Hardware Woes

It seems I am cursed in some way to forever suffer bizarre hardware issues. I'm sure anyone who has paid attention here knows of my past dealings with multiple failures of Western Digital drives. Tales of how other parts of the system mysteriously died, or even of some of the old server failures I've seen. Today appears to be no different.

While in the middle of trying to respond to a PM on SmaugMuds.org, the computer attacked with a BSOD. I didn't get the first part of it, but the meaty part where the error was had only a cryptic stop error:

0x0000007E StopError atapi.sys - Address B9F1144A base at B9F0B000

Yeah, that's real informative isn't it? After fiddling with things and spending 5 minutes trying to reboot the PC the BIOS threw up all manner of even more cryptic junk filled with hex addresses and strange errors. Doesn't seem like this is going to end well, does it?

So I managed to get it rebooted after checking all the power cables, cards, and data cables to make sure nothing got nudged loose. All seems well. I ran a memory test. Came out with no errors after a very exhaustive check. So I rebooted back into the system and went to deal with another PM from someone else. Halfway through responding to that, the system choked itself again with the exact same BSOD (and I again failed to get the top part).

I got it rebooted after letting it sit idle for a few minutes. It hasn't been terribly warm here today, my window is open, nice cold are is pouring in, and right now the computer's case cover is off and I'm reading temps near ambient air. So it isn't heat related. Heat related crashes don't tend to be this specific anyway. So I popped open the event log and found two serious system errors reported at the time of each BSOD:



Call me crazy, but that doesn't look good :(

I've been poking around on Google and have only run into more of the same happening to plenty of other people. Most folks come to the same conclusions I have. The harddrive is failing, the CD/DVD ROM drive is failing, or the motherboard's SATA controller is failing. The CD/DVD drive makes the most sense to me right now because the atapi.sys driver is specifically associated with those, and during BIOS bootup that's the only device that ATAPI is listed next to. Also because I disconnected the power to the CD/DVD drive and have not had this happen again so far today, though that's certainly not an indication of anything since this problem has been pretty random.

I'm throwing this out there in hopes of running into someone who might know for sure. It's annoying as hell to have something like this come up and not be able to be 100% sure of which part to replace. Replacing them all is expensive guessing and wouldn't tell me for sure which one did it.
.........................
RIP United States of America

July 1776 - November 2012.

       
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Posted on Jan 12, 2010 5:06 pm by Samson in: | 33 comment(s) [Closed]
Comments
This error here certainly doesn't look any better:

       
Ouch, they certainly don't look good.
MS support doesn't seem to be much help either. They talk about these events on Windows Server or Windows 2000 or NT mostly. What are you running on this system?

The only suggestions I would have that seem plausible are swapping out cables and updating drivers. Not much help, I know, but I'm currently dealing with why my daughter's PC won't boot at all.

       
I would agree that those are very discomforting event log entries, and from what I was able to find on google, especially combined with those event log entries, I'd agree that it's most likely your CD/DVD drive, but rather than rushing out to replace it, I'd leave it without power and see if you get another event log entry like those three (and/or the accompanying BSOD) within the next 24-48 hours and, if not, then try putting the CD/DVD back into the loop to see if you get them again. If you do start getting them again only after re-adding the CD/DVD then you will have every reason to believe that you've found the culprit. Fortunately, the CD/DVD drive is far less critical than the Hard Drives are and generally cheaper to replace too. I would hold off on drivers and cables until you've verified that it is or it is not the CD/DVD drive though so you know which cables/drivers to worry about. That's my two cents, but your mileage may vary.

       
Edited by Samson on Mar 16, 2010 12:12 am
@Hanaisse: Running XP w/ SP2. That's why I found it amusing that M$ thinks the errors are either for Server 2003 or a cluster server. I'm not running either for my Windows box.

@Conner: I had it unplugged most of the evening last night. Then shut down to plug it all back in, turned it on while I went to go eat and watch some TV. It hasn't had an issue again yet. So whatever the deal is here it seems to be very intermittent. I hate narrowing spotty errors down. If it's the cable, that's easy to fix. I've got plenty of SATA cables laying around. If it's the DVD drive, $30 solves that problem. If it's the harddrive, Hitachi is sending me a replacement for the one that died over the summer after it took forever to find "appropriate packaging" (never throw out your drive boxes!!!!). If it's the motherboard though, that's going to suck, because it will need to be a different one than I have now since this model is obsolete. Which means reformatting and reinstalling because Windows is too dumb to handle a hardware swap without issues.

I don't think this is driver related. The system is using whatever drivers Windows itself comes with and has been happy since I got this drive.

       
Actually, XP is NT based like Server 2003 & cluster server (it's basically NT 5.1 in fact), but even so, you'd think XP wouldn't be old enough yet (let alone obscure enough yet) for M$ to have started phasing out support for it to the point of assuming the error was Server 2003 yet, on the other hand, accord to wikipedia (once again, it's fast and convenient, who knows if it's accurate...), XP was released in October of 2001 and mainstream support ended on April 14, 2009 while extended support will continue until April 8, 2014 despite XP still having 57-69% of the Windows OS market share as of November 2009. Go figure.

Damn, I agree, intermittent issues are definitely the hardest to diagnose/troubleshoot. You're right also that the easiest and cheapest possibility would be just a cable or driver (though I'm also disinclined to suggest driver issues here from what you've told us) and that the motherboard would be the hardest and most expensive.Without proper diagnostics, I'm going to hazard a guess that it's not the motherboard though because I'm thinking that you'd be getting other issues too. (Though an onboard hdd controller dying on you could be just as bad, but it'd normally be getting worse until you eventually started getting post errors.) I also think the HDD itself seems less likely than the DVD because, frankly, you're rapidly because our "local/resident" expert on hard disc failures so I'm thinking you're likely to have recognized the symptoms if that were the problem. On the other hand, both times that this caused your BSOD you said it was when you'd been browsing which suggests another possibility - a trojan. As suggested here.

       
I think the fact that I was browsing at the time was coincidence. Though the thought of a trojan or other malware has crossed my mind. Superantispyware hasn't found anything though. Neither has Symantec AV. So unless I'm dealing with some exotic new malware, I doubt I have that. I'm also pretty sure it's not the HDD at this point. If it were, then you'd think it would BSOD a lot more often since the system is on for most of the day.

On an amusing side note, I got back the replacement drive Hitachi owed me for the one that died over the summer. They included an invoice for $240. I wonder if I can find a very rude and inappropriate image of people with torches and pitchforks with some variation on "Up yours" to send to them as my response. If this is their idea of warranty service for a toast drive, they can kiss my scaly Iguanadon ass.

       
I feel for you, my computer has started to stutter like a hillbilly with a speech impediment of late, not reguarally but just now and again when its under load, i cant for the life of me work out what exactly is the cause, however im suspecting its video related. It is certainly time for an upgrade as its a pretty old athlon 2.6 meg and its time to get me a new multi core processor, tri head video and 3 24" monitors, to take multi play to a whole neew dimension. I have had dual 24's for a while now and think its time to add 1 more.

Peace out,

The_Fury.

       
You're probably right, especially if neither can find anything since most trojans that would impersonate atapi.sys are fairly well known at this point, but it's still safer to keep the idea in mind as a possibility. I also don't expect the HDD itself is the culprit because, as you say if it were your system should be having additional (at least semi-related) issues that would be showing up with increasing frequency, albeit possibly spanning quite some time. Just as a precautionary, have you double checked that everything is seated properly?

Nice, so they're charging you $240 for an in-warranty hard drive replacement that they took half a year to get shipped to you? I'm thinking this one's not quite right, though interesting to find in general for it's own merits... This one's not bad... Wow, who knew there was a card game called Torches and Pitchforks... These might work for you: or or ...amazing what you can find via google these days. ;)

The_Fury:
Maybe you're just asking too much of your computer? ;)

       
Well the system hasn't acted up again which has me wondering WTF is going on here.

If it comes down to sending nasty notes, I'll dig around for something crude that gets the point across :)

       
The system not acting up again could be indicative of the problem being solved because you got something seated more properly in trying to diagnose the problem, or it could be indicative only of the fact that it's an intermittent thing. :(

*L* Okay, your call, I was just trying to see if I could find what you'd asked for. ;)
Though next time I try to do that, I need to also try to remember that you've got images set to left align and auto-wrap all text around them.. (My "These might work for you: or or ...amazing what you can find via google these days. ;)" just looks stupid given the way the pictures lined up. *L*) ...maybe I just need to find a way to embed a <br> in my comments?

       
Could very well be the result of reseating cables and cards, though none were loose that I could tell. I also took the opportunity to dust out the machine so who knows.

       
Hey, never underestimate the healing power of a good dusting, especially with compressed air. ;)

       
I never do underestimate it. Sure seems like the system is behaving itself for the moment. At least as far as BSODs.

We won't get into how the UPS protecting it just died and can't charge its battery, nor how Multiwave and Newegg both have no replacement packs for the thing. So now I get to run down to Fry's and see if they have a decent unit in stock because I'm not paying APC $80 for a battery when I can get the whole damn UPS for that!

       
Actually for almost half that now. Fry's was having a sale :)

       
I can now confirm that the sata controller died a good death. Not before time actually, after opening the box and seeing what was actually in there, PC400 ram, AGP8 and a really old Athlon 3000+ it was well over due for an upgrade. I will head down to the city on tuesday to pick up new componets to make it better, quad core Athlon, 8 gig ram, 2 x video cards in SLI configuration and 2 1.5 gig Seagates, Fury is comming out of the dark ages and into modern computing.

Peace All,

The_Fury.

       
@Samson:
Well, as long as it's not acting up, I suppose there's really not much that can be done.. though you might consider backing up frequently for now.

Roughly $40 isn't bad for a new UPS (or UPS battery either, really). But it sucks that it seems like it's always multiple things going wrong at a time, at least the UPS isn't inside the computer adding to the confusion.

@The_Fury:
Welcome to the modern era.. though your earlier posting defining the dark ages of computing certainly made me feel old... as long as you've got that much cash to throw away anyway, you could send a few bucks my way.. ;)

       
LOL, sure Conner, how many zero's would you like on the check i make out to you. :)

       
@Conner: Yep. I make backups pretty regularly now, and that 500GB external drive has space enough to allow for it with plenty of room to spare. Unlike the Iomega drive that has 2MB left on it :)

I seem to be cursed with a black thumb for hardware. When it comes time to die, it all dies at once. Rarely do I get away from it, though for now the DVD drive seems happy. And $40 for a new UPS was just too good to pass up considering I couldn't even find the right battery online from a reputable source. APC even said they're out of stock at their own warehouse. The new UPS isn't as powerful as the old, but hey. Who am I to complain? I still get 6 minutes to cut and run if the power goes.

@The_Fury: Your reports of dying SATA controllers still has me worried. This stutter you describe seems to be happening quite a bit for me too, though only when Firefox is open. The system seems otherwise fine except for the bout of BSODs.

And you can send me a check too, with lots of zeros, as long as there's a real digit in front of them and no decimal point :)

       
Verdict is in. The drive controller just aced itself. The DVD drive has been unplugged all morning after it acted up again, and now the event viewer is filling up with drive errors with only the HDD hooked up to the SATA plugs. My XP disk is refusing to boot now so this is being posted from a *ahem* less than legit copy of Windows 7 I was testing a couple of weeks ago. Which itself is barely functional. Looks like I'll be out of commission until I can get a new motherboard ordered and replaced. Good thing I have that backup on the new 500GB external already done :P

       
Ouch. On the bright side, at least you can get away with just replacing the motherboard, right?

       
The_Fury said:

LOL, sure Conner, how many zero's would you like on the check i make out to you. :)

Like Samson said, as long as there's a real digit other than zero leading those zeros and a decimal point after the zeros.. I'm asking for (non deductible) charity at this point, so I'll let you decide how many zeros you can afford, but the more the merrier. ;)

Samson said:

$40 for a new UPS was just too good to pass up considering I couldn't even find the right battery online from a reputable source. APC even said they're out of stock at their own warehouse. The new UPS isn't as powerful as the old, but hey. Who am I to complain? I still get 6 minutes to cut and run if the power goes.

Can't argue about that price for a UPS, though 6 minutes sounds like cutting things close for my taste. APC seems to be out of stock of a lot of their replacement batteries frequently, but I'm surprised none of the other suppliers had one for you either, are you using a UPS that's just that common?

Samson said:

Verdict is in. The drive controller just aced itself. The DVD drive has been unplugged all morning after it acted up again, and now the event viewer is filling up with drive errors with only the HDD hooked up to the SATA plugs. My XP disk is refusing to boot now so this is being posted from a *ahem* less than legit copy of Windows 7 I was testing a couple of weeks ago. Which itself is barely functional. Looks like I'll be out of commission until I can get a new motherboard ordered and replaced. Good thing I have that backup on the new 500GB external already done :P

Damn, that sucks, I was really thinking it sounded like the DVD too.. so how long do you expect it to take, and how much do you expect it will it cost you, to replace the motherboard then?
So, any early thoughts on Windows 7?
Indeed, at least that was already done, though if it's just the controller, the drive should still be fine once you replace the controller, no?

       
Dwip said:

Ouch. On the bright side, at least you can get away with just replacing the motherboard, right?


No. They stopped selling the motherboard I had, so I also needed to pick up 2 sticks of DDR3 memory to go in the new boards they sell now. God damn controller.

Conner said:

so how long do you expect it to take, and how much do you expect it will it cost you, to replace the motherboard then?


Awhile longer, Only just now got to putting XP back in and am doing Windows updates now because my video driver installer crashed since a component it needed isn't available with just SP2. Bleh. Anyway, the setback was very nearly $400 after taxes and handling. But I can already see a pretty stark difference in speed, so I think that controller has been flaky for awhile now.

Early thoughts on Windows 7 are that I'm staying clear of it until SP1. It did better than my initial encounter with Vista, but Oblivion didn't work, and well, you know me and Oblivion :) There will come a time when I won't have a choice though, and it's gotten to where certain underground sources for stuff can no longer be trusted to provide uninfected torrents.

Yes, the drive is fine and so is the DVD drive, but I've put my 1TB drive in this time since I went to all that trouble to get it warranty replaced :)

       
As if to rub salt in the wound, once everything was back in place, I find out my Oblivion DVD is toast too. Good thing I have backup images of it :)

       
LOL how ironic, that we both had sata controllers fry in the same week. Not that im complaining all that much, my new machine is uber swift, windows 7 gives an experience rating of 7.9, which also happens to be the highest it goes to.

@Samson unless you have a reason not to jump to 7, like software that you need or want (Oblivion), there is really no reason not to jump there now. 7 is a great OS, and one that is ready to use out of the box, there is nothing compelling that would make me wait for SP1, 7 is everything vista should have been, but was not. It was one upgrade that i was happy to make, especially on the laptop that had vista on it.

@Conner :) as much as i would like to help out, my wife would kill me if i opened up a charity. Hope your situation improves some and you actually get back home to normal life.

Peace out,

The_Fury.

       
@Samson:
Man, that sucks.. really makes you miss the days when the HDD Controller was a separate card...

Naturally, why wouldn't the video card require drivers that only come with the service pack for the OS... kind of reminiscent of the modem manufacturers listing on the modem packaging a BBS number you could call to get drivers for the modem...

I was looking over the features list at M$' website for Windows 7 the other day and, while some of them do look like Vista finally reached the point it was supposed to be, I think I agree that they don't strike me as compelling enough, especially since I lack a touch screen monitor anyway, to go upgrading prior to SP1 either.

Makes sense, though it does mean transferring everything from the current drive to the 1TB drive - a minor enough chore, given the pleasure of doubling your hard drive space.

Oh, perfect.. at least you'd thought to make a backup of it already. As much as I know you love your oblivion, I still have to wonder what made you make a backup of it's DVD? It's probably a great practice, but I didn't think I knew anyone, myself included, who made backups of commercial software disks (especially games) since the early 80s..

@The_Fury:
Oh well, it really would've helped significantly, even if it was a small amount, but I can totally understand her perspective so I'll make do with the well wishes and just keep hoping for the best. At this point, I'm thinking even once we do finally get back home, it's going to take several months to get caught back up on everything. *sigh*

       
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