Computer spontaneously reboots during Startup?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Lee W. write s:

" Dear Dennis,

First of all, thanks for your newsletter; it is very helpful, so much so that I thought I would never have to ask a question! But alas, I have dilemma that I can't seem to get past.

I'm running Windows XP on a custom-built PC. I've had the PC for almost a year now, but within the last five months, whenever I boot up, the machine spontaneously reboots on its own several times before all my programs actually load. Windows XP doesn't actually load until this happens several times, and this happens almost every time. I've kept the PC on all the time so that I wouldn't have to go through this. What may be causing it? "

My response:

This is one of those questions that can be generalized to almost any situation, such that "it was working before and now it isn't."

The problem you are facing may be the result of 1 in a million possibilities, or a combination of a few [can I be any more general than that?]. The good news is that you can use a systematic approach to resolving the issue, but it will take some time.

Some plausible reasons why your -- or anyone else's computer system, for that matter -- isn't working properly may be related (but not limited to) any one or more of the following:

  • a corrupt file on the hard drive
  • a corrupt Windows system file
  • a corrupt or incompatible hardware driver
  • a newly installed program
  • a Spyware or virus infection
  • a hardware error [bad ram, video card, etc]

Possible Solutions

First, make sure that you don't have Windows XP to automatically reboot during a System Failure (refer to this article). This will allow you to view an error message from within Windows that is associated with your problem. Once you have the error message, write it down and then search for the error message using Google (even if it's a bunch of numbers).

If you don't receive an error message and your computer is still continuously rebooting, I would tend to think it may be a hardware issue -- perhaps one the cards inside your machine isn't plugged in all the way? Try unplugging and re-plugging each card into its respective slot. Make sure the slot and card interface are free of any dust, and then proceed to seat the card into the slot again (ensure there is nothing obstructing the card and never force it to go in).

As for resolving the problems I mentioned above:

For a corrupt or inconsistently reported file on the hard drive: run CHKDSK [check disk] on the drive. Go to My Computer, right-click the C drive, select Properties, and then go to the Tools tab, and select Check Now. Choose 'automatically fix file system errors' and Start. Repeat this process for all hard drive letters in your computer.

For a corrupt Windows system file: There really isn't any way to know if this is the case, unless Windows is reporting a problem with a certain system file. In most cases, CHKDSK [discussed above] should resolve any problems related to your file system that can result in a corrupted file; but if that doesn't fix it, you can try issuing a System Repair. Note, however, that I would not recommend issuing a repair or restore unless you have exhausted all possibilities because you will have to reinstall all Service Packs and hot-fixes once your system has been reverted. As for opting to do a System Restore versus System Repair: a restore will only revert your System Registry (which very well may solve your problem) but does not [as far as I know] restore corrupt system files. More info on System Restore here.

For a corrupt or incompatible hardware driver: Spontaneous reboots are more often than not a result of a bad video driver (or bad RAM). Try rolling back your video card driver -- or any newly updated driver, for that matter -- especially if it hasn't been Certified by Microsoft.

For a newly installed program: Since programs were created by humans, and humans are fallible, so are programs. If you installed any new programs on your computer in and around the same time you noticed the errors, uninstall any newly installed programs -- one at a time -- and reboot your computer each time. If your computer works fine after installing a certain program, this was most likely the problem. You might also want to check your system Startup for rogue entries.

Remove Programs from my Startup?

For a Spyware or virus infection: Spyware or a virus infection can cripple a PC. Scan your system using a good Spyware removal utility (I personally subscribe to Spy Sweeper, although Spyware Doctor by PC Tools is just as good). For free anti virus, refer to the link below.

Spy Sweeper Review

Spyware Doctor 3.2 Review

Alternative AntiVirus (freeware) solutions

For a hardware error [bad ram, video card, motherboard, etc]: This is by far the hardest to troubleshoot. And, only if after issuing a Repair your system still doesn't work properly, I would backup my most critical files, format the hard drive, and reinstall Windows. If your system does not work after a fresh install of Windows (and without installing any extras), you most likely have a hardware problem. In this case, take your PC to your local shop.

Reinstall Windows

Good luck.

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