The ONLY advice I can offer is to unplug ALL USB things because we know that many machines will lock on boot or do odd delays when USB is plugged in.
A friend brought me his laptop because it was really freaking out. I booted it up, looked for 5 minutes and decided to re-image. But, it was running so poorly & locking up so I had to pull the hard drive & back it up via a USB adapter.
Anyway, in the process of re-installing I noticed the machine will go into a hard lock at any random time, including during POST and while tinkering with BIOS. I thought the keyboard/mouse were freaking out, but it does the same with an external.
These locks will occasionally clear after 5-10 seconds or last for several minutes. And sometimes they won't clear at all. I usually give it about 15 minutes then hard boot.
Since it is doing this in POST and BIOS, while installing Windows XP, and at any given time under any circumstance, I am positive it is hardware related. It usually occurs independent of temperature, but prior to re-imaging he had a process that kept the processor pegged at 100%, so I know it was getting hot. However, it is locking up on POST during a cold boot (off overnight).
My question is, how would I determine if this is related to processor, mobo, RAM or HDD without replacing them randomly and seeing if the problem goes away?
The laptop is a Compaq nc6220 with 512MB RAM and a 40 gig HDD. I know it is old, but my buddy can't afford a new laptop, and he only needs it for internet/email. I am kind of fixing this one pro-bono.