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So, I went to my friends house today with my laptop (running Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit) and it was working fine, but now when I've gone to log on at my house - it just hangs on the welcome screen once I enter my password and the hard drive activity light never goes out! At my friends house I only went on the internet on runescape (for the first time) and; I have installed nothing since my last successful login.

I had noticed that for a while now Prevx, my virus checker, has been extremely slow analysing results and froze everything during the scan, but that's the only "sign" I've seen and neither Prevx nor MSE found any malicious software.

I have managed to gain access to a temporary account by pressing CTRL + Alt + Del and starting task manager and everything is painfully slow. My laptop has an i7 processor with 6 GB of RAM but at the minute, it may as well be a dinosaur of a machine.

Therefore, if anybody has any ideas or suggestions please post them. Similarly, if you require any additional information please don't hesitate to ask.

UPDATE: After a lot of hours of work, and some virus scanning, I find myself being logged into a "temporary profile". Virus scanning did uncover a few nasties but it appears that this is yet another Microsoft bug. I have found the following page, and it's pretty much about the exact same problem that I have: (Though I have a local account)

I've tried a couple of the most commonly suggested solutions but none of them have worked up to now. I will keep trying but if any one has experienced the same problem and/or knows of a solution, please try to assist me!

S.M.A.R.T Scan Results: As a few of you kept insisting that I should do a S.M.A.R.T scan on my new installation (see my answer) I installed SpeedFan. When I chose to "Perform an in-depth online analysis of this hard disk" everything shows up as "Very Good" or "Good" apart from the "Current pending sector" which it tells me to "Watch", as it looks "Critical". AND when I try to perfom an 'extended' or even a 'short' test it only gets so far before the status changes to "read failure". The performance bar is full, but the fitness bar is empty. However, I downloaded a couple more S.M.A.R.T scanners and both of them said everything was fine, including the "Current pending sector".

I did run ChkDsk built into Windows 7 but unfortunately I didn't see the results as I had to go out before it finished. Though, I did use "Active@ Hard Disk Monitor" to scan my disk and it found two bad blocks (of 128 sectors) but I do not know if the software tried to repair them, or marked them as unusable, etc... So, should I be worried about these results? I mean my system seems to running smoothly at the minute and at least I've got a backup set up now but I don't really want something like this happening to me unexpectedly...

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What is you CPU usage and memory usage when you open up task manager? If it is high, what is taking it up? – soandos Dec 29 '11 at 20:42
The CPU usage is not considerably high, at the most, 20. But there is a process called ie4unit.exe which I don't recall seeing before.. – Andy Dec 29 '11 at 20:47
And memory usage? – soandos Dec 29 '11 at 20:47
it could (which means just one possibility) be a drive issue, assuming it is a spinner. With it acting like that it is even hard to do a chkdsk. a quick S.M.A.R.T test might not be to painfull, and you might (which means smart isnt perfect) get some clues from it. Then you gotta try some kinda flash or CD boot disk of some sort, that would eliminate a lot of possibilities. – Psycogeek Dec 29 '11 at 20:57
Do you have any mapped network drives or printers that are no longer available? This can cause the system to hang for a moment when logging on. – kobaltz Dec 29 '11 at 21:25

So it never moves past the welcome screen? And its VERY slow in another accounts. If you LISTEN to the drive while it is attempting to load your profile, does it sound like it is repeating the same sound over and over, as if its trying to read form the drive but cant and has to keep trying?

My initial gut reaction is a failing Hard Drive and to back up anything you can using other account that you can before it fails. Some laptops have built in hard drive fitness tests within the BIOS, or you could download a bootable CD like Hiren's, or a utility possibly offered by your Laptop or HDD manufacturer to test the hard drive and see if that is the problem.

This is where I would start first.

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Well, the other account is a "temporary account" which you are logged into when you launch task manager from the login screen. I can't really hear the hard drive at the minute but my dad doesn't seem to think it is a drive issue, rather virus related. AND as I said to Pyscogeek, I hate to think that it is actually a drive issue as my laptop is considerably new and was considerably expensive. Thank you for your answer though. – Andy Dec 29 '11 at 21:09
Unfortunately hard drives can fail anytime. Ive had BRAND NEW out of the box laptops come in for service and we ended up replacing the failed hard drive. I hope it isnt that either, but if a virus was slowing down the system, there would have to be activity on the task manager reflecting the machine working hard. A computer with 80 percent processor cycles available and plenty of RAM just doesn't run "Dinosaur slow", even with a virus. – Paperlantern Dec 29 '11 at 21:16
A virus scanner slowing to a halt is another indication of a possible HDD problem, because it cant read from the drive to check the files. I'm still concerned its a hardware issue, hard drive specific. Or other possible hardware issue that if I were working on it, I would troubleshoot after ruling out the HDD with a HDD test of some sort. Just my gut, and having worked on well over 1000 laptops and desktops in my career. I do wish you luck in figuring it out though. – Paperlantern Dec 29 '11 at 21:21
Paperlantern, I've updated my question and added some results of various hard drive tests if you wanted to have a look. It looks like you could have been right after all - thanks a bunch! – Andy Jan 2 '12 at 12:42
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I'm still not sure what caused it entirely, but I suspect it was a combination of a virus and maybe bug in Windows 7 because as the day progressed my symptoms gradually worsened, until I was unable to access the built in / hidden administrator account!

I was able to access all of my data and back it up luckily, so I've bit the bullet and done a factory restore. Before I restored from my back up I thoroughly checked my whole back up drive for malicious software, and of course, removed what there was.

My laptop seems fine now, but thank god I got a Macbook Pro for Christmas (what I have been writing on). I'd still like to know the real cause to the problem though if anyone has any more suggestions based on everything I've done so far.

Thanks and kind regards,

EDIT: Also, from the results of various hard drive testing, I hate to say it but it looks like you guys were right - the hard drive might have played a large part in the issue, if not the whole cause of the issue. To me, even though I don't really know much about HDDs, it looks like there was every possibility that the data that was required for me to log in was on the bad sectors which might also explain why it only happened when I came back from my friends house - when transporting it I could have easily caused damage to the hard drive as it is quite large for a laptop and I am considerably heavy handed! I guess that's the advantage to solid state drives.

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on your update, being pushed into a temporary profile or user, could indicate a registry corruption, and the virus stuff. thanks for the updates. – Psycogeek Jan 1 '12 at 5:35
No problem about the updates; thank you for trying to help. That is what I thought as well, and I think it does boil down to the registry (mostly), but please read my latest updates. I think I know what caused the registry corruptions and I'm beginning to get doubtful that a virus had much to do with it! – Andy Jan 2 '12 at 12:39

What I would suggest is to boot from a CD, and run a virus scan from there. If the scan speed is normal then, you can assume it's malware or a virus. If that is slow as well it probably is your hard drive.

Some boot CD's you could try:

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Sorry for the slow reply Simon, I do appreciate your answer! I did try to boot from CD (Microsoft System Sweeper and Win 7 PE) and speed seemed normal, although only a couple of minor infections were detected. Anyway, if you read all of my updates/edits you'll see my progress and findings. Thanks! – Andy Jan 2 '12 at 14:44

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