Studying abroad hampered by weird laptop problem

I'm studying abroad in China and my laptop has a really weird problem, so I apologize in advance but this is a bit long.

I moved in with a host family last week, and 5 minutes after getting the internet to work and beginning to Skype chat people (without video) my computer (Gateway laptop model MT3423 I think, Vista Premium, Dual Core AMD Turion, ~2 years old in good condition) froze and hasn't been the same since. Now, booting brings me to the recovery screen (of course - Normal Mode, Safe Mode with Networking, etc.), but no Safe Mode works - I can get to the login screen but after signing in the Welcome screen with the loading circle stays up indefinitely. Normal Mode works though, but it has major issues. After successfully signing in programs begin to load but it quickly slows down to a crawl, and takes about a minute to close the two program warning boxes that pop up (just the usual 'this program is unregistered' sort of thing). After this, Windows Calendar inexplicably loads, again painfully slow, and if the computer hasn't crashed by this point then it does shortly thereafter. And the crash varies - a few times it started with a "Server Busy - this action cannot be completed" error message but it usually says euphemistically "Microsoft Windows - this application is not responding."

I've tried several things but I haven't had any success. During this loading window, I've tried running msconfig and unchecking nonessential programs, but even after clicking Save Changes and Restart the changes are not saved, and it'll still proceed to crash and load the programs again next boot. I've tried loading the control panel, but it becomes unresponsive after I try to click anything in it. I tried opening accessories under the Start Menu and it bugged out, and instead of showing the folder icon it showed a searching icon and wouldn't open. The Command Prompt loaded but was too slow to execute anything. I also tried opening Task Manager, even through Ctrl+Alt+Delete, and after a few minutes it successfully loaded once but didn't show anything unusual and then crashed.

I'm not sure what the problem is - the only things I can think of are that I had just setup 3 identical automatic broadband internet connections as I was troubleshooting the connection, the room was really hot (about 90 degrees F), and I had an SD memory stick in when I booted up the last few times before this. Also, I installed a Logitech Quickcam a few weeks before (whose software loads in the tray automatically) and one of the 2 popups that load is new, bugging me about registering EarthDesk. It seem to me like any of this should cause my problem, but it seems to me that it's a software problem, in part because I don't have any real evidence of hardware failure (although it does get really hot, but the fan is still working) and because while Windows will be crashing and I can't use the Start Menu, I can still hover over programs in the tray and have their name popup (but the battery status and volume control won't).

Anyone have any advice/input? I'm going to try to get a copy of the recovery CD, but that'll take at least a week and there are no authorized Gateway repair centers in China, not to mention the language barrier and risk involved, especially if I don't know what's wrong... Thanks a lot everyone!


Windows Forum Admin
Staff member
Premium Supporter
I'm afraid without that recovery disk there's not a great deal I can suggest. You say that safe-mode is a no-no although you have limited access to the main account...
Have you tried getting a virus scan to run?
Try getting chkdsk to run too...
If you at least get the two above to run then you'll know it isn't a virus or a buggered HD.

Try un-installing any recent software updates...... if possible.

How's the Virus Protection on the system?

"After successfully signing in programs begin to load but it quickly slows down to a crawl, and takes about a minute to close the two program warning boxes that pop up (just the usual 'this program is unregistered' sort of thing)."

Just that comment makes me think,hmmm your overseas assume your using your host family's network to connect to the Internet. Plus the sudden onset of these issues.


Former Moderator
If it were me, I would rather be connected to a satellite in China. There may be too many people on very few servers and your connection probably is buggered.

Your laptop either overheated or a virus has reached your laptop.

Thanks for the input everyone, three questions (basically):

1) Is there a way to stop or disable the startup programs from loading, besides msconfig? I can't really run an antivirus scan or anything else since it's so slow and becomes unresponsive before it can do much.

2) What makes it seem like a virus? I have Norton Endpoint (from my school) and Windows Firewall turned on, for what it's worth :/

3) And how can I salvedge my computer without reinstalling Windows? I can get to a computer repair place here, but if I go in without knowing what's wrong/what needs to be done I'm afraid they'll just wipe the harddrive which wouldn't be good...


Windows Forum Admin
Staff member
Premium Supporter
You can't!

You need the disk unless you have a partition on the HDD to return it to factory settings.

One possibility, if you know your vista key I'm pretty sure there's a website where you can download a copy.....Then again, thats pointless as you've no pc to download to...

You could always buy an OEM copy of vista whilst your there and is probably your easiest option..


Former Moderator
I thought of one perhaps possible option. Use your Host families computer and burn a Vista Torrent (Vista Installation Disc) They also have Vista Torrents available online for download (Free) I don't know how good they are, I've never used one.

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