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computer freezing on start up

My friend has an "old" computer that has starting freezing on start up  so that she has to  hard re-boot two or three times. And on occassion the screen is blank upon start up and it needs to be rebooted. Is there any software or hardware options that would correct these problem? The system is running windows XP.
1 Solution
First thing I would do is check ram.  If it is "old" it may not have enough memory to function smoothly.  I like to have at least 512MB for Windows XP, 256 is the minimum in my opinion.
Also check for virus' and malware:
those are free
I would say if it runs ok after a few reboots, it's your power supply that needs replacing, or you have bad capcitors on your motherboard.  See if any of them look like the ones in www.badcaps.net.
First thing I'd do is swap out power supply.  Use one from another PC if available.

Then flash BIOS.

If neither of these help, could be a flaky memory or motherboard problem.

Note:  I'm assuming that problems occur prior to Windows loading.
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callandor has it--check the power supply first.
Please check the CMOS cell. In old computers generally due to Failure in CMOS cell system hungs and dosn't take boot. Hopefully this will solve your problem.
when you boot your pc & it comes to a blank desktop, hold control + shift & hit esc to bring up the task manager
see what processes are running in the backgroung on the processes tab - look for wierd things that my be spyware or viruses
on the application tab hit new task & type in explorer.exe - post results
hey ,hsmith what's the status?
hsmith061297Author Commented:
Here is the status:

The computer is check for virus (norton) and ad-ware (ad aware) on a regular basis. This is a recent problem with no change in ram. It could be the power supply, but I am not ready to just replace that and see what happens until all else fails or there is possitive proof that that is the probelm. Flash Bios ?  I have no idea on how to check CMOS. I have heard of the term, but that is all. It has not come up as blank lately so I can not do that check.

Please note that as far as what goes on "under the covers" in software and hardware you are dealing with a dummy here. So I need instruction or references to a site that has instructions.

Thanks for trying to help - Henry
In my opinion, the most likely causes of your problem are, in order:

Failing motherboard
Power supply
BIOS (CMOS, CMOS battery, corrupt BIOS)

You already have recommendations regarding testing to determine if problem is likely not motherboard related.

"Borrow" a power supply from another PC for testing - no purchase required.

A CMOS battery (usually CR2032 coin cell) is a couple of bucks.

BIOS flash is done from a boot diskette.  Need to know specific PC or motherbaord model to provide any details.

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