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It's a really strange problem I'm experiencing.

Occasionally (after about an hour of use), my laptop will start hanging for 10 seconds at a time, un-hanging for 1 second and updates the display with whatever happened while it was hung, then it will hang for 20 seconds and eventually it will just completely lock up and I have to shut down by power button.

The problem is that I can't reproduce this easily, because like I said, it only happens randomly after an hour of use.

I thought it might've been overheating at first, but my fan is working fine and my laptop isn't all that hot. Plus, if it was overheating, shouldn't it have a protection mechanism to automatically shut down?

I haven't installed anything as of late that would cause this, either, that I know of. Does this sound like a hardware or software problem? What could be causing this?

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Aside from checking to ensure you have the current drivers and killing all the unneeded processes/services, you could test the heat theory with something like Prime95. I don't believe it will stress GPUs, but I'm sure there has to be tests for that. Intermittent problems are hard and all you can do is test each subsystem to see if it is the problem. Good luck. – Scott McClenning Sep 12 '10 at 16:56
up vote 0 down vote accepted

Run in safe mode for an hour or two, see if the problem persists. While in safe mode, run a battery of malware/virus scans. Test your hard drive for errors, you may have some physical damage on the drive. Test your RAM for errors, this is not as likely to be the problem, but it never hurts and doesn't take that long. Update all your hardware drivers as well. If none of these find/fix the problem, you might want to do some system monitoring to see what is going on when the problem strikes. Is it RAM that is getting over-utilized? The processor? what is the core system temp at the time? there are various pieces of software out there that can answer these questions for you.

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I've seen similar issues with flakey disks. You might want to scan the disks with something like SpinRite or similar.

Another possibility is that overheating can happen even if the fan is working if the chip separates significantly from the heat sink. If this is all it is then a few minutes in the repair shop can fix it. I don't think this is likely in your case because it wouldn't normally take an hour for that problem to manifest itself.

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