I have a better computer now but I want to find what's wrong with this one. Thanks for all your help so far.
In order, I:
checked capacitors, inside, etc. Everything seems fine and dust-free.
Drivermax found 12 outdated drivers. I updated bridge-to-bridge, mouse, human interface, and I forgot the other. I didn't get to update all 12 drivers because I was eventually forced to reformat and Drivermax only allows 2 a day for free. All were only outdated a few months and ancient anyway.
I tried Dell's online full diagnosis but kept getting 'The application failed to initializse properly'.
I ran Dell's driver update and downloaded 51 updates. All were 'Optional' except Smart Reader Keyboard was 'reccomended'. None installed. It gave me files I didn't know what to do with. I didn't feel the need to learn how to install all those optional ancient updates or risk messing anything up so I left them in a folder.
I don't have Diagnosis, PSA, cPSA or anything in BIOS for a built-in boot diagnosis.
I ran 2 CPU temperature programs to see how bad new heatsink compound paste is needed. Bafflingly both wouldn't show CPU temp. One said HDD was 39C which I read is okay. My BIOS doesn't show temps.
I ran PC Pitstop PC Matic online scan + tune up. It optimized 16 things like internet speed settings, disabled GoogleUpdateTaskMachineCore, updated some drivers, defragged, and deleted junk files.
I ran MaxMySpeed.com. Could have paid to fix 90% of 2789 problems were disk optimizer category, the rest were in privacy protector, system cleaner, registry cleaner, and registry optimizer categories.
Everything ^ was either found suggested on forums or flagged as safe and reliable by Norton. The computer got worse.
I removed an unknown program in add/remove. I forgot the name. It got installed somewhere along doing everthing I listed but i'm pretty sure I never OKayed to install anything other than what I listed. It warned that the internet might not work right if removed. My PCI internet jack card has it's own program and diagnosis, it wasn't named anything in relation to that card so I deleted it. Next, like nothing worked. My quicklaunches disapeared and I couldn't restore them, I couldn't open anything from MyRecentDocuments, but I could find files and open them. I couldn't open IE with any method. The diagnosis for my PCI internet jack said working, receiving and sending.
Next, I changed Hard drives to a different one of the same model and fully reformatted MS's IT Developer XP SP3. I always delete the previous partition first, which I read might matter. When trying to Boot from CD to install Windows, the new (but old) HDD kept freezing at 'initializing MBA'. I changed the little pin location for Master/Slave/CS etc from Master to CS and got Windows to install. There's only one harddrive though, nothing's chained.
The computer was worse with that HDD than the previous one which i'm back on now, which, again somehow passed it's manufacturer's online test.
So, I switched back to the original HDD/better of the two and reformatted XP to it. I did Windows Update and installed Norton. Somehow, this HDD's worse than before I switched it. It was basically an indentical set-up of bare minimum but everything froze up etc worse just a few days later.
I tried Dell's online full diagnostics again and got "the application failed to initializse properly" even if saving the .exe instead of running it etc. The individual component tests gave the same error.
I have a Dell Drivers and Resource CD that says it's for a Dell Dimension which this computer isn't. However, it showed all of my drivers and seemed to work for it's diagnostics boot CD section. I booted from CD, it said 'starting Windows 98' and did a 2 hour diagnosis reporting 6 errors: DE CDROM 3 failed confidence, read, and seek "incompatable CD for testing" and Diskette drive B failed read, write, and seek tests "the device did not respond in a fixed time to an access attempt".
I guess the Registy's fine since I keep reformatting, so I didn't run any Registry check programs.
I couldn't get freeisoburner, ISO Recorder, or ImgBurn to burn an ISO for Ultimate Boot CD. UBCD is tons of diagnostics, AV, etc freewares on a boot CD that compares a system to the known good system files on a XP/whatever formatting disk/flash drive/etc. I tried numerous new CDs and drives. Burning CDs always seemed to work. I built UBCD ISO with another system. I fully reformatted this computer yet again then ran Ultimate Boot CD without installing SP3 or anything, just to keep it very clean for the UBCD tests.
In UBCD I did/tried in order:
Memtest86+ v4.10: passed
HD Tune 2.55 Hard Disk Utility Error Scan: Clean/no damaged blocks. Said temp 39C then 50C.
RoadKill's Disk Wipe: 1 pass, '16129 errors erased'
Disk Check UP: 60C HD temp warning
Prime95 Torture Test (pushes hardware to limits as test): Passed 8 tests for 3 hours.
CPU Bench: 'can't detect video card'
Window UPdate List: Won't open
WinCupid: obsolete test/won't open
WinAudit: won't open
Unknown Devices: obsolete test/won't open
System Info For Windows: won't open
Key Finder: won't open
Joshua's Key Finder: won't open
HW Monitor: 37C HD temp
CPU-z Latency Test: won't open
Cool Mon: won't open
H2test: didn't work
EMSA Diskcheck 1.077: 'bad file name or number' error
Check Flash Memory: 'not formatted' error
Bart Stuff Test v5.1.4: 'not a recognised file system'
Drive Eraser: 'out of memory' error
Eraser: won't open
RoadKill's Disk Wipe version 1.2: again with 3 passes
Next, I did another full XP format, didn't install anything and went straight for DBAN Derik's Boot and Nuke HDD wiper. I did the 7 pass Department of Defence-worthy write everything as 1's wipe. Had to make the DBAN .iso CD with other system, DBAN wasn't on UBCD but can/should be.
After the DBAN wipe, I formatted XP again. At this point, it was worse than ever.
Restarting took 10 minutes. Flash wouldn't install,but later poped up as a suggestion to download while at tomshardware, and it worked. but still was suggested on all sites using it.
Windows update worked first try, then it didn't. I installed IT developer SP3 from WIndows then ran Update and downloaded many updates, restarted and tried Update again because it always misses some after the first run. It told me I needed SP3 to use Update as if I didn't install it.
suggest these methods that didn't work:
Tried downloading the latest version of the Windows Update Agent, got error that it's not supported on my x86 OS.
Auto updates were on, I tried their cmd command to check for updates, it said it wasn't a recognized command.
Tried their "fix it for me" app and got an error installing it. Googled the error code 2755. There are many ways/work arounds to fix 2755, but I wanted to make sure I didn't screw anything up and then make the system less bare so it's easier to find the problem(s) to blame, so I reformatted yet again hoping not to get errors next time.
So, I reformatted with a different but still old SP2 CD. I ran it for a day with no AV at all or Service pack/windows updates and it was slow as usual, so it's not Norton. Then, I reformatted again in case I picked up anything while on a bare system.
This is where I'm at now. Win Update works. I figured I have to disable Norton to install Flash. Dell's online full diagnosis still says 'The application failed to initializse properly'.
However, music production software still runs as good as years ago when the internet and windows explorer werern't nearly as slow. About the same for video games too.
The same PC with XP and Norton (norton 2003, not the current Security Suite I'm running) is on eBay and says "The computer boots quickly and is perfect for browsing the internet and other tasks". There are others with XP but no info about speed.
Maybe the XP CDs I format with got screwed up/scratched? I've had errors when formatting that a file was missing once or twice in the past, so I un-did the whole format, started again, and it installed with no errors but the PC was still slow.The erros are hit or miss amongst 4 CDs of XP SP0, SP1, or SP2.
Someone suggested a new CMOS battery.
I Googled variations of: diagnostics diagnose computer hardware full free etc.
I found the following which I might run but am pretty sure I'll end up forced to reformat from worsening after a few:
RadarSync PC Updater 2012
Any suggestions? Thank you.