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Test the hard drive with hard drive manufacturer's diagnostics.
Seagate's SeaTools will test (almost) any brand of hard drive.
Do the long test.
The Dos bootable versions of SeaTools can test the hard drive when Windows will not load properly, or even when the drive has no data on it.
It the drive itself passes the test, any data problems on the drive can be fixed one way or another.
It the drive itself passes the test,.....
Your descriptions don't tell us enough, some of them are as clear as mud, and some of them don't make sense.
Is this your situation ?.....
After the first stage of Setup has completed successfully, you see Restarting in 15 seconds, the computer restarts, the second stage of Setup loads, but when it gets to 3x minutes remaining, the time remaining stays the same for a LONG time, then the computer black screens, the computer restarts, the second stage of Setup loads, but when it gets to 3x minutes remaining, the time remaining stays the same for a LONG time, then the computer black screens, in an endless loop ?
If that's your situation, XP's Setup does that when it can't deal with some problem it has detecting some hardware device.
Usually you can complete Setup successfully no problem if you unplug everything that is not necessary for running Setup. When Setup has finished, plug them in one at a time, and you'll usually have no problem with installing the drivers or drivers/software for the devices.
NOTE that some devices, e.g.many connected via USB, require that you install software for them BEFORE you first plug them in.
If it's a laptop or netbook, unplug any device connected to the computer's USB or PC card or ExpressCard or firewire ports, except a corded keyboard or mouse.
If it's a desktop computer, unplug any device connected to the computer's USB ports except a corded keyboard or mouse, unplug anything connected to firewire or serial (Com) ports; REMOVE the AC power to the case, unplug any cards installed in mboard slots not necessary for running Setup - usually a wired networking adapter card can be left in it's slot - some sound cards are known to cause this problem. Make sure ALL cards in slots still installed are all the way down in their slots - any cards NOT being all the way down can also cause this problem.
If all of that doesn't allow you to complete Setup successfully, you probably have a damaged or otherwise defective hardware device.
In that case, it probably would have caused problems BEFORE you attempted to install Windows from scratch !
Was the computer user having device related problems and that's why you're re-installing Windows ?
- for a desktop computer...
- a damaged or defective card in card slot
- for a laptop or netbook - some device that connects to the mboard is damaged or defective
- any computer -
- the mboard is damaged or defective
Power failure events, or lightning strikes in the area of where the computer is located or to the AC power grid or phone line, can cause power spikes or surges that can damage the computer or anything connected to it.
Is the computer user aware of any event like that happening ? It doesn't matter whether the computer was running at the time - if the PS or AC adapter had live AC power to it at the time it happened, damage could still have been done, and if it was a lightning strike that caused the event, that can get past anything even if the AC power to the computer was OFF, if the computer was still plugged in - voltage spikes can be produced that jump switches that are switched off.
A desktop power supply can damage something else while failing. Has the computer user replaced the power supply ?
The following is about capacitors on desktop mboards, but the same thing applies to laptop mboards and anything electrolytic capacitors have been installed on - card in slots, power supplies, even on boards inside external monitors, etc.
If your mboard is not new (usually the mboard is at least 2 years old when this happens)......
Some mboards develop this problem - electrolytic capacitors were installed on them that were not properly made, and they fail eventually - the mboard manufacturer didn't know they were improperly made at the time the mboard was made.
Open up your case and examine the mboard to see if you have bad capacitors, and/or other findable signs of mboard damage .
What to look for, mboard symptoms, example pictures:
Home page that site
- what the problem is caused by
- he says there are STILL bad capacitors on more recent mboards.
Pictures of blown capacitors, other components, power supplies, fried Athlon cpus, etc.: