Dell Dimension 2400 freezes at boot time, after full reformat and full reinstallation
Posted on 2006-06-02
One of my customers has a computer that will freeze/ halt/ hang while Windows is booting. The computer is a Dell Dimension 2400, OS = Windows XP.
On a service visit about a week ago, I found the machine to have a series of strange problems, some of which I could solve, some I could not. There were enough wierd problems where the best solution was to reformat the hard drive and reinstall all the software. I did that, starting with hardware diagnostics and a slow format of the hard drive. I also installed Msft Office 2003, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, OpenBook (it will verbally read printed text on a scanned page), plus an antivirus.
When I visited yesterday to see how things were going, he eventually mentions this problem with the machine often not wanting to boot.
I saw several other application icons on the desktop which I did not install or put there. I restarted the machine, and did not recreate a problem with booting. But when I restarted the machine again, it became hung. When hung, there is no response when toggling the capslock or numlock keys.
When shutting down the machine, I also saw 2 or 3 processes that would not exit on their own, and Windows presented a "do you want to kill the process now or wait" prompt; choice: kill it now. Note that these hung processes at shutdown were not occurring when I left the machine after the first service call.
He also said that there were times when the machine would not shut down, and eventually resorted to pressing on the front power button to gracelessly force a shutdown. I think that these hung processes were the cause.
The sequence is:
a) The Dell bios splash screen is displayed,
b) the screen will go black,
c) the disk activity light will flash for about 5 - 7 seconds, then will remain off. My customer reports that this period of inactivity will last longer than .25H.
d) I'll force a power off,
e) wait a few seconds,
f) then turn the machine back on.
g) The bios splash screen is displayed,
h) then a black screen with white text is displayed, reporting that Windows was not shut down nicely and would I like to boot into safe mode or safe mode with networking, or others.
g1) If I choose Safe Mode, Windows will boot up successfully. If I restart, the computer will usually (probably) boot into Windows fine.
g2) If I choose Boot Normally, the computer will usually (probably) enter the black and hung state.
Note that the Windows splash screen is not displayed when the machine becomes hung while booting.
After seeing this problem, I've run disk diagnostics on the computer and the hard drive, including spindisk, and they all completed successfully.
When I left the machine after the reinstall on the first service call, it was rebooting successfully on command without problem. For whatever reason, now it isn't.
I think that either the OS got hurt as a byproduct of turning off the machine, because there were multiple processes that would not exit at shutdown time. But I'm not sure how to measure what or where the hang is, or to at least find a valid work around, other than to say: "don't do that".
Any suggestions on how to study this problem further - and hopefully solve it?
Thank you in advance!