Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bad News, Always Bad News

If things had been going smoothly, you would be watching a new Chrontendo right now. If I had my way, you'd be watching Chrontendo 45 while sitting on a throne made of the bones of your enemies while their women lie at your feet, offering you up a flagon of mead. Sadly, this is not to be.

Chrontendo Episode 45 is completely recorded and edited, but starting a couple days ago, my computer was struck with mysterious symptoms. All of a sudden, I'm experiencing repeated crashes. Well, not technically crashes, but rather freezes. These generally happen when I'm performing an action such as opening a new window in Firefox, saving a file, etc. My mouse will still move but any open programs freeze, and no new programs can be opened; Ctrl-Alt-Del does not function, and I have to hard reboot using the power button on the PC. Generally, I can use my computer normally for around 5-10 minutes before this happens. (For example: everything froze while writing this post, when I hit the "save" button in Blogger.)

I've run virus checks, popped in the Windows repair disk (which finds no problems), and did a system restore - but no luck. I do notice that Windows is starting taking a little while longer to load up now. Monitoring the CPU doesn't show any unusual activity or temperatures.  At this poing, I have no idea whether the Windows install is damaged in some way, or if it is due to a hardware issue. I was wondering if the problem might lie with the memory or the hard drive (though I haven't found any data on the hard drive that can't be accessed.)  If it's not one of those things, how do I narrow it down further? If it were the CPU or motherboard, how could I tell?

I was planning on duplicating my hard drive and seeing if things work normally from a new drive. In the meantime, I'm still trying to render the video. I'll hopefully have Episode 45 up tomorrow on Youtube. The Archive version will be a secondary priority.


qaylIS aka Nicolas Deußer said...

That doesn't sound good...I would recommend to completely reinstall Windows, but it could also be a hardware issue. It could be a mainboard malfunction (not uncommon), there are multiple different symptoms with could happen, and freezing is one of them , though bluescreens are more common. Your graphical card could also be malfunctioning, Win 7 uses graphical hardware acceleration for Windows-Management, this could be the reason for your particular error. The last thing could be RAM, defective parts in it can freeze your PC when Windows writes in them. I recommend the following procedure:
Step 1: Disconnect your graphical card and use our onboard graphics. If Error reoccures try step 2, if you only have onboard graphics jump over step 1.
Step 2: Disconnect all RAM except for one, boot and watch if error reoccures. If so, use another RAM-memory, and reboot, if not and you have more than 2 memory banks redo till you find the faulty one.
Step 3: If the errors isn't found yet, reinstall windows, completely. Don#t reuse the old registry!
Step 4: If the error still occurs it is very possible that your mainboard is the source of your problem. Find your recite and send it to your dealer or the repair center of the manufacturer, if it is still under warranty. If not, let someone repair it. I don't know prices in the US, but it will likely cost $100 upwards.
A friend of mine had that exact problem once with his laptop, Mainboard was broken but could be soldered...costed 150 Euros.

qaylIS aka Nicolas Deußer said...

And if you would ask yourself why you should listen to me, my academical degree isn't in computer science or IT, it is in political science actually...but I worked 3 years in technical service in a wholesale IT-company, and I saw it all. But ask someone who gets paid for it if you want to be really really sure, I just recommend methods which doesn't cost anything and arent too intrusive.
And I am happy that my posts are shown correctly, I had some problems when I started my own Blogg in Blogger, but now they are solved. Hooray!

Sean Clements said...

That really is bad news. On top of the bad news that specialty beer shop here on Oahu didn't have and Russian River Beers. They have like 80 different kinds of foreign and microbrews but not from them. But they still had plenty of good stuff to choose from. Surprisingly the best beer I've had this week was one they actually had at Sams club and I've been wanting to try for awile. It's called Bitburger and it lived up to its reputation as a great German beer. Also picked up some old Rasputin and bought a honey basil beer brewed in Berkeley I think. Haven't tried that one yet. Anyway, ya it sounds like a hardware problem. I had something similare where I just had to reseat my graphics card on my last computer. QuayllS trouble shooting steps sound solid and easy enough. They have memory

Todesengel said...

Last time I had those symptoms it was the hard drive going out on me, I'd start backing everything up if you haven't already.

Topy44 said...

Random freezes are of course very hard to diagnose, but one thing nobody ever thinks of that actually happened to me several times that you should check out: SATA cables. Damaged or loose SATA cables cause the system to behave really strangely, suddenly running very sluggish and eventually crashing, without apparent reason. Use a SMART tool like HD Tune and check the ECC error count, if its anything above 0 you should try replacing the HD's SATA cable.

Otherwise, as the other comments say, it can be anything from a borked Windows installation to a faulty power supply and everything in between...

Anonymous said...

Geez, what is everyone's issue with simply reinstalling Windows? That's why program and data are separate... and Windows is notorious for becoming crippled, you are meant to simply keep the data and reinstall Windows regularly.

Blammo said...

One to try really quickly is popping in a live DVD of a Linux distribution and seeing if you still notice problems. If so, it's definitely hardware.

Corpsecrow said...

Yes, I second trying to run a linux Live-DVD (running the whole OS from a DVD, without installing anything on disc). I would recommend Mint
Ubuntu has a pretty weird desktop these days, Mint is more traditional but still as easy to use and "ready to go".

Other than that, swapping out RAM and trying to run with only one at a time to see if one of them is the troublemaker is a simple thing to try. (as suggested above)

And please, backup your precious Chron-material regularly o_o

ShaneWM said...

Definitely sounds like a hardware issue, and I would agree, either with the hard drive itself, your RAM or your Mobo. Easy to test:
1. If you have more than 1 stick of RAM installed, remove one. Reboot. See if the problems persist. Then switch to the other stick and see what happens. If one or the other works, then it was a RAM issue and you have an inexpensive fix. :)
2. If both sticks act funky, it may be the RAM slot on your MoBo. Try swapping both sticks in on the other slot. If there are four slots, they are usually paired, so be mindful of which are the main pair and which are the secondary pair.
3. If you have one available, swap out your hard drive. The Linux live disc suggested above is another good idea. You can also check on your HDD with things like this:
4. If this is a self-built machine and you've made it this far, prepare to drop some money into it. If you bought it from someone like Dell, check your warranty online and talk to them ASAP. I've had hardware issues come up with literally a week of warranty left on the machine.

Skymaster T said...

I'm guessing you've scheduled, and ran a disk check from a left-click on the C:, right?

Aquin said...

Wow, that sounds like a hardware issue! I really hope it's just the hard-drive and not the motherboard itself.

I'd check to see if the capacitors are blown, just to be safe. If that's good and the new hard drive is good but the problem remains, maybe try replacing the battery (not the power supply, the little round battery in the motherboard).

Good luck!

Kamiboy said...

Dr. Sparkle. If it is all the same to you I think I'll go ahead and drink that offering of mead in any case.

No reason to let it go to waste. Nothing worse than stale mead and I need something to take my mind off of this ergonomically deficient bone chair.

Ceiltsei said...

For all you have done for us, I would be happy to contribute towards getting you a new PC. I used to own a PC shop and unfortunately do not have any parts left, but there is always a way to set something like this up.

Anonymous said...

Bit late perhaps, but one way of being absolutely sure it's not the RAM is to run Memtest86+ for several hours over night. If there are no errors then it's probably not the RAM. Usually if the RAM is corrupted it will show you an error within one hour of operation. You can get a bootable CD image with Memtest on it here:

Or you could get System Rescue CD which also comes with Memtest86+. You just select it in the boot menu. I recommend System Rescue CD because then you can also boot into Linux to test the other hardware. Running the command "dmesg" in the terminal that pops up when you boot into the GUI will give you lots of info on your hardware. If there's an issue with your hardware you can be sure it will be mentioned in the output of dmesg. Anything that doesn't work spits out an error that you can then google.

Someone also mentioned loose/faulty SATA cables. It's actually not a bad suggestion. It's one of those things you don't think about. I had that problem with a computer I built myself and I could never figure out why it was so unstable with constant freezes, until one day when I noticed that the SATA cable that connected the main HDD to the main board was incredibly loose. Switched out the cable and haven't had a problem with that computer since.