Will Bueché

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Laptop down

Posted in Personal by Will on Tuesday, June 27th, 2006 ~ 9pm

Og angry. Og pokes stick at computer. Computer lately looses power for no evident reason. (Where did Og learn fancy word “evident”?). Yes, I’m on Windows, I have too much software that runs on Windows to switch to the pretty Mac format. But this week has been the first time Windows XP has acted up on me; it is usually extremely stable — not like the old Windows 98 which crashed essentially every day.

At first I feared it was my choice in a budget brand of laptop that may be to blame. But at the moment I believe that the computer is losing power every time it activates its “automatic updates from Microsoft” feature, which ironically is meant to keep a computer running safe and sound. I’ve just deactivated the automated part of the automatic updates, and for about 45 minutes now the computer has not turned itself off. I’d tried simply disconnecting from the internet, and it would still crash when the automatic updates activated (even without a net connection). So the problem has something to do with the updates program itself.

Alternately, it may be that the computer was overheating. I have a floor fan running air across it right now, full blast. So there’s two possibilities about what may be keeping the computer going right now. And of course it’s only been 45 minutes – it could still turn itself off at inconvenient moments. I’ll see.

Ok, new theory: bad RAM. If I run a memory test, I can reliably cause the computer to shut down. That seems to point to the RAM. Sticks of memory can get fried if one accidentally zaps their computer with static electricity. I don’t recall doing that, but maybe it happened. Easy to solve, if this is all that is wrong.

So now I’ve run some tests on the current two sticks of RAM. The existing RAM is fine, or perhaps both sticks are bad. All I can say for sure is that the computer crashes whether either stick of RAM is in there, or if both are in there together. I’ll buy a new stick of RAM to replace the current two, just in case it might help, but the tests indicate that neither stick is defective. Or both sticks are defective. (Don’t you love the solid answers one can get by testing things?).

I did rule out a few things. It crashes whether or not the printer is plugged in, whether or not the USB hub is plugged in, whether or not the extra fan is plugged in, whether or not the external hard drive is plugged in, whether or not it is connected to the network via the wire, whether or not it is connected to the network via wireless.

So this narrows it down to maybe the processor, maybe something else on the board, maybe something truly random like loose wiring of absolutely anything, and maybe, just maybe, something software related.

Or, again, it could be the heat. I have to read up on what a computer does when it gets hot. Is it the processor itself that stops when it gets hot? I opened up the case around the processor and removed some dust, in case that dust was acting like a downy winter coating of warmth. But there was very little dust so I’d be suprised if removing that dust actually solves anything.

Ah, here’s what people say happens: “when a computer overheats it either reboots randomly or burns up depending on the heat tolerence of the chip”. Nice. And why might this happen? “The thermal paste they used on the cpu dries and crackles over time, which means it isolates the cpu from the heatsink thermically and causes the cpu to overheat.”

I also set the virtual memory to be controlled by the computer rather than set by me. Maybe that will help.

My next plan, after trying a new stick of RAM (arrives in a few days), will be to “hope it goes away.” This sometimes works with computers. My malfunctioning disc burner got better all on its own, so, maybe the same thing will happen here.

Resolution: dedusting the processor’s fan and the foils inside the vent area worked. No crashes since. Or wait, if “dusting” means removing dust, then what does “de-dusting” mean? We should say “de-dusting”. “Dusting” would mean applying dust. Or killing vampires, of course (Buffy).

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