View Full Version : Random XP crashing

craig s
03-27-2004, 12:29 PM
I have a crashing problem.

I'm new to discusion groups, so please by patient. I'm not even sure I'm at the right forum.

I have a store brand PC with XP Home that's 15 months old -- lots of memory and lots of speed. (I have a confession, it's my first PC after a lifetime of a Macs.) A few months ago it started randomly shutting down and rebooting all on its own. It usually takes two or three reboots before it restablizes. It'll be fine for several days, then start up again. (I just finished two "seizures" this morning.)

The computer has been very reliable and stable till this. The only software that ever crashes is Microsoft Word. (Even after all these years they can't get that right.) And only hardware problem I have is sometimes the CD burner won't burn. A shut down and restart always fixes that.

I use all the anti-virus scans and latest patches -- I think. I better, I subscribed to it! I've run defrag, clean disk, and software check.

People have suggested that I need to a clean install ---- Whoa! I hope not!

People have suggested the mother board is going --- Whoa, I don't like that either.

People have suggested that a driver needs to be checked and reinstalled. I like that one because of my burner problem. But I don't know how to check them. (The Word crashes is not a suspect, because it does it on my Dell laptop, too.)

People have suggested I have a virsus --- maybe, but wouldn't it have really done me in by now?

Any suggestions? Or suggestions where to go? (no wise cracks, please) I don't like the idea of randomly trying costly and/or time consuming trial and errors "guesses".


03-27-2004, 12:47 PM
Possible causes:

-Everything not completely seated on the motherboard.
Reseat everything.

Check the system and CPU's temps either in BIOS or with temperature monitoring software.
If the system temp gets over 45 deg. C, then make sure the computer's fans are running, the vents are open, the computer is not located in an enclosed space, and there is no internal dust build up.
If those are ok, then remove the computer's cover, and run an external fan. If this fixes things, then install additional case fans. Recommended locations are lower front and upper rear of the case.
If the CPU gets over 60 deg. C, then make sure there is thermal compound between it and the heat sink. If that's ok, then replace the compound with Arctic Silver3.
If no luck, then install a higher capacity heat sink fan.
If still no luck, then replace the heatsink with a more efficient unit.

-Overtaxed or bad power supply
Swap it out with a different(preferably higher wattage) unit.

-Bad memory
Remove and reinsert the memory a few times, try it in different slots, do not use any optimal settings for the memory in BIOS, run Memtest-86, and swap it out with known good memory.
Also, do not mix parity and non-parity memory.

-Bad video card.
Swap it out with a known good card.

-Bad MB.
Swap it out with a known good MB.

-IRQ conflict with a network card.
If no problems show up for the NIC in Device Manager, then remove it from DM, shut down, uninstall the card, and restart.

-Viruses and spyware.
D/L and run Ad-aware, Spybot, and CWShredder to remove any spyware.


03-27-2004, 01:58 PM
Any suggestions? Or suggestions where to go? (no wise cracks, please) I don't like the idea of randomly trying costly and/or time consuming trial and errors "guesses".

Sorry, but that is the way computers work (or don't work). The trial and error doesn't have to be expensive, but it has to be done. If you want to reduce the trial and error aspect of things, provide more info. What are your system specs, are you running any particular programs when the crashes occur, how quickly are you rebooting when the crashes occur, what troubleshooting have you done already and what else do we need to know that I am not asking????

Also, it is quite possible to have a virus for a long time and not know it. Viruses today are designed to infest and steal rather than simply crash and destroy. The are like true viruses in the wild, the ones that kill the host don't spread very far and are more easily made extinct. The ones that simply remain parasitic on the host and only occasionally kill the host survive and spread. Think malaria rather than ebola....

craig s
03-27-2004, 02:10 PM
Thanks for the tips. I'll start working through them.

Since I'm an engineer with a working knowledge of heat and heat transfer, I feel comfortable starting with the temperature one. I did blow out the dust a month ago, but the box does sit close to a baseboard heater.

The power supply shouldn't be oveburded because I've added nothing to the box. But since my wive's computer just toasted supply -- could be starting to go.

No Kazaa, but my 16-year old has WinMX on the machine. But we don't use it much anymore.

I'll let you know how it all goes. It'll take me a while.

Thanks again.


craig s
03-27-2004, 03:01 PM
I must have been replying to the first posting when you posted.

Yeah, I guess I knew it was all trial and error -- but I'm so ignorant that I don't have a clue where to start most times. Hence, these postings. And thanks for replying.

First, the crashes and reboots are all "automatic". The computer crashes on its own and immediately restarts on its own. But it's crash and not a shut down, because it goes through all those DOS windows while rebooting. When my desktop comes up and the cursor is sitting there as a hour glass. Does that for about 10 seconds during which time the red light by the ON button (on the tower) is flickering, instead of the usual constant green light. Then it crashes and repeats. After about two or three cycles, it will be stable. All this time, I haven't touched the mouse or keyboard.

The software that's on when this happens is always Outlook. I'm usually on the internet (IE). But I ofen use the three Office programs or scanning. I never particularly associated it with what software was on. Once it did it when I was trying to defrag. That day I got mad and left the computer turned off all day. The computer is on 99% of the time and I have a cable modem (comcast).

During my weekly virus scan with Norton SystemsWorks, an Adware "virus" always shows up. (I haven't run Adware for awhile.) I mark it for deletion and it's still there the next week. Three months ago, I was getting tons of SoBig (I think) email pairs and I "ruled" them straight to the trash. If I have a virus and I already have virus scanners, what the heck do I do? (And why the blank do I pay for it?) Should I use those other links at the bottom of your email?

System: Pentium 4, 2.0 mhz, 1.0 gig RAM, 80 HD, a DVD player and CD burner. HP Office Jet v40, Cannon flatbed scanner, HP optical mouse, a cheap flat panel monitor.

I guess what I'm asking, based on this above info, which Trial and Error place do you think I should start? And thanks for the choice between malaria and ebola ... ;)

03-27-2004, 03:18 PM
If you do not have the required extra hardware components to swap out existing ones in order to troubleshoot the problem, then you can have the existing components shop tested.

craig s
03-27-2004, 03:31 PM
My step son has a spare 520-watt power supply. I'll borrow that.

I can feel it. This is going to end up to be like one of the "well planned" home improvement projects. Four trips to the hardware store later... ;)

03-27-2004, 05:11 PM
Given your description of the problem, I would start with the security scans before pulling the power supply and messing with the hardware. The reason you keep getting the warning about some malware even though you fixed it is that it is probably in System Restore and you will need to reset System Restore to get rid of it.

The reason your system is crashing is probably that you have WinXP set to automatically reboot when it reaches what used to be called the Blue Screen of Death. I don't remember how to turn this setting off, but it is probably in Control Panel and you can find out in WinXP Help. It can be useful to turn it off in order to be able to read the error message.

You can run an online virus scan to back up your installed AV since it could have gotten corrupted. I would also update and run AdAware and then also download, update and run Spybot. If you still have problems after all that, a HijackThis scan would probably be a good idea....

craig s
03-27-2004, 05:57 PM
Thanks. I'll try those (did Adware all ready) next week. But it's a nice day here finally and my son's home from college, so I'm going to spend some quality time with him. I do appreciate the help.

Mark Miller
03-27-2004, 06:41 PM
One more suggestion is that the next time XP crashes, see if it generates an error report. That might help pinpoint whether it is a hardware or software problem.
Right click my computer and then left click properties, from there you can check 2 things. Device manager will tell you if there are any conflicts and second from the properties of my computer again hit advanced and make sure it is checked so that you will generate a error report. I have found that error reports really help if it is a software problem. Device manager with hardware conflicts.
Try this before you take your machine apart.

craig s
03-27-2004, 08:44 PM
The Device Manager shows no conflich, just a list of devices in folder format.

The error message box has always been on but has never generated a report for this crashing. I'll send them for when Word crashes -- they are in sanscript as far as I'm concerned.



Mark Miller
03-27-2004, 10:41 PM
What the error report can do is that if you have a broadband connection you can send it to MS, if you trust them, [I do, at least with this] and they read the gibberish and sometimes direct you to their knowledge base with what the problem might be.
Does not always help but worth a shot.