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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My desktop randomly freezes and will not respond to keyboard or mouse inputs. No blue screen or error code is generated when this happens. Originally this occasionally happened shortly after resuming from standby. However, it has progressed to happen randomly anytime the computer is turned on, including sometimes during startup. If task manager is open, no unusual CPU usage shows up. No program needs to be running for this problem to occur. Other than this problem, everything on the computer works normally, and I can sometimes use the computer for hours with no problems. Can someone please help me identify what is causing this problem? I can't tell if it is a virus problem or if hardware is failing. Any help I can get to identify the source would be greatly appreciated!

My computer is a Dell Dimension 2350 with a 1.8 GHz Pentium 4 processor, 1 Gb RAM, running Windows XP Home SP3 with the latest updates. Antivirus software is Avira Free Antivirus, which has been temporarily removed for troubleshooting.

I have run numerous software checks, but have been unable to pinpoint a cause for this problem. The list I've tried is below:
Avira Full Scan: no problems found
DISK CHECK: problems found and fixed (Several months ago, I did get a message during startup that the system had recovered from a serious error and had attempted to fix itself. But no unusual results were noticed at the time.)
System Restore to earlier date: no change
System Hibernate instead of Standby: no change
Disk Defragment: no change
Kaspersky Online Scan: nothing unusual found
Spybot Search & Destroy: no problems found other than a few cookies
Spyware Blaster: no problems found
CTRL SCROLL SCROLL: does not work when system is frozen
System Shut-down instead of Standby: no change
Dell Support Center PC Checkup (PC Doctor suite): no problems found with RAM check, CPU check, or drive checks
Reinstall of scanner driver: no change
Reinstall of Avira: no change
Uninstall of Avira: no change
Disconnect of all hardware except mouse & keyboard: no change
Mouse swap out: no change
 

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Freezing is usually caused by overheating, or a failing Power Supply Unit.
Open up the side of the case and clean out dust and blow out fans with a can of compressed air. Look at the label for the PSU and report the Make, Model# and Wattage. Start the computer and make sure all fans are spinning
Run Windows in a clean boot.
You can also download the ISO image for Seatools in my signature. Burn the image to CD using IMGBurn also in my signature. Boot off of the newly created CD and run the short and long tests on the drive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Prior to getting your response above, I tried a few other things with no change in performance:
Memtest86 ran overnight with no errors found: no improvement
Sfc /scannow: reinstalled several system files from XP disk with no improvement

Per your suggestion, I opened the case and cleaned out the dust. It was a little dirty, but not overly so. The PSU is a Dell HP-P2037F3 rated at 200W. I used a multimeter to check the voltage at a spare power plug during startup. One side read 5.05V; the other was 12.0V. Both fans worked. Is it safe to assume that the PSU is not the problem? If it makes a difference, it seems like the computer is more likely to freeze during or shortly after a startup or resume from standby (cold) than it is after the computer has been running awhile (warm).

I did try the suggested clean boot. After the first startup, everything worked ok for a few minutes. Then I opened Google Chrome, and the system froze. Immediately after the second clean startup--with no programs running--the computer automatically restarted. Shortly after the third startup, the computer froze again. Since that time, I have not been able to start up Windows at all. I get the error message that <Windows root>\system32\hal.dll. is "missing or corrupt." Can you help me re-install a copy of this file?

I used another computer to burn the Seatools onto a CD. Both hard drives successfully passed the short test. I also ran the long test on the main hard drive with passing results. What should I try next?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I was able to correct the hal.dll error by following step 4 in the link How To Fix Missing Hal.dll Errors in Windows XP, which uses bootcfg /rebuild to repair the boot.ini file. Once Windows restarted, I added the checkmarks back to the places removed for the clean boot trial.

Let me know any suggestions on what to try next to diagnose the freeze error. Many thanks!
 

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The PSU is a Dell HP-P2037F3 rated at 200W
download the ISO image for Seatools in my signature. Burn the image to CD using IMGBurn also in my signature. Boot off of the newly created CD and run the short and long tests on the drive.
Computer manufacturers notoriously install inadequate under powered PSU's that usually cause trouble down the line. We Suggest a 550 Watt PSU. Any standard ATX PSU would work. Try testing your HDD with Seatools and see what happens.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I used a multimeter to check the voltage at a spare power plug during startup. One side read 5.05V; the other was 12.0V. Both fans worked.
Are there any other tests to confirm the PSU has failed before I replace it? Would removing the second hard drive be helpful for trouble-shooting the PSU?

I did successfully complete both short and long tests on both hard drives using Seatools. Let me know if there is anything further to try with the Seatools.

At startup, my computer does occasionally display a "no boot device detected" message (see attached photo). After pressing F2 and F10, the computer starts up normally. It has done this for about 2 years. Until about 2 months ago, there was no other problem--except for this occasional startup inconvenience. Any chance this could be related to the freeze up problem?
 

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Remove the Second HDD. Replace the Data Cable to the current HDD and choose a different Power Plug. If that works, replace the second HDD and run Seatools on that drive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I removed the second hard drive and connected the primary drive with the OEM cable and a different power plug. I'm still getting the freeze problem shortly after startup. Also, one of the times the computer automatically restarted even though I have auto-restart disabled. None of the times have I yet gotten a BSOD or error message. Any other suggestions on how to verify the root cause?

Thanks again...
 

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Did you try a different data cable, a known good one? If everything else tests fine, then the PSU is probably failing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I did install a different data cable--the one the computer had until 2 years ago when I put in the second hard drive. Can a place like bestbuy test the PSU? or is my best bet just to buy a bigger PSU and install it to see if that fixes the problem?
 

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Your computer is quite old, a PSU is a solid investment and would not cost that much, but I'm not sure how much more time and money you want to spend on this computer. If you buy a new PSU and it still doesn't work you can always take it back for a refund. It's always cheaper on the net.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I replaced the PSU with a Thermaltake 430W unit--the best one the local big box store had. Afterwards I couldn't get the computer to start in normal mode, so I tried Safe Mode. Shortly after starting Windows, the computer froze like previously (cursor quit moving and Task Manager quit updating).

Any other suggestions to diagnose this problem? Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thinking I may have had a malware problem, I visited the spyware side of this forum. The people there assisted me in removing a few items and declared the computer free of malware. However, the problem still exists. Is there anything further I can try short of wiping the harddrive and starting over?
 

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Hi...my Dell 2400 with XP Pro, SP3 boots fine although it takes 5 min. My problems are when on AOL or less so with FF, pages hang, windows show thru windows, and I can't make anything happen with the mouse. Programs won't minimize, or only half the page does, and the dumb hourglass just keeps spinning so that I finally have to turn the system off with the power button. I also can log onto AOL, but after it says "Welcome", nothing else can be accessed, such as email or websites. I have 2 gb RAM, and 80gb HDD, 44% free. I have no spyware, malware, or even underwear! I need better ideas than all the above with that PSU stuff. Mine is fine. Thanks much.
 
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