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Computer random lock-up

Every since I've gotten my new computer, I have had it randomly lock up on me.  It doesn't do it in a specific application, but it does it several times a day.  I have contacted Dell support several times, and no one can seem to take care of the problem for me.  I have run several different spyware and anti-virus programs and have not found anything.  I have tested my memory boards (upon the recommendation of Dell support) and that's not it.  Any ideas?  I'm getting really frustrated!

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1 Copper

Re: Computer random lock-up


Here is a quick post, I'll try to take another look at it later in more detail.

General Info

A hang is either a software hang or a hardware hang.

  • Software hang   = System is still running (i.e. CPU is executing code), but for some reason is not making forward progress.
  • Hardware hang = Some hardware component causes a failure and the system cannot continue. 

Some types of hangs:

Software hang - system is hung in software loop (BIOS, kernel, driver, O/S)
Hardware hang - system is hung due to a machine check error  (CPU reported error code)
Hardware hang - system is hung due to a part failure (hard drive issue, other)

Some detail on common hardware hangs:

Memory corruption hang:    Data becomes invalid and software code behaves incorrectly, usually resulting in a hang

Uncompleted transaction:   The CPU requests some data in the system and does not get a reply.  An example would be the CPU requesting some data from a video card, and the video card not responding with the data.  The CPU gets hung because it is waiting for the data to come back and prevents execution of further instructions.


  - Can you explain 'system lockup' in detail?    
    Will the mouse move?  Can it power off?  Will it reset?  Is anything on the screen moving at all? 

 - Please describe any changes to the system since you purchased it and the type of system.
   No changes, new hardware cards, new software updates, etc.

Experiments to try:
  - Determine if it is software or hardware hang:
     Is there a keyboard light on your system?  If yes, try hitting caps lock and see if the light turns on/off.
     If the light turns on, then it is likely a soft hang since the CPU had to process an interrupt to change the color of the light.

 - Disable power management features
   Random guess, but I have seen random failures due to power management issue.

- Try removing components from the system
   This tests for a hardware failure.  Only video/mouse in system may be acceptable.

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1 Copper

Re: Computer random lock-up

Here is the information from the more detailed look at the issue.
It may be similar to what was in the previous post but this one asks for more information.


    computer used  -->  f(t)  --> system locks up
    t = time since turned on or time since purchase

    Goal is to find what occurred in f(t) that caused lockup.

Next Steps



Was the system stable on the first day the computer was received?
Post states:  'Ever since I've gotten my new computer'
I am trying to determine if it came from the factory unstable or if a change occurred at a later time that caused it to become unstable.


Please list any hardware changes from the default that was shipped from Dell.
Please list any software changes from the default that was shipped from Dell (if possible).
Especially those around the time of the failure or when the failure was noticed.

System behavior

Is the system usually idle when the lockup happens or is there any activity (mouse move, start application)?
What type of applications do you normally run?
How often is the computer used?  Does it stay on most of the day?

System information

Please provide information about your system (desktop, laptop, server, internal components)
How long have you had the system?  Some automatic software updates may have occurred.


Turn on computer
computer is used or sits idle
system locks up
power off or reset

Next Steps

Try and determine if it is a software or hardware hang (as stated in previous post)
Also look at the changes and see if any of those caused the hang.

I believe some common hang types are:
- Software stuck in a polling loop
- Software waiting for a response from hardware (I/O card, interrupt, etc.)
- Software programs hardware incorrectly (bad driver for example)
- Hardware waiting for a response
- Bad hardware component
- Hardware detected an error (machine check, internal error)

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