Windows help, please…

Windows help, please…
: Lately, my Sony laptop (using XP Pro) has started freezing for no apparent reason. It comes back after about 30 seconds and a beep; I’m not sure whether hitting the old control-alt-delete works, but I keep hitting it. I’ve caught it at these moments running at 100 percent. But I have not caught which application seems to be doing it. I’ve gone into config and killed everything at start-up that I can. Anybody else experiencing this? Any suggestions short of rebuilding?

  • John K

    Jeff – Rule of thumb for situations like these:
    – Count up how long you’ve spent mucking with it and estimate how long it will be until you are SURE it will be fixed.
    – If that adds up to more than 10 minutes total, don’t bother mucking, just rebuild it.
    I’d really recommend Symantec’s Norton Ghost utility. Once you get your machine back working, use Ghost to take an image of the working machine. Save it to another disk. Then you just revert back to that image in about 5 minutes the next time this happens.
    Oh, and don’t forget to take a Ghost image whenever you make a major change or software addition.
    One more thing – if it’s working, don’t ever make a change or software addition :)

  • Before you reinstall the OS, you could try using a registry cleaner. After a while, especially if you’ve installed a good number of applications, the registry database can degenerate and hurt system stability.
    Ghost is not a bad idea, but you might start with XP’s own System Restore feature.

  • joy

    Well, Jeff, it’s hard to diagnose without exactly knowing what apps you have on your machine. As a tech, though, a few things come to mind…
    When does this even occur? Every 30 seconds while the machine is on or when you are working with a specific application?
    I’d check the machine for spyware if you are not regularly doing so…I heartily recommend spybot search and destroy.
    When you do the CTRL + ALT + DEL, does it reboot the machine or are you able to kill a few processes in the task list and then the machine goes on? Freezing and a reboot usually means that it’s a memory issue or a wonky power supply, but it doesn’t sound like it’s the case here if your CPU utilization is at 100%.
    Is your system updated/patched with the latest and greatest from Windows Update?
    Seriously, if you can’t track down the problem within a few hours, I would reinstall. A backup and reinstall and updating will cost you half a day, but at least then you will know you have a clean system.

  • miguel

    post a hijack this log here or in one of the many forums, we are happy to help!

  • Most likely you have some bad sectors on your hard drive. Run a disk utility to scan for them, and them de-frag your drive. You might also have a situation with your WiFi card, so check that after you’re confident that the hard drive is cool.

  • APEX

    I had a very similar problem and it turned out to be a bad connection…

  • Jeff: You might want to try a tool I just reviewed on my blog called The Ultimate Troubleshooter. It shows all processes, services, and startup apps running on your system and has a very extensive database built in that identifies many potential problem apps. You can disable startups, turn off unneccessary services, etc. right from this app.
    At $20, it’s a lot less expensive than a complete rebuild.

  • Apex: Connection as in a wire or connection to the Internet? How’d you troubleshoot it and what’d you do about it?

  • steve

    Buy a PowerBook! :)

  • Rob Schneider

    The normal diagnostics are:
    1. check for viruses
    2. check for spy-bot programs
    3. clean out temp files with Disk Cleanup
    4. defrag the disk
    5. consider doing a system restore from a date from before when you experienced the problem.
    6. If you hibernate rather than re-boot to shutdown between sessions, consider doing a re-boot.
    Laptops get abused more than desktops. It’s not impossible that the machine may have a physical fault.
    I wonder what that beep means? Does the user guide or Sony’s support web site say anything about what a beep means?
    Don’t keep hitting ctrl-alt-del. Do it once and wait. Ctrl-shift-esc may respond quicker to show the task list.
    ps. enjoy your blog. content great.

  • mike

    Howdy, random stranger. I was reading your entry on Howard Stern, and saw that you have XP problems. If you’ve got computer problems, I may be able to help you out.
    Unless your problem is malware, spyware, or viruses, it’s probably quicker to reinstall your system. Welcome to the fine world of Windows. If you don’t like it, get a Mac. ;-)
    First, you want to check for malware. Ad-Aware (from lavasoft) is free and very functional, and easy to use. Spybot Search and Destroy (from is another good one. It’s a good idea to use both of them in conjunction; both are free for personal use.
    You should do a virus scan too. If you don’t have Norton/McAfee/whatever, there are a few free virus programs you can try. Among the most notable is AVG from Grisoft, which is free for personal use (if you register with your email address). If you’d rather not use AVG, I recommend Trend Micro’s online virus scanner:
    Under administrative tools, you ought to see a program called ‘event viewer’. Hopefully, whatever problem you’re having can be correlated with entries in the system log here.
    you could try a program called ‘sandra’, which will perform system benchmarking. If you’re having hardware problems, sandra may be able to help you pinpoint them by testing individual hardware components.
    minimize your services in administrative tools -> services. You may want to chat with a computer expert about this one, fixing it is beyond the scope of this document.
    remove startup items from the start folder. If you don’t know what they do, remove them. If you find you miss some functionality, put some back.
    This can help you reduce the amount of programs you have in your system tray. They’re often a hotbed of system instability.
    check Sony’s website for updated video card and chipset drivers for your computer. See if there are any BIOS updates as well.
    check and for updates… there may be driver updates available from windowsupdate; they aren’t automatically added to the list of updates and patches.
    last but not least, some weird windows problems can be solved by downloading an offline installer for internet explorer 6 SP1, booting into safe mode, and installing IE6SP1 from safe mode. YMMV.
    If you’re nervous about reinstalling and want to perform a ‘repair’ installation, I wish you luck. However, if it’s not a problem with windows itself, but some extension to windows, the problem may persist (in which case you’d need to do a clean reinstall).
    Hope this helps. Good luck with the computer problem.

  • mike

    “remove startup items from the start folder”
    oops, that should read ‘remove startup items from the startup folder”, under your ‘all programs’ link on the start menu.

  • mike

    oh, and if you really want to defrag, minimize and boot to safe mode before you do it. I wouldn’t use microsoft’s defrag; it packs all the files in tight, so if any file grows, it automatically fragments. bad news… I don’t ever advise defrags anymore, unless you use a program with a more intelligent defragmenting algorithm than the one in system tools.

  • veloer

    Get a registry cleaner. I had the same trouble with my XP computer. Cleaning the registry did the trick. Check out [email protected] for details.

  • Wes

    My WinXP desktop would lock up for a second or two. It started happening more often & the pause lasted longer, and then my hard drive crashed.
    Good time for a serious backup.
    FYI, Ctrl+Shift+Esc will bring Task Manager up straight away. Allows you to save a mouse click or two when you wanna kill an app.

  • Pax Dickinson

    What application is causing the problem? Probably Windows XP, you should get rid of it.. ;)
    I’m only kidding, but there’s an analogy to be made between what blogging is doing to journalism and what Linux is doing to Microsoft. But then I’m sure someone’s made that comparison before somewhere in the blogosphere.

  • Rob Schneider

    Could it possibly be a problem if overheating? In any event, suggest you seek guidance from Sony. Odds are they’ve seen the problem before.

  • Ron

    Next time it does it, do the ctrl+alt+del to bring up the task list, hit the “processes” tab. It should show you what is running at that moment. There will be a lot of different processes on the list so just look for the one with the largest number and that will be the culprit.
    Agree on using Ad-Aware & Spybot, use them at least once a week.
    I also reformat once a year or whenever I add a major piece of interior hardware (new processor, motherboard, etc.) just to keep things clean. This is a big hassle & usually turns into a weekend-long project. Just remember to try the simple things first & work from there.

  • Lee Willis

    Sony VAIO laptops have problems with overheating. My wife’s laptop was regularly having this problem, about twice a day.
    a) Make sure the air vents are clear (not blocked by other things next to it, and not plugged with dustbunnies)
    b) If you are using a fancy 3D screensaver – STOP! Graphics chips run very hot. Switch to a blank screensaver.
    Once we did this, my wife’s machine hasn’t had any more problems.

  • Barbara

    I tried going to your web site but after searching and searching it kept coming up ” could not find”