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Central Scrutinizer
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been having problems with my dual boot HTPC recently. For no apparent reason, the XP Pro side suddenly stopped booting at the blue "welcome" screen and then the screen went black, instead of switching resolutions and bringing me to the desktop. The only way I could get out of the black screen was by hitting the reset button or by phsically pulling the plug on the computer. After trying to reboot several times and having the EXACT same problem, I figured that I must have some corrupt XP files, so I reinstalled XP directly from the CD right on top of itself in an attempt to repair it. No good....same problem. Then I tried booting from the Win 98 side to see if I had a hardware problem and Win 98 booted with no issues. So I tried once more to boot XP and this time I got a black screen, but music was playing. Knowing that this should not be happening, I figured that I must have some sort of virus.


My next step was to boot from a clean Win 98 startup disc. With this disc booted, I typed in "fdisk /mbr" to create a new boot record. I also typed "sys c:" (my Win 98 partition) just to be on the cautious side. Then I took down the NTFS partition using Partition Magic (from my Win 98 side) and reinstalled XP into the unpartitioned space, figuring that I had gone through all the right steps to insure that I had stomped out any and all possible virus infections. I loaded my programs back on and everything seemed fine again. I then ran out (not walked) and bought Norton AntiVirus 2002 and loaded it up in XP, updated it from the Norton site, and scoured my 3 drives several times. No virus anywhere!


Now it is about a week later and my XP partition is acting up again. It is booting up fine, but when I click on the "start" button, nothing happens. Every time I boot up I get a "Windows has recovered from a serious problem" requestor, yet I have done nothing out of the ordinary.


So I now figured maybe I need a better virus checker, so I went to the McAfee site and downloaded their 30 day trial version, installed it, and then updated it. After the updates, it needed to reboot. So now I figure that I will try scanning with McAfee to see if it finds a virus that Norton can't find. Well, as soon as I try to launch Virus Scan, I get an error saying that the files have been tampered with and I should boot from a rescue disc, which I haven't even been able to create as yet.


Does anyone have any idea if a virus could possibly survive everything I have done? Could the virus have gotten into my system BIOS? Is there any program available that is powerful enough to find and fix this problem? Any other ideas?
 

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I've dealt with viruses a lot and have yet to see one that can survive formatting the MBR and the drive. Some would rewrite it and hide themselves in an unused part, but hitting both at once should remove that. I used to run into problems where my boot disks were infected, but you are using a CD (have you scanned that with a good computer?) so it shouldn't be an issue there. There are viruses that can corrupt your BIOS, but I've never read of one that can store itself in your BIOS.


How long was this computer working fine before this happened?
 

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Central Scrutinizer
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The computer ran fine under Win 98 for over a year. Then I used Partition Magic to divide the drive in half and I loaded XP Pro on the second partition. Everything worked great for a couple of months, and then out of nowhere these problems starting popping up. All sofware (Partition Magic, Win XP, etc.) was installed from original, store bought CD's (no pirated stuff).


I just did a system restore from a Ghost Image that I had made when I first set up this partition, and everything seemed to work fine once again. This time I installed the McAfee demo program and scanned my drives again...no virus! When I exited Virus Scan, my computer rebooted itself, and when XP came up again, I got another of those "Windows has recovered from a serious error" messages. This is very frustrating.


The Win 98 SE partition still works fine, so I don't think I have a hardware issue.
 

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I didn't have a dual boot system but I did use partition magic to partition 2 40 gig drives out of an 80 gig. 1 partition was NTSF, which I installed XP Pro, and the second was a FAT32 where I was storing/playing my MP3s.


After a few months I started to have similar symptoms. I would reformat each partition and start from scratch. A week or so would go by and the same thing would happen.


I eventually replaced the memory in the computer and reformatted the HD to a single 80gig NTFS partition. I haven't had that problem for about 6 months now.


(I have a Shuttle AK31)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks, Dan,


but I am a little hazy about your conclusions.


1. Do you think that the problem has something to do with Partition Magic creating an unstable format?


2. Do you think that the problem is having more than one format (NTFS and FAT 32) on the same drive or on different drives in the same machine?


3. Or was your memory defective?
 

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Bob,


What you've got does not sound like a virus problem. It could be a memory problem, as the previous poster said, because Win98 is not as stringent as XP when it comes to using all your memory. If you've got some good memory somewhere, replace what you have currently and see if your problems disappear. Problems like this that crop up seemingly spontaneously are either virus-related or non-catastrophic failure of hardware. Your reinstalling clean seems to rule out a virus, and so I am betting some of your memory went south.


Al
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Bob Sorel
Thanks, Dan,


but I am a little hazy about your conclusions.


1. Do you think that the problem has something to do with Partition Magic creating an unstable format?


2. Do you think that the problem is having more than one format (NTFS and FAT 32) on the same drive or on different drives in the same machine?


3. Or was your memory defective?
I think it was bad memory that was causing the problems. I erased the 2nd partition as a precauion since I really didn't need to keep it as a different volume.


I'd replace your memory first and leave the partitions alone. If you still have the same problems than it may actually be the dual boot partitions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks, guys,


I will give all suggestions a try. One thing that sticks in my mind though, is how could any of these failures cause my system to boot to a black screen and play music? I haven't heard the music again since I did the MBR and reformat, but the rest of the symptoms are still there. If I hadn't heard music played from my system, I wouldn't have been so suspicious of a virus, but for the life of me, I can't explain how music could have been created any other way (the only disc in any drive was the XP Pro installation CD).
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Bob Sorel
Thanks, guys,


I will give all suggestions a try. One thing that sticks in my mind though, is how could any of these failures cause my system to boot to a black screen and play music? I haven't heard the music again since I did the MBR and reformat, but the rest of the symptoms are still there. If I hadn't heard music played from my system, I wouldn't have been so suspicious of a virus, but for the life of me, I can't explain how music could have been created any other way (the only disc in any drive was the XP Pro installation CD).
Others have suggested checking your RAM, which is a good idea. Assuming it turns out to be the RAM, you need to then check the partition for corrupted files (which it sounds like you've got. also, after fixing the RAM problem, you would still have corrupted files saved on your hard drive, so you need to do this check). In WinXP, you no longer get to use scandisk for this, you have to use chkdsk.


If it turns out that your RAM is fine, I'd suggest checking your hard drive for any failure. For this, I'd recommend first trying chkdsk. After that, I'd suggest going to your hard drive manufacturer's website, and downloading some diagnostic software for your drive. Most manufacturers offer such a download, and it'll do checks, which chkdsk won't.
 

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Central Scrutinizer
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Quote:
Was it music you have on the PC?
Nope, nothing I have ever heard before. When I loaded Win 98 in the past years, when the installation was complete Windows would display a little tour, which was accompanied by music. Since my soundcard drivers were never loaded when I performed initial XP installs, I wonder if XP plays similar music when it is first installed (which I could not hear because I had no sound card drivers). Since I heard the music on a reinstall of XP, my soundcard drivers were probably working. Does anyone know if XP plays music after an install? I am talking about a full length musical composition with drums, bass, and other instruments, not that single chord that is played when XP boots. Years ago, when I had a Commodore Amiga, I got a virus that played music, as well as displaying cryptic messages on my screen.


Since I will be buying some new memory, what brand do you recommend, Crucial? Or something else?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Well, now my computer is back to THE EXACT same problem as I described in the very first paragraph of my first post...black screen, with no way out except to hit reset. I can hear a very slight "poopppfftt" sound from my speakers just as the screen goes black. I have tried memory sticks from other computers that are working perfectly...no change. XP never gets to the blue "welcome" screen any more. Chckdsk runs...then reboots. Finally, after a half hour of this, XP boots up again. I get a message "Your computer's screen resolution and color depth are currently set to a very low level. You can get a better picture by increasing these settings." I was[/] set to 1600x1200 32 bit, and still am. What does this message mean?


These symptoms do not make ANY sense to me whatsoever. In 15 years of playing with computers, I have never seen anything like this, except for some crazy stuff done by a virus. I'm waiting to see something like "HAHAHAHAHAA" scrolling across my desktop at any minute. You still think this is a hardware issue?
 

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Bob, I'm not sure exactly what your problem is but I'd bet money it's not a virus. Windows XP does play music during an installation, near the end of the process.


In my experience, dual-boot systems can be a pain in the posterior. You might consider sticking to one OS unless you have a compelling reason to do otherwise. Either that or get each OS it's own physical drive. Or finally, just install XP on FAT32.


Keeping it simple is a generally the way to go when dealing with Microsoft products.


Goodl luck!


Justin
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by HJustin


Keeping it simple is a generally the way to go when dealing with Microsoft products.
Amen to that! :D
 

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Bob,


Are you installing any older, pre-XP software? Software that isn't "XP Badged"?


I recently tried installing some old paint software and started seeing symptoms similar to what you describe -- symptoms that acted like disk problems, with the boot process taking different amounts of time, as well as XP reporting that it had recovered from "serious problems". They never were quite identical.


Disk diagnostics found nothing wrong. I use ECC memory, so that wasn't an issue, either.


When I reverted to an image of the system disk that I'd made somewhat before (usig Ghost), all the problems went away. I can only guess that the older software stomped on registry entries that XP uses during boot time. Startup (presumably) starts several programs "at the same time", so the exact timing of when they load will depend on the rotational latency due to the exact disk position. (Well, it *sounds* like a good excuse :) )


On the music issue: XP includes a couple of .wma files in My Documents\\My Music\\Sample Music\\ Might it have been one of those?
 

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Seldon Ball has just reminded me of a similar problem I had with some software I installed on my XP pc.


I had the same occurance of a black screen and instant reboot. No music though...


I can't for the life of me remember what the program/software was unfortunately....


I think I either uninstalled or rolled back and everything is fine again.


Gary.
 

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Bob,


Looks like you've ruled out memory problems. Since something seems to be happening with your video, could you tell us what hardware you have? It may be that your Win98 drivers are ok, but the XP ones are not. Were they ever ok with your current setup? Have you added any hardware lately (just in case your troubles started at that time)? That "popfft" sound may be XP trying to notify you that something is wrong, but since your display isn't working, you can't read it.


Al
 

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Did you make sure that all cards are fully plugged in the PCI and/or AGP slots ? It can sometimes cause weird problems...
 

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Central Scrutinizer
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Hi guys,


I have been working on this all morning. It seems that I keep getting corrupted files, like some .DLL's in the System32 dir and some of my Norton files. Chkdsk keeps running itself every time I boot up. When chkdsk fixes the problems it finds (mostly corrupted attributes), then all is fine for a short while (like 15 minutes or so). Then I get a little "popfstt" noise, which is a popup error message from the task bar telling me that another file is now corrupt, even if I haven't as much as moved my mouse.


I ran the Maxtor hard drive diagnostics on both drives and they came up with a 100% healthy report. I will try the memory diagnostics that Trik has suggested, but I think my memory is fine. It works without issues in another machine, and when I take the "good" memory from the "good" machine and put it in the "bad" machine, the problem stays with the original machine. Basic troubleshooting tells me that if the memory was bad or flaky, then the problem would move when I moved the memory.


My last resort will be to do a low level format of both drives using the Maxtor utility, and then repartition and format them NTFS with my Win XP install disc. The only thing left I can figure is that the repartitioning by Partition Magic and subsequent NTFS formatting is causing the corrupted files. I am now thinking that a virus is not the cause, but I haven't ruled it out yet either. The funny thing is, I have another machine that I made a dual boot machine following the EXACT same recipe as my problem machine, and that machine is working flawlessly.


Here is my hardware config:


Asus CUSL2C motherboard

512 meg PC 133 RAM (two 256 meg modules - Kingston)

Radeon LE with 6025 drivers in XP - 7093 drivers in Win 98

SB Audigy soundcard (this is not my main HTPC :) )

Linksys 10/100 NIC

Pioneer DVR-104 DVD-R writer

Toshiba SD-M1502 DVD reader


Since I have restored a Ghosted image, the only software installed at this point is Norton AV 2002, PowerDVD XP 4.0, and Nero Burning ROM 5.5.8.0 (I think)...nothing else! I don't dare install anything else until the problems are solved.
 
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