Scampo Vigil: Near-Death Experiences

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The late decline of Scampo, my deteriorating desktop PC, was marked by a succession of near-death experiences.  These events all occurred at either start-up or shut-down.  Somehow, I was able to extend the operation of the machine well beyond good judgment allowed, operating it as a balky, exhaust-spewing clunker up to the last.  This is not my sense of how digital computers operate and I marvel that I got away with it.

Although I had managed to ensure that essential material was backed up, I was still endeavoring to systematically review everything on the system and have everything I needed for re-establishment on the new system at my pleasure.

The Black Screen of Death

[F110404] The most-frequent incident was this failure at start-up.  I also witnessed the shutdown ounterpart

After the first few times, I became comfortable with this dramatic announcement that a start-up had failed.  Near the end, this message might occur more than once.  Sometimes the system would simply restart without even getting to this point.  This is the black screen of death.  The system didn’t get far enough to blue-screen!

Other times, Windows start-up would freeze somewhere beyond this point and I would have to force the computer shut-down and manually restart.  This or other messages might recur, but typically, each subsequent restart attempt would go farther until I was completely operating in my logon account.

Or, How About a Blue Screen of Death?

[F110501] The only blue-screen that was seen while Scampo was in Intensive Care

This blue-screen shutdown came up once and was not seen again.  This may have been at the point my E-MU audio-dock was disconnected from the PC, although the adapter was still installed in the PC itself.  I would have removed the board and the associated drivers if this recurred, but it didn’t. 

And if That’s Not Serious Enough …

[F11xx11] The typical stumble immediately after successful login

Although retries would eventually achieve login, sometimes there would be an immediate relapse.  Usually, the result of sending an error report lead to no feedback or a generic feedback which listed the usual suspects.  Once there was advice about checking memory and my hard drive.  None considered that the symptoms might have been related to power management and the power supply, although I suspected those too.

Let Me Advise You

[F11xx13] Error Report for Suspected Memory Problem

I had seen this particular recommendation on one occasion when Scampo was new, so I have a version of the Windows Memory Diagnostic already.  I did not run it in this case, suspecting that this was yet-another morning-sickness near-death experience.  This particular problem did not recur.

The Never-Ending Pattern

Although the particular failure might be different, the pattern was always the same:

  1. First, power-up would not start, even if I leaned on the power button with my thumb.  The hard-drive indicator light near the power button would also be weak.  After a few tries, the power-up process would catch and the drive light would flicker brightly.
  2. Then there might be an immediate restart and I would see the start-up screen sequence repeating. 
  3. But before Windows startup could get me to the logon display, I might see a shutdown with the black screen of death (first image, above).
  4. Only once did (3) repeat in the same startup.  If anything happened logon, it was either a freeze or logon would proceed and then there could be a freeze or the one-time blue screen of death (also above).
  5. Ultimately, I would have a good logon into my Windows XP SP3 account and I could operate with the computer all day.  At this point, of course, my operations involved off-loading essential applications and then reviewing the system and securing the rest.  At any point after I had moved essential data to the Windows Home Server and essential operation to my Tablet PC, I could survive a catastrophic failure. 
  6. A few days over the course of this vigil, I worked for several hours cleaning up the computer and establishing alternative operations only to have shutdown not operate.  I had to resort to forcing shutdown with the power button a few times, and I was left wondering what the morning would bring.  The PC always came up again.
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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dennis E. Hamilton published on February 13, 2011 4:44 PM.

Golden Geek Memories: Before SOHO LANs and Broadband was the previous entry in this blog.

Golden Geek Memoir: From Just a Phone to an Ecosystem is the next entry in this blog.

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