Sanjeev Sabhlok's notes on technology, hardware, gardening

Windows XP keeps crashing

Update – I had a hard disk problem – after repeated testing it was confirmed that the hard disk had bad errors and these could not be fixed by any method known. So I bought a new hard disk and reinstalled everything. Now everything is OK – except for minor irritations.

From Microsoft support

Windows XP Restarts Unexpectedly or Restarts When You Shut Down the Computer

Computer Restarts Unexpectedly When You Browse the Internet
The Computer Reboots in the "Installing Devices" Section During a Windows XP Upgrade

Automatically Reboot Option does Not Work if the Paging File Is Set toZero in Windows XP

The Computer Is Stuck in a Restart Loop After You Upgrade from Windows 98 or Windows Me
Windows XP Restarts When You Try to Shut Down Your Computer
In my case the problem was a bad hard disk, that had numerous errors. Normal chkdsk didn't fix it. I needed to download the utility to test hard disk from Western Digital, run it, then fix it. That wouldn't work fully. So I ultimately had to REFORMAT the c: partition. That seems to have fixed the problem.
Make sure you get a data dump

Large hard disk?

You need a modified atapi.sys to run a hard disk larger than 137GB.

Tried another disk?

I'd try another hard disk and install windows onto that and see..

Unseated card? Loose driver controller.

Often this is the result of an unseated card or a loose drive connector.


could be the atapi.sys rootkit virus.

boot into safemode with networking.

download, install, update, and run a quick scan with malwarebytes. if it finds stuff, run a full scan.

Check system files and drivers

Run the sfc /scannow command to have XP's system file checker look at all the important system files and make sure they are not corrupted.

Are there any yellow question marks in Device Manager? Right click on the My Computer icon on your Desktop and select Properties, Hardware,Device Manager. If yes what is the Device Error code? 

Try Start, Run, type "sigverif.exe" without quotes and hit OK. What drivers are listed as unsigned? Disregard those which are not checked.

Are any devices malfunctioning? Select Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Information. Open Components under System Summary
and click on Problem Devices. Is anything listed there?
First make sure you have all the latest Drivers (particularly your graphics card)
#To find out what hardware you have, use Aida32
#To get your hands on the latest drivers
user: drivers
passw : all
Update Windows

My Windows was up to date. Hence that was not the problem

Turn off automatic reboot

Next You need to find out what's going on. XP by default will reboot if it has a problem, you need to turn this feature off! If your using "classic Mode" Right click "My Computer" >Properties >Advanced > 
In the "startup and recovery section click "Settings" > Untick "Automatically restart"

If your not using Classic Menu : Start >Control Panel > Performance and Maintenance > System >Advanced > In the "startup and recovery section
click "Settings" > Untick "Automatically restart"

Now If Windows has an error it will normally stop with an error message, you will need to pastes the "Entire" error message here.
Bad atapi.sys file
This reduced the problem but it was then replaced with the blue screen of death, with the message: 
atatpi.sys is a mass storage controller system file.
[Technically, this error condition means that a kernel-mode process or driver tried to access a memory location to which it did not have permiss
ion, or at a kernel Interrupt ReQuest Level (IRQL) that was too high. (A kernel-mode process can access only other processes that have an IRQL lower than, or equal to, its own.)

This apparently is a disk or CD-rom related drive. Nothing helpful found yet. Someone suggested but I didn't install it because the company website did not look promising, and there was no serious, positive review on the interent). There's another one – haven't tried it too.

atapi.sys is driver file for the storage system drivers. First, try running Error Checking on the HDD

You can go further by running the HDD manufacturer's utilities on the drive. The model of the drive will be in Device Manager under Disk Drives, you could put the model number into a Google search and find the utilities or just look for HDD diagnostic utilities. While you are in Device Manager check if any "problems" are listed against any of the devices. The IRQL error is problem loading a driver. atapi.sys relates to the storage system and the drivers involved I would expect to be the IDE ATA/ATAPI controller drivers. Under that heading in Device Manager, select (right-click) and uninstall the IDE controller, it will be automatically reinstalled when you reboot. If the drivers cannot be found by the Add New Hardware wizard that runs at reboot, click Cancel. Look up the chipset drivers for your model at the Toshiba website and install those updates.

This Error can be caused by any software posing to be a "virtual" drive as atapi.sys is a hardware controller the error is random due to the majorty of the time the "virtual" drive does its job but when atapi.sys "figures out" that the hardware is not actually present in the system it gives the stop error like you riped the drive out while the machine was on. my fix was to uninstall any "virtual" drive and update windows hope this helps

Look at the Time/date of the file. If you have SP3 installed it should be 04/13/2008 11:40 AM. If it isn't then find a good copy of the file and replace it.


I had this same problem, but luckily had two copies of XP installed on two different partitions of my hard drive. Windows would not boot at all, so I started the second partition, went into the system32/drivers folder on the Windows copy that was not working and cut the atapi.sys file from there and pasted it to a different location for a backup. Then I copied the atapi.sys file that was working from the system32/drivers folder on the second copy of windows that I had logged in to and pasted it into the system32/drivers folder of the copy of windows that was not working. Then I rebooted and it worked just fine. Long story short, if you can find a working version of atapi.sys from a similar copy of windows and replace the version on your drive (you could probably use a Linux boot cd or similar if need be), that might well fix the problem. It's also probably the easiest thing to try first.

do a search on your computer for atapi or may look for it your self in this location C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers

once found, make a folder on your desk top and drag the file into this one new folder

now you can update your xp. once upgraded your may delete this file… dont worry! the sp1/spt installation will replace this file.

Advice: Using the .SYS filename, you can find out which device or hardware is responsible for the error. You can then disable the hardware in the Windows Device Manager to see if the device is really the cause of the error.
Running a memory test is also a good idea, as faulty memory can be the cause for many stop errors. In the Bios, disable the quick start, so the full diagnostics is run, and a memory test can be run using software.
In most cases the ‘irql not less or equal’ error can be solved by updating the drivers for the device causing the error. 
Here's a lot of stuff on atapi.sys
  • I ran virus scan on C:Windows. All OK.
  • I have installed MS Windows Fixit and tried things – all OK
atapi.sys is an ide bus driver. Unplug your drives on the secondary ide. see if the problem persists.
If it doesn't, update the drivers for your hardware on that channel.
Another thing to check is your processor and memory settings in your bios. If they aren't jiving, the system is crashing, and just so happens that the driver is pushing it over the edge.
Another cause of the "irq not less or equal" is improper cooling. Make sure your heatsink is placed properly and in the correct direction with a good heatsink material.


Download from (This is a microsoft website, hence authentic).

For non XP versions:

This can cause random reboots to check yours use 
You need to scroll down the page until you see the three blue screenshots. Just below is the list of downloads for Memtest86+ V4.10. Click on Download – Pre-Compiled Bootable ISO (.zip)and save to your desktop, When the download is complete right click the file and select Extract Here and burn the image to a CD. In windows 7 right click the extracted file, select Open With, then select Windows Disc Image Burning Tool then follow the prompts. For all other versions of windows (if you do not have an ISO burner) download this free software.
Boot the PC into the Bios setup and set the CD/DVD drive to 1st in the boot sequence. Insert the disk in the drive then reboot and the disc will load into dos. Leave the test to run through at least 5 cycles.
The memtest will not be 100% accurate but should easily detect any major faults.

CPU Overheating:

Your system will reboot to protect itself, monitor your CPU heat with

Hmonitor (1 Month Trial)



For CPU operating Temperatures follow this link

Underpowered or failing PSU

 (Power supply unit) PSU output is rated in watts
(W) its capacity SHOULD be 
written on it, what is it?
Unlikely but you may be infected with a virus go to Trend Micro (Housecall)

 *****More reading!*****
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