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This is very much after the event. I no longer have the problem - see later on, but would like some feedback as to just what might have happened.
One day, everything is working just fine (XP Home, SP3, fully patched, ZoneAlarm firewall, Norton AV).
Next day, system starts up, all Startup programs work, but as soon as I try and do anything CPU jumps to 100%, mouse freezes, clock stops, and I can't do anything at all. Reboot, exactly the same behaviour.
Boot into Safe mode, everything (that can) works OK. Try again in normal mode, freezes again.
Back to Safe mode, use Explorer to look in Program Files, Windows, Windows/system32 for any files made up of random letters/numbers - nothing.
Run full Norton scan - nothing. Have an AVG download, install and run that - nothing. Download Avast, run that - nothing. Run AdAware scan - nothing other than a few tracking cookies. Run SpySweeper scan - nothing. Run SpyWare Doctor scan - nothing.
As it's in Safe mode and working, not much point in running HijackThis.
Try a System Restore to a few days before, restore works but no change, still freezing. Back to Recovery Console, do "fixmbr". This gives the message "This computer appears to have a non-standard or invalid MBR".
Still no joy.
Find installation disk, do a "Repair" on existing installation. Windows comes up and starts working - for all of two minutes, then freezes again (and again and again).
Finally, after checking that I have everything important saved on external USB drives, cut my losses, full reinstall after wiping c:\ drive. Everything back to normal.

After all this, can someone suggest what might have happened? (Hopefully it won't ever happen again, but it never hurts to be prepared).
Obviously, the old system no longer exists so I can't run any further tests on it, but if there is something that can be run in Safe mode that might pick up on any future occurrence I'd like to know about it?

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Last Post by PhilliePhan
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After all this, can someone suggest what might have happened? (Hopefully it won't ever happen again, but it never hurts to be prepared).

Hi Norman,

As you noted, all we can offer is mere conjecture at this point, so here goes:

-- Could be due to SP3. Many people have had issues with it. Many have not. I have had no major issues with SP3.

-- Could be a poorly written piece of software or a poorly written piece of malware. Most malware today is designed to make somebody money, either through extortion or outright theft of information and for that they need a working computer. It's been a while since I've seen a piece of ineptly designed malware do this, so I'd probably rule that out.

-- I have seen issues such as yours turn out to be related to Microsoft's Automatic Updating Service in Windows. There were patches for these issues and I would assume they were on your machine if you were running SP3.

The culprit(s) could be all sorts to things. Hard to pin a tail on it after the fact.

Best Luck :)
PP

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Oh, you've just reminded me of something. I was looking for strangely named files to see if there were any, and looking at the last created files, there were some that I believe were the latest MS updates (lots of numbers, but I don't remember the extensions - even renaming them didn't make a difference). I think I will change my Automatic Updates settings to: ask me before downloading.
Do you have any further information on this problem? I'm also going to have a quick search, but as far as I'm aware I was completely up to date.

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I think I will change my Automatic Updates settings to: ask me before downloading.

That is my preference. Definitely a good idea. That way, if you install a new update and something immediately goes wrong, you'll know where to start troubleshooting.

Do you have any further information on this problem?

No specifics - sorry. Just anecdotal stuff from problems I've seen while volunteering in various tech forums over the last five years.
Sometimes the updates bork your machine. Sometimes it is the update process itself. I remember a few instances in 04 or thereabouts when people would be posting about sluggish computer, etc... and it turned out that they were on dial-up and their machine was in the process of automatically downloading and installing SP2...... LOL!

More recently, M$ released an updated that borked the Internet connection for anybody using ZoneAlarm Firewall.
http://www.daniweb.com/forums/thread133490.html

There are just too many possibilities. . . . . .

Cheers :)
PP

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i know about the M$ and ZoneAlarm - I got caught by that as well. It wasn't until I got to the office to find that someone had sent an email about it and I was able to download both the fix and the newer version of ZA to sort it out.

We who are slaves to M$ just suffer - but not in silence. I have looked at Linux, but I'm so used to UNIX and GUI's on "real" computers, that I think I will stick to XP for the time being. In order to get a decent version of vista I would have to upgrade my graphics card significantly, and I don't feel up to doing that just yet.

I think we can call this thread solved. Thanks for the help, judging from what happened, it looks like I had to take the only possible resolution!

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I think I will stick to XP for the time being....
I think we can call this thread solved. Thanks for the help, judging from what happened, it looks like I had to take the only possible resolution!

Happy to help!

-- I personally prefer XP, even with all its holes, to Vista at this time.

PP :)

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