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We have some company laptops at our office which are experiencing some problems.

The laptops will stop responding, seemingly randomly, for periods of about 10-20 seconds.

This is getting increasing frequent. Right now it happening about once every 5-10 minutes.

When this happens the hard drive light is solidly on, but they do not make that normal ticking noise that hard drive make.

You can actually still use the laptop, but it seems to only let you do things that are cached in RAM. Like when it happens, I can still switch between open tabs in FF and other applications. But if I try to access anything from the hard drive, the application locks up (greys out, and shows at "Not Responding") until it stops stalling.

I see nothing in the Windows event viewer (in both administrative events, and hardware events) at the time this occurs.

I have run chkdsk during boot, with no reported errors.

The laptop specs are:

  • Core 2 Duo T7500, 2.2 GHz
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 150GB HDD, 10GB free (Hitachi HTS541616J9SA00 ATA)
  • GeForce 9500M GS gfx card
  • Windows 7 Professional

I have already tried the following:

  • Registry cleaning
  • Hard defragging
  • Virus/Malware/Spyware scanning
  • Uninstalling unused programs

Can anyone shed some light on what is causing this, and/or what step to take in order to debug and solve this problem?

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Have you looked at resource monitor to see if anything is thrashing the disk? Is the disk firmware up to date? I've had PCs that had duff firmware that randomly initiated a thorough SMART check and had all these symptoms, which were fixed with a firmware update. – Ben Pilbrow Jun 10 '11 at 12:39
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I would start with a clean windows build and see if the problem occurs; no apps, no antivirus, just the drivers required to run the laptop. If it still happens, your problem is driver or hardware related, and you will have to start examining them, making sure all firmware is up to date. If it doesn't occur then it's application related and you can start layering them on 1 at a time until the issue appears.

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Yep, that will be my last choice scenario given the time and cost involved in the process. – Petah Jun 10 '11 at 14:21
How much time does it take you to deploy a copy of windows? Do you have OEM recovery disks? – Jim B Jun 10 '11 at 14:22
Probably about 45 minutes to deploy just the operating system. But to make it production ready, maybe 6 hours per laptop. Yes I do have recovery disks. – Petah Jun 10 '11 at 14:35

This sounds like a Harddrive issue. Does this happen on all the laptops or just a few? Have you checked the Eventlog to see if there have been harddrive or hardware errors.

One easy way to check and see if it's a hard drive issue would be to load up a Live-Linux CD and check for badblocks.

Also I forgot to ask what type of hardware do you have for these laptops. That could be another factor to look at.

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This happens to all of them, some worse than others. I have run chkdsk during boot, with no reported errors. There has been no event in the hardware event log, and no event in the administrative event log at the time it occurs. I have updated the question with more specific hardware details (anything else needed just let me know) – Petah Jun 10 '11 at 12:59

My bet would be on hard disk physical, firmware or driver issues. Clone one of them on to a different brand hard disk and see if it makes a difference.

Spoil the user with higher RPM and cache, it will make a HUGE difference.

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Does it only happen when you open up a folder that forces the hard drive to be read? I've had problems with users who have a disconnected network drive on their computer, and Windows will keep trying to find the drive and the computer pretty much stops. I'm sure that's not the solution to your problem, but I wonder if it could be something similar.....or simple. Your power settings don't have the hard drives going to sleep after a set amount of inactivity or something right?

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