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Need Help with Laptop Diagnosis


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#1 yorkred

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 03:32 PM

DELL 9400 INTEL CORE SOLO T1350 YONAH

I have a Dell laptop here that is acting flaky during normal computer use.

Passes memtest86, passes MHDD

I suspect: (despite MHDD pass) bad hard drive

steps taken so far: (using Acronis True Image Home 2011) backup old hard drive to second PC, bought new hard drive, restore backup

(at this point I had to run fixmbr from recovery console to get Windows to boot from the new drive. this, I suspect, had something to w/ Acronis)

result: same "flaky" behavior. programs don't open, programs hang, windows hangs, can't restart etc... no predictability. conventional wisdom tells me it was not and is not a hard drive issue

current status: the current problem is hang during windows XP repair install. right now trying wipe of new hard drive and full XP install..

this is to find out the answer to a pressing question. can a windows xp repair install fail even if there is no hardware problems? meaning there could be a possible issue w/ the current state of the install that even a repair cannot address...?

Edited by yorkred, 08 December 2010 - 06:29 PM.


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#2 MrBruce1959

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 03:46 PM

I have a Dell laptop here that is acting flaky during normal computer use.

New diagnosis: faulty motherboard component or overheating CPU
possible solution: throw computer off bridge. Not yet


I would suspect a over-heating issue as the probable cause.

What I would recommend is re-applying thermal grease between the CPU and heat sink.

It is highly recommended that the old thermal grease be cleaned off of both surfaces first.

Make sure that the heat sink is clean and has no dust embedded in it.

Make sure the heat sink is properly positioned on top of the CPU and locked down securely.

See if this corrects the problem.

Bruce.
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#3 yorkred

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 03:50 PM


I have a Dell laptop here that is acting flaky during normal computer use.

New diagnosis: faulty motherboard component or overheating CPU
possible solution: throw computer off bridge. Not yet


I would suspect a over-heating issue as the probable cause.

What I would recommend is re-applying thermal grease between the CPU and heat sink.

It is highly recommended that the old thermal grease be cleaned off of both surfaces first.

Make sure that the heat sink is clean and has no dust embedded in it.

Make sure the heat sink is properly positioned on top of the CPU and locked down securely.

See if this corrects the problem.

Bruce.


thanks Bruce and sorry I edited my original post a lot.

right now I'm doing a wipe and full re-install and if it does work I will try to monitor the CPU temp while running prime95 stress test. I think I will get speedfan to do this unless you recommend something else.

edit: I originally said I was doing a repair install in this post, I meant to say fresh XP install.

Edited by yorkred, 08 December 2010 - 03:54 PM.


#4 MrBruce1959

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 04:09 PM

Both Speed Fan and Prime95 are good programs, but keep in mind though, they are not 100% accurate, but do give a close idea what is going on temperature wise.

System freeze-ups are usually related with heat issues usually with the CPU or GPU.

The CPU is usually a culprit any time the computer is running, where the GPU is usually the culprit when the graphics processor is stressed.

If your problem persists, after ruling out a heat related issue, the next step is finding out if the PSU (Power Supply) is providing adequate power output to satisfy the demand being put on it.

Bruce.
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#5 yorkred

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 04:54 PM

ok the fresh XP install was successful and I installed all correct drivers and even the BIOS update

again, I experienced the hard drive/system flakiness for a short time, not clicking exactly but doing something strange, getting hung up I guess I would say. it's not consistent. as I said the repair install failed due to this, but I got through the fresh without issue. it does this with BOTH hard drives. the new hard drive AND the old hard drive (which passed MHDD) this also confirms it is not McAfee, which is something I suspected earlier on.

I realized this is an intel core solo so I'm running both speedfan and core temp

I'm running prime95 stress test blend, no errors yet

speedfan is giving a temp1: that stays around 57~ even when the CPU heats up and cools down again. this I suspect is a bridge temp or whatever. the HD0: temp for this one is at 35-40 and stays there. the speedfan core 0: temp matches what Core Temp is giving me

it approaches 80 degrees C (not safe) but doesn't quite get there before going down to 50-55 range (which is safe)

it has done this 3 times now and yes it is a pattern, I hear some noise, maybe the fan is speeding up then the temp comes back down. I'm not convinced if this is related to the hard drive behavior though.

so is this flakiness due to the temporary high temperatures of 75-80 C or is this another problem? that's what I need to figure out.

ty MrBruce

Edited by yorkred, 08 December 2010 - 04:56 PM.


#6 MrBruce1959

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 05:33 PM

80 degrees Celsius is quite HOT and may be a sign that you need to double check the heat transfer from the core's heat spreader to the heat sink surface.

I am not sure what the history is on this CPU, is it custom or did you install the CPU and heat sink?

How long has the heat sink / CPU been installed in the computer?

I ask these questions, because over time, the thermal grease does break down over time and offers less transfer quality.

Custom installs sometimes use cheap inexpensive measures, such as thermal heat transfer pads of low quality or improperly mixed compounds.

Over time, these fail to produce satisfactory results and the processor will tend to over-heat, the computer has to send signals more often to the cooling fans to speed up the RPMs more often.

I would still check the status of the medium used between the CPU and the heat sink.

Bruce.
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#7 yorkred

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 05:43 PM

80 degrees Celsius is quite HOT and may be a sign that you need to double check the heat transfer from the core's heat spreader to the heat sink surface.

I am not sure what the history is on this CPU, is it custom or did you install the CPU and heat sink?


this is a Dell laptop and afaik no one has taken it apart.

How long has the heat sink / CPU been installed in the computer?


checked warranty on Dell site, unit was shipped March 2006. so almost 5 years.

I ask these questions, because over time, the thermal grease does break down over time and offers less transfer quality.

Custom installs sometimes use cheap inexpensive measures, such as thermal heat transfer pads of low quality or improperly mixed compounds.

Over time, these fail to produce satisfactory results and the processor will tend to over-heat, the computer has to send signals more often to the cooling fans to speed up the RPMs more often.

I would still check the status of the medium used between the CPU and the heat sink.

Bruce.


fyi: core temp low is 51, high 77. prime 95 has been running for 1 hour with no errors. since it is not going over 77 I will gamble at leaving it on as long as I'm awake to see if anything changes. or do you recommend shutting this down, is 77 critically high? the spec sheet for this processor says 125 is catastrophic, so 77, while high, shouldn't be damaging should it?

I guess my question is, do you think CPU temps of 77 would cause strange behavior similar to that of hard drive failure? keep in mind 2 different hard drives have symptoms of failure in this system (noises, strange LED behavior) , but not when connected to another system.

edit: I have some Arctic silver 5, i'll take it apart and do that tomorrow morning.

Edited by yorkred, 08 December 2010 - 06:12 PM.


#8 yorkred

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Posted 09 December 2010 - 11:57 AM

Update: I took the computer apart and properly applied Arctic Silver 5 to the CPU. I also inspected it and noticed no burnt areas or anything. So far the temperatures are better (lower) but I'm still having the hard drive problem. It's so intermittent it's practically impossible to test, but I can't return this PC with a clean bill of health knowing it is going to cause problems.

I don't know what to do next, possibly 0 out the hard drive and start over? Remember I used Acronis to migrate from the old drive to this one, maybe that is the root of the problem here, I really don't know. This is really driving me nuts at this point.

#9 yorkred

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Posted 09 December 2010 - 02:08 PM

I will add that this computer has Media Direct, which opens up a whole new bag of worms I wasn't considering before.

http://www.goodells.net/dellrestore/mediadirect.htm

Edited by yorkred, 09 December 2010 - 02:09 PM.


#10 MrBruce1959

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 01:29 PM

I read the link you posted above.

I see that this Media Direct partition is hidden in the last few sectors on the hard drive.

I am aware that this partition was not seen or copied during the cloning procedure.

Only suggestion in this particular case is going to this link and attempting the fix mentioned here.

http://www.goodells.net/dellrestore/fixes.htm

I see Dell has your work cut out for you.

Edit: Please see my next post below this one (post # 11) for a link for installing MediaDirect on a new hard drive.

Good luck and keep us posted.

Bruce.

Edited by MrBruce1959, 10 December 2010 - 02:13 PM.

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#11 MrBruce1959

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 02:05 PM

I did some research on the Media Direct software.

I do not know if this will help, because I have no way of testing it first.

But this link may provide a way to install the MediaDirect software on the partition it is supposed to be on.

http://supportapj.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/kcs/document?c=my&docid=52185&doclang=en&l=en&s=gen&cs= ( I am hoping this link works, some pages can not be linked to directly)

Let me know if this page has provided a solution for you that works to create this hidden partition where it is supposed to be.

There are other links I have found on Dell's support web pages that sadly lead to missing or dead pages (pages that have been removed or moved to a different link (url).
I do not know why those pages were not updated to either remove those dead links or at the very least correct the URLs to locate a newer link.

The Dell web master must be not be keeping things up-to-date in my opinion.

Bruce.
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#12 yorkred

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Posted 22 December 2010 - 11:26 AM

I ended up returning this PC saying I couldn't fix it. I said I thought there was a problem with the motherboard and that it was not worth buying a new one. I was reading about people who said the worst problem with ignoring MediaDirect was that if you did not install it properly it would screw up the boot sector when/if you pushed the button, nothing about the symptoms I was experiencing.

TY for the help MrBruce, sometimes it helps just to post clear thoughts and in the process of trying to help other people understand a problem it helps you understand it better also.

Edited by yorkred, 22 December 2010 - 11:37 AM.


#13 MrBruce1959

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 01:53 AM

Well you are most welcomed. :thumbup2:

Sorry we couldn't come up with a solution though.

Better luck next time. :wink:

Take care.

Bruce.
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#14 yorkred

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 02:03 PM

Well, the next time has come. I have another Dell Laptop here with the exact same symptoms

this time it is Inspiron 9300. user complained their web browser just started crashing out of nowhere

I determined it was not browser specific, but a system wide problem identical to the problem above

testing hard drive right now with MHDD

#15 Yoshistr

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 04:11 PM

Are these two computers on the same network?
If not have you checked the EventViewer for any errors appearing at
the timestamp when the browser is closing unexpectedly.
Next step might be to check for malware that has hijacked explorer.exe.
If it is none of these then I would start hardware diagnosis to pin point the issue.
Make sure the virtual memory allocation is not too high/low.
Reseat the RAM onto the motherboard and check for faulty contacts.
If none of the above works let me know and we will have to do more diagnosis before trying
anything else.
Yoshistr Support Team




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