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My windows xp pc has been randomly restarting the past few months. I had desktop support swap the hardware out (everything but the disk) but the problem persists.

The system simply shuts off and reboots. I don't see anything of note in the event logs.

Now that the software is swapped out, I assume it is a software issue causing this.

How would you start diagnosing this problem?

Are there crash dump files somewhere that could give some leads on the offending process?

Many Thanks

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closed as off topic by Kara Marfia May 22 '09 at 14:22

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Can you clarify what you mean by 'swap the hardware out'? Do you mean they reimaged your installation to a totally different PC or what? – Adam May 21 '09 at 15:37
You should probably mention which hardware (or perhaps "totally new box") else you'll get answers like "power supply" and my favorite, which is "video card". – gbarry May 21 '09 at 15:41
Sounds like hardware problems. Power supply problems could originate outside of the actual PC hardware - like strong magnetic fields by a high-voltage cable in a wall somewhere close, or just a bad/unstable power feed. Tried it in another building or hooked to an online ups? – Oskar Duveborn May 21 '09 at 15:58
@Adam: they placed the disk in another machine – Sam May 21 '09 at 18:22
You may have better luck on a more workstation-support oriented site -… – Kara Marfia May 21 '09 at 19:24

10 Answers 10

Did the hardware you replaced included the power supply? It's most likely what is causing problems.

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Yes. Everything but the disk. – Sam May 21 '09 at 18:22

Over heating can be a problem, but if this is the case, I think it would shutdown and not reboot...

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By default when XP Blue Screens it automatically reboots. It should generate a Mini-Dump in the c:\windows\minidump directory which can be analyzed by windbg. The only problem with all this, is that an Event Log entry would be written to the System Log if it did bluescreen and you aren't seeing that.

Perhaps you could go into Local Security Policy and enable Auditing. That will log to the Security Event Log on certain events. Not sure if it will audit the shutdown, but it could provide some clues.

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When it reboots what are you doing on the machine, nothing? High disk activity? High RAM consumption? Intense Processor activity?

Possible causes might be

  1. Brown-outs or power interruptions, most computers startup on power resume (option in bios)
  2. Maybe the computer crashes when trying to go into low power mode / sleep due to inactivity
  3. You have a bad memory chip and after awhile the computer will randomly hit the bad spot and cause a crash
  4. You decorated your case with powerful magnets
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I have seen it reboot. There is no blue screen, it just goes dead. – Sam May 21 '09 at 18:25
Is there any that is typically happening when it reboots? – Jack B Nimble May 21 '09 at 19:05
It started happening at night, so it would be somewhat idle. There is no other activity that will trigger it. – Sam May 21 '09 at 19:22

Replacing the unit, only to experience the same issue again, would mean:

  • It is thermal related,
  • Your drive is bad (as it is the only component left over),
  • You are having power issues,
  • Or, you are having attached peripheral issues. (Once upon a time, shorting a pin on a classic parallel port would cause a reboot due to a reset line being tripped, so a shoddy cable would ruin your day pretty quick)

If it's a newer design, it could be as simple as 'thermal cooling issues'. Many machines now auto-power off if they detect a situation where inadequate or malfunctioning cooling cause a potential thermal damage situation. To prevent the China Syndrome from happening in/under/on your desk, the machine simply shuts down.

  • Is the machine in a well-ventilated area?
  • Does the machine have any blocked cooling vents?
  • Is the machine under heavy (computational) workload all the time?
  • Do you hear the fans actively cooling? Does it have a bad tendency to 'roar' at random? Do co-workers nickname your computer "the Jet Turbine"? These are signs of a computer in thermal distress...
  • Do you feel heat actively being expelled from the unit?
  • Some units (IBM ThinkCentre) had actual thermal design issues and would burn up due to poor thermal flow. Is the unit a compact/mini/micro-tower design? Some of these designs have very tight compartments, resulting in inadequate airflow.
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Just a note: out of the 4 IBM ThinkCentres we tried out, all 4 developed thermal issues, regardless of ventilation or placement. The design is so dense, that even the /HDD cable/ becomes discolored from heat. One unit has actually experienced a 'meltdown', as some component burned up and the board has ceased to function. – Avery Payne May 21 '09 at 19:48
haha. Thanks for this info. It doesn't seem very hot and it does shut off at night, when I'm not pushing it very hard. I do run alot of apps along with sql server, so it is getting a workout. – Sam May 21 '09 at 22:11

I see restarts like this occur (a LOT) when the RAM is having issues.

If not the RAM, see if you can have your IT image the drive to another hard drive and see if the problem persists. If it doesn't, then the hard drive is bad. If it does, then there is some sort of issue with the OS Settings.

If you are still getting restarts without BSOD's then check this out:

  • Go to 'System Properties'
  • Select the 'Advanced' tab
  • Select the 'Startup and Recovery' 'Settings...' button
  • Ensure under 'System Startup' that:
    • 'Write an event to the system log' is checked
    • You can also uncheck 'Automatically restart' if you want to see the BSOD

Let me know how it goes!


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I had an issue like this that was related to a conflict between my USB Wireless dongle and my video card. Hardware specs would be needed to troubleshoot this more thoroughly.

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I would also check the UPS or if you are not using one the power outlet.

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Windows Update automatic restart?

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Definitely not. – Sam May 21 '09 at 19:20

I once had an issue where the reset switch on the case was shorting out. The front of the case was metallic, so any time someone touched the case the computer would restart.

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