Ghost In the Machine(s)
February 22, 2007 10:42 PM   Subscribe

What could cause every desktop computer in the same house to begin randomly powering down on their own?

Four desktop PCs, all in separate rooms (three on the second floor, one on the first) have begun randomly powering down on their own. One of the PCs was replaced this week and now the new one is doing this, as well. Back in December, there were some big storms and major power outages for about a week. Could this be affecting the house's circuitry? Nothing else seems particularly effected, just the PCs.

Any clue as to what could be causing this or how to fix it?!
posted by Teevee's Bella to Computers & Internet (18 answers total)
randomly powering down independently of each other? or all at the same time?

if all at the same time, possibly brown-out conditions?
posted by j at 11:02 PM on February 22, 2007

It's happening independently of eachc other. Isn't that bizarre?!
posted by Teevee's Bella at 11:05 PM on February 22, 2007

Two possibilities: 1. power line irregularities. (Yes, even though they're not all doing t at exactly the same instant.) 2. Someone using them has gotten the lot infected with something nasty.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:08 PM on February 22, 2007

Maybe someone knowledgable about wiring could say whether plugging two of them into the same outlet and seeing if they power down at the same time would be an effective way to see if it's the power.

Alternatively, you could get some UPSs and see if that makes the problem go away. (Or just get one and see if that makes it stop for the computer it's connected to.)

If they're networked, or if everyone uses all of them, that probably increases the chance of it being an infection.
posted by sleeplessunderwater at 12:30 AM on February 23, 2007

could be a virus.

a few are known to cause the computer to shutdown at intervals. and it would certainly explain why they are doing it at different times.

head to and download the free HOME edition and report back. or if you need more help contact me via the email in my profile.
posted by moochoo at 1:10 AM on February 23, 2007

Please forgive the lack of technical language and that this may be related but probably not... Was using my laptop when it started whirring loudly(rather heavy hard drive activity). At that exact moment, in another room, heard the other 2 doing the same. 1 connected to t.v used solely for movies and the like. The other runs through same net connection as mine but they're independant (well I think mine still sort of runs through it somehow but... meh) So was all a bit strange and wtf anyway turned out they all had the same registry cleaning program with the same auto-run setting by default. They also had the same clock update thingy and kept identical time and so there you go. Probably has nothing at all to what's happening at your house.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 2:29 AM on February 23, 2007

Oooh. Just reread question. Seems I was on the right track with the unrelated idea... sorry :)
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 2:38 AM on February 23, 2007

How about booting one computer with a LiveDistro (i.e. a non-windows operating system that's installed on a CD or USB drive and won't touch anything on your hard drive, get a nice list here) and see if it powers down within a reasonable period? If it does, then hardware/power is your problem. If it doesn't, then it's probably software (although possibly also a hard disk problem).
posted by anaelith at 5:12 AM on February 23, 2007

Are you running these PCs though any sort of UPS, and are they mentioning any problems with the power? Does this occur regardless of how many PCs you have turned on at once? Wouldn't cost you more than 50~100 bucks to verify this, and regardless of what you do with your PC it'll save you from lost time.
posted by Muu at 5:46 AM on February 23, 2007

I think this is almost certainly not a power-related issue. The PCs are all on the same local network and/or have the same user-base, so Steven CDB has it right: There's a virus involved. If the machines can stay powered on long enough, go to the Trendmicro Housecall webpage and scan all the PCs for malware simultaneously. If the scan locates anything, and seems to eliminate it, UNPLUG the "cleaned" computer from the network until ALL PCs have been successfully cleaned (this will prevent reinfection).

Please let us know how it goes.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 6:07 AM on February 23, 2007

Your probably have the mblast/blaster virus or bobax. If you cant run a full virus scan try getting all the removal tools for these viruses.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:02 AM on February 23, 2007

How are your power saving options set up in windows? They can shut down automatically after a period of inactivity if set up this way for one reason or another. (Also, shame on you for not running virus scans more often, your computers may be infecting others on the net as we speak. Type. Errr, do whatever it is were doing.)

As far as the scanning goes: AVG and Ewido have been quite good to me, btw.
posted by IronLizard at 7:52 AM on February 23, 2007

are you running zone alarm firewall? i had a problem like this due to zone alarm. if so, it's a problem with the true vector engine and you might have to reimage.
posted by BigBrownBear at 8:00 AM on February 23, 2007

This sounds like a classic floating ground to me. If you have a couple digital multi meters jack them into an outlet between Neutral and Ground and Power and Ground. Observe for a while to see if there is any fluctuation.
posted by Mitheral at 8:39 AM on February 23, 2007

Thanks, everyone! I have to run out now but I'll answer more in depth later. (Didn't want it to seem like I'd abandoned the thread.)
posted by Teevee's Bella at 8:57 AM on February 23, 2007

I will add one more unlikely possibility (I think the virus or power ideas are much more likely):

if it's very hot where you are now, they could be shutting down from overheating (BIOSes typically initiate a shutdown when some critical temperature is exceeded.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:43 AM on February 23, 2007

Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPSs) are inexpensive, and a decent way to diagnose flakey power. (They chirp when they kick in, which may suggest things like "oops, the computer and refrigerator are on the same circuit.)
posted by dws at 12:11 PM on February 23, 2007

I am guessing Windows update... my computer started doing that cause of windows.
posted by magikker at 2:40 PM on February 23, 2007

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