F Starting MS-DOS & Freezing with Mouse

I have a P100 system that is running a car repair estimating program and Windows 3.1.  It had a 1GB hard drive that had been partitioned into two 500Mb (I don't know why).  The problem started last week.  While working in Win3.1, the system would totally freeze and require a hard boot.  During the boot up, it would do the POST test fine then it would say "F Starting MS-DOS" and freeze.  Every re-boot  would report the same thing.  The only thing that remedied it was to leave the machine for an hour or so (sometimes), then it will boot up normally.  It freezes during file retrieval & the mouse will move on the screen but it won't click & clicking it appears to be the final cause of the freeze.

1.  Thought heat - left running a burn in diagnostic overnight -- Heat was normal & all fans are working fine.

2.  Thought hard drive failure (returned 7 bad clusters during scandisk.  Ran again, returned 6 more.  Diagnostic reported hard drive failed testing on read & write) -- Replaced with a 2.1GB hard drive. Still having same problem.

Could it be the motherboard failing?  I am so stumped & it is difficult to recreate the problem.  Can work fine up to a full day before problem surfaces.

Any ideas would be so appreciated.
P.S.  Can't find any info on what F Starting MS-DOS means in Dos 6.22.  Anyone know, assumed F=Failure.
multipointAsked:
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rosscoeCommented:
Motherboard Failure - for sure. Swap it out
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multipointAuthor Commented:
How do you know?   Is this characteristic of a motherboard failure?  And what exactly does F Starting MS-DOS mean?

More details would be appreciated.
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billkoCommented:
This indeed sounds like the motherboard is failing.  It's most likely that the disk controller is onboard, and is bad.  One way to get around this is to buy an IDE card, disable the onboard one, and run your HDD from that.  If it solves the problem, there ya go.  If it doesn't return the IDE card.  :)

Bill

Oh, before doing this, I would also check for viruses.  Even though you changed the HDD, one of the programs/floppy disks you are loading may be infected with something.
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NessCommented:
I have run across this problem before and found it to be a heat problem.  Usually the problem stems from using a 486 cooling fan on a Pentium CPU or your fan is running intermittently.  I believe the "FStarting MS-DOS" means fan failure.
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billkoCommented:
No, the "F" is merely a manifestation either of a virus modifying the boot sector, or a mistake by the controller when reading it.  DOS isn't sophisticated enough to guess that your CPU is overheating.

But I *am* guessing that his motherboard has some sort of overtemp protection that reported nothing unusual during the burn in.  (I might have suggested overheating, too, if he didn't mention specifically testing for it.)

Bill
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multipointAuthor Commented:
Thanks guys.  (By the way, I am a she not a he.  No offense, it's a male dominated field.)  

Ended up swapping the board, chip & fan (had a P100 already on baord & jumpered, what the heck).

So far, so good.  
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billkoCommented:
*Blush* sorry about that - but "multipoint" certainly doesn't give us a clue to your gender... ;)

Bill
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multipointAuthor Commented:
That's why the internet is so intriguing...You never know who you could be talking to.  Keeps you on your toes!
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