XP spontaneous reboot related to full folders
December 3, 2006 12:24 AM   Subscribe

Windows XP, Celeron 700, 384ish meg RAM, brand new Seagate 7200 400gig drive. at some point in the recent past, my pc developed a habit of spontaneously rebooting if i rapidly scroll through a folder with a large number of images in it before windows has had a chance to render all of the thumbnails.

if i wait until it finishes, i'm fine. if i'm using a non-thumbnail rendering style ("details", for example), i STILL have to wait until windows is done doing something, because i have demonstrated that it still spontaneously reboots if i scroll before it's "done", but not if i wait until after. this period of time seems fairly arbitrary, and is possibly dependant on the number of mixed media types are in the folder.

nutshell : this started fairly recently. my pc spontaneously reboots if i scroll through a folder with a lot of files in it before windows is able to become informed about every file therein.
posted by radiosilents to Technology (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If the machine is "spontaneously rebooting," are you getting any event error log codes or blue screen errors, or stop log (memory dump) error codes? If so, investigating these could pinpoint your problem. In my experience, 99% of crashes resulting in "spontaneous reboots" turn out to be memory related, so it's worth understanding and focusing on memory issues as a working theory, until you've eliminated memory related errors as the cause of your problem. Also, until you've gotten a handle on exactly what is causing your problem, you may want to temporarily disable Windows automatic restart on system failure, so that you can see and write down any blue screen information that Windows may throw up when it dies. To do this, Right-click on My Computer, click Properties, click the Advanced tab. Under “Startup & Recovery,” click Settings. Under “System Failure,” uncheck the box in front of “Automatically restart.”

If you are using a video chipset on your motherboard that uses a part of main memory as video memory (most "integrated video" does), it's quite possible you are having some kind of memory problem. Also, 384 MB of memory is not a great deal for Windows XP, particularly if some of that is shared video memory, and your machine will be stressing memory management more than it would with more RAM, due to swapping activity to disk, as it pages currently unused memory contents to disk based virtual memory, in order to make RAM available for current tasks.

You could run memtest86 for a while to diagnose memory, and if it finds a problem, you could replace any bad memory modules it identifies (preferably with modules of greater capacity, to expand your available RAM memory). But memtest86 or any other memory test can have problems testing memory used by integrated video, so this may not be entirely conclusive.

You could also check with your motherboard manufacturer for BIOS updates, and apply them by downloading and flashing any available updaters. You may also want to check and apply any available driver updates for your integrated video. It would also be worthwhile to go through the BIOS setup routines, and verify that the setup settings are optimal for the chipset values and memory setup that you have. Sometimes the values selected for memory timings by the automatic chipset probe routines are too fast for the memory actually installed, which causes errors.

You could also stop using integrated video, by purchasing and installing a seperate video card. This would free some RAM memory on your machine, and could potentially improve the performance of your machine somewhat, if your motherboard supports AGP or PCIe type video cards.
posted by paulsc at 1:49 AM on December 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Could be wrong - been wrong many times before - but reboots due to a sudden load just say "power supply fault" to me, especially given the spontaneous onset.

That said, paulsc's suggestions about disabling automatic restart and checking RAM with memtest86 are sound.
posted by flabdablet at 2:06 AM on December 3, 2006

Reboot/crash while scrolling screams ATI video driver problem to me. If you have an ATI video card, update the drivers.
posted by krisjohn at 2:50 AM on December 3, 2006

Power supply is a good suggestion, but I think the memory is the most likely culprit, especially as the crashes come when you're doing rapid scrolling (which would start to stress the memory). One option, if you have two sticks of RAM in the machine, is to try running it with only one, as it's unlikely both will have gone bad.
posted by Sifter at 5:16 AM on December 3, 2006

I had a similar problem with Word at one point on my work machine. If I scrolled too rapidly the machine would suddenly shift into 640x480 or reboot. It turned out to be the video driver.
posted by kindall at 9:43 AM on December 3, 2006

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