Geeks in Phoenix

Geek Blog


A computer that randomly and frequently freezes up

When it comes to computer repair, you have to be a detective of sorts. And once in a while I come across a really good mystery. I recently got a HP M7360N in the shop that would randomly freeze-up in Windows XP when you moved the mouse. It would run perfectly fine in Safe Mode. Maybe a bad driver?

A check of the event logs yields absolutely nothing, not a single error. I check Device Manager and find the hard drive controller listed under the Unknown category, even though it is correctly identified as an Intel controller. I uninstall it inside Device Manager and then scan for hardware changes. The hard drive controller reinstalls back into the Unknown category.

The system is still freezing up randomly when the mouse is moved. I try a PS2 and USB mouse and got the same results with both. I disable all non-essential drivers and reboot with no change. I download the original and latest drivers for the system, trying all with no luck. Maybe a corrupt installation?

I create an image of the hard drive and then wipe it clean. Using the supplied recovery disks, I proceed to re-install the operating system and recovery partition. The system froze-up three times during reinstallation. But this time the hard drive controller is under the correct category, IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers. It's starting to look like a hardware issue.

I run a few DOS based utilities to test the memory, hard drive, etc. with no luck. I even try the HP recovery diagnostics. Every test I run tells me that there is nothing wrong with the hardware. Using the keyboard only in Windows, I am able to install another utility to test all of the motherboard components. I allow it to run for six hours and the system passes every test.

The BOIS is the next place I look and find it's a few versions older than what is currently available for download. I download and install the latest BIOS version and it still keeps freezing up randomly when the mouse is moved. I start searching the internet for clues.

After a few different search queries, I come across an article at Badcaps.net discussing symptoms of capacitor failure on motherboards, one being 'system randomly and frequently freezes'. I check the motherboard thoroughly and find no capacitors that look bad. I start checking the expansion (add-in) cards and all at once, the mystery was solved.

There on the graphics card was a bank of capacitors that the tops were swollen.

Top view of the graphics card showing the difference between a good and bad capacitors
Top view of the graphics card showing the difference between a good and bad capacitors.

Side view of the graphics card showing the difference between a good and bad capacitor
Side view of the graphics card showing the difference between a good and bad capacitor.

The movement of the mouse on screen was causing the graphics card to freeze-up. I re-assembled the system with a new graphics card and the issue was gone. Another computer repair mystery solved.

How to manually eject your computer CD / DVD drive tray

In this article, I show how to use the Eject Pin Hole to manually eject the tray on your computers CD / DVD drive. There will be times when you need to open the tray on your computers CD / DVD drive when the system is powered off.

  • You need to boot your computer using the CD / DVD drive
  • You need to retrieve a disk without starting up the computer

Caution: Turn off power to the system before manually ejecting a disk.

All CD / DVD drives have a Eject Pin Hole. The only thing we need is a paper clip to use it (I am using a #1 size for this article).

All we need is a paper clip

All we have to do is bend it at the first curve 180 degrees (straitening it out). Then take the second curve and bend it 90 degrees. Now we need to locate the Eject Pin Hole.

Desktop CD / DVD drive Eject Pin Hole location

Desktop CD / DVD drives:
Gently insert the modified paper clip into the Eject Pin Hole until you feel it make contact with the gear underneath the tray. Firmly pressing inward, you will notice the tray to start to move out. Press inward until you have enough room to get your finger under the tray and then pull it out the rest of the way. If you can only get a small portion of the tray out, you can use the other end of the paper clip to gently pry open the tray enough to get your finger under it. Once done, gently push back the tray to the closed position. It will close firmly when the system is powered up.

Laptop - Notebook CD / DVD drive Eject Pin Hole location

Laptop - Notebook CD / DVD drives:
The trays on laptops/notebooks are spring loaded, so all that is needed is to release the locking mechanism. You do not have to insert the paper clip as far as with a desktop CD / DVD drive, as you are not connecting to the gearing under the tray. Gently insert the paper clip into the Eject Pin Hole. Once you feel it make contact, gently push in and the tray will eject immediately. Once done, gently push the tray back inward until it locks back into place.

Enjoy,
Scott

Check your hard disk for errors in Windows 7

You can help solve some computer problems and improve the performance of your computer by making sure that your hard disk has no errors.

Click on the Start button.

Click on Computer.

Right-click the hard disk drive that you want to check, and then click Properties.

Click the Tools tab, and then, under Error-checking, click Check Now. If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

To automatically repair problems with files and folders that the scan detects, select Automatically fix file system errors. Otherwise, the disk check will simply report problems but not fix them.

To perform a thorough disk check, select Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors. This scan attempts to find and repair physical errors on the hard disk itself, and it can take much longer to complete.

To check for both file errors and physical errors, select both Automatically fix file system errors and Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors.

Click Start.

Depending upon the size of your hard disk, this may take several minutes. For best results, don't use your computer for any other tasks while it's checking for errors.

Note:
If you select Automatically fix file system errors for a disk that is in use (for example, the partition that contains Windows), you'll be prompted to reschedule the disk check for the next time you restart your computer.

How to perform a clean installation of the operating system on a netbook

In my last blog, I reported on the new Acer Aspire One Netbook (Model AO571h) I had just purchased. It came pre-loaded with Windows XP Home. Since I need to connect to a domain, I needed Windows XP Professional on the netbook.

Normally, I check the hardware manufacturers web site(s) for the latest drivers and download them. Then I just wipe the hard drive clean and boot to the installation media. Once it finished installation I immediately install the specific drivers for the hardware installed, starting with the chipset first.

But the netbook's hardware architecture is new and a standard OEM version of Windows XP does not recognize the hardware correctly. I contacted Acer and was told that they do not support the installation of any operating system other than what was shipped with the computer. But their web site had the drivers for all 32-bit versions of Windows XP and Windows Vista.

It became obvious that I had to add the chipset drivers to the Windows XP Pro cd. I extracted the chipset drivers and found the instructions for adding the drivers into the installation media. I then created an image file from the installation media and opened it up for editing. I added in the chipset drivers that I had downloaded and saved the file. I then burned it to a cd.

The netbook booted right up on the modified installation media and the setup went flawlessly. I installed the rest of the drivers I had downloaded and it's running beautifully on Windows XP Professional.

Till then,
Scott

Acer Aspire One Netbook hard drive issue

I recently worked on a Acer Aspire One Netbook (Model AOD150). The netbook no longer was able to boot, as the system could not find an operating system. Booting the netbook up onto a USB drive I was able to see the problem. The hard drive had two partitions, one hidden recovery partition and one active system (C:\) partition, that had become corrupt.

The only solution was to use the recovery media. Only the owner did not have an external cd / dvd writer, so she was unable to create the recovery media. I contacted Acer and they sent out new media for free. I got the media and reloaded the netbook and all was well. I had a chance to work with it a little bit and really like the size, battery life and cost. So I decided to pick one up.

I purchased a Acer Aspire One Netbook (Model AO571h). On first boot, after allowing the system to restart a couple times for set up, it was ready to go. I proceeded to connect a dvd writer and created the recovery media. I then decided to take a look at the hard drive partitions, so I put a bootable cd in the external optical drive I just used to create the recovery media and rebooted.

Booted the netbook up on a PE (preinstall environment) cd and all looked fine. The netbook had two partitions, one hidden recovery partition at 8 gigabytes and one active system (C:\) partition at 141 gigabytes, for a rough total of 149 gigabytes. That was correct for a 160 gigabyte hard drive once formatted.

I turned off the netbook and external dvd drive, disconnected the dvd and restarted the netbook. What happened next was deja vu. The screen displayed cannot find operating system error. I turned it off, reconnected the external dvd drive and proceeded to reload the system with the disks I had just created.

I reloaded the netbook and then checked the hard drive. This time there was only one active system (C:\) partition at 149 gigabytes. The system works fine and have had no problems since.

Remember, if your new laptop, netbook or personal computer does not come with recovery media (disks), you probably have to make them yourself. This is the first thing that should be done. Lucky for me, that's just what I did.

Til then,
Scott

Customer service is #1

Here at Geeks in Phoenix, we take pride in providing excellent customer service. From computer repair, virus removal and data recovery, we aim to give the highest quality of service.

Bring your computer to us and save

Our in-shop computer repair service  is based on the time we work on your computer, not the time it takes your computer to work!

Contact us

Geeks in Phoenix
4722 East Monte Vista Road
Phoenix, Arizona 85008
(602) 795-1111

Like Geeks in Phoenix on Facebook

Follow Geeks in Phoenix on Twitter

Watch Geeks in Phoenix on YouTube

Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in all aspects of Computer Repair / PC Repair / Laptop Repair. Since 2008, our expert computer repair technicians have been providing outstanding Computer Repair, Virus Removal, Data Recovery, Photo Manipulation and Website Support.

Geeks in Phoenix have the best computer repair technicians providing computer repair and service in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe Arizona. We offer In-Shop, On-Site and Remote (with stable Internet connection) computer repair service.

Copyright © 2016 Geeks in Phoenix LLC