Windows Install Halts at 'Loading Files' or 'Inpecting Hardware'

The Problem

An HP 764c came in today for a new hard drive and a clean install of Windows 7. The install disc froze up early at the "Windows is Loading Files" screen. As soon as the status bar filled up all the way, the CD drive spun down, and nada.

After swapping out memory, graphics card, ribbon cables, dvd-rom, and disabling every bit of hardware I could at the BIOS, I finally tried booting a Vista install disc in place of Win7. It too froze at exactly the same spot. Then I tried XP. The XP disc halted even quicker at the "Setup is inspecting your computer's hardware configuration" line. At some point I tried booting a liveCD of Ubuntu. (a Linux OS) Ubuntu booted happily; I opened Firefox; browsed Newgrounds... Ubuntu was running like a champ. This made it seem like a Windows hardware issue -- presumably a hardware fault Windows couldn't deal with, but that Ubuntu didn't mind.

This would prove a red herring.

The Solution

In the end, having dismissed every piece of hardware that could possibly be at fault, I discovered the culprit in the form of a snapped heatsink mount. The heatsink was only half secured and apparently the CPU was locking up the machine as it overheated. I confirmed this by laying the computer on its side and applying pressure to the loose side of the heatsink with a screw driver. So long as I held it down, the installs all scooted right passed their earlier failing points.

Ubuntu threw me way off the scent for a good, long time. Having seen a non-windows OS load into memory, run applications, and shutdown - all without hesitation - had exempted overheating from my suspicions early on.

That Ubuntu managed to run on a system with an overheating CPU is perhaps a testament to its efficiency. I can only imagine that Ubuntu never put a significant load onto the CPU, even as it booted from ram, installed drivers, and opened applications. Where, in comparison, all three Windows discs couldn't so much as query the PCI bus without tipping the scales and torching the CPU.


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