Section 2.2: Common Hardware and Operating System Symptoms and Causes

It is important to recognize common problems with windows systems that occur when something goes wrong. There are some common operational issues that are important to understand to operate windows system smoothly. Microsoft keeps releasing service packs for each operating system to reduce the frequency of common problems from occurring.

The common operational issues are:

  • Blue screens: These are also called blue screen of death. Blue screens were more frequent in earlier operating systems as compared to newer operating systems such as Widows XP/Vista. The blue screen usually occurs when a driver or an application crashes. When the blue screen occurs the system locks up and you need to examine the log files to discover the error. In latest operating systems the crash information is written to the XML files by the operating system. When the system restarts next time stably, the log file is sent to the Microsoft with the permission of the user. Microsoft collects this information to identify the drivers and the applications that have caused such problems.
  • System lockup: The system lockup is quiet similar to the blue screen. The only difference is that the dump message does not appear on the screen. A system lockup locks up things and the system stops responding when it occurs. You can examine the log files to discover the error.
  • Input/Output device: These errors usually occur when hardware devices such as keyboards, mice, printers or their drivers do not work properly. They may also occur if the connections are not proper.
  • Application failures: The application failures occur when there is some problem with the application. The application may not install, load or execute. Most of the applications write application log files to suggest the problem occurred. You can examine the log file in the Event Viewer to discover the error. The common troubleshooting steps in this situation include closing all the other application and then restarting the application to determine if a conflict exists between other applications and the malfunctioning application. You can also install the problem application on other machines to see if it works fine on other computers.
  • Start/load problems: The start or boot problem occurs if the boot files of the operating system are missing or corrupt. While troubleshooting you can activate boot logging to determine the errors. During installation, the log files are created and error entries of the missing files can be found there. The boot logging can be enabled by selecting Enable Boot Logging from the Windows Advanced Options menu. This option creates a log file called ntbtlog.txt in the %systemroot% folder. This file logs the information about the devices that fail to start properly during start up. It also stores information about what’s been going on system to help you troubleshoot the problem. You can access this file from the Administrative Tools in Control Panel

Section 2.2.1: Hardware Problem Symptoms:

Usually the hardware problems occur with a warning sign unlike software problems

that do not give any physical warning. The common hardware problem symptoms are:

  • Excessive heat: Normally the PC cools itself by pulling the air in it by using the fan it has. The air inside the CPU dissipates the heat created by the processor. The heat by the processor is also absorbed by the heat sink. When the CPU fan is not working and the air flow is restricted by the clogged ports, the heat is built up inside the unit and cause problems such as chip creep, which is unseating of components. The heat can also build up inside due to a hot working environment outside the PC. In such a scenario, care must be taken to keep the ambient air with normal ranges of 60-90 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Noise: A computer has many moving parts that create noise such as the fan and the hard drive. When you hear extra noise, you can readily narrow down the possible parts that are making too much of a noise. Whichever may be the part, the immediate action needs to be taken to find out the problem. The first action should be to shut down the computer and next is to repair or replace the part.
  • Odors: The odor in computer is caused by overheating of a device. The overheating may happen due to malfunctioning fan. The odor often resembles a cheap hair spray. An immediate action to shut down the computer should be taken. Next you should identify the source of the problem.
  • Status-light indicators: Status-lights are often found on the Network Interface Card (NIC) of a computer or on the front of a desktop computer. Any light other than the green light on the NIC shows a problem with the network.
  • Visible damage: The visible damage of a computer component clearly indicates a potential problem with that component that needs to be addressed immediately. The visible damage may range from a blackened back of a fan, bare areas of a networking cable or other such things.