[dba-Tech] Flaky system

Steven W. Erbach serbach at new.rr.com
Wed Aug 4 06:14:24 CDT 2004

Dear Group,

I've had trouble with my wife, Janet's, workstation over the past few days and I wonder if anyone here has any ideas.

Started with the power supply. That's kaput. So I cannibalized our NetWare server for its p/s, which turned out to be beefier. So far so good.

But when the system (Windows 2000, 800 MHz AMD Duron, 512 MB) starts it goes to a black screen with a mouse cursor. That is, once past the big Windows 2000 white splash screen, the screen goes black but I see the mouse pointer. The keyboard is disabled (NumLock, CapsLock, Ctrl-Alt-Del -- nothing) and there are just tiny bits of disk activity; nothing like the normal boot up sequence where both CD drives and the diskette drive are polled, or whatever you call it, while Windows gets going.

It will start up in Safe Mode. I used that to perform a Trend Micro Housecall on-line virus check on all four drives. Clean.

In Safe Mode I downloaded an updated driver for the video card, a Radeon 7500. I was able to install the driver and the accompanying ATI graphics control software package. But when I rebooted I again got the black screen and cursor after the white Windows 2000 splash screen.

I then tried the "Enable VGA" option on the F8 menu. That got me to a "normal" login, except at 640x480 16 color resolution. Everything works but for the resolution and color depth.

Somehow I managed to increase the screen resolution to 800 x 600 and I could restart the system normally and get to the Windows login prompt at 800 x 600. But:

1) the first time through the keyboard locked while I was typing the password. Power off.
2) the second time through I got past the password stage (I logged in as Administrator) but I lost the mouse the first time I tried to right-click on the desktop to change the resolution. Power off.
3) the third time through I was able to get the Display properties dialog box and I attempted to change the color depth to 32-bit. The changes were accepted and the display reset itself; but while the desktop icons looked normal, there were other items on the desktop that didn't look like they were at the normal color depth. Then I lost the keyboard and mouse.

During all of this there were no error messages of any kind.

I finally went back to "Enable VGA" from the F8 menu and I un-installed the video drivers completely to get the PC to detect the video card as new hardware. So I went back to the original video drivers off the CD; and when I started the machine normally I was back to the black screen with mouse right after the white Windows 2000 splash screen.

I went into Safe Mode again and re-tried installing the latest video drivers, but now I got my first error message in all of this: "Setup was unable to find components that can be installed on your current hardware or software configuration. Please make sure you have the required hardware or software."

Then I tried another video card. My own workstation has the identical card. The only difference now (since I apparently didn't have the complete set of video drivers installed) was that when I chose "Enable VGA" from the F8 menu, I got a completely black screen with no mouse cursor. However, I could tell that the normal boot operation was being performed because the CDs and the diskette drive were polled. I then figured I could use Ctrl-Alt-Del and type in the Administrator password. Sure enough, I heard the normal Windows startup sound and the little "woof" sound that WinPatrol makes, and there was all the usual disk activity -- but a black screen. The monitor is one of the usual power-saving sort and I could see that it was acting normally: the power light was green, not yellow. So I just pressed the Windows key, U for Shutdown and pressed Enter to restart. That, too, worked and the computer shut down normally.

Sorry for the length of this message. Does any of this suggest anything to you? All of the above was stretched over a couple of days and some hours of trying and re-trying and making note of behaviors. Is the AGP slot dead? I put my video card back into my workstation and everything's fine on my system. Is this motherboard related? I'm at a loss.

Steve Erbach
Scientific Marketing
Neenah, WI

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