QUESTION When I turn on my PC it runs through the startup sequence until it reaches the Windows login screen. I enter my details and it then takes around half an hour for the desktop to load. The system is reasonably powerful, with an AMD Phenom II x4 965 processor and Asus ATI Radeon HD 5850 graphics. Mark Gillam

HELPROOM ANSWER There are several possible causes for this problem, Mark. However, the key thing to determine is whether the PC runs correctly and at the speed it once did following completion of the lengthy startup process.

Windows may be trying to log into a network or network resource that is no longer there. Alternatively, you may have a corrupt user profile, or there may be disk errors on your hard drive.

Run a disk check to establish the culprit. Go to Start, Computer and right-click your primary drive (usually C). Select Properties, Tools, Error-checking, Check now. Ensure the ‘Automatically fix file system errors’ box is ticked. Click Start and press Ok when prompted. You’ll need to reboot the machine to run the automated disk check. It will fix any problems it finds.

If you once had the PC set up to log into a network such as a Windows domain, or you mapped a drive to an external storage device that is no longer present, this will also cause problems when logging in.

If your computer still suffers slow logins, your user profile may need replacing. Go to Start, right-click Computer and select Manage. Expand ‘Local users and groups’. Right-click Users and select ‘New user’.

Fill in the details in the dialog box and give the account a strong but memorable password, then clear the ‘User must change password at next logon’ option. Click Create.

The new user account will now be listed in Computer Management. Double-click it and select the ‘Member of’ tab. Click ‘Add’ and, in the ‘Enter the object names to select’ field, type ‘Administrators’ and click Ok.

While it’s bad practice to create new user accounts with administrator privileges, it’s often necessary to do so to ensure access to certain applications and the old user account.

Reboot your computer and log in using the new user account. It may take a minute or so to set up the correct folders and profile. Once logged in, you’ll need to copy your documents and media folders from the old account to their respective folders in the new account. Head to C:\Users to access these files.

Note that you’ll need to be logged in as an administrator and enable hidden files and folders in the Folder Options Control Panel applet if you wish to access your email and browser shortcuts.

See also: How to fix everything: the ultimate guide to fixing technology

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