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Solutions: Freezes could be issue with hard drive or system files

I have a custom desktop, ASUS P6T MB, I7 Processor 24 GB RAM, running Windows 7 Ultimate. When it starts up it: 1. Boots and lets me run 2. Freezes at startup screen (Password Entry) 3. Boots into my desktop and all my desktop icons are gone, or boots into my desktop and all icons are present. With all three, I get a cursor and the spinning blue circle. The circle just keeps spinning and locks up my mouse and keyboard. I watch the red processor light and wait till it stops, try again and no change. I try Ctrl-Alt-Delete, and get no response. Finally, I press the reset button on my tower, and it reboots. Usually after three or four restarts it will open and run fine. Any idea what's causing the freezes?

Any time I see seemingly random problems, I think either system file corruption or hardware device issues. I would check the System logs (Administrative Tools, Event Viewer) and see if there are any hard errors being logged for any files or devices. I've seen similar issues caused by a defective hard drive data cable, which will show as disk errors. With that type of problem you can't know if it's the hard drive or the data cable without replacing each — one at a time. If you don't see any logged errors, consider a Windows reinstall (Control Panel, Recovery, Advanced Recovery options). This will keep your data, but you will need to reinstall your programs, which should be done one at a time, testing to see that the PC is performing as expected before moving on to the next one.

I recently had a Trojan horse virus on my Dell laptop. I had been using Spyware antivirus, a program I paid for, but it obviously did not protect my computer. A Dell technician, hopefully, has removed the virus and I registered for a very expensive antivirus program through Dell for two years. My question: Is it necessary to pay for an antivirus program and, if not, what free program do you recommend? Also, I believe due to the Trojan virus several of the keys on my keyboard have stopped working and I need to use the on-screen keyboard. They tell me this is a hard drive issue and I need to take it somewhere to be repaired.

If you've already installed and paid for the antivirus from Dell, stick with it at least until the current license runs out. I usually recommend using Microsoft Security Essentials as it is a very good antivirus, has minimal drag on your PC's resources and is free. But if you override system warnings or install software/add-ons from unknown sources you still put yourself at risk regardless of what antivirus you have installed. The issue with your keyboard is not a hard drive problem; it is most likely a keyboard hardware problem. It is possible to alter the system software that controls what happens when keys are pressed, but I think it's a low probability that it was caused by a virus. A reinstall of Windows to the Dell factory state would correct that. If you go that route, check with Dell that the antivirus you had them install can be reinstalled after the restore, and of course you would be smart to back up your personal data. If it turns out to be a defective keypad, they are not expensive — $20 to $40 — but they are not easy to install.

Send questions to personaltech@tampabay.com or Personal Tech, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Questions are answered only in this column.

Solutions: Freezes could be issue with hard drive or system files 07/12/13 [Last modified: Friday, July 12, 2013 8:03pm]

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