I would say the symptoms could certainly be explained by a failing HDD, but sometimes you just have to use the suck it and see approach and slap a new bit of hardware in to find out. You may want to contact HP ASAP about getting physical restore media for that unit if you haven't already, because odds are it's on the HDD that is now going bad. It's HP so it's probably even money, at best, if they even still have the restore media for a unit that came with Vista, but the longer you wait the less likely it is. They'll probably charge you a small shipping and handling fee, but it's better than having to go out and buy a copy of Windows at full retail price.
I was browsing NFL.com when my Firefox freezes. I figure ok, my computer is moderately fast so it is just a bad script or something causing it to freeze. It will come out of it. It doesn't. I right click the task bar so I can "end process" and restart Firefox, but then my taskbar and desktop freezes completely. I figure man, this is stubborn. I leave the room, get a drink, come back. Still completely frozen. I wait 5 more minutes. Nothing. No commands or keys work. I have to power it down manually by holding down the power button.
I reboot it. It loads fine. I go into Windows(I had Vista btw... I know, I know people hate it). Wait a bit for everything to load up. I try to open a new document. Completely freezes. Once again, entire computer locked up completely just by right clicking the desktop. I look at my HDD activity light on the tower and it is solid. No flickering. So I power down manually again. This time it says it can't boot into windows. There may be a problem with the hardware of files(s) may be corrupted. HDD light still solid color, no flickering.
So I reboot AGAIN. Try Safe Mode. It gets to the long DOS screen where it says it is loading everything. Completely locks up. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Finally it randomly auto reboots. It gets to the HP screen and then automatically reboots itself, keeps repeating forever until I power down manually.
I tried to listen closely to see if I heard the HDD making funny sounds. It thought I heard a "tick tick tick tick" sound when the HDD activity light was solid, but maybe that is me focusing on the noises for the first time since I have never done so before.
I booted up again and ran the diagnostics tools. The memory and everything checked out, but it said it could not find a hard drive. So I shut down.
I wait about an hour out of frustration and try to stubbornly try again. I boot it back up. It works! Back into Windows. No problems. But I figure if my HDD is dying, I want to back up whatever I haven't backed up yet(I do it every 2 weeks) very quickly. So I back up my files. Then I try to create a new folder and, yes, locks up again.
This keeps happening. When I let it sit for 10 minutes or more, I can get back on for about 10 minutes before it locks up again. I'm no expert, but what else could that be besides overheating. Why would waiting matter if the HDD is cooked?
Lastly, I installed Hiren's BootCD and ran a Disk diagnostic check from DOS and it couldn't find c: It said no drive was inserted.
I am able as of right now to still log back in for about 10-12 minutes to copy files until it locks up. If I don't wait the 10 minutes, and wait like 30 seconds and boot it back up, it won't even get passed the blue HP bios screen.
I have another computer, so I can just use this, but I would still like to use that other computer. I mean, it's pretty good. Does this sound like simply a hard drive issue? Is there anyway to find out for sure? This incident happened weeks ago, and after unplugging it for weeks and trying again, the same stuff happened. I opened it up and cleaned out the dust from the fans and interior and this still occurs the same as when it originally did.