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HP and Windows 7: a bad mix?

July 21, 2010 1 Comment

[UPDATE:  Read this post, which seems to be having trouble actually appearing here on the blog.]

Since last November, I have bought three new, out-of-the-box systems preinstalled with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit  (and upgraded to Windows 7 Professional 64-bit at the end of May):

  • an HP Pavilion e9237c desktop (quad-core 64-bit  processor, 8 GB RAM, 1 TB hard drive) [purchased early November 2009]
  • an HP Pavilion dv7 laptop (dual-core 64-bit processor, 6 GB RAM, 600 GB hard drive) [purchased early March 2010]
  • a Gateway SX2802 desktop (quad-core 64-bit processor, 4 GB RAM, 750 GB hard drive) [purchased mid-April 2010]

As I’ve written previously here, I’ve had on-going problems with ‘blue screes of death’ (BSODs) with the HP desktop system, which may or may not be tied to the graphics system. The c:\windows\minidump folder only keeps the last 50 BSOD dumps; a quick review shows that I’ve had 50 BSODs since January 20th of this year. However, given the fact that I was on the road for most of the period from late March through early July, and so not using my desktop very much, that number may be artificially low. For example, I have been home continuously since July 6th; in that time, I have had eleven (11) BSODs.

What I haven’t written about here are the extreme BSOD problems I’ve been having with the HP laptop since buying it earlier this year (early March). I have had literally hundreds of BSODs in that time and would have had more if I had not discovered at least one major factor: a wireless connection. If I have the wireless adapter enabled, not only do I get frequent BSODs while trying to work, I will get BSODs when the computer simply has the login screen up.

Case in point: ten days ago, on July 11th, I had my laptop powered up and the wireless adapter enabled.  My laptop then experienced twenty-seven (27) BSODs from 8:27 am to 2:54 pm, almost all of which happened without me being at the computer or even being logged in (from the windows\minidump directory):

[date]               [time]         [file size]  [file name]

07/11/2010 08:27 AM 296,376 071110-20638-01.dmp

07/11/2010 08:33 AM 296,376 071110-18408-01.dmp

07/11/2010 08:54 AM 296,376 071110-17877-01.dmp

07/11/2010 09:00 AM 296,376 071110-17908-01.dmp

07/11/2010 09:09 AM 296,376 071110-17737-01.dmp

07/11/2010 09:19 AM 296,376 071110-16832-01.dmp

07/11/2010 09:21 AM 296,376 071110-17066-01.dmp

07/11/2010 09:42 AM 296,376 071110-18501-01.dmp

07/11/2010 09:51 AM 296,376 071110-16317-01.dmp

07/11/2010 09:54 AM 296,376 071110-16208-01.dmp

07/11/2010 10:09 AM 296,376 071110-16848-01.dmp

07/11/2010 10:12 AM 296,376 071110-16489-01.dmp

07/11/2010 10:21 AM 296,376 071110-16333-01.dmp

07/11/2010 10:24 AM 296,376 071110-17144-01.dmp

07/11/2010 10:30 AM 296,376 071110-16692-01.dmp

07/11/2010 10:36 AM 296,376 071110-17019-01.dmp

07/11/2010 10:45 AM 296,376 071110-16551-01.dmp

07/11/2010 10:54 AM 296,376 071110-16442-01.dmp

07/11/2010 11:00 AM 296,376 071110-16863-02.dmp

07/11/2010 11:24 AM 296,376 071110-17035-02.dmp

07/11/2010 12:42 PM 296,376 071110-17004-01.dmp

07/11/2010 12:45 PM 296,376 071110-18408-02.dmp

07/11/2010 12:58 PM 296,376 071110-17565-01.dmp

07/11/2010 01:00 PM 296,376 071110-17877-02.dmp

07/11/2010 01:09 PM 296,376 071110-17596-01.dmp

07/11/2010 02:48 PM 296,376 071110-18002-01.dmp

07/11/2010 02:54 PM 296,376 071110-16957-01.dmp

[UPDATE] I ran the WhoCrashed app on the latest 50 crashes on my laptop; it reported that it could only analyze 40 out of the 50. But those forty were, as far as I could tell, identical except for the ‘Bugcheck Code’ line; for example:

On Sun 7/11/2010 3:21:44 PM your computer crashed
This was likely caused by the following module: ntoskrnl.exe
Bugcheck code: 0x7F (0x8, 0x80050033, 0x6F8, 0xFFFFF80003299E58)
Error: UNEXPECTED_KERNEL_MODE_TRAP
Dump file: C:\Windows\Minidump71110-17066-01.dmp
file path: C:\Windows\system32\ntoskrnl.exe
product: Microsoft® Windows® Operating System
company: Microsoft Corporation
description: NT Kernel & System
The crash took place in a standard Microsoft module. Your system configuration may be incorrect, possibly the culprit is in another driver on your system which cannot be identified at this time.

[END UPDATE]

I do experience occasional BSODs on the laptop when I have the wireless adapter turned off and the laptop hooked up via an ethernet cable to a network, but they are much less frequent. But here’s the really interesting part. Because of my heavy travels, I bought a Sprint ‘net dongle (model U301) and the accompanying Sprint data service plan. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I’ve had a single BSOD when connected to the Sprint network via the Sprint dongle.

In all this, my presumption has been that the problem has been with Microsoft, and it may still be. But back in mid-April, while home for a few days, I bought the Gateway desktop system because I needed a separate system that I could pull off the network to do some significant hard disk decryption and encryption (typically running 5-6 days straight each time). So the system has been powered up and running since mid-April, and has had during that time two 6-day periods of round-the-clock CPU- and I/O-intensive processing. (It is, in fact, the system I am using to write this post.)

Total number of BSODs on the Gateway system since I bought it three months ago: zero (0). Nada. None whatsoever. The c:\windows\minidump folder is empty.

The Gateway system has at least two key differences from the HP systems. First, it has no wireless adapter; the HP desktop has an Atheros 802.11 a/b/g/n Dualband wireless module, while the HP laptop has an Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6200 AGN. Second, the Gateway uses an Intel G45/G43 integrated graphics chipset, while the HP desktop uses an ATI Radeon HD 4650 and the HP laptop uses an NVIDIA GeForce G105M.

The HP desktop is stable “enough” that I have no plans of replacing or returning it at the moment. As for the HP laptop, I am considering doing a clean factory restore  (and, if that fails to work, taking it back in; it’s under extended warranty), but it’s going to be a pain, particularly given all the software (including the Win7Pro upgrade) that I have installed on it.

Note, by the way, that I’ve seen no difference in the BSOD rate on either HP system since upgrading each to Windows 7 Professional at the end of May. Note also that ‘Automatically download and install Windows updates’ is enabled for all three systems, so they are all in sync with the latest Windows upgrades and with each other.

Anyone else had similar problems with newer HP systems running Windows 7?  ..bruce..

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About the Author:

Webster is Principal and Founder at at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor for the BYU Computer Science Department. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at 303.502.4141 or at bwebster@bfwa.com.

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  1. With apologies to HP and Microsoft : Bruce F. Webster | February 21, 2011

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