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Topic: Strange computer problem (sudden reboots)

  1. #1

    Question Strange computer problem (sudden reboots)


    I've have a relatively new Dell server (Poweredge 400SC) which I'm using with GigaStudio. I've had it for a few months but didn't have time to use it much.

    I've now been using it extensively in the past few days, and there's a very strange problem which I have not encountered on any of my previous computers. Once in a while (usually a few times a day), the computer will just reboot by itself. I'm in the middle of working and all of a sudden, Wham!, the computer is rebooting. There's no Windows shutdown or anything like that, it just abruptly starts rebooting.

    Does that ring a bell for anyone? I have no idea how to start diagnosing this. Is it more likely a bad motherboard, bad RAM, or something else?

    Any info will be greatly appreciated.


  2. #2

    Re: Strange computer problem (sudden reboots)

    My initial thought is to suspect either excessive heat, a virus, or a bad driver... or possibly an overloaded/failing power supply.

    Can you provide us with a little more information? What kind of hardware? What OS? Done a virus scan recently?

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 1999
    Winsted, CT

    Re: Strange computer problem (sudden reboots)

    By default, Windows XP will reboot when there’s a serious error. You can change this by going to the Advanced tab of the System Properties window, and clicking the Settings button in the Startup and Recovery section. You’ll see a checkbox, “Automatically restart”, which you un-check.

    Now, instead of rebooting, you’ll get a blue screen, which will have some sort of error message you can use for trouble shooting.

  4. #4

    Re: Strange computer problem (sudden reboots)

    Quote Originally Posted by habibbijan
    ... or possibly an overloaded/failing power supply.
    Yes, I would check this, I had the same problem. I had to buy a new power supply.

  5. #5

    Re: Strange computer problem (sudden reboots)

    Random reboots can be caused by the power supply (had it happen here on an older PC); that problem was worse at higher room temperature.

    AFAIK there are more-comprehensive RAM testing programs on the market that attempt to check for adjacent-cell bit interactions, etc. -- more involved than the Power On Self Test; a Google search might locate such programs.

    If the power supply and RAM are OK, also consider the motherboard -- in particular the low-ESR power-supply filtering capacitors physically near the CPU. There was a problem (hopefully resolved now) involving cheap electrolytic capacitors, wherein some manufacturer had "borrowed" the electrolyte formula from another manufacturer but neglected to "borrow" the stabilizer formula. As a result, the affected electrolytic caps built-up hydrogen gas and would bulge, leak, and sometimes dramatically explode. Early symptoms on affected motherboards included random reboots. Check that the larger capacitors near the CPU don't have deformation or leakage.

    Also, is your AC power clean? Could you have spikes in the voltage, or a momentary blackout? Is there heavy equipment (i.e. big motors) starting up, sharing that power circuit? Hopefully the PSU would weather such momentary glitches...

    Good luck!

  6. #6

    Re: Strange computer problem (sudden reboots)

    I had the same problem, and never really got to the bottom of it. The firm who sold me the machine sent me MemTest, an application which runs from a floppy and checks your memory really thouroughly. And it did turn out that 3 of my 4 sticks were absolute garbage; but this could have been caused by all the rebooting, rather than being the cause of it.

    Several times after these spontaneous reboots I would get an error message asing if I wanted to close all drivers associated with Giga Technology, and can only assume that the fact that I left hypertheading enabled was a problem, which had made my GS drivers unstable.

  7. #7

    Re: Strange computer problem (sudden reboots)

    I also had a problem with a bad power supply causing this.
    Edward W. Trevino
    Dandlewood Productions

  8. #8

    Re: Strange computer problem (sudden reboots)

    Thanks everyone for all your help,

    In this case, it appears that Bill was right. Since I've turned off automatic rebooting in Windows, I get BSOD's instead. So the good news is that the problem is probably not with the computer itself. The bad news is that I'm getting way too many BSOD's. I'm suspecting bad RAM, so I'll test this.

    However, this all made me wonder: what is the usual maintenance that one does on a PC? I'm Mac guy who doesn't have much experience with PC's. I have my little maintenance "routine" on my Mac (check the HD, zap PRAM, repair permissions, and a few others), but I don't know what I should do on the PC.

    I sometimes check the HD with Windows' built-in utility, and I plan on defragmenting once in a while. Anything else I should be doing? I don't use the PC for internet (only for Giga and Kontakt), so the chance of Viruses is relatively remote.

    I'd really appreciate any advice on this subject.


  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 1999
    Winsted, CT

    Re: Strange computer problem (sudden reboots)

    What is the error message on the BSOD?

    It will either be some cryptic words separated_by_underscores near the top, or a series of 3 HEX numbers towards the bottom.

  10. #10

    Re: Strange computer problem (sudden reboots)

    Hi Bill,

    I will have to check the error message in detail next time I get a crash. I don't remember exactly the messages that I have seen, but what I do remember is this:

    - There's always at least one line that starts with "STOP" and then has a lot of cryptic words (or maybe hex numbers, honestly I just didn't notice).

    - Sometimes (but not always), there's a second line. The message there varies, but the one I've seen the most often begins with "Win32k.sys" and then has a bunch of cryptic words or hex numbers.

    I'm afraid that's not much information, but I will check in more detail the next time I get a BSOD.

    Many thanks!

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