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For the past few weeks, I have noticed slow boot-up times for my Vista laptop. More recently, I have had terrible boot-ups and
I can't figure out why.

I turn my computer off through Vista and it is fine. When I power up, using the power button on my machine, it beings the
normal boot. I see my Dell bios screen load, then I can hear it check the CD drive. The webcam light flashes once and then the
scroll lock light comes on...all of this is normal. Then the screen turns off...which is also normal. But then it just stays off and the
scroll lock light turns off as well. There are five indicator lights on my machine - power, HDD activity, battery, WiFi, and
Bluetooth. For a normal boot, the power light and the WiFi light are on, in addition to some disk activity. This also happens
during this weird boot, even when my screen is turned off. There is clearly disk activity, but it is not responsive from my
keyboard. I wait about ten minutes and manually power down.

I reboot again. This time it will either do the same thing, or it will finally load Vista and go to my log-on screen.

When I log on, the computer is fine. But after a certain amount of time, the hard drive light goes off. The computer is completely
responsive, except for the random hard drive "fail." The mouse is completely responsive, but when I click on something,
Explorer freezes. I have to manually power down again.

The third (or sometimes fourth) boot is usually a success. Everything loads properly and Windows is completely responsive. The
hard drive works perfectly and it all runs smoothly.

But this strange boot-up is worrying me. This all happens in that same pattern too.

I am fairly confident I have no viruses. I have Malwarebytes, AVG, COMODO, Windows Defender, and Trojan Remover. I use two
system maintence programs - TuneUp Utilities 2009 and Advanced SystemCare Free. I perform defrags every other week and I
run the disk cleaner every week or so. Trojan Remover scans the system files and makes sure they are the appropriate size and
not corrupt, so I am also fairly confident this is not a problem with Vista, but who knows.

I have tried several times to run a complete disk check, but it always goes into that nasty boot-up where the screen turns off. I
am not sure if it is actually doing anything, so last night I let it sit like that, hoping it was running the disk check. When I woke up
in the morning, it was on my log on screen, so who knows, maybe it did run successfully.

I looked through Windows' Event Viewer and saw some errors. I don't know much about the Event Viewer, or else I could
probably just diagnose this myself. I kept seeing an error about my CD drive. Which is weird, because there is nothing in there
and it works fine when I use it. Maybe this is causing the bad boot-ups.

Any input would help. Oh, I'm using Windows Vista Home Premimum on my Dell Inspiron 1525 laptop that is less than a year
old. The hard drive is about 72% full and I have 4 gigs of RAM. With all of my start-up programs running, I only using about 10-
13% of the CPU...so clearly I am not overclocking my system or anything.


Any thoughts or suggestions would be great...I'm at a loss!

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Last Post by Suspishio
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What would I do if faced with this?

I'd suspect hardware - although it could be anything that causes intermittent failure.

So, I would keep a written log of everything I do and the results of booting/running, probably in the following sequence if the previous step produced no result:

1/
Reseat RAM modules

2/
Boot with 1 RAM module then the other

3/
Boot to DOS window. Run chkdsk /f to make sure there are no bad blocks to worry about. /f will fix them but you could lose data in worst case.

4/
Reseat the hard drive.

If none of the above work, then you've most likely got motherboard issue that you can't solve by your own means.

Keep us informed.

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Thanks for your help. I read into this problem some more. I ran the memory tests that the Vista Recovery lets you do. It reported no problems with my RAM. I'm also dual-posting on TechRepublic, so here's what I posted over there...


I checked to see if my HDD was "dirty" or "clean." Dirty obviously meaning that there are bad clusters or sectors on the disk. Sure enough, it was dirty. But of course, I could not get the chkdsk to run on the reboot.

I had to be able to run chkdsk while booting directly to a command mode, so I used the recovery CD, booted from it, and got into the command prompt from there, where I ran chkdsk with the /r setting. There were a few clusters that were bad, which it fixed.

I rebooted, and everything went like usual. When I got to the log on screen, I had an error window that said "the file or data in c:\$Secure is corrupt and cannot be accessed. Please run chkdsk to fix the error." I don't remember the exact message, but it was something like that. After Googling what the $Secure folder was, I came to another wall.

The official answer, from Microsoft, was that the master table file (MTF) of my hard drive was damaged. Their solution was to backup, reformat the hard drive, and do a clean install of Vista.

On the forums, other people swore that the hard drive was about to get fried. They said that if the $secure goes completely corrupt, I would not be able to even access my data. Others said it was a big issue when they installed IE7, or if they were using Nortan Antivirus. So I got two completely different answers...one side said it was a hard drive going bad, the other side said it was a software/hardware complication. I don't know what to believe.

I ran the chkdsk /r again from the command prompt on the recovery CD. It found no errors. I rebooted and the C:\$Secure error was gone. Everything worked fine.

I bought Acronis True Image to back up my data. I installed it and of course, it makes you reboot to complete the install. I did so, but I got the black screen again.

...Which puts me back to my original problem.

If anyone has any other suggestions, that would be awesome. If not, I'm just going to back up everything, reformat, and reinstall Vista.

Heck, maybe I will just use Xubuntu or Linux or something.

Regardless, I do not think it is a failing hard drive. It works fine now. It is still rather slow when it loads Vista (or simply loading the log-on screen). All of my data is there and can be accessed just like before. Of course, I did run the SFC after I ran chkdsk in the command prompt. It didn't report any missing files, but then again, I'm not sure if it does report them.

The bios has been reset back to the factory default settings. When you load the Vista Recovery, it also checks your bios. It said my configuration was not correct, so I told it to fix it, which it did. All it did was rename the partition that has the recovery part on it (you know, the D:\ drive that is only 10 MB). The boot order was still as what I had set before, so I don't know what it reset. Regardless, it still boots to the black screen and it still does the same sequence that I have to shut down, reboot, blah blah blah.

I've hit another wall. Oh well, rebuilding the entire hard drive and installing all of my files will be fun, right?!

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Right.

You did everything right and apart from reseating the HDD there's not much left to try. It doesn't seem to be a motherboard issue because you found HDD problems (although a glitch may well have casued the problem of corrupted data).

I wouldn't continue living with a HDD that reported problems; it's potentially storing up for the future.

If you're going to re-install, do it onto a blank, new hard drive and put the old one in a USB or SATA enclosure. There are several variables here and you might as well remove the HDD as one of them. Ive done this before on a Dell 8600 without problem.

Cheers

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