Thursday, February 23, 2012

Troubleshooting Adventure

Today I had a bit of a scare with my computer.

For the past while I have been having a problem with my computer where it will occasionally freeze up for a split second, and the audio gets all distorted until it unfreezes. It seems to do it more when I’m using the internet, but I couldn’t identify the cause.

A couple months ago I reinstalled Windows, partially because I wanted to get a “clean” install again, but mainly because I was getting annoyed at my computer freezing up all the time. For a while after I did the reinstall, everything was fine and the freezing seemed to have gone away. I figured it must have been a faulty driver or something, and I was content to not look into it because it was gone.
However, yesterday the freezing came back, and in full-force. Instead of occasionally freezing, it seemed that it was doing it almost constantly. It never froze for more than about a half-second, but a half-second freeze every two seconds got to be more than a little annoying.

Today it got so bad that I decided that I needed to figure out what the problem was RIGHT NOW. I started by closing programs I had open on my task bar one-by-one, and seeing if it stopped freezing. No results.

I moved on to closing items in my system tray, and watching the Task Manager to see if anything was causing spikes in the CPU usage. I got to the end of my tray, and still nothing worked. The internet wasn’t helping much, since the only thing I came across that described the exact symptoms my computer was experiencing was a forum post from someone who concluded it was “a virus” and that he needed “professional help”.

I looked over the list of programs running in my Task Manager and decided that it was going to take too long to look through that, so I would start disconnecting hardware and see if any of that made a difference. I started by disconnecting things on my USB hub, and when that didn’t do anything I disconnected the hub itself. Still no response.

Out came my Xbox 360 Wireless Controller adapter, and a couple USB extension cables that may or may not have been connected to nothing. Then my external hard disk. The problem stopped.
Didn’t see that coming. Apparently there’s some problem with my external HDD. Since I don’t regularly use it, disconnecting it long-term isn’t a big deal, but it’s still annoying.

I’m not 100% convinced that the problem is gone for good, but since it seems to have been fixed I’m content to act like it is. Hopefully there’s not some problem with some internal hardware on my computer, since that can get expensive to fix.

Do you have any mysteries in computer hardware that you’ve had to deal with?

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