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For the past four days, my laptop PC, a Lenovo Thinkpad T500 running Windows XP SP3, has been getting into a "bad state" after waking the PC up from sleep and docking the PC. The most prominent symptom of this "bad state" is that when any application attempts to perform a disk write, that application hangs.

More specifics of my situation:

Timing: The problem started happening this past Monday (4 days ago). I didn't make any changes to my PC (hardware or software) prior to the time the problem started happening (although it's possible that some software installed a background update without my knowledge).

Prior to this, this machine has been running stable for over a year.

Trigger: The machine seems to get into the "bad state" after doing both of the following two steps in either order: (1) docking the machine in the docking station (a Thinkpad Mini-Dock), and (2) waking the machine from sleep (after the machine had been put into sleep mode via Fn+F4).

Update: For the first time earlier this afternoon, I had the PC get into the "bad state" after undocking the PC, and without having recently had the PC in sleep mode. This leads me to believe that the actual trigger for the issue actually has to do with docking or undocking -- possibly the brief interruption in network connectivity the PC experiences while switching between wired and wireless networking (wired while docked, wireless while undocked).

Update 2: For the first time, I had the PC get into the "bad state" after just waking from sleep mode, while undocked, without having recently docked or undocked the PC. So it seems either docking, undocking, or waking from sleep can trigger the "bad state."

Symptoms:

  • (As mentioned above) When an application attempts to perform a write to the hard disk, it seems to cause the application to hang. For example, I can open a new instance of notepad.exe, enter a few characters in the document, save the file, (when prompted) enter a path and filename to save the file as (e.g. "C:\temp\t.txt"), and click Save; at that point, the application hangs (both the Save As window and the main application window become unresponsive).
  • Ctrl+Alt+Del and Ctrl+Shift+Esc keystrokes are ignored -- nothing happens when they are pressed. (Normally these bring up the normal Ctrl+Alt+Del screen and launch Task Manager respectively.)
  • Some applications fail to start when I attempt to launch them either from the Start | Run dialog or from an entry on the Start menu. These include: SysInternals Process Explorer, services.msc (the Control Panel "Services" applet). When I try to start these applications, nothing seems to happen (and I can't launch Task Manager via Ctrl+Shift+Esc or taskmgr.exe to see if the new process actually started). However, some applications do start successfully while the PC is in the "bad state", including cmd.exe, notepad.exe, and SysInternals Process Monitor.
  • Attempting to shut down the PC via the Start menu does nothing. (I can click "Shut Down" and the Start menu closes as normal, but the nothing else happens at that point.)
  • Attempting to restart the PC via "shutdown -r -t 0" at a command prompt does close all non-hung open applications and eventually displays the Windows "Shutting down..." message (atop a blank screen), but the machine hangs at that point (it never actually finishes shutting down or restarts).
  • Attempting to undock the PC via either the hardware button on the docking station or via the Start menu is ignored.
  • The keyboard connected via the docking station PS/2 port works fine, but the mouse connected via a docking station USB port is unresponsive (although the red laser light on the underside is on, indicating that the mouse is receiving power from the USB port) while the PC is in the "bad state."

Workarounds found: Since attempting to shut down / restart the machine via normal means do not work (as detailed above), the only workaround I've found for this issue is to do a "hard" power off and restart of the machine via holding in the power button for several seconds to power off the machine.

After shutting down the machine, I can power it back on normally, and the machine works fine at that point (until the next time I put the machine to sleep, wake it, and dock it).

"Always on" software I'm running (among many other things -- these are the things I initially suspect may be the most relevant to the problem):

  • Windows XP SP3
  • McAfee virus scan
  • Several applications from the "ThinkVantage" application suite, including Active Protection (HDD protection), Access Connections (wi-fi management), and Power Manager.

At this point, I'm open to suggestions regarding what I should suspect regarding the cause for this issue. Is this likely to be a software issue, a hardware issue, or some combination of the two? What software and/or hardware are candidates to cause this type of behavior? Any advice is appreciated!

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