We have some company laptops at our office which are experiencing some problems.

The laptops will stop responding, seemingly randomly, for periods of about 10-20 seconds.

This is getting increasing frequent. Right now it happening about once every 5-10 minutes.

When this happens the hard drive light is solidly on, but they do not make that normal ticking noise that hard drive make.

You can actually still use the laptop, but it seems to only let you do things that are cached in RAM. Like when it happens, I can still switch between open tabs in FF and other applications. But if I try to access anything from the hard drive, the application locks up (greys out, and shows at "Not Responding") until it stops stalling.

I see nothing in the Windows event viewer (in both administrative events, and hardware events) at the time this occurs.

I have run chkdsk during boot, with no reported errors.

The laptop specs are:

  • Core 2 Duo T7500, 2.2 GHz
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 150GB HDD, 10GB free (Hitachi HTS541616J9SA00 ATA)
  • GeForce 9500M GS gfx card
  • Windows 7 Professional

I have already tried the following:

  • Registry cleaning
  • Hard defragging
  • Virus/Malware/Spyware scanning
  • Uninstalling unused programs

Can anyone shed some light on what is causing this, and/or what step to take in order to debug and solve this problem?

  • Did you make any adjustments to the power management settings? – jonsca Jun 10 '11 at 12:39
  • @jonsca, yes I have made many changes to them, what in particular should I be concerned about? – Petah Jun 10 '11 at 12:44
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    Check the ones for the harddrive. I just checked on mine, and it's set for about 10 minutes. It's possible yours are slipping into sleep mode and not coming out of it right away. I'm not sure what that's a symptom of, though. – jonsca Jun 10 '11 at 12:47
  • Are they connected to the company network at the time, or are they remote at the time? – KCotreau Jun 10 '11 at 12:53
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    How yo use sysinternals tools to troubleshoot this problem...media.ch9.ms/teched/na/2011/wmv/WCL304.wmv – Moab Jun 10 '11 at 14:26

If these laptops are all the same age, and have been used for roughly the same periods of time, I would say that either the hard drives are failing (possible same batch, same life) or there is a higher problem such as motherboard/storage controller failure.

I would try to start Microsoft / Sysinternals Process Explorer and leave it running. Next time a hang occurs, go in to Process Explorer and click on any of the graphs at the top and then in the summary tab take a look at wherever the spike is.

If the spike is showing something such as Hardware, DPC or similar, it could either be a bad driver update which is causing problems or hardware itself failing.

If you have another machine (machine 2) that does not have this issue, you may want to test swapping the hard drives around - if the hard drive from machine 2 works in machine 1, then you have isolated it to a hard drive error where as if this is still failing (and hard drive from machine 1 works in machine 2), this means that there is board level damage on the laptop.

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  • Ok, I have run Sysinternals Process Explorer and just had a hang. WHen it happend there was no spikes in anything, including CPU, RAM, HDD or Network. HDD activity was 0, CPU was noraml (20-30%), RAM no change (50%) – Petah Jun 10 '11 at 14:15
  • @Petah - Hmmm, well, this method isn't fool proof, but it usually works more times than it doesn't (It is always the first thing I try when I see symptoms like you said) - try the other test if you can. – William Hilsum Jun 10 '11 at 14:46

Most harddrives monitor their health using S.M.A.R.T.

  • HD Tune will tell you if there are any SMART-related problems.
  • Smart HDD is another such tool.
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  • I tried Smart HDD, it reports: State - nonfaulty (was pre-failure) – Petah Jun 10 '11 at 14:19
  • Pre-failure usually means one of the values are approaching a critical state. See this writeup for one analysis of SMART-related errors. – Sharken Jun 10 '11 at 14:42

I am thinking along the ways @Sharken think. May I suggest the software 'Crystal Disk Info' and please kindly show us a screen capture of it running on your machine, choosing the disk drive you suspect that may be faulty.

Crystal Disk info - http://crystalmark.info/software/CrystalDiskInfo/index-e.html

Leave me a comment below this answer when you have updated with the screenshot.

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