Virus or hardware failure?

April 20, 2009 at 10:43:06
Specs: Windows XP
Hi all,

I am a bit stumped and looking for suggestions/experience prior to continuing my investigations.

I have a P5B Deluxe mobo, Intel Core 2 duo (2.4GHz), 4 Gig RAM. I have a 74 GB 10,000 RPM WD raptor system drive (SATA) and a series of other drives that I've collected over the years.

Until about 2 months ago I was running Windows XP Pro perfectly happily. As I was developing with Visual Studio and SQL Server (as well as a multitude of 3rd party apps) I decided to up the memory (previously 2 Gig RAM) and change the operating system to XP 64 bit.

All was fine for a number of weeks until a Windows Update. I am not blaming the update but after it restarted I couldn't reboot into Windows. There were a series of missing file errors in its place. I ran checkdisk a few times, the first time it said it ran out of space (when there was at least 60 Gig free). The second time it reached the end I managed to get into Windows.

The next time I started the machine to boot into Windows I couldn't get it going at all. So I did a re-install of Windows (I chose 32 bit this time). This install lasted all of about a day before I had disk problems again. Fair enough I thought, the hard drive must be jiggered. So I installed onto a different hard drive (Windows XP Pro 64 bit). I have just finished going through all the updates, SPs etc and created an Acronis backup.

So after a day, guess what happens... files missing from Windows\System\...

So 3 fresh installs 3, 3 problematic Windows environments on 2 hard drives.

I even wiped all data from the hard drives using Acronis Cleanser before the most recent install.

I am currently restoring the Acronis backup onto the second hard drive to see if it happens again.

Please, has anyone got any ideas as to what could be causing this. I am reluctant to put it down to hardware when its happened to 2 separate Hard Drives. Can viruses be this nasty and if so what is a good way of finding the cause and ridding the pest? I'm getting sick of seeing the Windows set-up screen...


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April 20, 2009 at 12:12:43
My boring old chesnut of an idea is to clean the edge connectors of the RAM sticks (however new) with a pencil eraser then pop them in and out a few times to clear any oxide off the sockets.

It's a possibility when trouble happens fairly soon after you have disturbed RAM. I've had this happen countless times on different machines.

some other bloke...

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April 20, 2009 at 12:42:37
We used to use pen erasers to avoid the oils issue. Not sure this is your problem. I'd consider reseating stuff anyway if you are careful. Still not sure that will get you anywhere.

System files are normally written once and if your running in limited user account they should be protected. As you say an update could cause this. Add in a virus and I guess it could. The virus could come from any non-oem disk or any connection to a lan computer or wan computer.

I think download sp3 for networks. Reload the OS and add in sp3 first. Then maybe update the few others. Then consider adding in non-oem data.

"Best Practices", Event viewer, host file, perfmon, antivirus, anti-spyware, Live CD's, backups, are in my top 10

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April 20, 2009 at 16:28:37
Thanks for the quick replies guys.

Well the Acronis restore failed with a disk read error...

I've just finished another re-install of XP 64 after taking the whole machine apart, testing components and finding a dodgy HD fan.

I've swapped it over for another one and have cranked all the fans onto high power rather than silent modes...

Will see how this one turns out but do you think it could have been overheating of the HDs causing this? I've got 6 HDs in this machinne and (at the time) no cooler fan (although the other 3 fans were working - but no where near the HDs)...


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