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Windows 7: Slow catastrophic failure, format and reinstall. Previously fast PC a

19 Aug 2011   #1

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
 
 
Slow catastrophic failure, format and reinstall. Previously fast PC a

Prepare for a massive Wall of Text:

Over the last week, this computer has become more and more problematic. Just to get it out of the way, I can, with 99.9% certainty, rule out viruses or malware, as I'm extremely careful and use Malwarebytes, AVG, and Firefox with Noscript. My computer has been virus-free for years. Every scan (the above two, Spybot, Avira, Ad-Aware, Bazooka, HijackThis - all scans have always been clean for years). Keep in mind that this computer was functioning flawlessly up until this week. This hardware setup is from 2008 and I am using the same Windows 7 disc that I installed on it three years ago. This is the second format and re-installation since I built the computer. No problems the last time, which was about a year ago.

About a week ago, I started getting random squeaks and buzzes out of my speakers - especially when a progress bar is moving in a browser. I figured this was a power issue. Three days ago, my Windows volume control stopped responding. I'd click the icon in the taskbar, and it would take a good minute or two before it would show up. Then I wake up a few days ago, and the computer is frozen and the speakers are making some freaky, possessed R2-D2-esque beep/squeak/buzz noises - almost like the on-board sound card is experiencing some power issues. Also, for the last few days, when Windows would start, it wouldn't be able to recognize my USB wireless adapter. I'd disable and enable it, and I'd get a "failed to connect to network" error upon enabling it. "Diagnosing" it would fail a few times, then succeed temporarily, and then it would disappear again, then magically the adapter would fix itself and automatically connect to my network about 10-15 minutes later. None of these problems were happening a week ago. It was running perfectly then. No hardware changes. No software changes.

Then two days ago, I was about to go to bed and told the computer to go into Sleep mode. The screen went blank and I figured it was just shutting down some processes and preparing to sleep. However, I came back an hour later, and it was still on, so I turned it off manually and went to sleep. I woke up the next morning, turned it on, and it got to the Windows 7 logo loading screen, then suddenly a Blue Screen of Death appeared for a fraction of a second and the computer rebooted. It was stuck in a BSoD loop for a good 20 restarts so I selected the "System Repair Menu" option from the "Windows did not start correctly" prompt. None of the options helped or worked correctly. I couldn't perform a system restore, as it didn't detect any installed copies of Windows. I ran the "Automatic Repair" program from that menu a few times, but it eventually gave me a "Windows could not be automatically repaired" message.

The slow stream of problems seemed to have escalated to what I'd call a catastrophic failure.

The BSoD loops continued for a while, so I decided I'd see if I could boot from the Windows 7 disk. I made sure that the DVD drive was the top boot priority and opened the boot menu and told it to boot from the CD. However, it somehow went to boot from the hard drive anyway. So I restarted it again, and it magically made it to Windows. I took the opportunity to browse to the DVD drive and manually run the Windows installer, and after I did this and it told me to reboot, the installer finally ran and took an eternity to actually get started. However, the installation failed somehow. I ran it again, formatted the C: drive, and tried reinstalling it again, and it successfully installed this time.

So I got into my formatted and fresh Windows 7 installation, and the volume control is working just fine, but I'm still having the network issue - including the fact that it fails after startup for 10-15 minutes then magically repairs itself and automatically connects to my network. Once I had connectivity, I activated Windows, thinking that the problems I'm about to describe are because perhaps Microsoft limits your performance before you activate; this is not the case.

What is truly frustrating, however, is the fact that this fresh Windows installation is mind-numbingly slow, both hardware and network wise. The online Google Chrome installer was hung (not frozen, but not progressing) for a good hour before I finally closed it. Windows Update has been stuck at 23% and I can no longer open the Windows Update window from the taskbar icon (if I end the process in Task Manager, it just re-opens a few minutes later and hangs at 23% for hours, though the process isn't frozen as I can still get the percent completed pop-up to appear when I hover my mouse over the icon). Because Windows Update isn't working, I can't see if any updates or Service Packs might fix this. Internet Explorer (nothing else to use, since installers are all hanging) takes about two minutes to open, and freezes for a good minute when I try to open a website or the options (or change tabs in the options window). Even Task Manager is slow and takes about 30 seconds to close a process. It takes 10 seconds or so to open a folder in Windows Explorer, and doing things like opening the "Save" window in Notepad, or pressing "Save" are now taking seconds when they were previously instantaneous.

The nForce 650i Chipset driver installation took about an hour as each driver installation hung (but didn't freeze) at 30% for 20 minutes or so, but finally finished - but no effect on the slowness. I can't really test the effects of other drivers at the moment, as their installers are just too slow and unresponsive to ever finish.

I downloaded the Google Chrome Standalone Offline Installer, and clicked the icon. "ChromeStandaloneInstaller.exe" appeared in Task Manager, and five minutes later "GoogleUpdater.exe" finally showed up. However, no actually installer visibly opened. Fifteen minutes later, an installer finally appeared, hanging (but not freezing) for another fifteen minutes. It just now finally finished and Chrome was successfully installed. Contrary to what you'd expect from Chrome, it's taking several minutes to start, and is running about as slowly as IE, with the welcome page taking a minute to appear the first time, and then not opening at all, and browsing is very slow as well, both software- and latency-wise. It seems as if both my computer AND my computer's internet access are suddenly slow after this reinstall (but the internet is just as fast as usual on my other computers, so I know it's an issue with my computer rather than my ISP or router - the other computers are crappy 98/XP rigs but all running faster and getting faster internet than my 2008 powerhouse is running right now). It took about five minutes for the registration page for these forums to finally load, and the page (but not the browser) actually froze several times for 30-60 seconds during the loading. Other websites are behaving similarly.

This thing could smoothly run Crysis at high settings before, and now after a format and fresh installation of Windows, it can barely open a web browser. The CPU usage in Task Manager is stuck at 0% (not sure if that's right), and the Physical Memory usage is hovering around 25%. The Hard Disk activity is reported as 100% in the Resource Monitor, and the HD light on the front of my case is constantly on no matter what I'm doing. I just tried to close Resource Manager, and it hung for about 30 seconds before closing.

I finally got Defragmenter to run after several attempts, and an analysis of the C: drive says that it's 1% fragmented. I don't know if this is considered high. However, as I did a "Slow" format of the C: drive before reinstalling the OS, I assume any existing fragmentation was made irrelevant since all data was erased. Could a 1% fragmented C: drive cause this slowness?

This is probably irrelevant, but I had a 5.5 Windows Experience Score before the re-install, and now it is a 1.2. I'm not sure how it would drop so much with no hardware changes. All four sticks of RAM are recognized by Windows, so I don't think any of them have failed.

Specs:
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Intel Q6600
ASUS P5N-e SLI motherboard
4GB of RAM (whichever type the P5N-e uses... can't look it up at the moment)
nVidia GeForce GT240 (1 GB)
Two 250GB Western Digital hard drives
Rosewill 700W PSU
Lite-On DVD drive
12Mb Comcast Cable Internet

None of it is, or ever was, overclocked in any way.

I have no idea what is wrong with this thing, and it's really getting frustrating, especially since I was laid off and can't afford to replace any of the hardware right now if this is a hardware failure. I'm considering trying another format and reinstall, though I'm not expecting different results.

I'm sure I left something out despite this being an excessively long and wordy post, so if you need more information, please let me know. I hope this is the best possible forum for this issue, because my computer and internet are now too slow to find any other forums. Took a total of 20 minutes just to get registered and to this "New Thread" page.


My System SpecsSystem Spec
.

19 Aug 2011   #2

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

ME/XP/Vista/Win7
 
 

I would Check the hard drive with the manufacturer's diagnostic tools.
Hard Drive Diagnostics Tools and Utilities (Storage) - TACKtech Corp.
HD Diagnostic
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Aug 2011   #3

32bit: XP, Win7 H.P. / 64bit: 2008R2, Win7 Pro, Ultimate / Several flavors of Linux
 
 

I feel your frustration as I have had similar situations more than once. Of the three times I've experienced these conditions, one was due to IRQ assignments but Windows 7 is much better at resolving this so I would place that very low on the probability list.

Twice this condition was caused by defective capacitors on the motherboards. If this is the cause, it is a degenerative condition that will continue to get worse until there is complete failure. The condition can place other components at risk for damage as well as your data.

Are you comfortable opening up the case and looking at the mobo? There are around 30 "black" colored capacitors with silver tops that you need to look at. The tops should be flat to slightly depressed. If any are bulging outward, they are defective.

Look at the caps pointed out in this drawing. Pay particular attention to the dozen or so caps around the CPU socket. If any are bad, either a) replace the caps (not the easiest job to do) or b) replace the motherboard (much easier to do).

Slow catastrophic failure, format and reinstall. Previously fast PC a-asus-caps.jpg

Regards,
GEWB


My System SpecsSystem Spec
.


19 Aug 2011   #4
Microsoft MVP

 

No experts here recommend AVG which bloated up a few years back and never slimmed down to perfect performance like free MS Security Essentials or Avast 6. We frequently solve problems by removing it.

What was performance like before you began changing out drivers which had been provided by the installer or quickly updated by optional Updates? Windows 7 is not XP but is driver-complete with only the few missing drivers needing importing after install/Updates.

The exception is if performance indicates problems pointing to specific drivers, or you are stuck with Standard VGA display driver. Were you able to function with the installer-provided chipset before changing it out, enough to compare the difference?

If you work through these troubleshooting steps you'll be able to eliminate either Hardware or OS problems using the logs and System Resources, Hardware tests we recommend, and other standard solutions. If you reply to each step to keep us updated we will interact with additional steps.

Be sure to check the capacitators first as GEWB seems to spot it as the issue.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
29 Aug 2011   #5

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by theog View Post
I would Check the hard drive with the manufacturer's diagnostic tools.
Hard Drive Diagnostics Tools and Utilities (Storage) - TACKtech Corp.
HD Diagnostic
The only computer that can write discs is the desktop that isn't working, so I can't burn the diagnostic tool to a CD. Is it possible to run it from a USB flash drive like I can with MemTest86?

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by GEWB View Post
Look at the caps pointed out in this drawing. Pay particular attention to the dozen or so caps around the CPU socket. If any are bad, either a) replace the caps (not the easiest job to do) or b) replace the motherboard (much easier to do).
I checked every capacitor on the keyboard. They're all still perfectly cylindrical.

---------

Gregrocker, I read through your troubleshooting checklist. Most of them require me to be in Windows, but as I'll describe in a bit, I can no longer do that. Regarding the ones that don't: I ran MemTest twice a few days ago, and there were no memory issues. I can't burn anything to a CD right now, so no hard-drive diagnostic, though I'm guessing that this problem is with the hard drives, the motherboard, or the power supply. I've had SpeedFan installed for a few years now, and the temperatures never get to dangerous levels. When they do start to rise a bit, I use compressed air (at a distance, so I don't destroy my fans or blow off any motherboard components) to wipe out all the dust, so not a heat issue. Connections are all fine. I re-seated the RAM. No change.

Anyway, here's what's happened since that last post, and the details may be a bit flaky, as it's been about a week since I actually touched this computer:

After I got Windows formatted and reinstalled during my original post, I finally got the chipset drivers to install after about an hour of the installer hanging. This changed nothing, so I decided I might as well just try another format and reinstall. This time, I ran the Chipset installer, and it was nice and fast. The installer asked me to restart my computer, so I did, and when it tried to boot again, I got a "Bootmgr is missing. Press Ctrl-Alt-Del to restart." error. This happened unstoppably, so I tried formatting and reinstalling Windows a couple more times because I figured maybe Windows was missing some essential boot files.

Every reinstall, I just kept getting the same error. Then occasionally, I'd get a "Disk Read Failure. Press Ctrl-Alt-Del to restart." error. Just like last week (but not before these problems started), the Windows installer has taken an eternity to even open the "Install Windows" dialog, taking fifteen minutes or so between clicking "Install Now" or "Repair Tools" and actually having the next window appear. As of now, I haven't actually gotten Windows to boot in a week or so, still getting these same errors. I tried the "Startup Repair" tool, but it ran and found no problems that could be repaired.

I ran a Command Prompt from the "Startup Repair" window and tried the three "bootrec" commands:

bootrec /fixmbr - This command claimed to be successful, though it may rely on the other two working, so it may have been wrong, and certainly had no effect on the "Bootmgr" issue.
bootrec /fixboot - This chugged for a while, then gave me the error "The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error."
bootrec /rebuildbcd - This chugged for a while, and acted as if it was successful, but one of the resulting lines was "Detected Windows Installations: 0".

None of these commands made any difference.

I just shut down the computer and unplugged the SATA and power cable from a hard drive in an effort to disconnect my D: drive (where all my non-Windows stuff is stored) so that I don't inadvertently format it in all of this fooling around, and now for some reason, Windows Installer won't detect any hard drives. All of this is a real pain, because I obviously can't open Windows Explorer, as my Windows installation won't boot, so I get to sit and wait 30 minutes for the Windows Installer to get to the "select drive" window before I can even check this. I plugged both back in, and it is once again detecting them both. Is there some way I can browse the contents of the drives without being able to boot Windows? I tried browsing them in the Windows DVD's built in command line, but they said "device is not ready" when I used "dir" to display the contents. I'd really like to get the D: drive disconnected so I can run a full format from the command prompt without having to worry about mixing up the drives as they don't currently have drive letters without Windows being installed.

Anyway, I'm pretty much convinced that this is a hardware issue. The fact that all of these varied, seemingly unrelated problems started in the same week, including one problem that caused hardware electrical noise coming out of my sound card, all leading to a BSoD loop and issues keeping me from even getting into Windows despite format and reinstall several times, makes me think it's probably the motherboard, hard drive, or power supply - or maybe the power supply was the initial problem and has damaged my hard drive or motherboard. I just don't know how to figure out WHICH hardware is causing the issue.

I just don't think it's related to software, seeing as how my C: drive has been completely wiped several times now by the Windows Installer's "format" button. However, it seems that the Windows Installer does a "Quick Format", which means that if the drive has some FAT issues, they might not have been completely eliminated. Anyone know how I can do a Full (Slow) Format without being able to get into Windows? I doubt this will fix it, but it's worth a try.

Thanks for the replies. Looking forward to more.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
29 Aug 2011   #6

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
 
 

Okay, interesting update here. I figured out how to slow-format the drive from the command line. It took a really long time, but finally finished, and I installed Windows on it. It booted just fine, and it's running quickly. I even gave it a restart for no reason, just to see what happens, and there were no "Bootmgr" or "Disk Read" failures.

I'm going to go to sleep and see if it's still working in the morning.

In the meantime, can someone please explain to me how doing a slow format on this drive could possibly fix all of the insane hardware-like problems I was having - especially the electrical buzzing/squeaking coming from the speakers?

Anyway, time to sleep. I'll be back in the morning to let you know if this actually fixed this catastrophe...
My System SpecsSystem Spec
29 Aug 2011   #7
Microsoft MVP

 

If not, try booting into System Recovery Options
to System Restore to before you installed the chipset drivers.

Why did you install them anyway? Were there performance problems with the chipset provided by installer and/or optional Windows Updates, or were some missing? This is not XP so old methods can cause problems.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
29 Aug 2011   #8

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by gregrocker View Post
If not, try booting into System Recovery Options
to System Restore to before you installed the chipset drivers.

Why did you install them anyway? Were there performance problems with the chipset provided by installer and/or optional Windows Updates, or were some missing? This is not XP so old methods can cause problems.
That installation was a week ago... the hard drive has been formatted and Windows has been reinstalled several times since then. Sorry, but did you read my posts?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
29 Aug 2011   #9
Microsoft MVP

 

I tried to read your posts which are too long and winding to follow well.

What caught my attention is the trouble you had changing out the chipset which is a red flag since Windows 7 is driver-complete in the installer and via optional Windows updates.

How is performance now?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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 Slow catastrophic failure, format and reinstall. Previously fast PC a




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