Dell Dimension 2400 requires repeated attempts to sucessfully boot Windows XP

I have a client living at a remote location that precludes onsite support.  During the last few days he has reported that it takes repeated attempts to boot his computer.  He sees about 12 lines of text that disappear so rapidly that he cannot read them, then he sees a black screen, no Window XP boot screen.  The computer is running Windows XP SP2 with all updates, has 512MB of memory and is well-tuned.  This morning, he finally got the computer to boot after about a dozen attempts.  

Any thoughts about the cause of this problem will be appreciated.
bbaumbergerConsultantAsked:
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MarkCommented:
Tell him to be ready with the pause key when starting so he can stop the message from disappearing.
 The lines of text, could that correspond with a post message?
Are there any Beep codes?
Once in windows can he disable the  auto restart   in the -->System properties -->advanced -->startup and recovery settings. Perhaps we can get a blue screen to show.
With no other information available,try a new power supply.
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
If he can get into the BIOS setup, tell him to disable the "Quick Boot" feature and the logo screen (I forget what Dell calls this option in the BIOS).   There will then be a LOT more detail shown during the POST, which may be helpful here.

The symptoms you've described could also indicate that the system is attempting to boot from a USB device.   If he has a USB flash drive (or external drive) connected; tell him to disconnect it before trying to boot.   If that's the issue, then he simply needs to go into the BIOS and disable USB boot.
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nobusCommented:
it can also be a failing power supply, which cannot handle the load (maybe he added devices?)
You can calculate the power you need here :  http://extreme.outervision.com/psucalculator.jsp      
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FriarTukCommented:
also try booting from the recovery cd, (using a winxp cd will usually display the error) if it can boot fully from there, then you may need to repair xp
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bbaumbergerConsultantAuthor Commented:
Even though I have tried some computer cleanup activity, e.g., ran a CHKDSK and defraged the hard drive, my client continues to have startup problems as explained in his recent note:
"My computer is functioning satisfactorily, except that it still taken 3 0r 4 tries to get it to boot up, and I still get this “technical assistance” message flashed briefly
on my screen in the process of trying to boot up. I hope this is not a sign of possible serious trouble"  He has not been able to tell me what is mentioned in the technical asistance message because it disappears so quickly.  

Any additional thoughts about what might be causing this problem would be appreciated.  Thanks!

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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
... did you ask him if he had a USB flash drive or other USB device plugged in when booting ??
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FriarTukCommented:
well did you suggest to him to try booting from an xp cd?  this worked for me on displaying an error that flashed by too quickly - it was related to ACPI.

also run msconfig, boot.ini tab, advanced option, check /debug - then reboot - then open eventvwr.exe & look for a detailed error msg indicating if it is hardware or software related.
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Just in case bbaumberger isn't following the links, here's what FriarTuk's link says (it's part of EE's policy statement):

"... We shouldn't have to say this after suggesting that you communicate, but we'll repeat it. People are taking the time to answer your question; the least you can do, even if it's out of just courtesy, is to respond to their suggestions, and to report the results. It should also go without saying that you should close your questions. "

bbaumberger ==> in other words, we've answered your question => some feedback would be nice :-)
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bbaumbergerConsultantAuthor Commented:
Sorry to be nonresponsive.  I think all the suggestions are excellent and intend to pursue them with my client.  Unfortunately, I am in Illinois and he is in Maine and we have had some scheduling issues.  We will be addressing his problem on August 9 and I will report back after that.  He did install a new graphics card just before this problem started, so we will uninstall it to see if that helps stabilize the computer.  Thanks very much to each of you for taking the time to analyze the issue in a thoughtful, incisive way!
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bbaumbergerConsultantAuthor Commented:
FriarTuk's suggestion to check the event log led me to what I think is the answer to my client's problem .  His computer is supported with a Belkin UPS device that has both battery backup and surge only receptacles.  When he reinstalled the computer at his new home, he did not pay attention to the difference.  The result is that the Windows event log and the Belkin event log showed many instances of overload conditions that could cause unpredictable results.  I advised him to properly balance the power load, keeping printers, etc. away from the battery backup receptacles.  I will evaluate the situation in about a week to see if the computer is finally functioning in stable mode.  Thanks again to all who responnded with some excellent suggestions!
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MarkCommented:
I think this is a perfect example of posting a question leaving an important piece of the system information out(UPS) that may have led us in a different direction as nobus' 1st post here was questioning the power supply. I'm sure he would have had you check the UPS also if he had known it was there.

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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Agree ... if the UPS had been mentioned two obvious questions would have been (a) the capacity of the UPS; and (b) what equipment was plugged in to it.
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FriarTukCommented:
well in my 7/25 comment  where i mentioned checking the eventvwr, i also mentioned ACPI power settings - i don't have any objections to splitting as both sparkmaster & nobus mentioned pwr supply - however the user did state it was my comment that led him to it (he did however accept the wrong comment, should've been the one on 7/25 not 8/5).
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MarkCommented:
Sorry friartuk, it wasn't an attempt at looking for points. Your answer took the author in the right direction and helped solve the problem. I just tend to think that most questioners have a tendency to think we are mind readers at times. I understand that the questioner was at a disadvantage like ourselves , being at a distance from the computer in question, but it is an all too common problem here at EE that we get little info or a pertinant piece of the issue is left out and the scattershot  method of diagnosing begins in the hunt for the answer. With this sites mentality of competition we tend to give answers and forget to ask questions ourselves, so my comment in the first post-->"With no other information available,try a new power supply."<-- was essentially my feeble attempt to squeeze some more info out of the situation, but I have been more than frustrated at times by questioners not even responding to attempts to get more info. This certainly hasn't been the worst question I have been involved in that an unknown component has been the problem, it just tweaked me enough to make the comment I posted earlier.
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FriarTukCommented:
not a  problem sparky.  i understand how difficult it can be troubleshooting when not knowing all the details.  sometimes it's hard to interpret what a user's problem is when they have a hard time explaining it themselves, however we must work with what were given.

Anyway i've got a party to attend to, come along.  Robin.  Where's that ale?  I've got some serious pray'n to do.
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