The symptoms you describe could be malware related or they could be due to hardware or overheating problems caused by a failed processor fan, bad memory (RAM), failing power supply, underpowered power supply, CPU overheating, motherboard, video card, faulty drivers, BIOS and firmware problems, dirty hardware, etc. If the computer is overheating, it usually begins to restart on a more regular basis.
However, some rootkits can also trigger BSODs, shutdowns and error messages so download and scan with AVG Anti-Rootkit
, Sophos Anti-rootkit
or Panda AntiRootkit.zip
If your not finding any malware then its sounds like the latter problem. When was the last time you cleaned the inside of your computer?
Dust restricts the airflow and prevents proper cooling. This in turn can cause overheating and faulty processor fans which can result in unexpected shutdowns, random restarts, booting problems, etc.
- Open your machine, check all the connections and make sure the fans are all operational.
- Check the heat sink on the processor to ensure it is not blocked with dust or debris.
- Remove the CPU's cooling unit and clean the fins on the heat sink that sits under the CPU with a can of compressed air.
- Inspect the thermal compound between the CPU and heatsink as it can break down over time so.
- Remove the cards and RAM modules, clean the contacts and reseat them.
- Feel the CPU heatsink when it powers down. It should be warm to very warm but not hot.
- Monitor the temperature of your CPU, motherboard, hard disks, voltages, and fan speeds.
See "Cleaning the Interior of your PC
" and "Getting The Grunge Out Of Your PC
Some video cards run so hot that they have their own cooling system. If the fan fails, the video processor will not be far behind and your system may start crashing. If that is the case see "Illustrated How to Replace an AGP Video Card
" and "10 things to know before buying a video card
In Windows XP, the default setting is for the computer to reboot automatically
when a fatal error or crash occurs. You should be able to see the error by looking in the Event Log
. Read "How To Use the Event Viewer Applet
". You can then gather more information doing a search of the Event ID number at:
"MonitorWare EventID Database
"Top 50 Viewed Events
"Windows Security Log Events
"Events and Errors Message Center
An alternative is to turn off the automatic reboot
feature so you can actually see the error code/STOP Message when it happens - this is also known as the Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD).
To change the recovery settings and Disable Automatic Rebooting
, go to Start > Run and type: sysdm.cpl
Click Ok or just press WINKEY + Pause/Break
keys to bring up System Properties.
- Go to the Advanced tab and under "Startup and Recovery", click on the "Settings" button and go to "System failure".
- Make sure "Write an event to the system log" is checked and that "Automatically restart" is UNchecked.
- Click "OK" and reboot for the changes to take effect.
Doing this won't cure your problem but instead of crashing and restarting you will get a blue diagnostic screen with an error code
and other information that will allow you to better trace your problem. You can use Google to search the error code or use the links below to investigate and troubleshoot.
"Extract troubleshooting info from Windows XP BSOD error messages
"How to Find BSOD Error Messages
"Events and Errors Message Center
"Windows XP Professional Error Messages
"Troubleshooting Windows Stop Messages
Also see, XP Shutdown and Restart Troubleshooting
and Troubleshooting Windows Shutdown Problems
.Other Troubleshooting Tools:
Download and run Motherboard Monitor 5
. If Motherboard Monitor's seems to be reporting high temperatures for your CPU check to see what your max CPU temp is from here
You can also use NextSensor
to check temperature and voltage or SpeedFan
to monitor voltages, fan speed, SMART status, and temperatures. SpeedFan can help you investigate the reasons for an unpredictable reboot or for a failing hard disk as well as whether you are likely to experience temperature related issues.
There are suggestions for troubleshooting power supply, video card, CPU, RAM, MB and hard drive here
You can use BurnInTest
to stress test the CPU, hard drives, RAM, CD-ROMs, CD burners, DVDs, sound cards, graphics, network connection, printers, video playback. This utility works on all Windows versions to include Vista (32-bit & 64-bit)
Another option is to use Microsoft's Online Crash Analysis
. The Windows Memory Diagnostic tests the RAM for errors with a comprehensive set of diagnostic memory tests or you can test your RAM with either of the following tools:
and follow the instructions to Diagnose with Memtest86+
.Once a bootable disk is made, just leave it in the drive and reboot your computer. However, before rebooting, you need to enter the BIOS setup and make sure that the Boot Order is set so that your first boot device is either the floppy drive or the CD-ROM drive, depending on which type of disk you made. If necessary, change the boot order, save your changes, and exit Setup. When the machine restarts it should boot from your Memtest disk, and the program will start automatically.
.Download ISO images for creating a bootable Memtest86 CD-ROM or an installable from Windows/DOS to create a bootable floppy disk or usb flash drive. Read the directions under Technical Info and allow Memtest86 to run through the entire battery of tests for at least 4 full passes (or let it run overnight). Any errors indicate that there is likely a problem with your physical memory (RAM).