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Windows xp reboots continuously--how to fix boot sector virus

The computer is a Dell Dimension 4100 running Windows XP. The lady opened an email and the computer crashed and started continuously rebooting.

First the computer would boot only as far as the Windows splash screen, then reboot.

So I tried chkdsk, fixboot, fixmbr--didn't work.

I tried Ultimate boot disk--but the restore wizard didn't fix the problem.

Then I thought the email thing might just be a coincidence (and there were two orange lights and two green lights on the back), so  this might be a hardware/memory problem. I took out all nonessential PCI cards, switched RAM, etc., but nothing helped. Then I tried another hard drive (from a different 4100), and I was able to boot into Windows with the different drive.

So now I'm thinking my first thought was right: a boot virus.

I also tried booting with a Windows 98 startup disk, doing fdisk /mbr, then in Recovery Console, fixboot and fix mbr. Didn't work.

But now the computer gets past the Windows splash screen before it reboots.

I tried slaving the drive in another computer and scanning for viruses, and it just found negligible stuff. Can read all the files okay.

I'm running out of ideas. Any suggestions for what to try next?
 

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reckon
Asked:
reckon
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3 Solutions
 
jsvorCommented:
Can the computer boot into safe mode?  Look and see what is running at startup through msconfig and remove everything.  You could also try doing a system restore back to when it booted correctly.  
If that doesn't work you could always do a install XP over itself and see if that fixes things.
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Steve AgnewSr. Systems EngineerCommented:
I would try to catch it and boot up in SAFE mode by pressing F8 at startup (don't hold it down or you'll get a keyboard error, you can usually press it every four seconds or so) or just pull the plug on it after a few moments when you see the WinXP startup screen and then boot.. in safe mode, once you have booted normally, properly shut down and restart.
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Expert4XPCommented:
The orange lights on the back indicate it didn't pass the Dell hardware startup test.  You should get 3 green lights, so concentrate on that before anything else.

I would pull and re-seat all components.  Also, pull and firmly reseat ALL cables.  Just before starting or testing again, push the ide/sata cables in tighter.  Sometimes just sticking your hands in the case dislodges cables.

Definitely resolve the orange lights first.
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AndreDekoltaCommented:
Remove all memory modules, reseat one at a time to see if you have a bad module.
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gonzal13RetiredCommented:
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reckonAuthor Commented:
Jsvor: The computer can't boot into safe mode. System restore didn't work (as done through Ultimate Boot Disk for Win XP). Do you mean a repair install of XP?

Deadnight: It can't boot into safe mode.

Expert4XP: I do have four green lights now.

AndreDekolta: I'd done that already, but no go.

gonzal13: it's a longshot, but will try.
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reckonAuthor Commented:
Nope, that didn't work.

Any ideas?
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Expert4XPCommented:
Yes, I think Jsvor meant a repair install of XP from the xp startup cd.  Note you may end up having to copy off any files and reformatting.  Best to copy anything critical before trying the repair install.

http://www.michaelstevenstech.com/XPrepairinstall.htm

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/helpandsupport/learnmore/tips/doug92.mspx
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nobusCommented:
if you want to clear the drive try dban :

http://dban.sourceforge.net/      
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reckonAuthor Commented:
So no one here thinks this is a boot virus? If it is, can I do anything short of wiping, refomatting and reinstalling?
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nobusCommented:
do you have anything confirming that it is a boot virus?
You can connect the drive to another PC and scan it.
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reckonAuthor Commented:
hi, Nobus: I scanned it with Symantec and AVG and no boot virus found. But would it find them in a slaved disk?
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nobusCommented:
so why do you think it is aboot virus??
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Expert4XPCommented:
You might try the RootKit Revealer from sysinternals.

http://www.sysinternals.com/Utilities/RootkitRevealer.html

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reckonAuthor Commented:
the repair install worked--to a point. Windows activation screen came up--something I've never seen with a repair install. It won't activate.

I used her XP CD but I also got her product key off her hard drive before I did the repair. As part of the activation screen, it gives me an option to change the product code, so when Microsoft wouldn't activate the product, I went in to change the product code to her original, just to be sure. It wouldn't take it! So now Windows boots alright--right into an activation screen that I can't get past.  

Any ideas? (No, I'm not trying to pull one over on Microsoft, so let's not even go there.)
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Expert4XPCommented:
Instead of activating via the internet, have you called the 800 # to activate via phone?
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reckonAuthor Commented:
Yes, and the phone activation wizard did not allow the product to be activated--and didn't hand me over to a human, either.
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Expert4XPCommented:
Since it's a Dell PC, you can always call Dell (good luck).  The OEM COA shouldn't require activation, but maybe they can explain it and or get you past it.
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reckonAuthor Commented:
I went back to the lady and told her I needed a different disk (not a Dell OEM)--and even though she had sworn that she didn't have any other disks, she eventually produced a retail Win XP Home disk (without product key).

I did another repair install with the new disk, inserted her old product key, and boom, everything worked.

Thanks for everyone's help--
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