TechSpot

Computer hangs briefly at random intervals

By danhd
Dec 8, 2007
  1. Ironically, this even happened as I was typing the subject line of this post.

    Hello, first time poster on this board, kind of using it as a last resort because searching this forum, and other forums, and google, has given me no help in determining what's going on. Here's the deal:

    The problem
    During regular computing, my computer will hang for a period of roughly 1 to 2 seconds, and then will return to normal operating procedure. This will happen at random intervals, maybe two or three times in a minute, or only once every fifteen minutes.

    Here are examples of what I'm talking about:

    (1) Let's say I'm typing an email, and all of a sudden, as I'm typing out a sentence, the letters I hit on the keyboard aren't showing up. After the 1 to 2 second waiting period, all the letters I had just typed that didn't show up will all be printed out into the email window... it's like they are being printed through a for loop (one at a time, very quickly, sequentially).

    (2) I'm surfing the Internet, and as I move my mouse toward a link I want to click, the pointer doesn't turn into the little hand, even though the mouse can still move. I can click on the link (even though nothing will happen), and then after the waiting period is over, the little hand will show up, followed very quickly by the link being displayed as active, and then the new page will open.

    (3) I'm playing a game, whether something stupid online or something like Battlefield 2, and as I'm moving around within the game, everything stops for the duration of the waiting period. Nothing happens, except time in the real world passes by, and then when the waiting period ends, everything picks up right where it left off. If an AI had shot something at me, the bullet would stay halfway between us while the computer was hanging, and then when it stopped hanging, it would still have to cover the final half of its travels. Nothing is processed while the computers does this hanging thing.

    Computer details
    I run a Toshiba Tecra S2 laptop, bought 2 1/2 years ago.
    Pentium M 2.0 GHz
    1 GB PC2700 SDRAM
    nVidia GeForce Go 6600 PCI Express, 64 MB RAM
    60 GB internal HD @ 7200 rpm
    basic sound and such..

    It is hooked up to a Port Replicator from Toshiba for this model of computer. Into the replicator I have a 160 GB Lacie external HD through a 4-pin Firewire port. I also have a 500 GB Fantom USB 2.0 external HD. I am connected to the internet through a hardwired connection to my D-Link DI-524 wireless router. I have a normal USB Microsoft Wheelmouse (optical), and a memory card reader. Dell printer and some speakers....

    Here's some info that may be related
    This has been occuring for quite a while (months). I can't remember when it exactly started, but I will say that a number of months ago, I changed from stock video drivers to unsigned drivers for this laptop (Toshiba hasn't released a driver update since January of 2005, so I figured I'd take things into my own hands). I got information from a website, laptopvideo2go.com, on how to install the latest nVidia drivers for your system, even if they hadn't been released by your laptop's OEM, by modifying the driver's .INF file. The drivers seemed to work fine, and I could finally get games like Battlefield 2 to run on my computer (since before they would just CTD when trying to run them).

    When reinstalling drivers, I do everything correctly and also use a program called DriverCleaner, which I've been using for a long time and have had no problem with.

    Some things that I've done to try and fix the problem
    I reformatted my computer about a month and a half ago. Clean wipe, fresh install of Windows XP SP2 (clean, legit). After installation, I put on the modified INF drivers before the stock drivers, and let the system be. After a while, I wasn't playing games as much and needed the stability of the old driver, so I went back to the January 2005 version from Toshiba. Used driver cleaner, but did not reinstall Windows.

    I've had this computer in a number of environments, as well. The same things happen whether or not I'm on the port replicator, and whether or not I'm using wireless vs. hardwired Internet. I've taken this computer a number of different places on campus and I still have the same issues. I've taken it home and run it on my home network and I still have the same issues.

    About three weeks ago, I had a new fan and video cooling system installed on the system under warranty, because the fan was failing. New system works fine, but the hanging issue still comes about.

    Finals thoughts
    It's not a system critical issue, but it's just really really annoying. Oddly enough, while the computer hung during writing of the title of this post, it hasn't hung during the entire time I've spent composing it.

    If you have any idea what's going on, even if it's something like there's some transistors that have serious leakage current due to manufacturing issues and it's impossible to fix, I'd still like to know. Any and all help will be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Bobbye

    Bobbye Helper on the Fringe Posts: 16,392   +36

    You can do two things to try and find the cause(s) of the intermittent freezes:

    1. Right click on the Taskbar> Processes tab> do you notice some unknown program consuming CPU usage?
    2. Try and get some idea of the computer time when the freeze(s) occur. Look in the Event Viewer for Warnings or Error occurring at that/those times:

    Follow this path:
    Control Panel Administrative Tools> Event Viewer> Click on System & Apps, one at a time on the left> look for Errors on the right> right click error> Properties> note description of error, Event# and Source.

    There is a "copy" button below the up/down arrows. Click that, then go to any place that allows you to type (ie. notepad, wordpad, this board) and you can paste (use CTRL-V) the entire event details there. It makes for easy reporting of the event.

    If you want to paste the Event here, you do not need to include the lines of code that follow the Description- but paste all else. You will be looking for Error that occurs at the time of the problem.

    I don't usually ask for Warnings, but since you are referring to such a small amount of time here, it may be necessary to see if you notices strings of intermittent Warnings.

    You do not mention what kind of security programs you have on board. Anti-virus and at least two spyware/adware programs should be used to scan regularly, updating each right before scan.

    I assume you have eliminated heating issues with the new fan.

    Edit to remove duplicate.
     
  3. danhd

    danhd TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Wow that is something I never knew about before. I have finals all this week and papers to write and such but as soon as I find some time to work on that I'll let you know if it helps. Thanks so much for replying!
     
  4. Bobbye

    Bobbye Helper on the Fringe Posts: 16,392   +36

    You're welcome. Follow what I set up for you and hopefully we'll find the cause(s) of the problem.

    Good luck on your finals!
     
  5. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,469   +327

    some laptops have this behavior due to insufficient cooling.
    if you listen carefully, the stalling occurs and then the fan kicks into hispeed.

    set your fan control for MAX cooling.
     
  6. danhd

    danhd TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Some things to report

    First off, sorry for the delay in reply... I had finals, like I said, then ran out to Colorado for a week of skiing-- wasn't too worried about the computer while I was out there.

    Anyway, I actually think that jobeard may be most correct. I've been looking through the event viewer, doing normal computing and waiting for the hanging to happen, and nothing noticeable comes up in event viewer. Most of the warnings come from Userenv:
    and most of the errors come from EventSystem:

    The errors and warnings, however, never really occur at the times when I notice the hanging. I refresh the Event Viewer and nothing new comes up-- right while I was typing that previous sentence, it hung, then as the letters started getting typed out, the fan kicked up and then everything went back to normal.

    There's nothing else that's really noticeable/worth mentioning. In terms of security software, I run nothing. Norton Antivirus usually does nothing good for my computer, and McAfee just annoys the hell out of me. I should probably run a spyware program but I never do, and I don't get any fatal issues when using my computer, so I just do without.

    In the last few minutes while I've been trying to force the hanging issue, I noticed that
    1) It mainly occurs while using Firefox, most notably in Gmail.
    2) Other times it will occur while running simple games online (addictinggames.com, while I'm procrastinating from problem sets and such...).
    3) When doing normal, offline computing, I usually have no issue.

    I did notice, however, then when forcing the issue, the computer will hang and then the fan will boot up to a higher setting, even though I have everything set on the highest possible cooling settings I can get using Toshiba's utilities.

    So I guess the conclusions are as follows: I'm not going to find anything useful in the event viewer, except I know that I can't find the problem there. It's most likely related to heating/cooling, even though I just had a new fan installed. It mainly occurs while using Firefox and most notably Gmail, but I have to use those programs and I'm not going to change my method of using them without serious annoyance to the way I use my computer.

    What kinds of things can I do to improve cooling methods in my laptop? I already have the thing propped up on a docking station, so airflow is better than if it were just sitting flat on a desk. Are there components I can buy for better cooling? I know desktops can have water-cooled systems, is there anything equivalent or similar for a laptop?

    Is anyone familiar with Firefox having issues with memory leaks? I normally open at least 4-8 tabs in one Firefox window while browsing, and my memory usage will get into the 150-250k region (according to task manager). Closing tabs doesn't help the issue: I have to completely restart Firefox.

    Is this just because my computer is 2.5 years old and can't handle running that many tabs plus Gmail? (I only have about 1k emails saved in my inbox).

    Thanks for any and all help.
     
  7. Bobbye

    Bobbye Helper on the Fringe Posts: 16,392   +36

    Well, I think you're right about the fan! That's pretty much a give away if system hangs, fan comes on then system works! You might want to look into better cooling.

    Regarding this:
    1) It mainly occurs while using Firefox, most notably in Gmail.>>> Firefox is a browser so of course you will always be more active when using your browser! An likely you spend time in your email! These 2 things are the top of your system usage!
    2) Other times it will occur while running simple games online- of course it will! Games require much system usage and you access the games using your browser!!
    3) When doing normal, offline computing, I usually have no issue.>>> of course you don't!! There's not much going on!

    "the fan will boot up to a higher setting.." Clearly you have a heat issue!

    As for the Firefox memory leak, yes, I know that one! I've fought it for three years and it doesn't get any better. My homepage opens with 6 tabs and when I get close to 100,000k, I close FF and then re-open. If you have a problem doing this, losing whatever you're doing at the time, download the Session Managed add-on. With that, you have the option of being restored to the same session.

    As for this: "security software, I run nothing"- you are a fool! There is no other word for it. One day, when all you data in your system gets stolen or trashed, then you will look back and wonder how you could be so dumb!
     
  8. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,469   +327

    the origins of Firefox are in Netscape, which has a long history of memory leaks.

    that said, what you access and the contents loaded make a real difference in the impact of the leakage.

    Java Applets are a major problem here. The graphics (gif/jpg) don't matter much, but RSS streams and Realplayer/Quicktime videos sure do.
     
  9. Bobbye

    Bobbye Helper on the Fringe Posts: 16,392   +36

    jobeard, I don't have any RSS feeds and don't use Real player or Quick-time videos! The leak is there anyway.
     
  10. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,469   +327

    Like I said, it's an historic issue with Netscape.
     
  11. DarkVisor

    DarkVisor TS Rookie

    Hmm I am having the exact same issue!
    The difference is I am running a desktop, and have been for about 3 years with out this problem, It only started occurring when a virus attacked me. So I dont know how it could be heating issue!
     
     
  12. Bobbye

    Bobbye Helper on the Fringe Posts: 16,392   +36

    No, you are not having the exact same issue. Maybe your computer hangs and does random reboots, but the cause will be unique to your system.

    Please follow my path to the Event Viewer. Paste the corresponding Error(s) here and we can look for what is causing your problem.
     
  13. DarkVisor

    DarkVisor TS Rookie

    Um ok, wellllll I seem to be having the same problems.... My computer will randomly hang every few seconds for a few seconds, doesnt reboot or anything, and the cpu fan speeds up. Event log shows about 4 instances of {application hang} but they were an hour ago, and so far Ive had about 100 of these mini hangs so I dont think they have anything to do with each other. I think some unknown process or virus is hogging cpu resources every few seconds, which makes the speed controller in the fan go up. This doesnt happen while doing anything outside of browsing the web and maybe playing some games. And I have reinstalled firefox and internet explorer but it doesnt change anything :/
     
  14. Bobbye

    Bobbye Helper on the Fringe Posts: 16,392   +36

    When you have an indication of something running in the background, close the active Windows and right click on the Taskbar> Task manager> double click on the top frame of the CPU colume to sort in descending order.

    With all Windows and email closed, you should only see CPU usage for System idle, System and taskmgr. These processes add up to 100% of the CPU. If something else is running over 1 or 2 in the CPU column, note it and identify it using the database sbelow:

    STARTUP APPLICATION DATABASE LIST
    http://www.answersthatwork.com/Tasklist_pages/tasklist.htm
    http://www.sysinfo.org/startuplist.php

    Once identified, you can take steps to 1. stop it from starting at boot or 2. remove it if malware.
     
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