Extremely slow startup

On a routine restart (WinXPProSP2) my system was still showing the “Windows is shutting down” screen after ~30min, so I powered off. I turned the system back on ~15min later, and noted that it seemed to be taking a very long time to boot. In fact, it took ~10min to get to the “Windows is starting up” screen, and >30min later that screen was still there.

So I did a Last Good startup with the same results. A Safe startup seemed to begin okay, but when it got to the black screen nothing seemed to happen any more, and I gave up after ~30min. (The disk activity light would blink very briefly every few minutes, but nothing else seemed to be going on.)

I had created a second installation of Win on a second hard drive, so that I would have access to my system if the main install ever gave me trouble. (I periodically booted to this install and backed up my main install; I figured I could restore a recent backup and get going again.) But this second installation also hadn’t gotten beyond the startup screen after >30min.

So I booted my WinXP install CD, planning to run chkdsk from the Repair Console (figuring it must be my C-drive that was the problem). As I write this (on another computer, obviously), the “Setup is starting Windows” message is still on the screen, nearly an hour later. (The file loading seemed to have been maybe a little slow, but not remarkably so, and I wouldn’t have noticed a difference--if there really was one--had I not been looking for it.)

This is obviously a hardware problem, but I'm not sure where to go next. I’m running an AMD 1.85GHz with 2x512MB RAM on an Asus A7N8X-E. Any help would be appreciated. This is my main system, and I need it badly!
lakeroAsked:
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
It's very unlikely the problem is the hard drive -- since BOTH hard drives are having the same issue.

From what you've described this sounds like an issue with your motherboard -- but there are a few things you should do to check it:

(1)  Download MemTest-86+ from www.memtest.org, create a bootable floppy; and boot to that floppy.   See if it runs okay -- it IS a slow test; but if it boots and runs okay (even if slowly) that's a good indication that your CPU and memory are okay.

(2)  Physically unplug ONE of your hard disks (perhaps one-at-a-time) and see if the symptoms persist.   This will rule out a failed logic board on one of the drives loading down the IDE bus and causing the same issue no matter which system you boot to.

(3)  Look VERY carefully at your motherboard for any signs of deterioration of the capacitors -- leaking, bulging, etc.

(4)  Download a Knoppix distribution, create a bootable CD, and see if Knoppix boots okay on that system.   Alternatively, you could use Bart's PE, if you'd prefer a Windows-based environment.

Knoppix:  http://www.knopper.net/knoppix/index-en.html

Bart's PE:  http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/

If a "live CD" boots and runs okay, see if it can "see" the hard drives.

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smiffy13Commented:
I reckon it could be your hard drive too. Run a diagnostic on it. Disk manufacturer's provide diagnostic programs for download, do you know the manufacturer of your hard disk?
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lakeroAuthor Commented:
I don't have a floppy installed. I have a CD with memtest somewhere; I'll look for it.

BartPE shows same slowdown.

I have 6 HDs; I will try disconnecting them as you suggest. (I've already tried Maxtor's utilities and Gibson's Spinrite, but their CDs won't boot either.) It could be the C-drive, since it's the boot drive regardless of which is the system drive.

Thanks!
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MarkCommented:
Gary is correct, this looks like a hardware issue when either the bios or OS is trying to identify and prepare hardware to run, or shut it down . It could run the gamet of hard drives to soundcards to network cards or any peripheral for that matter. Strip it down to basic hardware and add one component at a time. Restart after every new piece of hardware is inserted. If you have the problem with it all stripped to basics(CPU,MEMORY,VIDEO) and running from a live cd like BartPE. Then you have pared it down to those components.
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lakeroAuthor Commented:
First thing I tried was simply removing my Promise card-->normal bootup.
So I put the card back in, and disconnected all except one of the 4 drives attached to it, etc. My G-drive turned out to be the problem (a new Maxtor 250GB just installed a couple of weeks ago).
I put the drive in another system as the only HD, and tried to boot to spinrite, but never got beyond the inital freedos screen. Looks like it's RMA time.
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lakeroAuthor Commented:
Thanks everyone!
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smiffy13Commented:
I had the same problem a couple of weeks ago, the drive causing the problem didn't have any data on it at all. As soon as I disconnected it the PC booted up normally. A diagnostic test revealed a couple of hundred SMART errors.
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