Fighting the Sick Computer

[doug]Before you ask, I will point out that I run a hardware firewall (provided via my SMC Barricade router, and have Norton Antivirus 2005 doing e-mail scanning, realtime protection, and nightly full system scans, including, of course, using the latest virus definitions. This cannot be a virus problem!)

It all started just before Christmas. I really needed more hard drive space, so I decided to stop by Best Buy and grab a decent-sized (160 GB) Western Digital 7800 RPM drive. You’re probably thinking, “No problem, just throw the new drive in, and you’re all set.”

(I am going to outline this from here on, and will update the entry when I have a chance to provide more detailed information.)

  • Used the Western Digital utilities to copy the system and secondary partiition to new partitions on the new drive.
  • I begin booting from teh new drive, with the old drive attached as a secondary drive.
  • I am amazed at the new drive’s performance increase.
  • After 3 days, the new drive slows to a crawl, and shows massive time-to-read errors in its SMART monitoring system, but no data loss or bad sectors.
  • I exchange the new drive, and repeat the process.
  • Network games that are heavy on processing power start locking up the system. I suspect a power supply overload, so I disconnect the old drive. The problems go away.
  • At the beginning of February, a bunch of System level-files go missing (application data like the install file for Microsoft FrontPage). A bunch of DLLs stop loading. The only real symptoms are missing icons, the inability to update old installs, a 5-minute launch time on our ZoomBrowser, and System Restore won't come up.
  • I spend days using the Event Viewer. There are no hardware failures or disc errors reported, and no explanation for this.
  • In mid February, the unthinkable happens. David puts in Knights of the Old Republic, and the CD icon comes up, but the launcher never appears.
  • I kill the process and log his account off. When I jump to my account, I get a notice that an error occurred with one of the registry files, and that Windows had restored the registry from a backup.
  • I reboot, and discover that I can’t get into my account. Several of the other accounts have reverted to their “new user” states—the default desktop, no e-mail configuration, etc.
  • I fear that more folders have disappeared, and that our e-mail is among them. I start a search for inbox.dbx, under my Documents and Settings folder, and it finds nothing.

  • My fifth search produces results. Our e-mail is safe.
  • I reinstall the drive old drive from December, and synchronize our files.
  • Earlier this week, the same registry problem occurs. this time I run system restore from the previous night’s automatic recovery point, and everything returns to normal

I still have not found the source of the problem, and am very anxious while wondering if it will occur again. Maybe the registry fault is an errant piece of Knights of the Old Republic, or even caused by a dirty CD. The game itself was copied from the “old” D-partition to the new bigger one, so something could have gone wrong in a strange way. I’ll have to give reinstalling it a try.

8 Replies to “Fighting the Sick Computer”

  1. No spyware—it’s one of the things Norton 2005 protects against. (I’ll run a few online scans from other products, but do not want to install competing spyware or antivirus products, that can do bad things.)
    Flashing the BIOS (WhatÂ’s mobo?) isnÂ’t something I have really considered, although I can check to see if the motherboard manufacturer recommends it for certain drive support.

  2. I'm trying to figure out just who “Cake” is. I have an IP address, which doesn't tell me much. You're obviously technically literate …. Drop me an e-mail using the links on the right. I won't post your identity.

  3. I'm trying to figure out just who “Cake” is. I have an IP address, which doesn't tell me much. You're obviously technically literate …. Drop me an e-mail using the links on the right. I won't post your identity.

  4. Please see the 3rd icon from the bottom …. over there… on the right hand side of your screen.

    MOBO = motherboard

  5. I see I have, once again, missed the obvious!
    The computer has been fine for a week now. I still suspect bad code/weird conditions in KOTOR, but will keep searching for answers.

  6. I think everything bad that happened was caused by the power supply.
    The burning smell I could never locate was coming from the power supply—the fan on which finally quit. I replaced it with a higher-wattage one, and have had not a single problem since.
    Hard drives use write-ahead cacheing (which can be turned off in Windows XP). This makes them faster, but raises the possibility of damaging data loss in the event of a power failure.
    So, my theory is that the voltage dropped on the hard drives enough to cause data loss, and that's what scrambled the user accounts portion of the registry.

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