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Windows 7: Sudden Death, computer no longer boots

20 May 2012   #1

x64 (6.3.9600) Win8.1 Pro & soon dual boot x64 (6.1.7601) Win7_SP1 HomePrem
Sudden Death, computer no longer boots

Death of a laptop

The information in the related posts listed above give much more detail and provide more options than what I'm posting here. This is a general post based on my experiences with the sudden death of a Compaq Presario F762NR laptop. These are very basic steps, but they're all in one place. I know I list Vista as the OS, but I think this is a generic HW issue unrelated to a particular OS. Perhaps this will be of some help to a member.

Background: The laptop was 4 years old with the most recent Vista service pack. Prior to the death, I was working on an android application using the Android SDK and Oracle JDK (v7), with eclipse as my development environment. I borrowed an HTC G3 phone and loaded the app onto it using the HTC USB tether. After making a final tweak to the Android app GUI, I reloaded it on the phone and things looked fine. The next day, the laptop was "dead".
Dead means: I hear the fan spin, the HD starts for a brief moment, and there is nothing on the display - the machine then restarts. This repeats until I pull the power. I've tried to get to the BIOS screen, but can't seem to hit the 'fn' key at the correct moment, either that or POST hasn't gone that far to allow me to get there.

"Try these things first" standard problem solving:
  • Reboot - no change
  • Determine hardware point of failure. Each step continues the process without "undoing" the previous step.
    When I removed hardware, it stayed removed for subsequent hardware testing.
    1. remove all USB connected devices, reboot - no change
    2. remove the Battery, reboot on AC power - no change
    3. remove memory, reboot - no change
    4. Attach external monitor, reboot - no change

The last piece of HW I could pull was the HD - no sense rebooting, POST will fail without a HD. So I pulled the HD and connected it to another machine on a USB port (external case or cable required). The 2nd machine read the drive and I was able to back up my data. But..... the 2nd machine had a similar death when I restarted that machine. It seemed as though I had some nasty malware on the drive that I transferred to the 2nd machine when I copied my data.

The 2nd machine is an old HP desktop running XP. I was able to boot into Safe mode do some investigation. AV scans using multiple sources (Avast-main AV app on system, Norton scan from the website , Malwarebytes, MS security) all reported a clean system. I noticed however that my applications partition, normally a junction on the "C" drive was also the "Z" drive. This might not be unexpected because Windows was somehow confused, saw a drive and added it in as drive letter - why "Z" I don't know.

At this point of my story, the 2nd machine is back and running fine. My laptop is gathering dust until I try a few more things. In the end it could very well be that the laptop is truly dead and requires some hardware, be it LCD or motherboard. I've already shelled out money for a new laptop, so the old laptop might just be relegated to being a boat anchor.

Things I have yet to try, both are easy and the OEM manual will tell me how to open the box, find the part, and do it. Well - the CMOS battery anyway. I can find other parts after I pull the screws.
  • replace the CMOS battery
  • reseat cooling fan
  • self-booting hardware diagnostic mentioned in one of the related posts

That's about as much as I have right now. If anyone can think of another path that's not mentioned in the related posts, please let me know. Please don't spend too much time, but if you have a quick suggestion, do post it. If I figure it out (that depends if I take the time to perform open-heart surgery on it), I'll certainly come back here and tell you what worked.


My System SpecsSystem Spec

20 May 2012   #2

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 64 Bit Home Premium SP1

By the way- nice job on the diagnostic, and the post.

I am intrigued by the behavior of the second machine upon the connection and use of the laptop's hard drive. Considering that no known malware was found in that system I am thinking that the hard drive has an electrical and or connectivity problem.

I guess the clue will be found on how you got the old PC back up and running.

One thing I would want to play with is to try another hard drive in the laptop. Can you get your hands on a 2.5" drive? (Which I think is an IDE drive - I've worked on a 700 series Compaq).
My System SpecsSystem Spec
20 May 2012   #3

x64 (6.3.9600) Win8.1 Pro & soon dual boot x64 (6.1.7601) Win7_SP1 HomePrem


Thanks. It intrigues me too!

Essentially, once I got the old PC into safe mode, I scanned it and removed the drive letter for the application partition leaving the junction as it was before. That's about it - no real talent there.

I thought about trying a new drive for the laptop, but figured money spent on a 'maybe' was better spent on a new machine. I have my data, even though I'm still a bit wary of it - I've done all I can think of to say it's OK and free of malware. At some point I'll revisit the Cpq problem.

To be honest - I was leaning towards the HTC tether as the root Cpq cause. When the 2nd PC displayed similar symptoms, I wasn't leaning that way as much.

What do you think about this scenario. When I rebooted, the laptop drive was still connected - the old PC saw that as the boot partition and that's why the symptoms appeared. When I got into safe mode and changed the application drive letter, then shut down. I might have removed the USB connected laptop drive. I wouldn't think that it would boot from the external drive before the internal drive, but I'll check my boot order. I know the drive would have to be an active drive, but it was when it was in the laptop.

So if Active/System/Boot/Page information is stored on the drive and if my boot order was external before internal, then I think my 2nd PC never had a problem. So maybe I'm back leaning towards HTC tether - doubtful, but....

You're a genius!!

This has nothing to do with solving the original post, but I think it explains the 2nd PC. I'll confirm the settings and post 'em. And when I get around to further diagnosing the laptop, I'll post those findings as well.

Thanks for making me think just a little harder - I feel better about the data from the laptop and the 2nd PC.

My System SpecsSystem Spec

20 May 2012   #4

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 64 Bit Home Premium SP1

Ha Ha. Love it!
That is what is called a "Shower Epiphany". You walk away from a problem and take a shower. During the distraction the solution pops in!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
21 May 2012   #5

x64 (6.3.9600) Win8.1 Pro & soon dual boot x64 (6.1.7601) Win7_SP1 HomePrem


Either that was a long shower or a long walk, all of this happened over a month ago. You made me revisit the reason the 2nd PC exhibited the symptoms and yes! That was, as you say, a "Shower Epiphany". You're still a genius in my book, thanks again.

Confirmed: the boot order on the 2nd PC is external before internal, so I'll accept that mystery as solved. I still have the original "Death of a Laptop" issue to track down. I'm sure that after a bit more investigation and perhaps a few more showers the conclusion will present itself. It might be a while, I'm working on a few projects on the new machine. I'll post here again when I have any results.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
21 May 2012   #6

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 64 Bit Home Premium SP1

I have suspicions about that 700 series. The F767NR I worked on had started the death cascade last summer. It first lost detection of the DVD drive (Drive OK), and then started having power and video issues. The owner (wisely) bought a new laptop. I suggested that she might want to donate it "to science" and drop it off over here. We'll see.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
21 May 2012   #7

x64 (6.3.9600) Win8.1 Pro & soon dual boot x64 (6.1.7601) Win7_SP1 HomePrem

Same thing - 'lost' DVD in late 2010 - undetermined if drive really was bad, then recently deceased, then replaced machine. If you discover anything in your science experiment that might resurrect F762NRs, please post and I'll do the same. As I've mentioned, this is not imperative. Thanks.
edit: the Mr. Fixit didn't apply to my machine (upper / lower filters) - just recalled that "fix" after helping on a different problem involving filters
My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Sep 2012   #8

x64 (6.3.9600) Win8.1 Pro & soon dual boot x64 (6.1.7601) Win7_SP1 HomePrem

Four months..... four months!

It took me four months to pop the CMOS battery out.

I did not need to replace it, just reset CMOS - maybe if this happens again I will try a new battery..... but I've never had to replace one in the past. If only they made other batteries last this long =:>

I also got my CD/DVD drive back - but it seems to disappear when I update things. There is some SW / HW conflict I haven't figured out yet..... but the machine is back!

Problem solved - solution = Reset CMOS by removing CMOS battery for 10 minutes, then reinstalling battery.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Sep 2012   #9

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 64 Bit Home Premium SP1

I'll give that a shot.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Oct 2012   #10

x64 (6.3.9600) Win8.1 Pro & soon dual boot x64 (6.1.7601) Win7_SP1 HomePrem

I didn't mention before that I also did a clean install - but now you know that too. CMOS battery it LIVES! and then a clean install.

I still seem to have the magical CD/DVD drive. Now you see, now you don't.

The thing disappears when I do WU or install new drivers for some, any device. It's not consistent and not all the time. I've been managing it with restore points. When I take an action that I suspect will screw it up, I create a restore point and then do the update. If it's there after the update, great - if not i restore and try again.

I've only had to do that once or twice, and it's been stable for a few days. Sooooooo, we'll see what happens, but I'll just live with it if the darn thing goes away and get a USB drive. I can't baby sit it for the rest of it's life.

Thought you might be able to use this information on your patient.

Oh wait, you've built a new machine - nice!

Good luck if you play with the donated machine.

My System SpecsSystem Spec

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