In this excerpt from Answercast #34, I look at an older system that is randomly crashing. It may be time for a reinstall!
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Just live with it?
Certainly, heat is the very first thing that I always think of whenever a computer starts crashing randomly. It is one of those insidious little things that a lot of people don’t realize:
- Their systems get hot.
- The fans get blocked, or the fans don’t even work, and the system simply
That’s the kind of a thing that can cause your system to crash randomly – as well as simply crashing when it’s working hard. If you’re doing something CPU intensive, it will generate some extra heat (at that time) which could cause the system to crash, where it might not crash otherwise.
If it’s not heat, on a nine-year-old machine, the next thing that comes to mind is actually something that’s referred to as “software rot.”
Over the course of time, over nine years in your case, you’ve probably:
- Installed some software;
- Removed some software;
- Cleaned some things up;
- Changed some settings;
- And done that a lot.
I mean, it’s not something you’re probably doing everyday, but what happens is that all of these changes to your system – over time – tend to destabilize your machine a little bit.
That’s referred to as software rot.
It’s not really something that’s going wrong. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t exist, but in a real world (the one we happen to live in), it does. It’s one of those things that causes me (at least, every couple of years) to reformat and reinstall Windows. That let’s me start with a clean slate.
It’s basically like turning the machine back to nine years ago:
- Starting it clean.
- Installing Windows.
- Installing all of the updates
- And going on from there.
Rather than dealing with this nine years worth of incremental change, you now have a more solid, more current image of your system that could, presumably, be significantly more stable.
Instability over time
I know it happens; in my case, because I’m constantly testing software. I’ll install software, I’ll uninstall software – and if you do that often enough, this kind of thing can happen.
So, if you’re certain that there’s not a heat issue going on, then the very next thing that I would look into might be:
- Backup your system, reformat, reinstall Windows, and all of your
applications from scratch.
Yep, that’s a bit of work, but that’s the next thing that comes to mind.
Check the hardware
Finally, I don’t know what kind of a machine you are running; but it might make some sense (if the machine’s been moved around a bit in the last nine years) to:
- Turn it off
- Unplug it
- Open it up (if you can)
- And make sure that all of the removable cards like the memory cards, any expansion cards and so forth are all seated properly in their appropriate sockets.
That’s one of the other things that can kind of, sort of happen over time, especially if a machine is moved around a lot.
Pull out a card, maybe clean off the contacts a little bit with a clean cloth of some sort, and then stuff it back in. Some people recommend using a pencil eraser to clean the contacts on a card. I’m not a big fan of that, but it is an option as long as you make sure that all of the little eraser dust falls outside of your machine… you’re not doing it over the motherboard.
So those are the kinds of things I would look at.
- Overheating is still on top of my list.
- Reinstalling the system is something that I would seriously consider (make sure to back everything up first),
- And finally, potentially, looking at some of the hardware that may have shaken loose over nine years.