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I've had an issue with some older hardware I have. When starting Windows, during the "progress bar" screen during boot-up, as the screen fade's in, the computer freezes. After about a 2-3 minute pause, the screen fully fades in, the progress bar does it's animation, and Windows boots fine. This made it very inconvenient to turn the computer on at times.

Originally I thought it may have been a bad file during Windows boot-up, but the problem existed between installations of Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 RC, every single instance pausing at the same part of boot-up, during the fade-in of the loading screen. The problem wouldn't happen immediately though, and usually it would be about a week after reinstalling the OS before it would freeze like this.

I did have another issue with the RAM, where the sticks would not request the proper voltage and would clock to a slower speed, at which point I used the motherboard settings to set the proper voltage and speed. Changing this voltage would sometimes fix the issue temporarily, although I could never determine an exact pattern on when this would happen and wouldn't.

So does this indicate bad RAM? A faulty motherboard perhaps? There is no stability issues once Windows starts up, just getting into Windows takes forever. Running memory tests have never returned issues.

Hardware:
RAM: 4GB DDR2 800
Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4000+
Motherboard: ECS KA3 MVP
Video: ATI Radeon X1900XT

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2 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Quick Answer:

  • Update BIOS/CLR CMOS.
  • Check DIMM module SPDs (if you can)
  • Try a different hard drive and different SATA plugs
  • Turn on boot logging to see where it pauses for the 2-3 minutes
  • Boot into Safe Mode to see if it also takes a long time (rules out most of the extra drivers)

There is an Microsoft KB Article similar to what you describe, but it states that it should be only a 10s pause for Windows XP. Also, Microsoft provides a tool to help with boot times called BootVis. Here is a D/L link (but I haven't tried it).

Long Answer:

From my experience, it is unlikely that faulty RAM would cause the OS to boot slowly. Your system has unbuffered DDR2 memory which does not have ECC (Error-Correcting Code). If non-ECC memory was failing, then a blue screen or a system freeze would be much more likely. Still, testing your memory is a smart thing to do if you suspect it is the cause of your problem.

Memory being set to the wrong voltage and running at a lower frequency can be caused by the DIMM module SPD (Serial Presence Detect) settings and/or BIOS. Be sure to update your BIOS to the latest revision.

I have seen an issue like yours where Windows XP booted very slowly compared to Windows 98/ME. The reason for this turned out that noise was on the IDE bus causing the high speed modes to have lots of errors. IDE can detect errors and retry, but Windows XP's IDE driver added a feature where it would "down-shift" the IDE modes when there were errors. So, Windows 98/ME booted relatively quickly because the retries were successful enough that the system could boot, while Windows XP lowered the IDE mode to such a slow speed, it took something like 10 minutes to boot.

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The DIMM module SPD settings are likely wrong just because there was a period when I bought my RAM where reviews on newegg were flooded with people saying that the BIOS read the wrong settings. Looking at some older reviews I can still see some of these, but I took the path most others did and just corrected the settings myself. It'll be a week or two before I can try these out still, and it's a very good answer, so accepted. I wasn't aware of boot logging either. Thanks. –  Will Eddins Oct 1 '09 at 13:51
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run Memtest86+, give it at least 3 passes.

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I know I've ran memtest86+ for at least 2 passes, don't think I waited around for the 3rd. Since the computer is apart at the moment (replaced with a Core i7), it'll be a while before I get it back to the point to be able to do this. I'll give it another go though. –  Will Eddins Sep 24 '09 at 19:39
    
if memtest comes up clear, then the issue is not related to the memory. and with a Core i7 you'll need different memory anyway. –  Molly7244 Sep 24 '09 at 20:19
    
I'm not using the same memory with the Core i7, required me to replace almost everything down to the power supply. –  Will Eddins Sep 24 '09 at 22:13
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