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I have an old laptop with an odd problem. It is a HP Compaq nc6220.

When I got it, it had XP Pro installed. It would boot and run for a short amount of time before the power cut out, sometimes getting all the way into the OS and running for a few minutes, other times dying seconds into the boot process. Mostly the latter. It's like there's no battery and you whipped the power cord out.

It seemed likely to be a straightforward hardware fault but even so, before pulling it apart I though it wouldn't hurt to try it with a fresh OS to rule out malware, and maybe save myself a few fruitless hours.

I wiped the drive with Parted Magic and tried to reinstall XP - no luck. Part way into the install, the power went out like I'd flicked a switch. Same thing twice more. So I tried Ubuntu. It installed flawlessly.

And it's been running Ubuntu flawlessly for over a week now. I've tried a few times to install XP over the top of it (using three different install CDs) and every time the thing loses power before it has finished loading drivers - although it gets a fair way into the process it doesn't make it the the point where user input is called for. Boot back into Linux however, and the thing is rock solid stable.

So all I can think now is that:
a. There is a hardware fault that is triggered by the Windows drivers but not Linux,
b. There's some persistent malware lurking about that is causing the power cut only in the presence of Windows,
c. I am victim to an amazing lucky streak and as soon as I return the now Linux laptop to it's owner the problem will reappear.

Have you seen anything like this before? What might be the problem?

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Do you have the latest BIOS installed? – Moab Dec 20 '10 at 11:10
Have you tired Windows 2000 or Windows 7? It might be an issue with a driver provided with XP? – mickburkejnr Dec 20 '10 at 11:19
@mick He isn't even able to get through setup. And those drivers are very basic IIRC and shouldn't crash that easily. – Daniel Beck Dec 20 '10 at 12:15
Is it really a power cut or is the laptop just restarting? The default behavior of XP was to restart on a Bluescreen. – Bobby Dec 20 '10 at 13:55

Could be overheating. Have you tried cleaning the dust out of the heatsinks?

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If the problem is as described, it almost has to be a driver issue. Except, from what you write this system came with XP preinstalled ....

What I personally would do: install VirtualBox or VMWare or something, and then run Windows virtually under Ubuntu. In fact, that is what I actually do on my own netbook.

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Although the "dying in the boot process" is strange, did your laptop came with a Windows preinstalled? You might be a victim of a specific Windows build, which means a specific hardware component in your laptop, with a specific driver in your Windows build (so a newly occupied Windows XP won't work).

Try to download all the drivers specific to your notebook (for XP), and then install XP, and as fast as you can install all nc6220 drivers, then wait and hope :-)

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Does this laptop's BIOS show that something called "Computrace" or other "tracking" system is enabled on it? Read this and you can see something unusual goes on between the BIOS and WIndows with this system. I would imagine a fault in this process would cause the BIOS to panic and do something similar to this, but possibly not give Linux any issue.

You might not be able to disable this if it is enabled unless you are willing to modify and reflash your BIOS as outlined in the article in the link.

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