I have an oldish HP Pavilion dv6 laptop. The screen is busted so I use it for general media and server tasks. It's running Windows 7.

The machine has never given me an issue. When I turned it on this morning, it hung at the "Starting Windows" splash screen (the animation froze and there was no activity), which was strange. I held the power button to turn it off and when I tried to turn it on again, it stays on for about 3 seconds then shuts off. During this time the only things that really happen are the fan starts and the DVD drive powers up.

It runs off of AC power. The battery is not in great condition but it's not in bad condition either. I reseated both the battery and the hard drive (I recently used this machine for data recovery on some old drives and thought perhaps the connector wasn't seated right or had some junk in it). When I did this, the machine powered on again, made it past the Windows splash screen (I chose normal boot), then hung on a black screen. On reboot, it was doing the 3 second thing again. I think this partial "success" had more to do with it being turned off for a while than reseating anything.

I then left it off for about 10 minutes, turned it on again, and was able to boot into startup repair mode. It stayed at "attempting repairs" for about 4 hours then came up with an error that said "startup repair cannot repair this computer automatically". The problem signature was:

  Event Name: StartupRepairOffline
  Signature 01: 6.1.7600.16385
  Signature 02: 6.1.7600.16385
  Signature 03: unknown
  Signature 04: 1460
  Signature 05: AutoFailover
  Signature 06: 1
  Signature 07: NoRootCause
  OS Version: 6.1.7600.

The repair log showed only one "problem", but not sure if it's actually significant as it's got that vague Microsoft "we don't know what's going on" tone:

  Root cause found:
  Unspecified changes to system configuration might have caused the problem.

  Repair action: System files integrity check and repair
  Result: Failed. Error code = 0x490

After this, though, the machine rebooted and ran just fine (???), despite being hot and not having been turned off for very long in the mean time. The file system showed no errors.

The hard drive was in good health as of two days ago. At that time I had, coincidentally, run a SpinRite maintenance pass on it. There was nothing even remotely suspicious in the SMART data and there were no bad sectors or read errors on the drive. It still seems to be behaving well, so I don't think this is the issue.

I can't imagine that this is Windows or bootloader (I'm using GRUB) related, as the quick power off happens before any of this is loaded, around the time the BIOS splash screen would be displaying (I use an external monitor it takes just longer than 3 seconds to turn on when it receives a signal so I can't read anything that comes up immediately).

About a week ago, when I was doing data recovery tasks, I had the laptop in overheat situations a number of times (to the point of it locking or powering off), to the point where I had to stick it in my refrigerator to complete the tasks. I am wondering now, based on some of the answers below, if heat (or perhaps condensation or rapid cooling or large temperature differences across the device) could have damaged some of the components. It did run just fine for the following week but perhaps there was a "time bomb" of sorts?

What could have caused this, or how can I narrow down the cause? It happened very suddenly; everything worked great yesterday with no signs of trouble. I also can't explain why leaving it turned off for a few minutes causes it to be able to make it start to boot again.

Edit: Added startup recovery results.
Edit: Added mention of previous bad treatment of laptop.
Edit: Added post-recovery reboot results.

  • 3
    If the problem is being caused by a heat-related issue, then leaving it off for a while would allow it to boot further the next attempt. You might try a Linux USB boot disk to see if it's the Windows installation/hard drive or some other hardware component that keeps failing. – techturtle Jun 17 '14 at 17:09
  • @techturtle I don't think it's heat related; the laptop is not very hot at all and didn't have a chance to build up much. But booting into Linux is a good idea; if I can't boot into the Linux install on the HD I'll try a USB boot. I'll post back here if I find anything. – Jason C Jun 17 '14 at 17:12
  • I rebooted back into Windows one more time after the startup recovery process above (it just finished). Much to my surprise, despite me not having left it turned off in between, not only did it boot into Windows just fine, but it appears to be running normally again and there are no file system errors... I don't trust the machine any more, though. If I can't isolate the problem I guess I'll have to scrap it. I'll see if I can find anything out in Linux anyways. – Jason C Jun 17 '14 at 17:21
  • I mentioned heat because I had a desktop with similar symptoms after the heatsink came loose. Did not take long to shut down after a boot (no time to generate system heat, just processor). If you're comfortable opening it up, and have thermal paste available, you could see if a similar situation happened here. You could also just run some stress tests like MemTest86, Prime95, or PassMark Performance Test to see if anything makes it crash again. – techturtle Jun 17 '14 at 17:30
  • @techturtle Good call; and I do have some thermal paste handy, oddly enough. I'll open it up tonight and see if there's any visible oddities, and reseat the thermal unit. – Jason C Jun 17 '14 at 17:34

There are two probable causes:

  • overheating - this can be solved if you open it up and clean the fans and heatsinks
  • dry joints - this one most probably cannot be solved
  • It's not overheating now and I'm quite sure that isn't the current problem, but about a week ago I had it in some bad, frequent overheat conditions. Is it possible that could have weakened / destroyed some of the joints on the motherboard or other components? It did run fine for a week after that but maybe it was just waiting to fail? – Jason C Jun 17 '14 at 17:16
  • @JasonC yes it could be. Heat causes dilatation. And there are different materials connected together which dilate more or less. This in time creates "gaps" which increase electrical resistance and limit current flow up to open contact. But anyway, trying with a Linux distro is a very good idea. – Cornelius Jun 17 '14 at 17:20
  • I just finished a Windows startup recovery and rebooted. Weirdly, despite me not having it turned off before the reboot, not only did it boot fine but it appears to be running normally again with no issues (maybe now that it's hot again, broken things are "lined up" better). Sounds more and more like a PCB problem of some sort, doesn't it. I don't really trust the machine any more, I'll see if Linux detects any oddities but I have a feeling I'm just going to end up scrapping this laptop. I wonder what caused it, most likely suspect definitely seems heat damage. I'd like to find out. – Jason C Jun 17 '14 at 17:24
  • @JasonC to the point where I had to stick it in my refrigerator to complete the tasks. I'm not a native English speaker. Did you want to or did you actually put it in the refrigerator? If so, heat, rapid cooling and then condensation played the most important role in your problem. – Cornelius Jun 17 '14 at 17:28
  • 1
    @JasonC the best thing to do is turn it off and let it cool slowly. – Cornelius Jun 17 '14 at 17:30

It sounds like the motherboard is in imminent failure or it's over heating. It's pretty common for laptop heat-sinks to get clogged up with dust after a while. HP has a track record for over heating. I work as freelance it technician and have seen many of them running hot, plus a friend had one which pretty much fried itself to pieces.

  • Thanks. Maybe a motherboard failure on the way. Probably not heat; since it doesn't feel very hot, it was off all night before this all started, and it hasn't stayed on long enough to build up any significant heat. But I wonder if there was heat damage during my hard drive recovery adventures; it did overheat to the point of powering off many times during that process. Actually I had to stick it in my refrigerator to run; I wonder if the condensation damaged something. Seems unlikely since it ran fine for a week after that but maybe it left a "time bomb" in there? – Jason C Jun 17 '14 at 17:14

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