Topic Starter

    it's just, it's been 4,5 years since I last opened my pc, and at that time, my father was there to help me. I will, but I'm afraid to ruin something with my limited experience.

    I was thinking, since my desktop freezes, and not even my mouse moving, could it be my video card? a friend of mine might have one lying around idly, I might be able to borrow it.

    Is there a way to connect my WD to my laptop, and extract data that way? and what if I instal windows on the old disk, will I be able to access info on the WD, even if that version of windows doesn't know where the info is stored?

    I guess I owe you an apology. I came here, asking for help, but I have not been very open to the suggestions you're making.
    So, Sorry about that.
  17. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    Thats OK. But without following my suggestions we are no further forward.

    The inside of a PC can be a scary place if you are not used to it. If you know what the hard drive looks like then there should be no problem disconnecting it and to identify which is which the manufacturers name will be written on it.

    The video card was the next culprit in my list but I first needed to be quite sure that everyhting else was OK before even suggesting that the graphics card might be the problem. Hence my repeated suggestion that you remove the old hard drive and do a clean install on the WD. I would also suggest getting the hard drive diagnostics done irrespective of the age of the drives. I can't guide you through a diagnostic process unless you make a start on what has already been suggested. If you need more detailed instruction for anything then just ask or will get nowhere.

    To connect the WD to your laptop you will need to get a hard drive to USB adapter. Make sure it is for SATA. You will then need a Sata to IDE converter to use it on the older IDE drive.
  18. renosaurus

    renosaurus TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I have remover the cables from the old disk and tried to boot. Didnt work cause the wd is indeed the slave. I did not have time to figure out how to change THE cables to get it master. I will first try a windows instal. On the old disk, then i Will try to remove it, and run THE wd as master, first with THE old and after à new installation. If that doesnt work i Will look for THE diagnostic tool for THE wd and keep THE old one out. I Will report my findngs as zoon as i have them.

    Sorry for my grammer errors. Stupid iPhone...
  19. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    SATA drives are always set as master there are no jumpers on a SATA drive as you may have noticed. If you have more than one SATA drive the settings are made in the Bios to set one as primary (master) and the other as secondary (slave). With just the WD installed the bios will boot from that drive no matter what it is set to but only if it has an undamaged boot sector. It is for that reason that I suggested doing a clean install of XP on the WD drive with the old drive removed so that the diagnostic process can move on.

    What appeared on screen when you tried to boot from the WD drive. Just saying "it didn't work" does not help me to help you.

    I appreciate you wish to retrieve the files off your WD drive, are they in a seperate partition?
    If they are not the XP install to that disc will have wiped them out. Which you stated you had done in post 3.
    If you want to try a fresh install of XP on the old drive then do it with the WD disconnected, then there is no chance of getting them mixed up. Then see if you can boot, if not, run the diagnostics on that drive, using your laptop to make the disk. We will then be fairly sure as to the condition of the drive and can move on. Leave the other drive out of the equation for the moment, you have already tried to boot from it and it didn't work so forget it for the moment.
  20. renosaurus

    renosaurus TS Rookie Topic Starter

    jumpers? no, I don't know what those are. But when I unplugged the IDE, my pc didn't start past the point where you can enter the bios. and when I did, it said the primary disk was missing, the secondaire was my cd drive, and the third or the forth was the sata.

    Now I have to admid I don't know for sure (funny how you tend to forget things if you use them daily you don't notice it anymore), but I always accecced my windows via the C disk, and it was never too small, so that would be the WD.
    I installed windows on that disk, yes, but I was NOT prompted for my disk to be erased. in fact, in now has WINxp twice on it, and I can choose which one I want to run. The first is the new one, with an empty desktop. The second is my old installation, with all the data right where it should be.

    maybe you missunderstood me, maybe I didn't explain it correct. but that's why I now said I would install windows on the old disk. maybe it runs from there.
    But if windows was on the SATA, why then was I not given the option to repair windows, it just installed it without question. He didn't come complaining about an excisting windows, he just went to work.

    what does that mean?
  21. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    When you reinstalled XP to the WD did you boot the PC with the XP disc in the drive or did you insert the disc while the PC was running.

    You get several choices during an XP install, for the recovery console on one screen, then later you get asked if you want to do a repair install and then you are given choices of where you want the install to go and it warns you that you are going to loose all the data on that drive. I suspect you put the XP disc in when the computer was running, had you booted from it you would have lost everything on the WD.

    Your best bet at the moment is to disconnect the WD and do a clean install of XP on the old drive. First set the CD drive to 1st in the bios, put the XP disc in the drive and then reboot, follow the prompts to install XP. Lets hope that old drive is OK then we might get somewhere and can start to resolve the BSOD's. This will wipe the old drive so I am assuming you have no valuable data on it. Immediately after XP completes (and hopefully reboots without problems) install the mobo drivers.

    Or, you can use the link I gave earlier to get the software that will retrieve the data you want to save and then you can wipe the WD drive and start from scratch.

    Or, you take the drive out and use the laptop with a USB adapter to retrieve the data.

    It's your call, try one or the other and report back.

    One thing I cannot figure out is that you say you can boot from the choice of the two XP installs on the WD drive but the PC will not boot when the IDE drive is disconnected. This makes no sense unless the XP installs are on the IDE drive, I'm baffled.
  22. renosaurus

    renosaurus TS Rookie Topic Starter

    well, it makes sense, and at the same time it doesn't. in my bios, I have four drives, four masterdrives and four slave drives.. the first master is the ide, the second is my cd drive, and either the third or the fourth is the WD. I have no slave drives installed. when I booted my pc without the IDE, the first masterdrive was empty. so it makes sense that if he can't find the drive, he won't start. but I was not prompted with the question to boot from the cd(which was still in there), and I didn't get any error or message to choose a disk. nothing hapent, I couldn't even enter the bios anymore if I wasn't quick enough. as if it had frozen...

    when I installed xp on the WD:
    I put the XP disc in the drive, and then rebooted my pc. I then needed to push a button in order to start my pc from the cd. so I did, and I got in a blue screen where I could sellect a partition/disk. I selected the WD, knowing windows would prompt me if my data would be wiped. but it didn't. I had the choice if I wanted to make a partiton ( no), and then what kind of installation, NTFS, NTFS(quick) or without making any changes.

    I took the latter, knowing windows would wipe my HD if I chose any of the first.

    so now when I start up, it's as if I have windows xp and vista on my pc. I am asked which version I want, but there both xp. one is empty, the other is my installation I was working with...
    but I was never asked if I wanted to repair windows...

    You say BSOD's. that suggests it has hapent several times. I think it's important to know it's only hapent ONCE! then my pc rebooted, and I got the message that windows had recovered from a serious error. but out of the (say 25 times) I tried to get my pc running, it hapent only once. that's why I was starting to think my graphics card is busted, because not even my mouse cursor would move. and the first time my pc froze, when I pressed CRT/ALT/DLT to restart my pc, my motherboard started beeping whenever I pushed that combination. and you may remember me telling my monitor going black(sleep mode because he didn't get a signal anymore) after my cursor froze. after a second, my screen came back, but my cursor would freeze again in a couple of seconds.
  23. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    This only happens if the install disk does not detect the existing installation due to a damaged boot.ini file.

    This is asking you how you want to format the drive to prepare it for the installation and is perfectly normal. I can assure you it has created a partition or there was already one there.

    I can give you a guide to get the bios set up correctly but you need to decide what will remain in your PC in respect of the Hard Drives. You also need to decide exactly what you want to do here, which drive you want XP to be on and what option you are going to persue to retrieve your data.

    Your top priority has been to retrieve your data so you first need to decide which method you are going to use to retrieve it.

    I would recommend that you purchase a SATA to USB adapter and get your DATA off with the laptop. You should be able to get one at any computer store.

    Once that is done you can start from scratch, reformat and test both your drives and do a clean install of windows.

    After that we can diagnose the freezing problem.

    It´s your call now, decision time.
  24. renosaurus

    renosaurus TS Rookie Topic Starter

    A little update.

    My father came back from vacation. He gave me a cd, which would allow me to boot up my IDE disc. It's something like windows on a cd. He called it a PE disc.
    So I tried it, and it worked. There is nothing wrong with my pc's hardware. the problems are caused by a software problem. So I can now extract my data to my laptop by LAN.

    I'm not surprised it turned out too be software. Didn't I tell you it was a software problem? I understand it could be one in a million things. You had to start somewhere. But my reluctance to rip out all my hardware was because I thought the problem was software, and my father always told me that that doesn't help. Not untill he had tried everything would he remove hardware.

    Thanks for your help, I will keep you updated if you want, but right now it's only a matter of time:)
  25. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    Yes, please do update this thread with your findings as it can help others that read it.

    Glad to hear you are getting somewhere now:)

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