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My XP machine mysteriously turned itself off last night. As far as I know, there's no cause, so I'm trying to track down when it happened so I can figure out what went wrong. I've followed the steps on this page and come up with nothing relevant, so I'm guessing it wasn't a safe shutdown.

It's not running any logging software at the moment.

Is it possible to track down the last failure date, or should I just install some logging software so I can take a look if it happens again? If I should install software, what would you recommend?

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by "not running any logging software" do you mean 3rd-party software or do you mean existing Windows logging services have been disabled? – quack quixote Oct 5 '09 at 23:47
up vote 2 down vote accepted

First thing to do is to go to advanced system settings and disable "automatic restart on system failure"

Next time, if this was an error related to a blue screen of death, this should mean that your machine will stick on the error instead of restarting.

However, if you have nothing in the event log, I am inclined to believe that the problem is related to either a problem with your power unit or an actual power cut.

I have several UPS's at client sites, and I get reports all the time saying that power was out for less than 10 seconds. You really would be surprised how regularly it can occur.

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I probably should have mentioned that the computer is the only machine in the room on a UPS - and the only one that fell over. The rest of them were chugging along just fine. ...Just to add to the total head-scratcher of it. – Margaret Oct 5 '09 at 23:26
Argh. Don't you just love working with computers!. Well, I suppose it could be a problem with the UPS? I don't suppose you have monitoring for them just to rule this out? Typically, I find that a freeze is driver/hardware, a BSOD/restart can be the same or misconfiguration where as a restart without a log is nearly always power related. I would suggest you set what I said above and possibly also check that you are creating a kernel dump. – William Hilsum Oct 5 '09 at 23:53
Next time it happens, check blue screen view - If nothing is there, I would go again and say power - it could be the PSU.... Try to do a stress test and max the cpu to 100% for about 10-20 minutes and see if it crashes. Obviously you can also cross your fingers that it was something simple such as someone accidentally restarting or cleaner touched the plug!... – William Hilsum Oct 5 '09 at 23:54

Windows OS?

If you can't find anything useful in the Event Viewer, you can kind of circle around it and check for uptime instead. Back up from the uptime and you'll know when the machine last started -- which then gives you an idea of where to look a bit closer in the event viewer.

Depending on your version of OS, there are a few ways to find the uptime. Some of them are written about here (and in the subsequent comments).

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