Hard Drive, Software, or Motherboard problem?

System:
XP Pro SP2
Asus P4P800 motherboard
1GB Ram
Ibm Deskstar 120GB ide hard drive   ide 1 Master  (about 2 years old)
Plextor Cd burner   ide 2 secondary
NEC DVD writer    ide 2 primary

about a week ago I started having problems where PC would crash to BSOD and
after reboot it would be fine. Then yesterday it rebooted on its own and I got
a system fatal error. PC would boot and get to windows loading, then start rebooting again. Finally after about 3 tries it booted to the "do you want to start from last good configuration screen" I said yes and it booted into xp ok.  After a few seconds I get
an error "windows explorer error" and I click ok and screen flashes and it reloads
explorer for a second and it works ok for a few minutes, then the windows explorer error again. I was able to back up using nero even during one of those windows explorer errors. I was thinking it could be a hard drive error so I thought backing up was prudent.

The pc worked ok for a couple hours before I shut down for the night. Today
it booted up to a system fatal error. So this time I booted using a floppy into dos.
At the A: prompt I type C: and it says Invalid Drive. Never able to get a C: prompt.

I reboot and get into Windows XP. I download Drive Fitness test from Hitachi/IBM site
and make a boot/test disk. I reboot and run the tests and it recognizes drive C and has no problems with the tests.   I put  a different boot up disk in and reboot and still get Invalid drive when I try to switch to c:

I run fdisk and get the following... (I have my hard drive partitioned into drive c,d,e,f,g
with a total of 120 GB)

Current fixed drive: 1

Partition 1    Status A  Type NTFS    Vol Mbytes 14998
             2                   Ext Dos                         37255

I display Extended Dos Partiton info and it says No logical drives defined

I boot back into XP and I can get to all my partitions fine. I even backed them up as I said before.

What is going on here? Not being able to get to drive c from dos but able to from XP has me stumped. What should I try next? Put in another formatted hard drive and see if I can get to C from the A dos prompt?

steve44Asked:
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Christopher McKayMicrosoft Network AdministratorCommented:
The difficulty you're experiencing is that DOS can't natively read NTFS drives.
Any boot disk you use to get to the prompt will not see the "C:" because it is formatted as NTFS.
If you want to have access to the C: from a DOS prompt, you will need to use software such as NTFSDOS.
(They have a "free" version that allows you to read the NTFS drive, but you have to pay for the full version that will allow you to write to the drive as well.)
http://www.sysinternals.com/ntw2k/freeware/ntfsdos.shtml

Hope this helps!

:o)

Bartender_1
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kode99Commented:
Did you make any software or hardware changes to the system recently?  Update drivers or anything ?

I would not hurt to test the memory,  heres a couple of free test programs.  Only takes a few minutes and if it is bad will save a lot of troubleshooting time.

http://www.memtest86.com/

http://www.simmtester.com/

Also would not hurt to do a complete virus scan if you can get it running to do so.

You already did a basic disk test that was good so that reduces that possibility.  Great that you have a back up too.

So assuming no software changes that would leave it down to either a motherboard problem or a power supply.  If you have another power supply that you know to be good to swap it will narrow down the possibilities for you.  If not you could disconnect everything not essential to run the system and see if it is stable.

Thats a start anyway.



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WatzmanCommented:

You have some type of general problem, most likely hardware.  Could be almost anything ..... power supply (voltages low or insufficient current), motherboard, CPU, memory, disk drive.  Could even be a really bad buildup of dust on the CPU heatsink, causing the CPU to overheat and malfunction.

The only way to deal with this is to eliminate things one-at-a-time.  Start with a physical examination and cleaning, and check the power supply voltages.  Disconnect everything that is non-essential, because anything at all can cause this.  Memory is the first thing to test, and Memtest86 is probably the best memory test program.
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rindiCommented:
The BSOD you got, were you able to read the stop error? Could you please post it here? If the PC boots up directly after the BSOD, once it is running windows again right click "my computer", select "properties", then the "advanced" tab. In the section "startup and recovery", select "settings" and deselect "Automatically Restart". This will prevent the PC from restarting when it goes BSOD, which will give you enough time to read the stop error message and also the filename of the driver or dll that ran when the system failed.

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steve44Author Commented:
Thanks for all the ideas. As I said, I tried the memtest last night and no errors after about 1 hour of the tests running. I did have 8 instances of a virus called Java_Bytever
on sunday. I cleaned them up and ran the scanner again and it was clean. I did download some Photoshop plugins and installed them also Sunday before the problems.
They seemd to work ok in Photoshop. I have been watching the temps and voltages, and they are within the normal ranges although there could be a voltage spike that I didnt see.  One of the errors i get usually is when booting up to just before it gets to the logon screen. It says:

Stop C00002/a Fatal System Error. The windows logon system process terminated unexpectedly with a status of 0x000005 (0x00000000  0x00000000) system has been shut down. I reboot and it then either boots up ok or gives me the option to choose last good configuration and then it boots up ok. It has had this problem 3 out of the last 4 days, always at the logon part of the boot. Never have had any post beeps or problems while im in dos or bios. Yesterday after the initial boot up problem it worked perfectly for about 6 hours when i shut it down. Today I got to  the boot up to logon point and then the error as i described above. After being on for 2 hours now , no problems.

I'm beginning to think it may be corrupted XP problems. I have been thinking of doing a clean install of xp and see if that is the problem. Its been almost 2 years since I did an install so it may be a good time to do it anyways.

Again, thank you for the help.
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WatzmanCommented:
I think that the clean install of XP is a good idea.
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steve44Author Commented:
Update - I reinstalled win xp pro and the above patch and the problem still exits. I removed  all the drives but the hard drive,
and it still exits. I'm going to order a new power supply and swap that and also a new hard drive as i wanted a 2nd anyway. Even though
I performed tests on the memory and hard drive I'm going to swap that out too, until I rule everything out except the main board.
Then I guess it will be time to get a new mainboard. One more question, should I swap the keyboard and mouse out? Could those be a source of the problem?  
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WatzmanCommented:

The most common time for a keyboard and/or mouse to cause a problem is when they areplugged them in backwards -- keyboard plugged into mouse socket, and vice-versa.  However, I have seen an old keyboard (specifically an old IBM keyboard from about 1994) cause unbelieveable problems on some modern motherboards, so it's possible.  Not common, but definitely possible.
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