My computer may be dying…

A guy stomping the shit out of his laptop.So…ever since yesterday my computer has been blue screening.  However, I noticed today that it only did it when I had movies on in VLC or Windows Media Player, and then only about every 20 minutes.  Initially I thought it was because my hardware couldn’t handle all the awesome of Doctor Who, but then I tried some other movies and it blue screened then too.

I suspected it may be something to do with the most recent update, so I tried to roll the update back.  It said that it was unsuccessful in doing so because I have an anti-virus active.  So I shut down Kaspersky and tried again.  Same message.

So I started it up in safe mode, but all the restore points were gone.  Then, when I restarted the computer in normal mode, they were also gone.  So no rolling back.

Also, my video drivers are up-to-date.

Is my computer dying?  What should I do?  Haaaaaaaaaaaalp!

Here’s an update:

My computer specs are as follows.

Asus laptop.
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-2670QM @ 220GHz
8 GB of RAM
Windows 7 64 bit Home Premium, service pack 1

I’m about to run some more Doctor Who and let it blue screen so I can write down the stop code.

I’ve also been streaming football all morning in Firefox and it hasn’t blue screened.  Also, the last few times I’ve run a movie, it has frozen like it was going to blue screen and then just restarted.

You guys are wonderful.
Update and pics from #AACon15. MST3K cast members were at my talk.
PERSONAL: Mid day lab pics from the wife.
PERSONAL: Sorry to disappoint you, Julian.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Nick Johnson / Remijdio

    You should google the bluescreen number. It’s usually a string of 8 or so hex characters. Might be some sort of video card issue :-/

  • Veritas

    Try running a movie in safe mode, see if it bluescreens there. If it does, you may want to consider a full backup and restore from your blank image/installation dvds. Hard to say without knowing more about your OS and the like.

    But graphics cards are a certain possibility here. Again, hard to recommend a path without knowing more about your rig, JT.

  • Heather

    I am fairly computer illiterate when it comes to troubleshooting, so I can’t give any advice. :( Just because you mentioned Doctor Who, however, I am going to randomly recommend you look into The Humanism of Doctor Who. While it’s a philosophy take on Doctor Who, I’ve enjoyed it so far and they definitely make some interesting points.

  • Adam

    … What OS are you running? Have you run any hardware diagnostics yet? Could be codecs, could be Windows sucking, could be RAM or video gpu/memory.

  • KeganW

    It sounds like either a video issue in the Blue Screen or possibly a Kernel conflict. We’re gonna need that STOP code though from your Blue Screen.

  • Bryan Wall

    The shortest path to an answer is to restore the factory image on your PC. Most brand name PC’s either come with restore disks or an option somewhere on the start menu which will let you create the restore disks (you have to put in a couple of blank CDs or DVD’s). Make sure you back up your important files first.

    If after you restore the factory image you are still having a problem, then it’s definitely the hardware. Blue screens are often caused by bad memory, which is fortunately pretty cheap to replace. If you don’t have the problem after restoring, then it was a bad driver or corruption somewhere and you can load your software back on and copy your documents back over and you shouldn’t have any more problems. If you want to email me the make and model of your computer, I might be able to provide more info.

  • David Johnson

    I’m going to throw my support behind possible graphics card problems. They can affect things you wouldn’t even think of were related to graphics – heck, a bad card on mine increased boot-up time three-fold! And that’s *before* I noticed any actual graphics problems (like BSODs).

  • Joseph Gaspar

    If you have an HDD (Hard Disk Drive) as opposed to an SSD (Solid State Drive), then it might be the hard drive that is going. If you have the money to spare, check out Spinrite:

    The software is made by Steve Gibson, who does weekly podcasts with Leo Laporte (Of Screen Savers fame) called Security Now, which I also recommend for a good dose of security know how.

  • Josh

    Try this to see what it can get from the blue screen error message.

  • sqlrob

    You should be able to get the code from the event log.

    If you get me the kernel dump (address in this comment is fine), I can take a detailed look at the dump and see if anything jumps out at me.

  • Compuholic

    Several thing could be the problem here. Since you say that it crashes when watching a video but not immediately I would suspect that your problem may be heat related. Sometimes the heat sink gets clogged with dust or the fan fails. In order to test for that you could download Prime95 (just google it) which will torture your CPU and heat it up. I think it only runs on Windows (not sure if you have a PC or a Mac). Let it run for at least 30-60 minutes and see if the program or your system will crash. If it does you have found the cause.

    If the crashes occur seemingly random there could be a problem with your RAM. There are several tools will systematically test your memory. However not all tools can give you reliable results. You can pretty much trash all tools that are being run while the operating system is running. You need a tool that allows you to boot from a CD or USB stick and then runs the memory test. If you have a 32-bit machine memtest86 is an excellent tool. I’m not sure if it will work with 64-bit machines or if you have more than 4 GB of RAM.

    But then it could be simply software related: A malfunctioning driver. But since you don’t have backups the only way to test that is to reinstall everything (not cool). To avoid this in the future, try to get a good backup software that takes snapshots of your harddrive. The Windows recovery points alone are not reliable and can only restore system files. My personal favorite tool for this job is Acronis True Image because it even allows you to restore your computer on different hardware. But if you don’t want to spend money the built-in backup tool in windows can also make images of your HD. The annoying thing about it is that it can only take full images. If you want a backup history that will fill up any storage medium pretty fast.

    Good luck tracking down the problem

  • Capt Dingleberry

    Just to give a thumbs up to ‘Compuholic’, my initial thought reading your symptoms was also that it is heat related. How does it behave when you play games? Does it BSoD as well?
    Some good advice given here already. As for backup/image software I use a free version of Macrium Reflect. Had to rebuild my Windows partition of that image a couple of months ago and it worked in a jiffy.

  • Drakk

    Flip the thing over. How much venting area does it have, intake and exhaust? An i7 of any kind in a laptop is going to get toasty.

    If there’s not enough vent area you might try a cooling stand to force more air into what space there is. Or you can get greative with some sharp implements or power tools – warranties, after all, are for unimaginitive people.

    (Do make sure your warranty is already expired though)

  • Nothing

    Try installing a real OS.

  • WCLPeter

    Since you indicated you were able to stream video all day in Firefox but not play videos offline videos I don’t think its related to heat issues, though it never hurts to take apart your computer every few years and point an air-can at the fans to clean them out.

    That being said, its probably one of the following:
    * Graphics driver incompatibility with your media players.
    * Sound driver incompatibility with your media players.
    * Recently updated background processes that are unknowingly affecting your graphics or sound drivers.
    * A combination of all of the above.

    When I help to diagnose friend’s machines one of the first things I do after the machine is booted and stable is to shut down *all* of the background programs (those little icons that run in the bottom right hand side of the screen). Once that’s done I try to recreate the problem the person has. If the crash doesn’t happen we reboot and try it again running as “normal”, if the crash happens again then we know the culprit is one of those programs.

    Its an exercise in fun after that trying to figure out which program, or combination of programs, that’s causing the problem. Take lots of good notes about the combinations your testing, it’ll save time – trust me. Also a quick web search for each background program you have running and the word “crash” can help narrow it down faster.

    Now if it keeps happening even though you’ve closed everything, including all those background tasks hanging out in the task bar, you could have some kind of malware / spambot that your current Anti-Virus isn’t finding so the next step is to download Spybot: Search and Destroy. Its a fun little free program that helps find spambots and malware that could be installed on your machine, been running it on my Windows machines for years (I switched to Macs years ago but still keep a Windows machine for legacy stuff) and its part of my “Diagnosis Toolkit” whenever I work with friends and family. Now you can run the search and see if that helps, if it does then great! If not there are some “Advanced” features in that program which could help you diagnose your PC – like helping you find active background programs that don’t show in the task bar – just don’t hold me responsible if you use them and bork your machine even further. :-)

    If none of that works then you need to give it to that family member / family friend who’s really good with computers and fixes everyone’s problems and have them go nuts with it. :-) In the meantime, if you can afford it, buy yourself an external HD and start backing up all your personal files just in case you need to blast your machine and start from scratch again.

  • Icaarus

    I may have the real answer to your problem and it is not what you expect. Kaspersky is a great antivirus, but on one hand it’s kinda like russian roulette (pun intended for those that know who codes it). Kaspersky will randomly mess up a small percentage of windows machines it is installed on, this is a combination of the way your system updates and the way it works. What probably happened was an update did not finish stably, thereby messing up your graphics-kernel connection. And of course you can’t roll back because Kaspersky has pooched windows system restore on your machine. The combination of the two mean that you might just well be lost until you reinstall. Best of luck, and if that isn’t the problem, the next place to look is the power supply and graphics card (one or the other could cause the same symptoms)

  • GirlNoir

    I’m an IT pro, and I’m gonna second Josh up there. Grab the dump file and look for what file is causing the crash. In my experience, it’s typically a bad driver (often video) and your experience seems to bear that out. In that case, a fresh download from the manufacturer’s site, a complete uninstall (deleting the files) and reinstall of the driver in question, and you should be good to go.

  • Adam

    Is there an update on this? How is it going?