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I don't normally deal with Windows but someone wanted me to fix their computer with Windows XP on it. It was just restarting every time it tried to boot. It would not go into safe mode, the result was the same regardless of the selected mode.

The computer is like 4 years old and has been running the same installation for that entire time, so I figured the easiest solution was just to back up their files and re-install. I loaded the computer up with a live CD and copied their files off to a USB drive, then proceeded to run HP's "factory restore" feature (which I'm not particularly fond of, I'd rather have a disk to install from than reload all the crapware HP gets paid to install for you). It restored, and I put all their files back, installed their programs, and started the full windows update process. Everything seemed great so I left and told them what to do once it finished.

A few hours pass, and my phone rings. Apparently it started doing the exact same thing as before once the updates finished.

I don't have the computer sitting in front of me now so I can't really provide any more information than that.

What could be causing this and, more importantly, how do I fix it? The fact that the same problem resurfaced after the restore makes me think it's either a hardware problem or an update breaking the computer.

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it's either a hardware problem

If that's the case, i'd first re-seat all components, clean the fan and heatsink (overheating can be an issue) and then run Memtest86+ and a hard disk check with HD Tune.

or an update breaking the computer.

There is that possibility, since the "factory restore" may include some outdated drivers. The event log is always a good place to start your investigation in this direction.

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Is there even any way to get into the event log if I can't even boot into safe mode? – DWilliams Jan 25 '10 at 1:53
@DWilliams - can you check for minidump files in C:\Windows\Minidump\ – Molly7244 Jan 25 '10 at 1:56
Like I said I don't have access to the computer at this time, I was hoping to build up a list of possible solutions before I go back over to look at their computer tomorrow. – DWilliams Jan 25 '10 at 2:13
@DWilliams - have a BartPE CD handy (also works from USB via WinToFlash) – Molly7244 Jan 25 '10 at 2:29
Could you be looking at an infection of some kind? Something from the users files that got moved back onto the system and is having it's way with the box? – Mitch Feb 25 '10 at 13:37

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