"Random" Crashes After Clean Install

#1

So, long story short, I managed to pretty badly mess up my laptop’s hard drive, and had to replace it with a new one and a new Windows installation. The new drive works fine and I’ve been restoring from backups, but now I’m afflicted with crashes at seemingly random intervals. They all have a similar pattern: the computer freezes, displays skipping audio and heavy graphical artifacts, and then eventually shuts down. It usually takes a few tries to start it back up again, less if I let the computer sit for a while; if I try to restart it immediately usually what happens is that the disk-access light will flash briefly and then go out, then nothing else happens. Although the errors do have a heavy random component, I have noticed some trends:

  • Crashes are more likely to occur if the computer has recently been moved- even if it was put in hibernation during all of the actual jostling.
  • Crashes are more likely to occur when running on battery power as opposed to outlet power (possible cross-contamination with “moved”, above, since these two events tend to overlap.)
  • Crashes are much more likely to occur if I am doing something relatively intensive- games, certainly, but also compiling code or other non-graphical tasks.
    I initially suspected some sort of overheating problem, but monitoring tools indicate that my GPU and CPU temperatures stay very stable in the high 40C range, and more generally every diagnostic I’ve run- on the hard drive, RAM, and GPU, have indicated that they are working perfectly. I suppose I could always just get another computer, this one’s getting older anyway, but now I’m curious what could actually be causing this.
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#2

Could be the battery - my friend’s laptop battery went bad a while back and started causing all sorts of problems.

Do you have any way of checking the battery temperature?

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#3

I doubt it is your battery but that is easy enough to check. Turn off your laptop, disconnect the power brick, remove the battery and reconnect the power.
If the power brick is good it will run the laptop w/out a battery.

It sounds like you have a bad hard drive or bad memory. There are plenty of free memory checking programs like http://www.memtest86.com/ or even windows own mdsched.exe http://www.cnet.com/how-to/test-your-ram-with-windows-memory-diagnostic-tool/

To test your hard drive you should run the manufacturers own testing program , if that is not possible run hdtunes long scan. http://www.hdtune.com/

The advice I give my customers is to never move a laptop when it is running. Hard disk drives are very fragile and bumping one when it is on can cause all sorts of havoc.

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#4

Over the last couple of days the crashes have been decreasing in frequency, although it’s possible I am just being gentler on the computer.

@Dreadmoth: I don’t have a temp sensor on the battery or power supply itself, but just by touch it does not get any hotter than room temperature.

@RedEye: Both the hard drive and RAM pass Windows onboard diagnostics and a few third-party hard-drive diagnostic tools. The hard drive, additionally, is new. Will test the pure outlet power at some later date.

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#5

Currently running sans battery, not sure if the crashes are still around (only time will tell). Going to try some more computation-intensive things with the battery out when I’m not in the computer lab.

It’s a third-party expanded-capacity battery, so if anything in my hardware setup is dodgy that would be it.

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#6

The best hdd test that you can run would probably be the manufacturers, if they have one. And yes, New out of the box hdds can be bad.

Prime95s default settings are pretty good for stress testing and checking system stability. Test anywhere from a couple of hours to overnight.
http://www.mersenne.org/download/

Good luck and thanks for keeping us posted.

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#7

This time the artifacting was light enough for me to actually make out a blue screen with a MEMORY_MANAGEMENT error code!

It seems that, in fact, I am dealing with some sort of memory problem- possibly the HDD (but I doubt it, when my old drive was going bad I’d just get straight blue screens and not this weird artifacting), possibly the physical RAM and possibly the drivers, as according to the software utility Samsung includes the new Windows install did not come with the proper chipset drivers. There’s an unrelated bug preventing my particular chipset from installing drivers on Win8.1, so I can’t discount that possibility immediately.

If it is the RAM, I’ll probably just get a new computer, since this one’s clearly on its last legs.

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#8

Ok, so, Thursday afternoon I stopped getting any sound out of my speakers, so I did the sensible thing and reinstalled my sound driver. Not only did that fix the speakers, but it has also been four days now of absolutely perfect performance, even when playing Black Mesa, Minecraft, and FREAKING XCOM 2, as well as compiling a large piece of C++ software.

As bizarre as it sounds, it would appear that the sound driver was responsible all along.

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