Computer Troubles

I’m having major problems with my computer, and I cannot for the life of me figure out what the hell is wrong.

Here’s the deal: I’m running XP, and every now and then, completely randomly, it will just crash with the BSOD. The error messages vary. Usually it’ll happen once or twice a day. I tried going back to a prevoius configuration, but to no avail. Virus-scan turns up negative. I tried switching out the memory. I even tried re-installing XP. Nothing is overclocked, and all my fans are in perfect working order. Does anyone have any idea what may be causing this?

Intermittent problems like this are very tough to diagnose. I’d try running in Safe Mode for a couple days to see if the problem goes away. If it does, chances are good it’s a driver causing the problem, then you can begin the tedious task of removing drivers one by one until you find one that causes the problem to stop when it’s removed. It might be a better idea to back up all your documents, reformat your hard drive and do a totally clean install of XP. If you still have the problem after that, it’s a good bet it’s a hardware issue and you’ll need to start swapping out expansion cards and memory to locate the problem. if none of that works, you can then look at the processor and finally the mainboard itself. Good luck to you.

the only prob. i have with reformatting is that i always forget toback something up everytime i do it. As for the safe mode thing, it crashed when I tried re-installing windows the first time, so I don’t think that would work. Right now, my main guess is a bad hard drive, which would really suck as it’s not that old (And dumbassed me didn’t bother saving the warrenty documentation).

If you suspect a bad drive, run ScanDisk on it and set it to do a full surface scan. That might be able to recover data from flaky sectors and buy you some time at least. A bad drive is somewhat unlikely and usually doesn’t result in BSODs, though, so I really think it’s something else.

Maybe you should look at They should have free shareware downloads that test your system stuff.

In my experience the large majority of XP crashes are hardware, not software related unless there is damage to the binaries or other data corruption going on. Memory chip malfunctions or glitches and over heating issues are the two biggest problems I know of incidence-wise, but a malfunctioning drive will certainly crash any OS.

You do not need the warranty paperwork for most hard dirves. The date of manufacture will determine your warranty and most major drive manufs have pages on their sites to verify warranty status via your serial #. If your drive is in warranty all you generally need to do is get an RMA from the manuf via their warranty help line and send it in.

Having said this I would never trust a serviced hard dirive. Good sized drives are very inexpensive (New 40 gig units are $ 50 or so on sale+rebate) . Get a new one and use the serviced drive as a backup.

Yep, plus an extrernal enclosed USB2.0 HD for back up is pretty reasonable at or office depot or staples.

Every time you get a BSOD, write down the error code. (It should be near the bottom of the text, something like “STOP: 0x000987D2”. If there’s more than one 0x… number, just worry about the first one.) Then reboot, go to Google and search for stop [number]. You’re likely to get pages of KB articles, forum threads and so on, and a lot of them will have solutions or at least let you diagnose what exactly seems to cause the problem.

Intermittent, seemingly random failures are most likely due to

  1. memory problems (you say you’ve tried swapping memory through)
  2. the power supply being loaded too heavily (most likely if you’ve added/upgraded this system a lot) Check to see if removing cards/peripherals seems to improves the reliability no matter which thing you actually remove
  3. temperature problems: if your motherboard includes CPU temperature sensing, there are programs (some free) that will display the CPU temp for you. Try watching the temp when the system is in heavy use.

I had a system with similar intermittent failures. I discovered that removing almost any peripheral card (sound card, network cards, etc.) would lead to improved reliability.
Since it didn’t seem to matter which card I removed (aside from losing the functionality provided by that particular card), I concluded that my power supply was marginal. (I had upgraded and swapped components of this system to the point where only the case, the power supply, and the floppy drive were “original issue”.)