Windows 7 unexpected restarts
December 20, 2011 7:00 AM   Subscribe

Windows 7 repeatedly restarting at random. No warning. Nothing in the logs. I'd suspect hardware if it didn't always happen just after processing a load of windows updates. Sometimes a disc check seems to fix it; sometimes I have to uninstall a few updates. Any ideas?
posted by monkey closet to Technology (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd suspect hardware if it didn't always happen just after processing a load of windows updates.

Random hard resets can be a bad-RAM problem, but they're usually a thermal problem. Take the box outside and blow it out with a can of compressed air, and next time you turn it on make sure all the fans (CPU, power supply, video card, etc...) are spinning freely.

If that doesn't do it for you, use Memtest to test the RAM; google will help you there, but you can get it as a standalone bootable CD or as a boot option on an Ubuntu install CD.
posted by mhoye at 7:04 AM on December 20, 2011

Two thoughts. Possible power supply problem. Relatively cheap and easy to fix. Even cheaper and easier would be to disable automatic Windows 7 restart.
posted by davidvanb at 7:04 AM on December 20, 2011

What everyone else says, but before you do a single thing more, make absolutely sure you have backups of everything!
posted by emilyw at 7:13 AM on December 20, 2011

Nothing in the logs does imply hardware, and I think power is more likely than thermal. However, step one is to back everything up, and step two is to clean out the dust and make sure the fans are working.

I like the idea of disabling automatic restart as a test -- you might get some information out of the BIOS.

Unfortunately, the only test that you're likely to be able to do on the power supply is to replace it with a known good power supply. While I'm generally against throwing hardware at the problem first, in this case -- random resets, nothing from the OS as to why, it implies something that's able to throw a hard reset at the CPU, and the most common thing that does this is the power supply.

Also -- if you have added hardware recently, that becomes a suspect *and* if it's a big mondo video card, you may simply be pulling too much current from the power supply. I remember when a 200W power supply was a decent size, but nowadays, there are video cards that draw more than that.
posted by eriko at 7:18 AM on December 20, 2011

Easy things you can do while looking the inside the case:
- Reseat your RAM
- Check all cable connections
- Look for bad (or bulging) capacitors.

Easy things to try that could point to software/drivers:
- Download and run GMER too detect possible rootkit activity
- Download and run CCleaner and perform 3-4 registry cleans until it comes up empty.
- Download and run DeviceRemover and set it to show only "Hidden/Detached" devices. Remove what you see there to clear up residual drivers.

More involved things to try:
- Reseat your CPU (look for signs of degrading or burnt thermal compound)
- Disconnect all devices except vital (eg. disconnect CD drives, remove video card if an internal exists, remove modems, NICs, soundcards, etc) This could narrow it down to two things...a particular device...or a particular load on the PSU.
- Swap out your PSU (if you have another PC around)

Real pain in the rear (costly) things to try:
- Swap out the PSU
- Swap out your mainboard
- Swap out your CPU

Being that this is intermittent, you may want to try taking this to a reputable computer service provider before looking at purchasing a replacement Mainboard, PSU, or CPU. They'll normally have spare parts on hand to narrow down the component a lot quicker. You could also try buying this items from stores that have good return policies or low restocking fees (Best Buy, etc)...but I wouldn't feel right if it was me.
posted by samsara at 8:33 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

One other option here is to get another hard drive of any size (used is fine) and install Windows on it. Configure some basic apps and use it for a few days. If it reboots, which it probably will during the install, it's hardware. If it doesn't, it's software.

My guess is the same as the other folks. Memory, power supply, heat, faulty motherboard or failing hard drive, in that order of likelihood. The only way to narrow these things is to start replacing them one by one.
posted by cnc at 11:22 AM on December 20, 2011

It's backed up, right?
Basics: Is there a BIOS upgrade you could install?
Open the case, remove big dustbunnies, bugs, etc. Visually inspect for any sign of fried motherboard/ scorched circuitry, anything out of the ordinary.
Run diskcheck. (used to be a common fixer of woes, now seldom does a lot, but still good practice.)
Run defrag. I've discussed this with others; during defrag, bad drive areas get flagged as don't us, soit may help a sketchy hard drive. Time-consuming, might help.

If it's heat, the pc may smell hot. Make sure the fan is not blocked.

Nothing in the logs. Windows event logs?

bootable CD UBCD is one I use a lot. Allows you to boot to cd, so you are running a different operating system on a different drive. If it still dies randomly, it's not the drive or the OS.
posted by theora55 at 6:45 PM on December 20, 2011

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