What is causing these laptop problems
February 5, 2006 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Winxp laptop: Blue screen, unrequested reboots and mysterious problems. Please help me connect the dots and figure out what's wrong with my computer.

Two weeks ago, Explorer would crash everytime I opened a folder. That problem seemed to go away, but now the computer occasionally slows to a crawl, reboots for no reason or blue screens. Also, there is occasionally a gurgling noise that comes from within. My guess is that it’s the bearings of either a fan or the hard drive. It sounds precisely like a stovetop espresso maker as it finishes up. The gurgling sound sometimes corresponds to when a fan comes on, but not always so I can’t say for sure if it’s a fan or the drive.

At one point, I pushed my computer (in the middle of a back up) off to the side of the table and the hardrive locked, making an awful groaning noise until I finally reset the computer.

Here’s what I’ve tried: I ran a memory testing program. It found no problems. I ran chkdsk a few times. Each time I do there are errors. I downloaded speedfan to look at my cpu temps and SMART data. The Reallocated Sector Count in the SMART data has a value of 1 and a warning level of 50 (Apparently the warning level is manufacturer specific. If the value goes under 50, SMART should throw a flag. My CPU temp is 102 C, which seems extraordinarily high, but I don’t really know anything about this stuff. My Hard drive temp is 38c. My laptop doesn't feel especially hot so I'm wondering if speedfan might not be getting the right reading.

So what do I do next? Should I wait for something to die, replace the hard drive right now, or can you suggest another troubleshooting step?

I have my important data backed up. But I'm nervous to do new work that I may lose.
posted by miniape to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Sounds like your hard drive is failing, and the heads are contacting the disk itself, causing bad sectors. I'd try a new one. Try popping it out, putting it in the freezer for an hour, and then putting it back in and rebooting. I know it sounds crazy, but this worked for me to retrieve data off of a failing hard drive on a Gateway 5150 laptop.
posted by Roger Dodger at 8:12 AM on February 5, 2006

You have several different loosely-related problems: The CPU is probably overheating and causing the machine to crash. The crashing is causing the filesystem to be in an inconsistent state. On top of that, it looks like the disk is starting to go.

Surface errors on the disk are almost never, ever the cause of BSODs, reboots or shutdowns, so there's more to your problem than just a dying drive.

If you don't repair it, this machine is going to die. First and foremost, do something about the heat problem. Replace the failing fans, send it to a shop, something, anything. Once that's done, either replace the failing disk and install everything from scratch or take your chances with the failing device and still reformat it and install from scratch. Either way, don't continue to try to salvage the filesystem, and absolutely do not copy a broken filesystem to a new device.
posted by majick at 8:15 AM on February 5, 2006

The gurgling sound is almost certainly the bearings of your processor fan dying. 102°C is extraordinarily high, and if that's accurate, I'm surprised your machine is still functioning at all. (Compare and contrast: My CPU is a 2.2 GHz Dual Core chip, and, although it's in a desktop box, it's planted firmly at 98­° Fahrenheit.)

I'm really surprised your system isn't clocking down your processor automatically. If there are any power-saving options that allow you to configure your CPU speed, dial it down as much as possible to increase stability, or, as majick said, your machine WILL die.

There is a possibility Speedfan is lying to you. Check your BIOS to see if it offers you any hardware monitoring, as it should be able to give you the exact temperature reading from the proper probe. If you read celsuis incorrectly, that'd also explain what amounts to a temperature hotter than most processors can handle.

Regardless, the advice you're hearing is exactly what you need. (Although, usual suspects with BSODs are bad memory sticks, your gurgling discounts that possibility.)
posted by disillusioned at 8:23 AM on February 5, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks. I think I'll shut this thing down for now. But keep the advice coming if you've got anything else.
posted by miniape at 8:35 AM on February 5, 2006

Sounds like the fan for your CPU is all gunked up with dirt. CPU's max temperatures usually run in the 50-70c range depending on the make and model. AMD's will reset if they get too hot, Intels will just slow down to a halt. Sometimes you can unscrew the fan part and blow all the dirt out. It's normally a fan hooked to a heatsync near the top of the motherboard. Either way you'll want to take the whole thing off. More than likely there's a metal buckle thats holding it on. I usually take a flathead screwdriver and push the buckle down on the top side to pull it out and off. It might be stuck to the CPU with some thermal paste but you should be able to pull/peel it off. If your affraid to attempt this take it to a pro or a 13 year old. But its not that hard to get it off (A little scary the first couple times) and you could really just take it outside and blow some compressed air into it.. but be prepared for a dirt explosion.
posted by psychobum at 12:33 PM on February 5, 2006

Yep, 103C is way too high, and probably the cause of the crashes and reboots. Dust and a broken CPU fan are the likely culprits. Don't even worry about the HD issue until you get that sorted out. On a functioning system you should never see the CPU temperature above 65 - 70C or so.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:04 PM on February 5, 2006

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