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System completely unstable - probably hardware [solved]

3 replies [Last post]
ariadacapo's picture
Joined: 2006-07-13

Hello all,

I am encountering serious problems trying to use my computer.
I have a Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo D 7830 laptop (P4 2.4GHz, 500 Mo RAM, Ati Radeon 9600) running Ubuntu Dapper.
I have used Ubuntu (5.4 and 6.6) for six months now and never had any serious problem. All my hardware is properly supported.

This week the computer has started to go completely unstable. This started with occasional crashes, evolving onto systematic crashes. Firefox, Thunderbird, gftp, Bluefish, Gnome-panel, eog, Nautilus, the terminal, just about every program I use had crashes, from "[...] quitting unexpectedly" messages to freezes to disappearing instantly. (this is very distressful).

I did a RAM test (from LiveCD) and made sure there was space on the HD (7 Gb out of 40) but this did not change anything.

This slowly evolved onto a situation where the hard drive had errors and I had to run fsck systematically upon startup, to clear inodes etc etc. When I managed to boot, the system would be completely unusable (unable to launch any program).

Right now the system is unable to boot from hard drive, and running fsck, even manually, results in kernel panick errors and various freezes.

So thinking it would be a hard drive problem, I decided to go for a complete re-install (most files are back-upped fortunately). Unfortunately the computer cannot boot from liveCD either (neither Ubuntu 5.4 or 6.6). I have various error messages (seems to change each time) and when I finally managed to land on the gnome desktop, I immediately had similar crashes ("gnome-panel quits unexpectedly").

I therefore think it's a hardware problem.
My question is, what could be responsible for this? It doesn't seem to be the hard drive. Could the CPU, the RAM, the motherboard, the power supply be in cause?

If you have any suggestions I would gladly read them, since I am left without anything working at all. Sad I have no backup pc, and had planned for my laptop to last another year at least.

Thanks very much!


tbuitenh's picture
Joined: 2005-12-21
If it's the CPU, then it

If it's the CPU, then it probably wouldn't work at all. Unless the cooler is not properly attached, then you might get trouble after a few minutes, and it will switch itself off soon after that I think. So probably not the CPU.
You tested the RAM, so it's not that either.
Power supply: in that case you get problems like the harddrive having trouble spinning up (I think...).
Both the harddisk and the cdrom are affected, right? Probably the motherboard then.

ariadacapo's picture
Joined: 2006-07-13
Thanks for the advice

Thanks for the advice tbuitenh.

I don't think overheating is a problem. This is sometimes an issue in the summer but not now anymore. As far as I can feel and hear it does not grow hot.

I'll test the RAM again just to make sure... this test lasts for ages.

In terms of power supply, I was thinking of over-loading... There is no battery so it might be affecting performance directly. I'll borrow a voltmeter and have a look at tension.

Indeed both HD and CD are affected, so I am looking at the motherboard too. Tonight I am opening it up (hard... the case is completely broken) and cleaning any dust I see. If this doesn't work... I doubt I'll be able to find spare parts. I'll have to find a second-hand replacement laptop.

What a week... two bicycle accidents, two missed deadlines, paper mail problems, lots of things I wanted done on, and now no computer.

ariadacapo's picture
Joined: 2006-07-13

After hours of effort, I finally solved the problem.

The RAM memory was the cause of the problem. A second test displayed some errors (at last! an error I can point at!) and after a some fiddling (to find out what exactly was faulty) it turned out one of the two bars is flawed.

The first RAM test didn't pick the problem probably because the bar hadn't completely deteriorated yet. This slow deterioration (rather than a sudden breakdown) is what caused the whole problem in my opinion.

My hard drive necessited a few very long fsck sessions and is a bit like a swiss cheese now, but everything works. I thank Goodness and Free Software Developers for this liveCD RAM test and FileSystemCheck.

The lesson I learn: If you suspect hardware problems, pop in a liveCD and have a few long, intensive sessions on it to try to reproduce the problem. If it doesn't happen, then it's either your harddrive or software!



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