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#1 Sep 17 2011 at 5:00 PM Rating: Decent
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When I boot my PC it all goes well until after I have pressed enter on the XP login/password screen. I have to press ctrl-alt-del to get it to actually take me to windows, otherwise the hard drive spins a bit and then just idles. When I get to windows it seems fine but consistently my wireless card fails to start and I have to go to control panel and network connections to get it going. The machine will trip out for a bit and not allow me to do anything, then will spring to life and everything is fine.

The machine is pretty old (2004, maybe 2006), but she soldiers on in the face of adversity hehe. Civ 4 says it won't run on my hardware setup, but does anyway, things like this have caused me to become attached to the machine (sad, I know :p) and I would be willing to replace hardware if this is the problem (motherboard maybe?), even though I have a new **** laptop. Only to the point of keeping it internet worthy though.

Any ideas why windows would require me to press ctrl-alt-del to actually get going? I think that my wireless cards starting issues probably indicate my motherboard. Any suggestions for tests I can do? I can provide more info on my system if needed, I am computer literate, this problem seems strange to me though. It isn't a case of having it unlock the computer as it is after the login screen. It happened immediately after a boot time chkdsk if that is any help. I also am wary of needing to re-install the OS (I have had to phone microsoft for a new authentication key more than once and would prefer to avoid it again)

Thanks for any assistance!
#2 Sep 18 2011 at 12:13 AM Rating: Excellent
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Well, it depends on how your machine is configured. If your computer is set up to a domain, you'll typically see a screen when you first start up that says "Press Ctrl+alt+del to login", after which you are presented with the actual username and password field. If you aren't connected to a domain (which most home computers aren't) windows should be taking you directly to a screen witha username and password field, or at least a click here to log in then enter username etc screen. Your issue though seems to be occuring after you have already entered your username and password, which could be during the driver load stage, or during the network authentication stage.

It might be hardware. on a machine that age, if you haven't swapped the hard drives out, it might actually be the drive starting to die. They last about 5 years on average, give or take. I'd start with running speedfan and check and see if there are any hard drive issues on the SMART error tab http://www.almico.com/sfdownload.php

If the unit is that old, chances are installing a new motherboard won't be worth the effort unless you do a complete upgrade. For one thing, its going to be difficult to find anything that era that will work with your existing processor. even moreso if this is a proprietary dell / HP machine or something along those lines.

If the hard drive checks out, i'd try updating the network card drivers. or maybe pulling the network card out of the computer entirely and see if the issue goes away. If that doesn't do the trick, a windows reinstall might be in order.

If that doesn't fix it, its probably time for a new machine rather than **** with trying to fix that one to be honest.
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#3 Sep 19 2011 at 11:16 AM Rating: Decent
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Yeah, the problem is after I enter username and password. My hard drive checks out, speedfan was giving me over 95% for fitness and performance. Same story with my network card,tried new drivers (and older), tried it in different slot and had it out and nothing changed. I think I may need to bite the bullet and re-install my OS and see if that helps. Otherwise I guess it is probably best to just let the machine die.
#4 Sep 19 2011 at 3:43 PM Rating: Good
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Not the threadjack too badly, but at what point in Speedfans drive fitness do you start to think about replacement? My drive sits at 93% performance and fitness.
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#5 Sep 19 2011 at 6:03 PM Rating: Excellent
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Yeah, OS is probably the best place to start looking if everything else checks out.

As far as speedfan goes, 80% is about the lowest I'd ever still use a drive, and even then i'd be ordering a replacement that same day. The real question is where the errors are. For example, if we look at speedfan's hard drive section:

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There are a couple things to see. Power on hours count is going to slowly degrade as your hard drive is on, since it's designed to basically work like the odometer of a car. If everything else is fine, you can ignore it. Temperature will degrade if the drive ever got too hot. this can indicate a failing bearing, or that you just decided to run the computer on a really hot day and hadn't cleaned the fans in a while. The ones that are really critical are realocated sector count, and spinup count. Realocated sector count means that somethign happened to the drive platter itself to render a section of it unreadable to the hard drive read heads. This is known in the computer fixing buisiness as a "Very Bad Thing". Spinup count indicates that the drive didn't get spun up to speed as fast as it should. That indicates the bearings or the motor is starting to go. either way, you'll soon have a paperweight.

If you see any degredation in sector count or spinup, you should immidiatly replace the drive regardless of the smart error percentage. If those are both fine, but the drive is getting a bit old, it might be time to replace it anyways, given that drives are dirt cheap these days. A 500GB SATA drive can be had for $35 these days.
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