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Random PC Restarts

12/13/2009 12:52 AM

Lately, my PC restarts out of the blue - for no apparent reason. It may be in the middle of any application whatsoever, and it would restart the hell out of itself.

Some say it's unreliable RAM chips - but it worked fine for the last two years...

Some say the CPU ventilation is off triggering the temperature sensors to restart - but the CPU ventilation is fine...

Some say it's a virus or malware - but the PC is fully protected against both...

- - - -

- Anybody here got the same blues?

- Anybody here have a theory on what may cause it ?

- Anybody here got the same blues and was able to cure it ?

Thanks in advance, Y

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#1

Re: Lately, my PC restarts out of the blue - for no apparent reason

12/13/2009 1:15 AM

I've been working on PCs for almost 24 years now, and I have seen this sort of thing happen. Usually, it's caused by some sort of corruption of the operating system, whether by malware or whatever, though hardware issues can also cause it. Please allow me to ask a few questions?

First of all, what kind of PC is it? How old is it? When was the last time it was opened up and dusted out, including using a brush on the CPU heat exchanger? Have you verified that all the fans are clean and actually running? I assume you are running some version of Windows, but which version, and how long since it was loaded?

Generally speaking, the first thing I look for is cooling issues, because computers are the world's greatest dust collectors. Then I ask myself how long has it been since the OS has been reloaded, since very often and all other things aside, Windows seems to become corrupted over time. I usually try to reload the OS at least once every six months to a year. If that does not solve the problem, I start looking for hardware issues. But again, give me some specifics, and I will be able to give you better answers.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Lately, my PC restarts out of the blue - for no apparent reason

12/13/2009 1:34 AM

It's a Pentium 4 on a Gbyte motherboard, it's about two years old with 1 Giga Byte of Kingston RAM. It has one dedicated ventilator for the CPU, and other three ventilators, in the back of the enclosure, and one in front.

It has 400 w/h UPS.

I clean the PC off it's dust in the enclosure about every few months, last time was in July.

It runs Windows XP SP2, with updated Kaspersky protection.

This phenomenon never appeared before, but I heard of it from others, having other haedware configurations, and everybody is confused by it, for no specific reason to blame or fix.

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Lately, my PC restarts out of the blue - for no apparent reason

12/13/2009 1:50 AM

Okay, based upon what you are telling me, your machine is not terribly old and built with some pretty good components, and you take pretty good care of it. So, I would start by backing up your data and doing a clean reload of XP. Which is to say, either zero-fill the hard drive or at least delete the old partition and do a full format before you re-install. This usually solves the problem.

However! Once you've reloaded Windows and gotten everything re-installed and updated, which is very often an all-day undertaking, wait to reload your backed up data for as long as you possibly can. This way, if your machine begins doing the same thing, you can assume that you have a hardware issue and begin troubleshooting accordingly. However, if the issue resurfaces after you've reloaded your backed up data, then you know that something nasty has managed to sneak into your data.

Let me know how it goes.

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#5
In reply to #3

Re: Lately, my PC restarts out of the blue - for no apparent reason

12/13/2009 3:39 AM

"...This way, if your machine begins doing the same thing, you can assume that you have a hardware issue and begin troubleshooting accordingly..." - And the obvious question here is, how do I know it is some mysterious hardware issue, and not some mysterious software (Windows) issue - after all, at thas point Windows is already installed.

Therefore, I would ask:

1. What are the known (if any) pre-conditions in the OS to flag a restart - to be able to check for these as a possible cause;

2. What are the known (if any) pre-conditions in the Hardware package - be it some BIOS setting or other motherboard flagging for re-start - be able to check for these as a possible cause;

3. Could the motherboard or Windows get a false restart pulse originated from, say faulty keyboard switch, a windows bug or any such false triggering ?

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#13
In reply to #2

Re: Lately, my PC restarts out of the blue - for no apparent reason

12/14/2009 12:04 AM

I've had that. My pain could be your gain.

What size is your windows swapfile? When Windows XP SP2 tries to extend its swapfile it can fall over its own shoelaces and spontaneously reboot. On good advice I tried setting mine to a fixed value of 150% of the available RAM but that still didn't fix it. So I set it to slightly more than 200% the available RAM (e.g. for 2GB, 2 x 2048 MB + 128 = 4224 MB) and the problem went away forever.

To ser your swapfile size manually, go to Control Panel | System | Advanced | Performance [Settings] | Advanced, press [Change], choose *Custom, and set the Initial and the Maximum size to the same value. You must now press [Set] to lock it in. Then press [OK] to exit and Shutdown your PC for good measure before restarting normally.

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#17
In reply to #13

Re: Lately, my PC restarts out of the blue - for no apparent reason

12/14/2009 8:49 AM

Size of swapfiles - good point - makes sense

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#15
In reply to #2

Re: Lately, my PC restarts out of the blue - for no apparent reason

12/14/2009 1:08 AM

One GB RAM should be fine, bakr has give good point about virtual memory but yep here we go. Go to start, run, type %Temp% and enter. Press cntrl and "A" simultaneously then right click in the highlighted field and select delete, if any pop ups occur select skip this will alleviate the temp file burden.

Then go to start, right click computer, properties, advanced, advanced tab and settings, advanced tab again, near the bottom select change virtual memory. Select no page file yes you want to do this, apply. Go to start left click computer then right click the system drive and select properties, click disc clean up. Wait until the scan completes then select the more options tab, under system restore and shadow copies select clean up, yes you want to do this.

Then press okay.

Reboot.

Go back and reset the virtual memory to 4096 in both initial and secondary, apply, yes over write.

Then defrag, reboot and enjoy.

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#4

Re: Lately, my PC restarts out of the blue - for no apparent reason

12/13/2009 3:38 AM

Have your windows XP or recovery disc handy, go to start, accessories, command prompt and type: sfc /scannow (notice a space between "c" and /) then follow the directions to correct registry corruptions.

A number causes come to mind but start with non-destructive actions

Also consider the following info:

http://pcsupport.about.com/b/2007/02/18/disable-automatic-restart-in-windows-xp.htm

write back...

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#6
In reply to #4

Re: Lately, my PC restarts out of the blue - for no apparent reason

12/13/2009 3:53 AM

Thanx, I'll try both suggestions, notably the second ("Disable Automatic Restart in Windows XP") and return.

However, I lately got the impression, that this phenomenon is widely spread, wider than many would admit, and it's deeply rooted but withing the XP error-handling system. - Anyone here to enlighten us about that ?

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#7
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Re: Lately, my PC restarts out of the blue - for no apparent reason

12/13/2009 5:12 PM

Many don't maintain their computers well or are active on social networks and disable their firewalls if they want something that it's blocking. Some don't keep their systems updated all these things can combine to produce a plethora of anomalies...

Describe your normal monthly maintenance routine and I'll try to assist.

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#10
In reply to #7

Re: Lately, my PC restarts out of the blue - for no apparent reason

12/13/2009 10:16 PM

Nothing out of my usual. It's all automatic updates for XP and both protection systems. Every few days, say a month or so, I scandisk (top option) and defrag to keep it reasonably up to speed and integrity, and yes, I keep the "System Restore" alive by automatic setting of restore points. I actually restored once during the last two years, to mend for a faulty installation and that was about a year ago.

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#8

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/13/2009 5:47 PM

You listen to bwire, he knows his business.

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#9
In reply to #8

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/13/2009 5:58 PM

Thank you!!

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#11

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/13/2009 10:43 PM

Both bwire and Dr. Moose are the experts in these matters, but a little trick I have found that can very quickly determine if you are dealing with hardware or software issues is to load a second operating system in a dual boot configuration on the same computer. If the secondary operating system gives you the same phenomena, then it is most likely a hardware issue.

An added advantage of having a second operating system on the machine is, if you ever are attacked by malware, you can still salvage your critical data (at least, this works with Linux, which can read a Windows sector, but Windows apparently can not read a Linux sector...)

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#12
In reply to #11

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/13/2009 11:40 PM

Disabling XP's "automatic restart" option may just be the case, but it will take longer to positively determine this. So far, no "Blue Screen Of Death" happened, which was supposed to be replaced by this automatic restart.

If and when, I'll probably get to RegClean, and once this is eliminated, I'll start replacing CPU-fan, RAM chips etc.

If all this doesn't work, I'll but a Mac and be done with it

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#14

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/14/2009 12:45 AM
Hello Friend
your PC restarts out of the blue - for no apparent reason. It may be in the middle of any application whatsoever, and it would restart the hell out of itself.

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- Anybody here got the same blues?

- Anybody here have a theory on what may cause it ?

- Anybody here got the same blues and was able to cure it ?

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#16

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/14/2009 8:45 AM

I have seen this symptom in many computers( PCs). It appears to be a common symptom for a whole bunch of hardware and software disorders. Adding further to DrMoose and bwire, The culprit can be the power supply, try replacing with a good known. Also in one case I had to replace the motherboard, and the problem went away. Hope this helps.

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#20
In reply to #16

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/14/2009 11:57 AM

Yes - Replacing the power supply is what cured my PC.

I had my PC in the shop 3 times with a random restart problem. They added extra memory, replaced the mother board, and upgraded the HDD.

When the problem persisted, I replaced the power supply and the annoying restarts went away. I changed back to my original motherboard and got most of my money back.

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#22
In reply to #20

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/14/2009 12:45 PM

I'm a hardware guy so I also replace the power supply first whenever I run across this problem. It is a simple and quick task. If it is not the culprit then there is a replacement supply now on the shelf as these devices have a limited life-span of only a few years so you will most likely need it in the near future.

Normally resident memory will fail during the POST and I have not seen your symptom caused by memory although it may be possible. I would do a quick swap of the resident memory by removing one of the two devices at a time and restart/test.

I would also remove any PCI interface cards that you have installed AFTER you have swapped the power supply.

Next, would be wiping the HDD and reloading the OS. Hope this helps.

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#25
In reply to #22

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/14/2009 5:38 PM

I failed to mention that the fans are the first thing to check but, you had already done that.

I will also reseat the CPU but this usually shows up upon power-up as a totally dead PC. Still worth a try though.

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#18

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/14/2009 9:00 AM

Okay, I am going to say this again.

Based upon 24 years of empirical experience with computers (no, I've never been to a single computer class that I wasn't teaching), I have observed that, for whatever reasons, Windows tends to become corrupted over time, and starts doing Weird Things, be they random restarts, slow start up or whatever. Trying to pinpoint the problem can be an exercise in futility. All I know for certain is that in 90+% of cases, wiping the hard drive and reloading Windows will solve the problem.

Now certainly there can be other issues. However, we've already pretty much eliminated cooling as one of them. Furthermore, the PC is but two years old and built from top-quality components, and Yuval takes very good care of the thing.

Based upon what I have seen thus far, my recommendation stands.

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/14/2009 11:43 AM

"...wiping the hard drive and reloading Windows will solve the problem..." - An un contested truth since Windows 98 and onwards.

So, Backup and Reload ?

Or, as a friend of mine said "These days you can run Windows 95 with no fear of malware"....

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#21
In reply to #19

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/14/2009 12:04 PM

a friend of mine said "These days you can run Windows 95 with no fear of malware"....

Surely you jest...

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#23

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/14/2009 1:24 PM

I've had and cured this problem many times...

Sometimes it's and update issue, MS updates about 11/09/09 have been attributed to this scenario but about 11/21/09 a patch was distributed via windows update to assuage those computers having trouble.

Other times it has been cured by replacing:

device drivers

the RAM

hard drive

motherboard

PSU

Suggest download and run secunia personal software inspector (PSI) and ascertain if all softwares are up to date or if an end of life vulnerability is contributing to the issue.

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#24

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/14/2009 3:06 PM

Here are my two cents. I've seen this happen on a few systems both at home and in industrial use and always replaced the power supply first as it is the easiest fix with the least chance of losing precious data. Next would be to follow bwire's advice then Dr moose's advice. not because I think either is more valid than the other, I just don't like to reload the OS as I'm a chicken and and choose to change the software last. If it is a box brand like a HP or Dell or Acer, you probably have a 300 to 330 W power supply which was "sufficient" when the machine was new and may now be on the fuzzy edge of sufficient with 2 years of use on it power supplies age and drate as they age.

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#26

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/14/2009 11:34 PM

Hi,

as you said ram worked fine for last 2 years, u r right but it worked for last 2 years right,

1,it might have been gone defective,

2,check with other or replacing the SMPS,

3,update bios and see

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#27

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/16/2009 11:34 AM

Sometimes though.. It's a simple cleaning of the system fans inside the PC. I always find dust inside PC's... But beware that if you try to use a vacuum cleaner, the fast rushing air into the nozzle can create static between the nozzle and the PC! I use a brush :)

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#28

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/17/2009 7:48 AM

Best option is to restart the dammn piece of crap every now and then before it gets any chance of doing it itself.

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#29

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/19/2009 10:58 PM

This is just the opposite of my ACER Aspire 5050 laptop, it doesn't respond to the mouse or keyboard since early November, the press and hold the power switch doesn't work either to shut it down. In Normal start, It is like everything locks, the start-up doesn't finish anymore either. Slow strangulation of the operating system.

I was travelling at the time and something may have shaken loose inside ?

Initially in Normal Mode it was a sometimes, it worked OK.

Unless I go to Safe Mode, in Safe Mode it was working fine.

Now the Mem Check failed indication is coming on during start-up in Normal Mode.

On Friday it quit starting up in Safe Mode.

Help !

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#30
In reply to #29

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/20/2009 12:27 AM

Try booting from your system disk and perform a Repair of your OS from the disk.

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#32
In reply to #29

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/20/2009 1:21 AM

Exactly what does the PC display or report during this Mem Check failure?

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#31

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/20/2009 12:54 AM

This one hasn't been mentioned yet so I will add it to the list. I have had this problem from a dead battery on a motherboard (the one for the system clock). The computer was about 5 years old when it happened though.

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#33

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/20/2009 7:16 AM

With my ACER Aspire 5050, which I am using my ACER 3000 to write this have both been well traveled, one went to South Africa, Hawaii when the streets were flooded, coast to coast in the US & Canada, and Puerto Rico right after a hurricane when there was no utility power for almost a week, just like Pensacola FL after a hurricane while the streets were still flooded. So these are 3rd & 4th ACER's, I respect them, they have done a lot for me and my business.

I had downloaded and run a driver check software, Uniblue and maybe another, one of them updated some 15 problems and I suspect created this one. Sometimes one must leave something that works, do its thing. I had a problem once before when I tried to upgrade a software from the software OEM's website and ACER had there own version and it corrupted the software.

So I suspect the problem is of my own making.

I have been very attentive to MS upgrades and virus/spyware upgrades.

The ACER laptop bought in the store came with the software bundled I made some backup disc's and labeled them ACER, so now that I have 4 ACER laptops, 2 old ones I don't use anymore, I know the backup disc's are for one of the laptops but don't know which one.

There now I have spilled my guts in front of my friends who also read CR4.

Normally there was only the StopZilla roar during start-up.

After the demo driver software did it's upgrade, It started that during start-up the mouse worked until the beep then the mouse quit working and the start-up was complete and when you tried to move the mouse it was spastic and the mouse jerked around the keyboard initially and then quit moving. So during start-up I had a brief time to try to do things, I did try to Restore 3 times, back 1 week, back 2 weeks, back two months. No change. Then a Last Known Good Configuration. Then in SAFE MODE I went into the files and found the demo driver software and did a restore with it and the problem was fixed, until I shut the computer down. Then I uninstalled the Mouse Driver, so it would reinstall during start-up, that didn't work. Something it appears was writing over the mouse, keyboard and on-off switch driver during start-up. Then I found a security section in the ACER software, and haven't been able to access that in the laptop with the problem.

But there are other indications, the AC power supplies don't always make connection ?

The battery (on each 5 year old laptop) has very little capacity and is low voltage as the charge indicator is yellow vs green too much of the time.

So now you know the rest of the story.

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#38
In reply to #33

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/21/2009 5:12 PM

Go to your Control Panel. click on Mouse/Hardware. Highlight the first device and click Properties/Driver and Uninstall the driver. Repeat this for each and every device listed.

Next, you will need to sweep the registry. RegVac is a good, free one available on the net. Sweep the registry.

Restart the PC and allow the system to reinstall the mouse driver.

Let us know weather or not this fixes your problem.

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#34

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/20/2009 7:27 AM

re: ACER Aspire 5050

The CTRL-ALT-DEL also does nothing during regular start-up after the mouse is seized.

With Uniblue direction they troubleshot and said it is not there software as a demo Uniblue DriverScanner only recommends changes and does not allow actual changes. We did msconfig check, and some others, for them to satisfy themselves there software was not able to change the drivers.

I have a Help in to the ACER Support also and they are unusually slow in responding.

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#35
In reply to #34

Hijack this thread, Random PC Restarts

12/20/2009 7:45 AM

Xp, I would assume?

there is always the restore of last resort

destructive, back to as it came from the factory

These guys may be able to help

http://www.computerhope.com/forum/index.php

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#36

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/20/2009 8:51 AM

Before I send it back to the factory, because it was working fine during start-up even in SAFE MODE, even after - as a last resort - I killed power a hundred times by pulling the charger and then the battery as the only way to shut it off while testing in NORMAL MODE, I think I'll take the hard drive to a computer shop (along with the laptop) and get them to hook up to it and try to download the contents of the hard drive onto an external hard drive I have.

I don't know if some Security got set and won't allow access, or if it is a driver,others have said it sounds like a driver, ???

ACER laptop #1 or #2 I after driving all day (900 miles or so) I usually had to pull the hard drive and reseat it as the laptop wouldn't start at all, I bought extra hard drives and put different softwares on each for different applications. Even bought an extender cable from the hard drive into that flat port with all the pins so I could access files on the spare hard drives, etc.

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#37
In reply to #36

Re: Random PC Restarts

12/20/2009 12:02 PM

You can use a sata to usb adapter to transfer the important files on to one HDD

& wipe the blank HDD back to zero....

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