Windows 7 Slow Boot - Dell E6420
Short version for those who are frustrated with a similar problem:
Windows 7 handles faulty CD/DVD drives very poorly. It can cause the Live USB, Safe Mode, Recovery Tools, and Normal Boot mode to take HOURS to complete.
My company recently auctioned old IT assets. I picked one up for a friend and installed Ubuntu so it could be a nice backup or guest computer for them - just web browsing, videos, and light word processing.
Very soon after the purchase my friend had a need to do work on this computer; they needed Windows. This is when the trouble began.
I've installed Windows from floppy, CD, USB, and even via image. All with or without slipstreamed updates. This was one of my more frustrating experiences.
I opted for the easiest option: USB + slip-streamed updates. It went great. I had all the software and updates installed and was ready to go. Suddenly, Windows started loading slowly. I mean, VERY slowly. I would see the "Starting Windows" for a few hours. The logo was still moving, and I could see the hard drive light flickering. One night, out of frustration, I just let it sit on the table when I went to bed. When I came back in the morning Windows was up and running fine.I ran my usual checks: defragment, error check, SMART test, etc. All of these showed NO issues. And yet, Windows was consistently taking hours to boot.
I noticed the BIOS was hanging slightly, so I disabled the "Thorough" POST checks. This helped a bit, but it was still taking a longer than necessary to load up. After this, I tried an Ubuntu Live USB drive. It worked fine, and booted lightning fast. (Remember, I had Ubuntu running on this machine before).
Neither the Safe Mode, Recovery Mode, or even the Live USB Windows Recovery mode were able to quickly boot on this computer!
I was wondering if it was power related, so I removed all devices, including the removable CD/DVD drive. Amazingly, the boot time was immediately down to ~30 seconds. However, it's not because of the power usage. It turns out, the CD/DVD drive is faulty: the tray doesn't quite open and close properly. The cabling inside has come loose and jams the mechanism. I'm guessing this is causing the drive to send strange signals to the computer.
You would think this type of issue would be detected, and that Windows would ignore the drive during the boot process. I mean, Ubuntu figured out a way to work just fine...
So, the end result is this:
A faulty CD/DVD drive (and BAD CODE) caused Windows to become almost unusable until the drive was removed.
Why did I type this whole post when I put the relevant information in 2 sentences at the top? Because it makes me feel better, that's why.