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A computer acting erratically after a clean install indicates a deeper problem - perhaps static electric or hardware.

I have this strange problem. Suddenly the USB port stopped working. Then I noticed that the OS wasn't stable and the Ethernet didn't work. Services appear to be disabled suddenly. When I click on restart, it turns the computer off. So I figured XP was having a problem. I recovered by using a different image of Windows XP. The strange thing now is that some of the USB ports work and some don't. Some detect my keyboard and some don't. I've no idea what the problem is here.

In this excerpt from Answercast #94 I look at a computer that is behaving erratically in a way that feels like an electric and/or hardware problem.

Computer acting erratically

Well, in all honesty, I can't say for certain what the problem is here but my gut reaction is that this is no longer a software problem.

Hardware problem

If you've reinstalled Windows from a previously working image, or from scratch, and the problems persist... this feels very much like a hardware problem. In fact, I'll even be so specific as to say this kind of sounds like the hardware problem that might result from static electricity.

In other words, if for whatever reason your computer's not grounded or you end up inserting a USB drive and you've got a lot of static electricity when you do so, maybe, maybe that's the kind of a thing that could cause this kind of an issue.

Power surges and electric problems

It's also the kind of an issue, I suspect, that could result from power surges or power problems or whatever.

The bottom line though is regardless of exactly where it came from this really, really feels like a hardware issue, not a software issue. You're probably looking at needing to take this machine to a technician to get a hands-on diagnosis.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6315 - February 17, 2013 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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Billy Bob
February 18, 2013 2:52 PM

Overall, I would agree that this sounds like a hardware issue, but I'm given pause by the language "I recovered by using a different image of Windows XP." I can't help but wonder if the asker just reverted to a backup or restore point.

February 19, 2013 10:56 AM

Hi Leo
Just come back after a long trip, started PC and had all sorts of weird problems. Tried everything, restores, re-install etc.etc. In desperation took the cover off and pressed down on components. I then noticed how much dust I had inside. Got out the vacuum cleaner and gave it a good 'suck'. Low and running perfectly??????

Tony M.
February 20, 2013 12:37 AM

I don't pretend to know more about this particular issue than Leo, but based on my own readings and experience, in addition to the possible hardware problems Leo alluded to, I'd have to suspect either a boot sector "root kit" type of infection OR the infection is being re-introduced from a contaminated thumb drive, external hard drive, or some other contaminated external storage device.

As for the potential hardware problem, I had an accident of my own the other day. I was messing around with my system's insides, just wanting to blow out the dust. However, for some reason, after blowing out the dust, I powered up my system with one of my desktop's side panels still off. Feeling lazy, brave, and dumb, I tried to close the side panel with the system running, which turned out to NOT be a good idea. As my luck would have it, the metal side panel happened to touch exposed electrical connections on my mother board's bottom. I didn't even see it occur, but I clearly heard a small spark, causing my system to instantly re-boot.

Fortunately, it seems I did no permanent damage. All seems to still work. I even ran a RAM test utility, but that revealed no problems, either.

So, the moral of the story is, don't mess around with your system's insides while the system is running.

February 27, 2013 5:47 PM


You have to be careful with the vacuum. Many can create static electricity when they run. Using the vacuum to solve one problem could cause another.

My preferred method is to use a can of air and blow out the dust. Then vacuum the carpet/desk/etc.

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