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Windows 7: Win7 Randomly Locks Up - HDD Activity Light Solid

27 Feb 2012   #1

Window 7 Home Premium 64-bit (OEM)
Win7 Randomly Locks Up - HDD Activity Light Solid

I've been using computers since Win 3.0, but have recently built my own computer for the first time.

Generally, everything works great... right up until the point it doesn't.

Sometimes my PC will randomly just "lock up". The screen freezes, the keyboard is completely unresponsive (including ctrl-alt-del), the mouse cursor is the spinning circle. The only way out is to hit the RESET button.

It seems fairly random, and has happened while I was using iTunes, Outlook, or other programs.

The one constant is that every time it happens, I can see that the HDD activity light is *solid*. It's not flickering / blinking like with normal HDD access, just solid. I don't know whether there is something truly being accessed, or whether the solid light is just a red herring.

Also, I don't know if the system is actually frozen, or whether there's something hogging the system to the extent it's so slow that it appears frozen. It's a pretty beefy system, so whatever it is would have to be really doing a number. I've only ever waited like 2 minutes before giving up.

Given that every time it happens the HDD light goes solid, I have to suspect it's something with the hard drive subsystem, but I don't know how to begin troubleshooting whether it's a mobo SATA port issue, an Intel RST driver issue, a hard drive issue, a cable issue, or maybe it's not the hard drive at all!

Here's some details (see more in my Systems Spec)
  • Recently purchased DZ68BC mobo
  • Prior to Win7 installed, verified mobo BIOS default was AHCI
  • Installed Win7 64-bit Home Premium
  • Win 7 appears to use AHCI
  • After installing Windows, ran Intel utility to update/install all drivers, including Rapid Storage Technology drivers (did *not* update mobo BIOS)
  • I am NOT running any RAID

Again, everything seems to work really nicely, right up until the point it decides to instantly freeze It's hard to troubleshoot because it's so random, I don't know when to expect it, and after it happens I can't bring up any tools (i.e. Resource Manager) to see what's going on.

My System SpecsSystem Spec

27 Feb 2012   #2

Windows 7 x64 Ultimate

When everything stops is it like BANG all at once? Or is it more like first one app "goes white" then maybe another and another then the cursor stops moving in the span of maybe a few seconds?

If it's the slower one by one scenario then chances are greater than yes it's a HD issue somewhat specifically. As each app gets starved for HD access they white out waiting for it, finally the OS itself is starved for HD access and blocks. If it's an instantaneous hard lock, then the HD access may be pushing something over the top (like memory stability) but may not be the actual cause of the lockup...
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 Feb 2012   #3

Window 7 Home Premium 64-bit (OEM)

It's more like, bang, all at once.

For example, the last time it happened, I was in Outlook and clicked on "Contacts" and it just instantly froze. I had been in and out of Contacts so it's not like I was doing something new.

I looked over at the box, and sure enough the HDD light was solid. At first I was able to hit Ctrl-Alt-Del to bring up the normal Ctrl-Alt_Del menu, I hit the Escape key to cancel, the menu disappeared and then everything was *really* locked - no keyboard, no mouse, no nothing. Just that spinning cursor.

Other things to note: I've run HD tune but nothing odd has appeared. My 2 WD drives get respectable 120MB throughput and my Hitachi gets like 60MB (?).

Also, I haven't done anything with overclocking or the like. My CPU is i7-2600 (non-K) and my memory is stock 1333 G.Skill.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

27 Feb 2012   #4

Windows 7 x64 Ultimate

Well given that the OS is not 100% dead at first (but dies later) and the drive light is /always/ on then yeah it's looking like it may be a HD driver issue possibly... Or even an issue with the HD itself.

Do you know if you have the drive plugged into a standard intel port on the motherboard or is it in one of the "special" ports like a Marvel controller or something?

If it's in a marvel controller socket, try switching it to an intel socket. (you might need to go to your BIOS and fix the boot order there afterwards).

You might also try uninstalling those intel drivers and see if that fixes it (Or worst case, reinstall windows fresh and then don't install them at all).

Also might want to check to make sure your sata/power cables are secure, or even change them.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
28 Feb 2012   #5

W7 Home Premium 32bit

With random lockups, I always think a hardware issue - memory or power supply.

Memory is easy to test. Download and burn MemTest to a cd and test one stick at a time, overnight for 6-8 hours (take 3 out) in the slot closest to the cpu. W7 will run just fine with 4g. Doesn't matter if they are new. One stick could have a bad spot somewhere that gets accessed randomly.

After the 4th night, you will know if all your memory is good.

As to the psu. Most of them operate at about 87% efficiency; so you're getting 550-570w under load. If it's not recently new, the efficiency deteriorates over time and you may be getting less than that. Running graphics, the cpu, three hard drives, 4 sticks of ram, and the mobo electronics may be reaching its' limit.

If your ram is okay, I would consider going for a 750-800w Antec or Corsair.
The only Seasonic I've owned didn't last a year. All of the Antecs & Corsairs I've owned, or what my former customers have had, never failed. You're never sorry when you buy quality. And always get them overspec; way more than what you think you need.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
28 Feb 2012   #6

W7 Home Premium 32bit

As an addendum to the above, did you purchase two 8g memory kits?
And, are the kits installed in matched slots?

Some mobos will have you put the first paired ram in slots 0 and 2; (or 0 and 1).
Then the following set will go into 1 and 3; (or 2 and 3).

If you indeed bought matched kits, ID THEM SOMEHOW, so you don't mix them up.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Win7 Randomly Locks Up - HDD Activity Light Solid

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