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My machine's suddenly started acting erratically, even after a reinstall. How do I fix it?

I have this strange problem. Suddenly the USB port stopped working. Then I
noticed that the OS wasn’t stable and the Ethernet didn’t work. Services appear
to be disabled suddenly. When I click on restart, it turns the computer off. So
I figured XP was having a problem. I recovered by using a different image of
Windows XP. The strange thing now is that some of the USB ports work and some
don’t. Some detect my keyboard and some don’t. I’ve no idea what the problem is
here.

In this excerpt from
Answercast #94
I look at a computer that is behaving erratically in a way
that feels like an electric and/or hardware problem.

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Computer acting erratically

Well, in all honesty, I can’t say for certain what the problem is here but my gut reaction is that this is no longer a software problem.

Hardware problem

If you’ve reinstalled Windows from a previously working image, or from scratch, and the problems persist… this feels very much like a hardware problem. In fact, I’ll even be so specific as to say this kind of sounds like the hardware problem that might result from static electricity.

In other words, if for whatever reason your computer’s not grounded or you end up inserting a USB drive and you’ve got a lot of static electricity when you do so, maybe, maybe that’s the kind of a thing that could cause this kind of an issue.

Power surges and electric problems

It’s also the kind of an issue, I suspect, that could result from power surges or power problems or whatever.

The bottom line though is regardless of exactly where it came from this really, really feels like a hardware issue, not a software issue. You’re probably looking at needing to take this machine to a technician to get a hands-on diagnosis.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

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4 comments on “My machine's suddenly started acting erratically, even after a reinstall. How do I fix it?”

  1. Overall, I would agree that this sounds like a hardware issue, but I’m given pause by the language “I recovered by using a different image of Windows XP.” I can’t help but wonder if the asker just reverted to a backup or restore point.

    Reply
  2. Hi Leo
    Just come back after a long trip, started PC and had all sorts of weird problems. Tried everything, restores, re-install etc.etc. In desperation took the cover off and pressed down on components. I then noticed how much dust I had inside. Got out the vacuum cleaner and gave it a good ‘suck’. Low and behold…..now running perfectly??????

    Reply
  3. I don’t pretend to know more about this particular issue than Leo, but based on my own readings and experience, in addition to the possible hardware problems Leo alluded to, I’d have to suspect either a boot sector “root kit” type of infection OR the infection is being re-introduced from a contaminated thumb drive, external hard drive, or some other contaminated external storage device.

    As for the potential hardware problem, I had an accident of my own the other day. I was messing around with my system’s insides, just wanting to blow out the dust. However, for some reason, after blowing out the dust, I powered up my system with one of my desktop’s side panels still off. Feeling lazy, brave, and dumb, I tried to close the side panel with the system running, which turned out to NOT be a good idea. As my luck would have it, the metal side panel happened to touch exposed electrical connections on my mother board’s bottom. I didn’t even see it occur, but I clearly heard a small spark, causing my system to instantly re-boot.

    Fortunately, it seems I did no permanent damage. All seems to still work. I even ran a RAM test utility, but that revealed no problems, either.

    So, the moral of the story is, don’t mess around with your system’s insides while the system is running.

    Reply
  4. Brian,

    You have to be careful with the vacuum. Many can create static electricity when they run. Using the vacuum to solve one problem could cause another.

    My preferred method is to use a can of air and blow out the dust. Then vacuum the carpet/desk/etc.

    Reply

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