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Old 2016-09-03, 06:21   #1
ixfd64
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"Danny"
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Default Alienware X51 plagued with problems again :-(

Several months ago, I mentioned that the video output of Alienware X51 was randomly stopping. That problem went away after I cleaned out the dust and re-installed the Nvidia drivers.

However, the computer is unfortunately having problems again. The issues aren't quite the same as what I encountered last year, but here are the symptoms:
  • Windows sometimes get stuck at the "Welcome" screen.
  • The computer freezes shortly after I log in, requring a hard reboot. This only seems to happen within the first few minutes; the system is otherwise stable.
  • The browsing history for both Firefox and Internet Explorer is often deleted after said crash.
  • Some administrative tools (such as Services and Performance Monitor) freeze after I open them. This happens even in safe mode.
  • There are screen artifacts when I try to close certain programs in safe mode.
  • There were a few times in which the computer simply made a beeping noise and did not start up. The beeps were continuous and did not correspond to any error code.
  • OpenHardwareMonitor and Event Viewer show nothing unusual.
  • S.M.A.R.T. tools indicate nothing wrong with the hard drive.

I've tried the following so far:
  • Discharged the capacitors in the motherboard by holding down the power button while the computer is unplugged.
  • Updated the BIOS to the latest version.
  • Installed the latest Windows and Nvidia driver updates.
  • Ran CCleaner.
  • Ran the Dell ePSA tool. It's worth noting that the tool often freezes during the WCMATS and WCMch memory tests.

The computer is running Windows 7 Home Premium. I thinking about doing a system repair over the long weekend. Is there anything else I could try before then?

Last fiddled with by ixfd64 on 2016-09-03 at 06:55
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Old 2016-09-03, 07:33   #2
kladner
 
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Have you run Memtest? Perhaps re-seat RAM and graphics card? Check the power connections to the GPU? Run sfc /scannow?
Just throwing things out there. RAM and graphics are suggested by some of the symptoms. Since you've reinstalled the graphics driver already, some of the hardware tweaks above might be the next things to try.
The Admin tools freezing and the browser anomalies might point more at the OS itself. Have you scanned for viruses and other malware?

Last fiddled with by kladner on 2016-09-03 at 07:44
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Old 2016-09-03, 07:58   #3
ixfd64
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Thanks for your advice. I ran HijackThis but didn't see any unusual items either. I'll probably try Malwarebytes Anti-Malware next as I've heard a lot of good things about that program.

As for hardware issues, several other websites are also suggesting a loose memory module as a possible cause of the issues I'm experiencing. However, that doesn't really explain why the crashes only happen within the first few minutes of logging in.

Last fiddled with by ixfd64 on 2016-09-03 at 07:59
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Old 2016-09-03, 08:23   #4
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I highly recommend Malwarebytes.

The timing of the crashes might be related to a thermal issue: something loose tightens up as it warms. (Some assumptions on my part here. "After logging in" doesn't necessarily mean the same as a cold start.)
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Old 2016-09-03, 18:03   #5
ixfd64
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This is definitely a strange case. The timing of the crashes, the lost browser settings and the problem with the system tools suggest that the issue is software-related. The fact that Prime95 and mfaktc have no apparent effect on the stability of the system also seems to confirm this.

On the other hand, the memory test failures would indicate otherwise as the ePSA tool is part of the BIOS rather than Windows itself. Your theory that "something loose tightens up" also seems plausible; as a matter of fact, the freezing does seem to happen less often after multiple startups. The worst-case scenario is that something is wrong with both the OS and the hardware. If that's the case, then some files may have been corrupted due to said crashes. That would certainly explain why my mfaktc checkpoint file got wiped after a recent forced reboot.

Last fiddled with by ixfd64 on 2016-09-03 at 18:07
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Old 2016-09-03, 20:38   #6
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There are screen artifacts when I try to close certain programs in safe mode.

Run Memtest ( not the latest version) but version before, and run it few times with ALL cores enabled in test. I can bet it is memory module failure.

Screen artifacts suggest it is somehow related with graphics, perhaps memory on GPU.

But I can bet also that you didnot never clean up your PSU?

So try next : dust off PSU ( open it if needed) you will be surprised how many dust PSU can collect. Then wipe out all contacts on every memory module and reseat it again. I will never forget my adventure with memory module and extremely small piece of paper: that piece was stick on one contact of memory module and nothing was working. After clean memory module sockets I finally sow that small piece, remove it and all was working again.
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Old 2016-09-04, 06:55   #7
ixfd64
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A quick update: I opened the case again and noticed a lot of dust that I had missed earlier, behind the DVD drive and the video card. There was an alarming moment when the PC complained about being unable to find the hard drive and displayed a Blue Screen of Death after I rebooted. However, that's probably because some of the dust got into the SATA connector as the issue did not come up again after I reseated the hard drive.

In any case, I proceeded with the Windows 7 reinstallation. It's too early to tell whether this fixes everything, but at least the software problems (the display artifacts in safe mode and the non-functioning system tools) are resolved. *crosses fingers*

Last fiddled with by ixfd64 on 2016-09-04 at 06:56
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Old 2016-09-04, 07:20   #8
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I am asking myself: why people ask for help, but when they get it , they dont use it.
It looks like they are all to lazy to do anything.

If you wont to solve problem, then make ANY possible measure to do that. In you case before software installation you can redust all. clean and reseat memory modules, run memtest, check PSU. No you didnot do anything then you make software re-installation.

So true question is : why you really ask for help? Because you are bored and wont to write some posts on forum.
Anyway, you do not listen anybody's advice
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Old 2016-09-04, 09:52   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pepi37 View Post
I am asking myself: why people ask for help, but when they get it , they dont use it.
It looks like they are all to lazy to do anything.

If you wont to solve problem, then make ANY possible measure to do that. In you case before software installation you can redust all. clean and reseat memory modules, run memtest, check PSU. No you didnot do anything then you make software re-installation.

So true question is : why you really ask for help? Because you are bored and wont to write some posts on forum.
Anyway, you do not listen anybody's advice
If it was me I would probably firstly try the advice that involved the least amount of effort, then the advice that involved a bit more effort, etc. until it was fixed. A software reinstall is easy, and I am lazy, so I would try that first also. If that failed to fix it, then I'd move up to something that requires me to be less lazy.
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Old 2016-09-04, 16:02   #10
ixfd64
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I forgot to mention that I did reseat the RAM and try to run Memtest86 first. However, the memory modules were already securely fastened, and reseating them didn't seem to make a difference. The system also wouldn't recognize the bootable USB stick containing Memtest86 and always booted directly to Windows. Apologies for the lack of communication; I was extremely sleepy when I wrote the last post.

Last fiddled with by ixfd64 on 2016-09-04 at 16:37
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Old 2016-09-04, 17:08   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ixfd64 View Post
I forgot to mention that I did reseat the RAM and try to run Memtest86 first. However, the memory modules were already securely fastened, and reseating them didn't seem to make a difference. The system also wouldn't recognize the bootable USB stick containing Memtest86 and always booted directly to Windows. Apologies for the lack of communication; I was extremely sleepy when I wrote the last post.
So Memtest was not started at all? Then you can try with Memtest+

Last fiddled with by pepi37 on 2016-09-04 at 17:08
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