Help! System completely unresponsive

  Nosmas 01:08 12 May 2007

My system is XP (SP2) and completely up to date with MS Updates. My 80GB HDD is divided into 3 Primary partitions and 1 Extended partition which holds 2 Logical partitions - all formatted FAT32. The three Primaries respectively hold my main XP OS, W98SE and another copy of XP (for testing). All my data files are on one of the Logical partitions (M:)and there is unused disk space of about 30GB. Being a multi-boot system, access to the required OS is via Boot Magic which came with Partition Magic

The system recently issued a warning that free space (i.e on the C drive holding the XP OS) was running low. When I tried to defrag the drive there was insufficient space for the defrag to work, so using Partition Magic I moved one of the Logical drives and one of the Primaries further down the disk which then gave me room to increase the size (and the available free space) on the C drive. I then successfully defragged the C drive and it finished up with about 23MB free space. The aftermath of this was the problem I have posted to click here and I still have not found out why or from where the additional 20,000 files appeared.

Having seen recommendations to use a product named Diskeeper click here I decided to download and install a 30 day free trial of DK 2007 Home. I first of all ran an analysis which confirmed the C drive free space at 23MB. As recommended I allowed the default of Automatic Defragmentation to remain, so the program should be constantly monitoring all the drives and preventing fragmentation. However I kept my eye on things by periodically running an analysis and was a bit concerned when the free space suddenly dropped to 12MB and later to 9MB, but afterwards reverted to 30MB. Later on it again dropped back to 9MB and DK's report said that space needed to be made.

I sought assistance from DK Support whose first response said having 4 partitions did not help matters (although I queried this he never gave an explanation) and nor did FAT32 instead of NTFS. He admitted that although DK was designed to work best with NTFS it would also work with FAT32. His advice was to convert the formatting to NTFS, but I felt this could be dangerous in view of the 'troubled' state of the C drive, and would better wait until this problem of reduced size was resolved. Also he did not answer my query as to why DK had not kept the drive defragged when there was 23MB free and had let it degrade the drive. Having studied the 'Volume Maps' produced by DK my own view is that it is the free space itself that is heavily fragmented and that if it were brought together in one contiguous area there would be no problem.

Unfortunately matters have very seriously deteriorated to the point that XP now reports 0% free space; I cannot restart the PC; if I click on any of the Quick Launch icons it just displays the properties dialog; if I manage to open Windows Explorer from Start > Programs it displays the contents of the folders but clicking on any of the files just selects that one and all above it instead of opening the file with the appropriate program. If I plug in my external USB HDD, Windows Explorer does not show it although a sound is played and the 'Safely Remove Hardware' icon appears in the Notification Area. However Partition Magic does display details of that HDD.

The external HDD holds Acronis True Image (v 9) images I have made as backups of both the C drive and the data on M drive. However although I can launch ATI from Start > Programs, clicking on any of the menu items only 'selects' all the text and does not bring up the approptiate Task.

I am at my wits end as to how I can recover from this dire situation and would appreciate some serious suggestions as to how to proceed. I am using my wife's laptop to post this and will use it to log in to PCA to see any responses.


  beeuuem 02:42 12 May 2007

Are you sure that it is 23Mb?
If that is true then the drive is completely full.
As I understand it you need minimum of 10% freespace to run any defrag -on a 10Gb partition you need 1Gb of free space - else there is no room for temporary files.

  beeuuem 02:44 12 May 2007

From click here
A volume must have at least 15% free space for defrag to completely and adequately defragment it. Defrag uses this space as a sorting area for file fragments. If a volume has less than 15% free space, defrag will only partially defragment it. To increase the free space on a volume, delete unneeded files or move them to another disk.

  Technotiger 06:23 12 May 2007

Hi, I entirely agree with your DK Support - too many partitions and FAT32.

I personally never use partitions - I have one internal and two external hard drives, totalling 560Gb and all NTFS. (XP Home SP2)

I would advise getting rid of your entire partitioning system and reformat to NTFS. You have a backup, so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

  medicine hat 07:46 12 May 2007

Is your shift lock key on?

  Nosmas 09:54 12 May 2007

beeuuem - My apologies! When I made my post (from its time stamp you will see it was late) I was very tired and exhausted from struggling to find a way out of my predicament. Because I now cannot access any files or emails I was writing from memory and I have stupidly quoted MB whereas I meant to state % - i.e. after XP's defrag I had 23% free space. Therefore I had much more than the minimum 15%. Likewise the subsequent changes in free space all should have been % and not MB.

Because the C drive holds only my OS and associated files I was very unsure which, if any, I could move without having the system fail to operate.

Technotiger - Can you please explain to me the relevance of your and DK Support's reference to 'too many partitions'? Surely to all intents and purposes each partition appears to the OS as a physically separate disk. My problem concerns only ONE of those. How else could I have had a total of three OS's unless each was installed on a separate drive (partition)?

Because my system is now completely inoperative I doubt that I would be able to delete any files/folders or try to reformat. Although I have Acronis backups on my external HDD I cannot access them as the drive is 'not seen' in Windows Explorer. Also my keyboard does not function - but the mouse still works.

medicine hat - As stated above my keyboard doesn't function, but what is the relevance of your question please?

  beeuuem 10:34 12 May 2007

No apologies necessary - been there and know the feeling.
Is it possible to creat a boot disk for TI on the laptop and use that to restore the PC? Obviously TI will need to be installed on the laptop to create the boot disk.

Can you get to error checking C drive > properties > tools > error checking with the fix files and and bad sectors options checked and do a manual restart?

  Technotiger 11:02 12 May 2007

'each partition appears to the OS as a physically separate disk. My problem concerns only ONE of those.'

True, but you and I know that there is only one actual disk. So it is probable that a problem with one partition will have an effect on the other partitions. I believe you would be much better off getting separate external hard drives for each of your OS's, you may be expecting just too much from your system.

  medicine hat 13:33 12 May 2007

I was intrigued by your clicking on something and it selects everything up to that. May indicate a shift key is down or the lock is on.

As for turning the system off, you could always press the power button for about 5secs

  Nosmas 23:56 12 May 2007

beeuuem - Sorry for the delay in getting back but have been out all day and only recently returned. Tried your suggestion re error checking C drive but received the message "Disk check could not be performed because the disk check utility needs exclusive access to some Windows files on the disk. These files can be accessed only by restarting Windows. Do you want to schedule this disk check to occur the next time you restart the computer?" I answered 'No' because (a) I am unable to turn off or restart the computer (except for holding on the power on button for 5 seconds) and (b) in case attempting to run this procedure at start-up caused more problems because of the lack of free space.

I already have an ATI boot CD that I burned when I installed ATI. However reading the ATI User Guide, to use the boot CD requires that Acronis Secure Zone is already on the disk, or is put there in response to a prompt to do so when you attempt to run Acronis Startup Recovery Manager from the boot CD. As ASRM when activated will overwrite the Master Boot Record this would interfere with the way in which Boot Magic works, because that also rewrites the MBR.

I have thought of two possible options: -

The first is to use PM to again move a couple of partitions further down the disk to enable me to enlarge the C partition and thus create more space. Although my keyboard is not working, the mouse is and I could use it to alter the space before and after the partition. Once the C drive has more space, hopefully the system will then function more or less normally, and I could then uninstall DK to prevent any more space problems.

If the above fails to work then the second option would be to power off the machine and to reboot using the Boot Magic Rescue Diskette that I have. Hopefully this would enable me to boot into either the other XP OS or W98SE, but in either event I would hope to be able to then use my external HDD to restore a backup image. What are your thoughts please on these ideas?

  Nosmas 23:56 12 May 2007

Technotiger - Thanks for your reply. With respect I don't think my present problem can have anything to do with the fact that there are other partitions on the disk. I have been running this system now for three years and not previously experienced any problems of this nature. The topic of partitions - to have or not to have - seems to be 'black and white' and those in each camp have very fixed views. However with the huge capacity disks now available I can't believe that many of them are formatted as a huge single partition.

medicine hat - Thanks for your reply. I think there may be something in what you say, since I notice that although my keyboard is not working, the N/Lock, C/Lock and S/Lock lights are all on and I cannot turn them off.

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