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Mutliple problems after system corruption

This is going to be kinda lengthy, but I am just going to layout everything as it happened. Thanks in advance for reading. Also, initially this appears to be a hardware question, but ultimately it ends up being about Windows.

I have a machine that has been mostly problem free since I got it a little over a year ago. Over the past two weeks, a few strange things had happened. Windows crashed and upon restarting, it ran scandisk, fixed some problems, and then told me that the prefetch files were corrupted, but everything was now repaired. Everything was okay for a few days. At some point in the middle of something (don't remember what), the mouse and keyboard stopped working properly. They would be responsive for about 5 seconds, then the entire system would hang for 2 seconds and this cycle would repeat itself. With much trouble, I managed to shut down the machine through windows, but it hung on the "Saving your settings" screen for a few minutes, so I did a hard reset. Upon rebooting, Windows again wanted to run scandisk and found some errors, but it then correctly booted and everything was fine for a few days.

Two days ago, things got really bad. I got the same mouse/keyboard stalling problem as above and had to reset. Upon rebooting Windows informed me that "hal.dll" was missing and it could not continue. I went into the recovery console and attempted to copy that file over from my windows cd, but it coulnd't copy. Upon attempting to list the contents of windows\system32 directory, I get an "enumeration error" about half way through the list. At this point, I suspect that the hard drive has problems, so I attempt chkdsk /r. This fails after a few minutes with the "mutliple unrecoverable errors" message. I attempt another chkdsk and get the same result but it took longer for it to fail. Being stubborn, I attempt a third chkdsk and it appears to be going okay after 30 minutes, so I let it sit over night. Upon waking, the chkdsk has completed. I copy over hal.dll successfully and reboot.

Windows boots very slowly (at least 4 times longer than normal) and when I finally get logged in, the same mouse/keyboard stalling problem is present, so I reset again. Upon rebooting I get an error that another file "l_intl.nls" is missing and that I must replace it. Back to the repair console. I replace the file and reboot.

On this try, I am told that "ntoskrnl.exe" is missing. In the repair console, I have similar hard drive problems as I did with hal.dll, it couldn't copy files or provide a full directory listing. I let another chkdsk run and it completes successfully. I then copy the file from the windows cd and reboot. Windows wants to run a scandisk and after getting to the desktop it tells me that the registry was damaged but a backup was restored. Everything appears to be okay.

At this point, I am still concerned that the hard drive might be failing, so I download some diagnostic tools from Western Digital to test it. Upon starting the program, it tells me that support for drives over 137GB is not fully enabled and that it wants to change the registry to allow for full support. The drive is listed at the correct 160GB capacity in Windows, but I allowed the diagnostic program to make the changes it wanted. I reboot and restart the tool. It incorrectly reports the physical drive size as only 9GB, but it correctly lists the logical partition size at 160GB. I don't know what this means. I run the provided diagnostic tools and the drive passes. Although skeptical, I think that perhaps the drive is okay and this whole mess was just a corrupted registry.

I then begin to notice a lot of strange little things. Windows functions fine for the most part, but it obvious that something was lost or broken.

(Problem #1) I noticed that AMD Cool n Quiet is not functioning. I reinstall the AMD drivers and it is still not functioning. I download AMD Dashboard (monitors voltage and clockspeed of your proc) and upon loading it reports that it could not find the AMD ACPI driver. I re-reinstall the driver, but still no luck.

(Problem #2) I begin investigating ACPI related things. I notice that I do not have the option to "Stand by" from the windows logoff dialog, which I used to have. The  standby related boxes are missing from "Power Management" settings .

(Problem #3) Upon further research, I end up looking at the Computer section of Device Manager. It lists "ACPI Uniprocessor PC" but there are no drivers installed, which I find intriguing. I remotely logon to my work computer to compare. It also lists "ACPI Uniprocessor PC" but it has drivers installed.  Under driver details, three files are listed; hal.dll, ntkrnlpa.exe, ntoskrnl.exe. Two of those files are the ones I had to manually copy over in the beginning of this mess. I don't think this is a coincidence. Selecting Update or Rollback Drivers does not install drivers.

(Problem #4) I do not have the Autoplay tabs under my CD and DVD drive properties. Upon researching this, I learn that a service called "Shell Hardware Detect" must be running for Autoplay to function correctly. I go to admin tools services and see that indeed this service isn't running even though it is set to. I try to start it manually and I get an error that "a module is missing".

(Problem #5) After choosing my logon, the "Loading your personal settings" screen comes up and it takes at least 20 seconds to get to the desktop. This used to take only a few seconds.

(Problem #6) My screen resolution has been reset to 800x600 a few times during a boot.

(Problem #7) Upon shutting down my system, I get the "It now safe to shut down your computer" screen and I must manually turn the power off. Obivously, this didn't used to happen. I haven't seen this screen since I was in middle school on my dad's win95 machine.

I found all those strange problems in just a few hours, so I am confident there are more neat little surprises waiting for me as I use the computer more.

I guess I'll list some system specs and get some of the basic questions out the way. I am using Win XP Home SP2. It is updated and patched. The machine itself is a little over a year old and is built from quality components. I have run AdAware, Spybot, and AVG Free Edition since the bad crash 2 days ago and they reported nothing interesting so I don't think viruses/malware are the cause of this. I can provide any other details if somebody needs them.

OK. Right now, I think that either something bad happened with the hard drive drive itself, that some important important system files were corrupted, or that the registry was damaged, and that in the process of repairing whatever happened (replacing files with ones from the windows cd) some settings or files were lost, broken, or destroyed. Problems #1, #2, and #3 especially lead me to believe to this.

So how do I proceed from here? I really don't know what to do or how to solve these problems. I could do a complete reinstall of windows, but I'd really rather not. How does the "Repair Installion" option from Windows Setup work? Would I lose any data or program information? If I am going to do that, should I just bite the bullet and do a reformat and a clean install? Would it even fix the problems? Supposing that a reinstall isn't an option, what would you guys do?

Sorry for the length post, but I wanted to get out everything that happened and everything I have done. I'd really appreciate any help. Thanks in advance!
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internetcreations
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internetcreations
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internetcreationsAuthor Commented:
Just remembered another strange problem.

(Problem #8) There is an item "System Interrupt Controller" in device manager with a yellow question mark next to it. It has no drivers and cannot find the proper drivers to install.
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whaupwitCommented:
  My first guess would be a HDD issue.  The ScanDisk behavior is the trigger for me.  When you say you downloaded diags from Western Digital and the diag modified your registry, it sounds like a diag is running from your OS.  If so, did you see a diag you could run from a floppy or other bootable device?
   Your registry could have gotten corrupted by a security patch incompatibility with some other hardware in your PC.  Is this PC a custom build?  ACPI drivers have given me problems before... Check your motherboard manufacturer website for posts concerning security patches.
    I have used the repair installation options from Windows Setup many times with great success.  The first repair option will replace your registry.  So unless you want to re-install your apps and reset all your preferences, try the second repair option.  After setup has found your OS install, the repair will replace all system files.  You will need to re-apply your security patches.
   If the problem is one of the security patches, you should be able to pin point the problemed patch as you re-apply them.
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pjedmondCommented:
I agree that your PC is very ill - and I believe that it's going to be a hardware problem from what you've said. Therefore:

1. Stop using it and backup all data.
2. Start testing. First memory and processor - I use tufftest 'www.tufftest.com', but there are loads of free utilities around.  http://www.memtest86.com/ is highly recommended. Replace any memory found faulty.
3. Test the hard drive, full scandisc. (obviously after booting in safe mode....unless you want to wait for ages). Replace hard drive if necessary.

That covers the 2 most common failure areas for the type of problem that you mentioned. If it passes both of those, then you need to have a look at the motherboard, processor and powersupply....which becomes hard work.

Anyway HTH, and good luck with resolving the fault.
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internetcreationsAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the speedy replies. I am at work now so I can't try all your recommedations at the moment (I will in a few hours), but I will respond to what I can from here.

whaupwit,
1) The scandisk behavior also triggered "bad drive" in my head as well, but after the big mess, I have been using the computer for a day without scandisk wanting to run. Then again, it was fine for a few days in between scandisk episodes in the past weeks as well.
2) I believe that was a floppy version of the diagnostics on the WD site. I'll check that out later.
3) The PC is a custom build. I looked around the mobo manufacturer's site (ASUS) and didn't notice anything in their support section about security patches or ACPI drivers. They don't have the best website though so I might have just missed it.

pjedmond,
1) All data is backed up. That was the first thing I did after getting to the Windows desktop again.
2) I will run a cpu and memory stress test tonight.
3) I have run a chkdsk since the big crash two days ago. No errors or problems.

To both,
I am really not sure if this is a hardware problem or not. I know this doesn't really mean much, but I have used the computer for a day with no major problems, other than those minor annoyance type things I listed. Realistically, how long does one wait to conclude that there is nothing wrong with the hardware?

Is your thinking that the weird behavior from the past two was caused by a failing hard drive (or other component) which caused the big crash and now all those problems I listed are simply a direct effect of that? In other words, a hardware problem damaged/corrupted my software? Or could it be that all of this was the result of a software/windows/registry problem?
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nobusCommented:
>>    how long does one wait to conclude that there is nothing wrong with the hardware?   <<   As long as it takes. Sorry that there is no better answer, but intermediate problems, i always solve by REPLACING a device. Next time another, and so on.
I suggest for testing, to download the ultimate boot cd , it contains ram and disk tests and much more !

  http://ubcd.sourceforge.net/download.html      

if the problems occur at very regular times, you can test it by booting from a bootable cd, like knoppix; if it runs ok, the problems are soft, if not, they are hardware.    www.knoppix.org

IMHO, after some testing, it could be the best (fastest) to reformat, and reload XP
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studlyedCommented:
I have seen similar things to this, it was cable routing, there was a 3-pin fan cable twisted/running near the hard drive data cable. The return signal from the fan telling the motherboard what speed the fan is running at was causing the data to get screwed up. Also look in the event log and see if there is any errors in there.
right click my computer
manage
event log

look in applications and system
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internetcreationsAuthor Commented:
Hi all, thanks for your replies. Sorry for the wait, but I ended up just reinstalling windows on a new hard drive. The problems haven't ended there though.

Here are some details about my setup. Until the reinstall mentioned above, I had two hard drives; (Drive 1) 160GB SATA for windows and programs, (Drive 2) 250GB IDE for data, some multimedia, etc. The drive that was giving me trouble was drive 1 whereas drive 2 appeared to be fine. In fact, I copied much of the data from drive 1 to that drive 2 before replacement (as well as backing up files on a separate computer). Last night, I removed both hard drives from my system and put in a single new 250GB SATA (Drive 3). I installed windows to this new drive and began reinstalling programs.

Everything was fine after 12 hours of use, so I assumed (seemingly mistakenly) that it was just drive 1 that went bad and I hooked drive 2 back up. Again, everything was okay for a while. In fact, I even copied 20 or 30GB from drive 2 to drive 3 with no problems. Then tonight, I tried to open a directory on drive 2 and it showed nothing even though I knew files were there. Other directories weren't showning at all, trying to access some files resulted in a "This drive is not formatted error". Chkdsk failed the first time, but succeeded on the second try, yet it did give some errors about "file record segment xxxxxx is unreadable". I am now moving files that I haven't already backed up off that drive, but windows appears to be unable to copy some files saying they are corrupted and some directories are completely missing.  I'll worry about actualy recovering those files later, but for the time being I'd really like to know what's going on.

The drives are on different channels (SATA and IDE) yet I have had trouble with both. Does this indicate a failing motherboard? I know it's amazingly unlikely, but could this just be 2 hard drives failing within the same week?

whaupwit,
I got through a new windows install and all security patches no problem. I don't think this is related to a compatability problem between installed software or drivers and my hardware.

pjedmond,
I know I have a cpu stress on a cd somewhere but I haven't had the chance to use it. Unfortunately, memtest86 wouldn't work on any of the floppies I tried. But it looks like the link provided by nobus has plenty of tools so I'll be able to stress various components.

nobus,
That boot cd looks amazing, great link. I'm going to put my system through a stress test tomorrow hopefully and I'll report the results.

studlyed,
I looked at the cable routing and the SATA cable is bundled with some other wires (for the power button, LEDs, and USB ports on the front of the case). The wires have been bundled like that for over a year with no problems. The IDE cable is by itself and not really near anything. It has been like that for a few months with no problems. Nothing appears to be twisted, bent, ripped, or stripped. This isn't an issue I have ever heard of though, so I wouldn't know what to look for specifically. Application event log has nothing interesting. System event log has many disk errors ("Drive has a bad block") for drive 2, which makes sense since I am trying to access it and copy files off.

Again, Thanks for the help everyone.


 
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nobusCommented:
weird - can it be the mobo?
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MereteCommented:
Also can it be any capacitors on the mainboard, look for swollen and split on top.
With this in mind your first coment related to prefetch folder was corrupted.
I usually clean out my prefetch folder with a disc cleanup.

A little on prefetching From my Teck republic.
As you boot your workstation or access programs on your workstation, XP's prefetcher copies portions of those files to the Prefetch area of your hard drive. When your workstation boots, XP prefetches portions of the files you use most frequently and has any application you've recently run waiting and ready to go.

The drawback to prefetching is that XP will prefetch a program even if you use it only once or twice. XP will retain a copy of a portion of it in the Prefetch folder. From there, it will prefetch the program, taking resources from your workstation even though you may have no intention of ever using the program again. If you have enough unused or little-used items prefetching, over time your system will actually run slower than if you never prefetched at all. This is especially evident on systems with limited resources.

Viewing what XP is prefetching
You can quickly see what Windows XP is prefetching for you. Click Start | My Computer, and double-click the drive that's storing your \WINDOWS directory (normally drive C:). Open the Windows folder and open the Prefetch folder to reveal a list of programs that XP prefetches.

This folder may display items that are months old. You can click the Date Modified column to quickly sort the folder by date and see the most recently cached items. You'll then see a screen similar to the one shown in Figure A.
Viewing what XP is prefetching
http://techrepublic.com.com/5100-1035_11-5165773.html?tag=e064

So this maybe where your problems started.
Once the system commenced to slow it started causing other problems.
How oftern did you run a disk cleanup/ regestry cleanout.
Defrag and chkdsk?

Hope this provides a little undrstanding of your problem.
I think after you have checked the mainboard capacitors etc  cmos battery, made sure the PSU meets the system requirements.
I would perform a clean format and install.
Regards Merete
 
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MereteCommented:
Sory my post probably doent help now I did not see you performed a re-install.
However looking for swollen capicitors is still a good idea.
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nobusCommented:
maybe a swollen head ,  Merete ?   :-))
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MereteCommented:
:0 can you say that here
Spelling could do with some work though eheheh
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studlyedCommented:
my guess is the disk 2 is bad.
i had anissue like that with the computer sitting right behind me
the drive would stop spinning and start spinning at random intervals, and while it was stopped the system was dead. it really drove me nuts until i found out about the bad drive. if you are getting disk/atapi errors for disk2 then i would have to say that disk 2 is most definately bad. do you have any kind of cooling for these drives? a fan blowing on them? if not, well, i bet both of your original 2 drives have over heated...i used to be a tech, and saw this all the time with drives bigger than 80 gb and no cooling, they get blistering hot, then people wonder why they died.
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internetcreationsAuthor Commented:
I burned a copy of the boot CD that nobus provided and ran some tests. CPU and memory stress tests were fine. I let memtest86 run for an hour and one of the cpu stress tests run for 6 hours and encountered no problems.

I tried a few of the HD diagnostic tools and none of them could see drive #2, yet interestingly windows still detects it and shows that almost all data is intact. I was able to copy 90%+ of the data off that drive. The remaining data is either completely missing from Windows explorer or I get "this directory/file is corrupt" error. The BIOS still detects the drive as well as AIDA system info utility on that cd. A Western Digital diag tool that runs under windows detects the drive but when I try to run diagnostics, it immediately fails and tells me to check the cables. Any ideas what this means? The lower level tools are failing completely but windows can read almost all of it?

Merete,
I already knew a bit about windows prefetching but thanks for the tutorial. :-) There is no obvious damage to any components on the mobo. Powersupply is a good 380W from Antec, at most my system draws 250W peak during strenuous tasks and obviously idles at much less.

studlyed,
The drives don't have a fan blowing directly on them, so I suppose it's possible they are just running too hot. I've haven't had any other heat related problems.

I think I am going to take drive #2 out, format it and try it in another system. My main question still remains though, do you guys think this is just a problem with the drives or that another component (mobo, ps) is on its way out?

Thanks for all the help and have a wonderful saturday night.
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whaupwitCommented:
 Man, you really have a sick puppy...  I have used the approach Nobus recommends (replacing parts one by one, until the issue is resolved), but I can't afford to do it on every PC.  
  Your weird HDD issues don't seem like bad drives, now.  2 bad HDDs in a row is statistically rare, but possible.  If the 3rd HDD shows as bad, it has got to be something else.  Have you thought of ESD damage?  
  Do you work with a ground strap (like it's a religion)?  As I am sure you know, ESD damage doesn't have to kill a component to cause intermittent issues that are hell to diagnose.
  Your Motherboard could have taken a hit to it's chipset with the IDE Controller and ACPI.  Which would explain alot of your issues.  Probably no chance of a spare Motherboard (same make and model) to swap in place?  Sounds like you might be starting think in that direction, anyway....
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studlyedCommented:
cooling cooling cooling....especially on larger hard drives, especially when you have multiple. They get way way to hot, if you let them run for a couple hours and touch them, you will see what I mean. Computers don't like that much heat. If drive is having those kinds of problems, chances are that it will do the same in the future, i wouldn't put any data on this drive, period, i would send it back to the manufacturer for replacement (RMA) and get a new one. Then I would find a way to get a fan blowing over these harddrives, doesnt have to be much, One case I stuck 4 250's in it, no spot for a fan on the drives, so I grabbed 2 motherboard mounting screws (they are usually copper) and replaced the screws that hold the hard drive in, they need to be course threaded both on the outside,inside. Then I got a low profile 80mm fan, and a couple of long course threaded screws then screwed the fan onto those mother board mounting screws. worked great, kept the drives cool.
Another one I took a PCI slot back plate cover, bent it, drilled a hole to mount with a harddrive screw, drilled another hole for the fan and screwed it in, that also worked really well.
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whaupwitCommented:
StudlyEd has a good point, heat is a killer.  How many fans do you have?  
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internetcreationsAuthor Commented:
I have had only the new hard drive in my computer for almost a week now with no problems. *fingers crossed*

studleyed,
I have a single 120mm fan blowing air out of the back of the case. There is a spot for another 120mm in the front of the case (right by the HDs) for intake. I never used it though since everything in the system that I can get the temperature for (cpu, mobo, and gpu) is running very cool. However, I don't have any way to measure the HD temperature via software (is that even possible?), so I don't really know if they're too hot or not. I ordered another fan to put in the front of the case yesterday and it should be here soon.

whaupwit,
This is my first computer so i don't really have too many random spare parts just laying around. I *really* hope it doesn't come down to having to swap out components one by one. I don't think it's ESD damage since until this problem, I hadn't opened my case in months.

Right now, I think studleyed is right and that it is a heat issue. I need to give it some more time and see what happens with the second fan in the case.

As always, everybody's help is greatly appreciated.
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studlyedCommented:
glad to hear you got thesecond fan in there. that will make your harddrives very happy.
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internetcreationsAuthor Commented:
To me, the most reasonable explanation of what happened was the heat issue so the points went to studlyed. Thanks to everyone for your input and ideas.
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