Why does my laptop crash when watching streaming videos?
August 20, 2010 2:24 AM   Subscribe

Why does my laptop crash after watching streaming videos (BBC iplayer / Youtube) for about 40 minutes? How would I go about investigating / fixing it?

After installing Ubuntu my laptop developed this specific fault. I'm now back on XP in an attempt to fix it, but it's still happening.

I did a memory check which threw up loads of errors, so bought new memory which made no difference (memory check still threw up loads of errors).

The laptop is fairly old, but works perfectly well apart from this error.

Any help gratefully receieved.
posted by mairuzu to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds like a classic overheating problem. Flash video is notorious for using a lot of CPU time.

You probably have a failed fan, or a clogged air vent.
posted by Mwongozi at 2:32 AM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Please can you describe what happens when you say "crash"?
posted by devnull at 2:59 AM on August 20, 2010

Without knowing more details, I'd have to second the thought that it's probably overheating.
posted by divisjm at 3:02 AM on August 20, 2010

I came to say the same thing as Mwongozi, in terms of testing whether it reboots after high CPU use you could try running Prime95
posted by moochoo at 3:02 AM on August 20, 2010

You probably don't have the right power management drivers for linux. Or they don't exist at all. So the laptop doesn't cool it's self properly under linux, or uses too much power.
posted by glenno86 at 4:36 AM on August 20, 2010

Usually there's a CPU fan that is ported through a side vent. This fan can and will get filled with a dusty, hairy ball of impenetrable fluff that actually works against your cooling system in that it traps and insulates the heat. A can of compressed air will do the trick, but you've got to get to it first (which will likely involve unscrewing the bottom cover).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:50 AM on August 20, 2010

Sometimes the low-tech fix for something like this is elevating the laptop to get some airflow underneath. I used to have one of those rotating, $29 laptop stand things, which worked pretty well. I have since misplaced it and now just use a 12" long 1/2"x1" piece of wood trim to elevate the back of the laptop. This stopped any heat-related crashing for me.
posted by MonsieurBon at 9:54 AM on August 20, 2010

Seconding cleaning out any dust first. But dismantling a notebook to reach the fan may prove to be an intimidating experience. Here's what I recommend instead:

Buy a can of compressed air (now widely available and cheap) and install the plastic tube on the nozzle. Turn off the notebook. Insert tube into air discharge duct (this is where hot air should come out when the notebook is on -- probably on side of notebook) and blow. Dust should come out, either the side vent or the bottom vent. Continue blowing, moving the tube around, until no more dust comes out (a few minutes).

If the dust clog is less than moderate, this may be enough to get you going again. If not, you haven't wasted much time or money. (And you'll learn how to blow dust out every few months to keep the airway clear.)
posted by exphysicist345 at 12:35 AM on August 23, 2010

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