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I have been trying to find the cause of a computer freezing issue for the past few days. My computer freezes completely, and doesn't come out of it no matter how long I wait. I have run many hardware and software tests:

I'm running Windows 7 home premium on a Acer Aspire X1420.
I have a non-stock video card. Club AMD Radeon HD 5450 (For slim workstations)

  • chkdsk on hard drive
  • memory tests
  • virus and maleware scans
  • OS integrity tests
  • Drivers are up to date
  • Windows updates are up to date
  • checked Event viewer for info on crash (there's nothing)

SO! I finally found a way to reproduce the problem. For some reason, when I try to install Skype, it freezes during the installer. It still freezes other times, but at least I have something I can trigger it with.

I'm wondering if there is any debugging, or logging tools that I can use to help me find out what exactly is going wrong when it crashes? I hope to run a logger / debugger during the install of Skype, and find out what happens to Windows when it crashes.

  • I removed the video card, and just used onboard graphics. I then tried to install Skype. It didn't freeze. I'm wondering if it's a faulty card. I'll try to reproduce the error without the card in. If I can't... then I guess that's a sign. – Frantumn Mar 21 '14 at 13:10
  • It could also be a buggy video card driver. In today's world when time-to-market is critical, vendors don't always spend the time they should debugging those all-important pieces of software. Try leaving the card in the system but removing the driver and using just the Windows built-in driver, and see how that goes. – a CVn Mar 21 '14 at 13:12
  • chkdsk only detect file system problems. What does the S.M.A.R.T data indicate about the drive? Update your question with that information. – Ramhound Mar 21 '14 at 13:16
  • Okay @MichaelKjörling I'll try that and see. – Frantumn Mar 21 '14 at 13:19
  • @MichaelKjörling That seemed to work BUT! I now have an issue... Because I don't have the catalyst software and drivers installed, I get this issue again. superuser.com/questions/728146/… And I can't fix it without that software. Ideas? – Frantumn Mar 21 '14 at 13:34
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I removed the video card, and just used onboard graphics. I then tried to install Skype. It didn't freeze. I put the card back in and the problem happened again. As suggested in comments, I uninstalled the drivers for the card and the Windows drivers don't cause the freezing. I guess that's what I get for having a cheap "Club" brand card. Too bad. But it is resolved.

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One thing you hadn't checked initially (but have now) that can be related to random freezes is the graphics card. If the graphics card is borked, that can lead to such issues. The graphics card became a prime suspect in your particular case because of your comment:

I removed the video card, and just used onboard graphics. I then tried to install Skype. It didn't freeze. I'm wondering if it's a faulty card. I'll try to reproduce the error without the card in. If I can't... then I guess that's a sign

This can be tested by physically removing the graphics card, assuming of course that you have a separate video chipset (for example, integrated on the motherboard).

Another thing that can cause these sorts of issues is buggy graphics card drivers. To test this you'd uninstall the graphics card drivers but leave the card installed. Let Windows fall back to the default drivers and see if the problem goes away. If it does go away then, the problem is very likely to be a driver problem.

You can then choose to either:

  • live with the problem
  • stop doing whatever causes the problem to manifest itself (if there is a single or a small set of actions that causes the problem to manifest itself)
  • go look for updated drivers from the graphics card vendor, or from Microsoft
  • keep using the Windows standard drivers
  • replace the graphics card with one that works better

The sad part is that in today's world, time-to-market is critical and vendors don't always spend the time to test and debug the hardware and drivers in enough different environments before they ship.

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