Windows Vista Major Desktop problems..


Will apologize before I even start... this is going to be a long one.

Have a desktop pc built by my ex when XP was first released.. Pentium 4, 3.4ghz, 1GB ram, dead 56X cd burner, pitiful 2.4X dvd burner, etc.. 4 HDD, 2 IDE (100GB & 120GB) and 2 SATA (200GB)..

Was running XP Pro and Upgraded to Vista Ultimate in Jan/Feb '07 (whatever the first day the OS was released.. He pre-ordered an OEM copy).. Was also running Office 2000 Pro and upgraded to Office 2007 Standard (also as soon as released).. All normal upgrades, Service Packs, etc installed..

Original Motherboard supported RAID (so the 2 200GB SATA drives) but crashed 4-5 years ago (not really sure how long) and he wasn't able to find a new board that would support the chip and memory that also ran RAID.. So 1 200GB SATA became the main C drive and the 2 IDE's were auxiliary drives for downloads, pictures, video, etc.. He got himself a new super high powered laptop a couple of years ago that ran Vista Ultimate 64bit, had 4GB ram, Nvidia video, etc and said he wasn't going to do anything else with the desktop, no more upgrades and so on...

So, when I moved out last year (after a very ugly divorce), I took the desktop with me... It was slow, but handled the basics, checking mail, WORD, EXCEL and so on.. Didn't ask it to do much else... Started crashing last fall and I managed to do a System Image Restore (the advantage to Ultimate) to a point several months previous.. Re-updated everything and again, it limped along for a few months.. Started crashing again, locking up and other assorted "inconveniences".. Several times backing up to a simple restore point would help, then had to do another image restore ..

So, a few months ago figured something in the OS had to be corrupted enough (possibly including old XP drivers, etc from when it was upgraded) that the best bet would be to do a fresh install of Vista.. (had put it off because I wasn't sure about re-installing Office 2000 so I could use the Office 2007 upgrade disc.... he hadn't purchased a full version and I wasn't sure if you could install 2000 on Vista).. So, updated everything I could, took a fresh image and then went for the "fresh install"... Everything looked good until the final re-boot where it should have given me the screen to set up the User ID.. Instead, all I got was a "black screen" (the Vista version of the BSOD). Figured maybe it was still doing something and gave it about an hour.. still nothing..

So, figured maybe something hadn't installed properly and tried the fresh install again... Same thing happened!!! So, I then made the biggest mistake I possibly could... I called "Microsoft" for help.... Thought it would be something easy, maybe some driver I needed or something similar.. NOT!! First off, I had to pay to talk to them since apparently they no longer support OEM OS versions.. (said I needed to go back to the "system builder" to resolve any problems --- NOT an option), so then spent almost 8 hours on the phone with them.. They had me try the fresh install 2X more with the same results (didn't believe me)..

OK, now we're getting to the MAJOR problems at this point.. The Microsoft tech told me to do something his supervisor said he should have never even suggested. He decided that one of my memory sticks had to be bad, said that was the only thing that would cause the problem I was having and insisted on me removing one stick (it has 2 512MB ea) and then running the fresh install again.. Said it would work this time.. (after I had already run MEMTEST on the computer for several hours before attempting the install and all the memory tested good)..

Anyway, did as he said and believe it or not.. THE SAME THING HAPPENED AGAIN!!! "Black Screen".. So Microsoft says I must have pulled the good stick and left the bad one in the PC... So, put back the one I pulled and pull the other one and run the install again.. and... and..... "Black Screen". So now he says probably one of the slots on the board is bad and switch the memory (still one stick at a time)... so, 2 more times trying the "fresh install" (taking about 1 1/2 hours each try) and still end up with "Black Screen".

So now he decides that one of the other drives must be interfering with the install and wants me to remove all except the boot drive.. Now.. I don't know the first thing about hardware (software, yes, but hardware NO).. and the ex never even let me in the room when he was working on the PC.. He had everything inside the case tied down, strapped, so you couldn't even move a cable or reach most of the connectors and I really had no way to know what was what inside.. I was able to reach the power connector to the backs of the 2 IDE drives at the back of the box, but that was all... So, Microsoft had me unplug the 2 IDE drives.. AND NOW, he said I'd have no problem with my install.. And (as Maxwell Smart used to say.. ) Would you believe..... "Black Screen" again!!!

now after spending all day on this, the Microsoft tech said it was the end of his shift and they wouldn't have anyone for me to talk to till the next afternoon (this was a weekend)... Its about midnight my time and I have NO PC.. After I got off the phone with Microsoft I decided if nothing else, I'd restore the image I'd made just before I started and I'd be no worse off than before..

NOT!!! now when I plugged the IDE drives back in, the PC was suddenly showing the smallest IDE drive as the C boot drive.., then it showed the next IDE drive and finally the 2 SATA drives (one of which actually was the C drive).. When I tried to do the image restore, I got an error that the C drive wasn't big enough for the image and it wouldn't let me select any other drives to restore to.. It was showing what should have been the C drive as the "E" drive now and no way to change it.. I ended up having to unplug the 2 IDE drives again to get the box to recognize the SATA drive as the C drive and finally was able to restore the disc image..

So, ok I thought.. tried plugging the 2 IDE's back in after successfully restoring the disc image.. AND the PC wanted to boot not off the SATA drive (where the OS was installed), but off the IDE drives... Gave me a screen with Vista listed twice.. When I clicked on the top Vista, it looked like a normal startup, but instead of going to a login screen, went to "Black Screen".. When I clicked on the bottom Vista, it gave me an error that the boot ldr was missing (not surprising since neither IDE was ever a boot drive)..

so had to unplug the 2 IDE's again to even be able to use.. left that way for a few weeks limping along till a friend of my boss took a look at it (he knows something about hardware but nothing about the OS or software)... He found that the drive boot order had been corrupted and it did list the 4 drives in "size order".. The IDE's were drives 0 & 1 and the SATA's were 2 & 3.. We were able to move drive 2 (the SATA with the OS) up to the top in the boot order (still shows as drive 2 though) and booted successfully with all 4 drives plugged in. Once booted I had to go into disc management in Vista to re-letter the drive names as apparently when they're unplugged the names changed..

So, basically had things looking pretty much the way they were before I attempted the "fresh install" that was supposed to solve my problems.. My boss's friend has a wholesale license on equipment and we decided he'd order new memory (so I could have 2GB instead of 1), a DVD-Rom to replace the dead CD drive and a new DVD burner, and a new fan to replace one of the 4 in the case that wasn't working (case was open with screening over it to keep out the dust, so it wasn't overheating).. He has the parts on order (said it wasn't a rush) and just had surgery on his back, so nothing has been replaced yet.

And the saga goes on... PC kept crashing and rebooting.. until last weekend after a reboot, it suddenly said I didn't have a "validated" copy of Window, that my copy probably wasn't genuine. Tried to validate online.. said my OEM serial # was no good.. Tried to type in the serial off the back of the disc case and it wouldn't even let me enter it.. So, tried a System Restore to a couple of days previous.. And, when it booted, I once again had a valid copy of Windows..

Newest scenario now, starting on Tuesday, it crashed, when it rebooted, before the desktop had completed loaded, said Windows had experienced a "critical error" and would reboot in one minute.. Then it would fail to boot, give me the screen that said load the OS disc and go to Start-Up repair.. Start-Up repair didn't find any problems.. Try to boot into Safe Mode and it now takes about 10 minutes for the desktop to display after logging in.. Everything looks ok in Safe Mode. Disable everything in Start-Up except for Microsoft and re-boot.. Sometimes get the critical error and re-boot, sometimes not.. Decided to try another Image Restore (made a new one last month) and same problem I had after Microsoft had me pull everything... Says my main drive is the "E" drive and only shows "C" to restore to (won't let me change it) and "C" isn't big enough. Checked in the bios and still shows the SATA drive as the first boot drive (so should be "C"???).. Only way I could restore was to unplug the 2 IDE drives again...

Got the image restored, plugged the IDE's back in and went to rename the drive letters (the SATA's should be C & D, the IDE's E & F, and so on.... ) Barely got that done and it crashed on me again with the "Critical Error".. Finally got it to reboot again after disabling services and start-up in MSCONFIG.. And that's where I left it last night before I left for work...

So, after all that... I'm kind of at wit's end.. don't really know where to go from here and desperately need an expert's help.. Thinking a big part of the problem now is that Vista wants to see the IDE drives as the boot drives whenever they're plugged in (under repair mode and install mode).. The bios says Disc 2 (one of the 200GB SATA's) is the first boot drive but not coming up that way when I boot off the Windows disc.. Still think a fresh install of the OS is needed, but don't see how to do so if I can't get the system to recognize the correct drive as the "C" main boot drive..

and yes, I did say this was going to be long.... Appreciate any help you can give me..

Wow you have had a hard time of it.

Diagnosing proglems on pcs can be a bit of hit and miss but generally if you start at the begining and work forward step bye step you will get there.

you have admitted yourself that you are not too good with the hardware side of things and the original problem sounds like a hardware problem.

My thoughts are that your hard drive has errors which cannot be recovered but it could be a number of things.

I would recomend that you take it to a shop and ask them to look at it for you. I know this doesn't help you right now but to be honest you have had lots of things in and out and it could take years to talk you through it all

If you want to persevere and start from the very begining, then try only puttin in one of the 200gb sata drive and do a fresh os install. If you only put in one drive it should hopefully see it as the C drive.
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