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My fiancé's laptop started to crash and would get BSOD errors to the point that she couldn't even boot up because it would either take forever or just crash.

So I figured I'd try to reformat, as it's done this before and this was the solution last time.

On Windows 7, it will not go passed the "Setup is starting..." screen. On Windows XP, it crashes once the setup is about to start (BSOD).

I shut it down and let it sit for 5+ hours, in case it was overheating, but it's doing the same thing anyway.

By now, I figure it's something to do with the hardware but I hope not.

Any ideas?

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It's most likely the hard drive. The setup is starting screen indicates that information loaded to memory from the CD is being written to the disk where it is failing.

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This sounds like a hardware issue. You could try running a RAM test utilizing memtest86. You can get it by downloading virtually any Linux distro, and selecting it at the boot menu.

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Or you can just download an ISO that is 100x smaller than a Linux distro by going here: – Russ Warren Jun 1 '10 at 18:35
Or you could get an Ubuntu Linux DVD mailed to you (really slow) that's infinite times smaller, but around 1000 times slower. – Hello71 Jun 1 '10 at 23:25

It's definitely a hardware issue. I'd start by downloading UBCD4Win. It contains MANY tools to diagnose hardware issues. Once you get the live CD burned, start testing the RAM using MemTest86. If you get ANY errors (you'll know when you see them), consider the RAM defective and replace it.

If the RAM checks out fine, start running diagnostics on your hard drive. You'll need to know the manufacturer of your hard drive to run the correct diagnostic test. You can find it be either removing the drive, or checking the serial/model number in your BIOS. A simple Google search of the model number will give you the manufacturer.

If the RAM and hard drives check out fine, it's time to start swapping the bigger components. In a laptop, this is a little more difficult to do. I'd start with the motherboard and work your way to the power supply and video card. I seriously doubt it's any of these parts, however.

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And keep memtest86+ running for at least around 10-20 run-throughs too, since the first one might conveniently not detect anything, due to the random number generator used in the tests. Replace your RAM if you see even a single error. – Hello71 Jun 1 '10 at 23:24

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