Please help me decide where to start fixing my BSOD issue
July 8, 2009 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Blue Screen of Death hell and I don't know where to start... is it software? Hardware? HDD? RAM? Drivers? Any pointers would be appreciated!

Hi and thank you for your time. Here's the story so far:
I started getting BSODs last week - first sporadically and the PC would still run in between, but by now I can basically only boot into safe mode without getting a BSOD pretty much straight away. Here's a blurry example of one.

Potentially relevant information:
- When I upgraded to iTunes 8.2 my PC (esp. Firefox) slowed down to a crawl. As one measure (possibly stupid) I disabled a number of services in msconfig to keep stuff running to a minimum (which I do often, but I was particularly drastic this time. I did not disable any MS services however.).
- After that (I think - might be coincidence, tho unlikely) boot up time increased tenfold. That is, at the very beginning, when all I can see is the silly Pentium logo anyway, so can't determine what is holding it up (or am too stupid to figure out how to get rid of it). It literally takes around 3-4 minutes to get past that stage.
- A few days later (about a week ago) the first BSOD. I first suspected the HDD, but more out of my tendency to expect the worst, for of course I hadn't backed up in ages (have however managed to back up the essentials now, so would be happy enough to reformat & reinstall).
- Now for the odd part. I figured I'd re-enable the services I'd disabled to see if that would help - however I get error (I paraphrase) "you do not have authority to do this for some of the services (won't tell me which one), please log in as admin" - needless to say I am admin.
- When booted into safe mode & trying to get to the event viewer, I get "unable to complete the operation.. the interface is unknown." Calling up the Device Manager, it comes up blank! There are various other similarly baffling errors. It's like I'm locked out of my own system! This of course makes me suspect soft/malware rather than hardware.
- I also did try system restore before the BSODs became all-invasive and it told me it was not possible to restore to any earlier restore point.
- Oh yeah, here is my HijackThis log - one, two (pics, sorry, since I can't get the damn file off the PC). I ran Avira too with no worrisome results.

So.... where do I start? I am prepared to reinstall, replace the HDD, remove all memory sticks one by one, update the BIOS, whatever else you can think of, but I'd be really grateful for some pointers so I don't start at the wrong end and waste hours & hours when it might be something really obvious.

System Specs: Win XP Home SP2 5.1, Build 2600, 3GB RAM, Intel Pentium 4 3GHz, Mobo Medion MD 8088, 2 HDDs & the system one is 120GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 and reasonably old.

Many many thanks!!!
posted by ClarissaWAM to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is there ever an error code between the "A problem has been detected..." and "If this is the first time..." parapgraphs?
posted by IanMorr at 11:11 AM on July 8, 2009

The Blue Screen of Death is caused by your video card driver. You can see the error message is from ati2dvag.dll. Suggest you upgrade your video card drivers.

The various other problems you're seeing are probably not related to this.
posted by matthewr at 11:14 AM on July 8, 2009

Nuke-and-pave. You'll be up and running again in less time than you'll spend identifying the issue.
posted by DWRoelands at 11:14 AM on July 8, 2009

Response by poster: Oooh Ubuntu is a great idea! Downloading now. Thanks!

IanMorr, no, there isn't. The error at the bottom changes from time to time (I seem to remember mostly win32k.sys previously), but the top always looks like this. After one BSOD chkdsk ran (and reported no errors or bad sectors), but generally it just lets me boot back up as I wish.

matthewr thanks, but as said above, this was actually the first time the BSOD gave me that particular driver. But I will definitely also look into that.

Reinstall sounds like the best option tho anyway so will probably go down that route. Saves me shilling out on hardware when I want to get a new desktop once Windows 7 is released anyway. :)
posted by ClarissaWAM at 11:18 AM on July 8, 2009

new desktop once Windows 7 is released anyway

In that case you might want to just wipe & install Win7 RC1. I ran it for a week but it kept waking up my Mac Pro at odd hours so I had to go back to Vista, but it certainly seemed snappier than Vista.

I always recommend wipe & reinstall at the slightest provocation.

It's a great test of your backups.
posted by @troy at 11:24 AM on July 8, 2009

Response by poster: Oooh tempting. How reliable / compatible is it tho? I need my PC to run iTunes and the Adobe Suite at least as I want to keep my Mac as light as possible.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 11:28 AM on July 8, 2009

If you reinstall you can do a parallel install to save most of your data. See Method 4 on this link.
posted by white_devil at 11:28 AM on July 8, 2009

I've been running Win7 since beta and installed RC1 the day it came out. I love it. Some cools features and very stable.
posted by white_devil at 11:30 AM on July 8, 2009

Response by poster: Ack I just realised I can't do this cuz I need/want the TV card drivers and software that came with the original PC. :/ (and I'd wager that also means I can't do parallel installs cuz I just get the usual "restore" options of such, well, system restore CDs).

Anyway off I go to reinstall trusty old XP. Thanks so much everyone for your help!!!
posted by ClarissaWAM at 11:36 AM on July 8, 2009

If you do a parallel install the old drivers will still be there in their original folders. You may have to manually point to them though.
posted by white_devil at 11:57 AM on July 8, 2009

Response by poster: No no, I do have them, but because it was (er, is) a "Media PC" that came with a Media suite (TV software etc etc) I have to install as is. I don't have the option to install a newer version of Windows and install selected programs on top (of course I could procure them illegally but who would do such a thing?? an outrageous thought!) .

[reformat & reinstall initalized. might as well start from scratch if I have to go through the whole Windows updating horror. I do love me a virgin Windows install. I don't really have much new hardware that would need driver installs / upgrades]
posted by ClarissaWAM at 12:04 PM on July 8, 2009

Probably too late but System Restore was designed to handle situations like these.
posted by the_ancient_mariner at 1:02 PM on July 8, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks the_ancient_mariner but as I said in my original question:
- I also did try system restore before the BSODs became all-invasive and it told me it was not possible to restore to any earlier restore point.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 1:12 PM on July 8, 2009

Best answer: Ah, my bad. I missed reading that.

In any event, wrt the increased boot times with the Pentium logo -- I believe the BIOS automatically does an extended check on the system RAM for problems if the system keeps shutting down unexpectedly too often. That's my personal theory btw.
posted by the_ancient_mariner at 1:19 PM on July 8, 2009

If you continue having problems with Ubuntu/Windows 7, you might begin to suspect hardware. In this case, I would start with your video card. Note it mentions a problem with "ati2dvag.dll", referring to ATI, the video chipset manufacturer. It could be a driver-based issue with Windows, though some of the other problems you describe about Windows operating strangely suggests that it is very likely an issue with the operating system becoming corrupted or, worse, the hard drive. If something's happened to the hard drive, system files will often become unreadable and Windows will start acting strangely or not at all.

Do the BSODs happen more frequently at certain times? If they're usually happening when you're watching movies/clips on YouTube/playing games, that implies video card. If it really is random when doing different tasks (especially loading programs), that implies hard drive.
posted by jgunsch at 1:21 PM on July 8, 2009

Reading your post again, I see more and more evidence of a hard drive failure. Try another operating system but don't be too optimistic.
posted by jgunsch at 1:23 PM on July 8, 2009

I just started running a machine with Windows 7 RC1 and it is so far (I cannot believe I am about to jinx it) running solid as a rock. Like it a lot. I would confirm the integrity of the HD.

(Also, non-seq, I like the Pizza WiFi picture!)
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:18 PM on July 8, 2009

Response by poster: Just thought I'd follow up, have reinstalled Win but then got bored so have yet to do all the updates, install apps etc.
Once I have done I'll mark best answers depending on whether BSODs continue or not.

Thanks again for your help everyone! (and thanks JohnnyGunn, hehe)
posted by ClarissaWAM at 6:09 AM on July 9, 2009

Response by poster: Right, (hopefully) final follow up... I don't wanna jinx anything but I think it's been running fine long enough now.

The reinstall... it did nothing. What did help was pulling one of the memory sticks. (the most easily accessible one too! it would've taken me all of 30secs to open the box and remove the damn thing!)

So the_ancient_mariner gets best answer for his RAM guess about long bootup times, tho admittedly it was such a hit and miss that any of you could've been right.

I'll take away the lesson that tho I hate fiddling with hardware, it's probably less painful as a first approach than the long gruelling reinstall of a system.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 5:46 AM on July 12, 2009

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