In the last couple of days I'd been experiencing boot-up and shutdown problems with my wife's Windows 7 computer. Getting blue screen memory dumps on shutdown, and hanging after seeing the "Starting Windows" screen on startup.
While I have some pretty good and basic knowledge, based mostly on experience and learning from places like this site -- I certainly do not consider myself a geek by HTG standards. -- So, after trying some usual troubleshooting steps (uninstalling new software, booting successfully to safe mode, removing startup entries, system restore, etc) to no avail, I called my local repair guy last night - who happens to live around the corner and told me to bring it right over.
I told him what was going on and - after checking to ensure the hard drive and motherboard were sound, he booted up and shut down the system a few times -- but this time everything worked perfectly and he could not replicate the problem as I had described it.
He then asked me about the hardware peripherals we have hooked up to the computer at home - which includes two HP printers, which my wife uses for her photography.
He asked me if the printers had card readers - which they both do - and asked if the printers are always on - which they are. The guy told me that sometimes the computer (Windows) will view those open card reader slots as an extra hard drive and will wait for a response of some sort. Receiving nothing, the system will hang as it can't resolve the conflict.
He also asked me about our power hook-ups, which consisted of everything being plugged into an old (and rather lame) power strip, with a faded and blinking power switch. He didn't like that at all - and suggested I plug the computer directly into the wall, until such time as I can go out and buy a higher-grade surge protector, which he said would be perfectly acceptable.
After replacing the CMOS battery (which was failing) and resetting the bios clock, he told me to take the computer home and start by connecting only the mouse, keyboard, monitor and ethernet cables - then, plug the computer directly into a wall socket - and see what happens.
I came home, followed his instructions, and the computer booted up normally. We were able to run all our usual programs and my wife was able to carry on with her normal evening PC activities.
When we were finished, the system shut down normally - and restarted and shutdown earlier this morning without any issues.
Our next step will be to re-connect the printers - however, now we will only turn them on after windows has started and will turn them off before shutdown. For now, the computer remains plugged into the wall - however, when we buy a good surge protector this weekend, we will go back to shutting down completely at the end of the day.
Since I had originally been able to boot into safe mode, I was leaning towards the problem being more software or driver-related -- but in this case, I would have never figured it out for myself.