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Strange computer - Network Admin needs advice

By mahmah1519 ·
We have a laptop (Inspiron 8100 w2k, SP4 with Office, WordPerfect etc.) This user works on the network (w2k server) and offline at home (with no Internet connection).

He experiences on almost a daily basis very strange behavior. For instance, changing file associations on a weekly basis, certain keys work online but not offline, certain program functions suddenly stop working, PDF files work one day and the next day PDF files cannot be opened, he trys to open a program and a message appears saying it?s already running even though it is not and Word suddenly crashes. I don?t see any newly installed programs

Almost, every day, it is a new strange problem and a challenge for me. I don?t have the same problems on other laptops/clients.

I observed some of these problems myself, some I can?t duplicate. I know the computer is used by his teenagers when it is taken home.

I rebuilt the computer. Unfortunately, after the rebuild, I discovered the user profile I had copied over was corrupt. I checked for viruses and spy ware, and there were none.

How should I handle? Is this a hardware problem. Software conflicts due to user profile corruption? User training? Computer policy issue? I suggested a rebuild but user sayes no - too much down time. Do these events justify buying a new computer? I am out of ideas and it?s turning into a conflict because this person is in upper mgmt. Help, pls!

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Strange Problems

by timwalsh In reply to Strange computer - Networ ...

Until you can figure out the cause of the problem, there is little justification in my mind for a new laptop.

The fact that people other than employees (like employee's children) are accessing the computer is very troublesome in my mind. Are there any company policies that cover this? Any idea what the teenager is doing on the computer?

Some of the intermittant problems that you describe COULD be caused by hardware problems, but I would lean more towards file corruption.

The fact that there appears to be problems with several programs WOULD justify a complete rebuild of the computer.

File associations DON'T just change themselves. A user must change them or loading a program will sometimes change them. Is it just specific associations that get changed (always the same ones) or are the changes random?

Is this user in a position to demand a new computer? If not, he either needs to live with his problems or give you a chance to solve them.

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Computer Crashes, Please help!

by damasta_420 In reply to Strange Problems

I have an Asus A7S333 Motherboard, AMD Athlon XP 2100 Processor, running Windows XP. My computer will crash at random times, somtimes after its been on a day, sometimes for a couple of hours. The comptuer just shuts off, the power light on the motherboard remains on, but i must unplug the computer from the wall before it will turn back on. It is definately not a virus. I replaced my hard drive. I replaced my heatsink and fan to a more powerful one, to assure it isnt a heat problem. After it crashes, I unplug it, plug it back in, boot it up, and i get a Ivalid System Disk error.(only after it crashes) I reboot again and it boots to windows fine. Any comments or suggestions would be appreciative. Email to : damasta_420@yahoo.com. Thanks

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Stating the obvious.

by GuruOfDos In reply to Strange computer - Networ ...

Why, oh why....

If this is a business computer, and on your inventory for support...

WHY THE F*** are teenagers being allowed to play with it?!!!!!

Never....repeat NEVER...allow 'home' or 'personal use' of a business computer. If anything on the computer is essential to productivity or the job that is being undertaken by the member of staff, then ANYTHING that compromises that in any way should be prevented at all costs.

Gaming, internet usage or even just loading on CD's or floppies from a computer magazine can screw up your whole day.

I'd love to offer advice on solving your problem and I could give you three 'clues' to the actual problems you are experiencing...but I won't!

If you are stupid enough to allow or condone personal use of a business computer, and then allow someones teenage children to then play on that same system and cause problems or compromise the integrity and/or security of said system, that automatically presupposes that you are 'clever' enough to have planned for all eventualities and have weighed up the worst case scenario and are prepared for it!

Sorry friend...I have sympathy for you in as much as you have to sort it....but you don't. The employee has caused or allow the machine to be compromised by non business use. Rework of the machine outside the parameters of normal use entails expenses outside of company expenditure.

Master restore the machine to it's factory settings.....and charge the employee for your time and trouble for restoring and reloading all th apps!! His lost data is hen HIS problem....not yours! And if he (or she) hasn't backed up all their pertinent files and data....then they have no business even having a company computer!

You can't drive a car legally without a licence and users should not be allowed computers if they don't follow the 'rules of the road'.

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What is IT for that user?

by voldar In reply to Strange computer - Networ ...

All the posts before - I agree with. For me, the behavior of the laptop is not due to a hardware conflict nor a virus. It should be a bad ussage of the laptop. Talk to the manager and ask him not to give his laptop to his children. You are not responsible for what is happennig on it while taken at home. If he does not agree, then you should ask him to allow his children to work on the laptoo only under a specified "user". You should create a new one - with simple user permissions (so that they don't mess up again the laptop) - and this is going to be used by his children. You should also change the password for the manager user - give him also simple user permissions (while at home).
But first of all - rebuilt his computer!
Trying to train the manager on computer management would be time spent on nothing - persons like this one don't give a **** for that.
Strengthen the policies on that laptop - it is the best way to avoid future problems.

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Event Viewer

by amit In reply to Strange computer - Networ ...

Have u checked the log file of event viewer. It can help in accessing the correct problem.

Have u tried open with menu while opening PDF.

Have u tried golden rule: Uninstall- Reinstall PDF reader . Of course u must have.... :)

Please check the above solutions if it suits you..

OR ...read below

From the problem I guess it is the windows problem. I think some files have become corrupted and the default registry setting is changed. After uninstalling the PDF reader/writer, how about repairing the registry with some utility like jv16 power tools and then reinstalling the PDF reader/writer.

I hope this should solve the problem!

Don't waste much time on these solutions if they don't work. Then the practical solution is backup the data and re-install windows.

TIME IS HONEY !!!

Amit Bhatia

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Corrupt Profile?

by dschotte In reply to Event Viewer

You have found your problem. You say you have rebuilt the PC and copied over the profile that you have determined is corrupt. Corrupt files and profiles are most of the problems with computers especially weird and uncommon problems.

I agree with most other comments regarding the laptop I don't think it is a hardware issue.

I have several users that let their children pay with their laptops fine! Just be ready to pay for the down time. You say they user cannot wait or have his profile rebuilt because it cost too much downtime. How much downtime does he have now? By what you describe it, sounds like the user is down more than he is up.

Solution: Rebuild Laptop including Profile
End result: User Happy, Technician Happy, Everyone Happy.

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On a Different Vein

by Oldefar In reply to Strange computer - Networ ...

The advice on keeping business equipment limited to business use is correct. You may have an opportunity to use these strange problems to demonstrate a need for corporate policy regarding this. The cost factors (loss of time, loss of data, compromise of security) are all evident. Of course, if the user owns the company he may tell you to stick with support and leave policy to him.

Meanwhile, there is still that interesting set of symptoms. I have seen some equally strange but true symptoms, and solving them has its own satisfaction. Without having Internet access, the chance of infection is greatly reduced. If the teenagers are simply using standard applications like word to do their homework, and not loading on games or opening files from friends on disk or CD, then the core problem remains as a valid issue.

I haven't had to fight with my own Inspiron too much, although I did have a keyboard issue. One of the first things I would look for is physical security of the modules. A bad seat can cause problems at the logic level. Same for memory seating. Check all power connections, and make sure your voltages are correct. A marginal output will create all kinds of random errors.

Do a good physical inspection for foreign debris, for any scorch marks, and for bad soldering. Since components are typically machine assembled and soldered, problems are less common today. However, they can occur. Look for dull soldering and pits or even missed soldering of components.

Files do not corrupt for no reason. Either the code is bad as written, in which case everyone has the problem, or the hardware is failing to properly respond.

Heat is another potential issue. Make sure the fan and airflow work properly and are not obstructed.

Watch for any insulating sheets that may have been missed during assembly. They are added protection for the close proximity between assemblies in a laptop. Also, look for a cracked housing. This may allow sufficient flexing to cause random errors from opens or shorts.

Is it worth all the effort? Probably not if you apply your hourly rate against it. However, it can be good experience if you can pursue it during "idle" time by first getting the user a functional system.

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Swapout?

by MC_User In reply to Strange computer - Networ ...

I agree that an intermitently faulty power supply, failing hard disk or overheating problem could probably cause some of the problems described. However, the more prudent answer is that the problem are being caused unknowingly by unauthorized users.

A way to isolate this is to replace the whole laptop with a known (tested) working spare, of the same make and configuration. This would allow you to perform long stress tests on the origional computer and look for intermittent errors. Also, if the same exact errors start occuring on the replacement unit then it would be a telltale indicator that the problem is with the user and not the laptop.

Saying this I remembered one last thing. I had one or two desktop computers behave in a similar way in the past. I had a talk with the user about the configuration of their home office and discovered that they lived in a very old home with old wiring. We thought he might be having mini-brownouts. We ordered them a UPS that regulated the power comming out of the wall and most of the problems went away.

Old Polish Proverb:
Though the hippopotamus has no stinger on his tail, the wise man would rather be sat on by a bee

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Combination of factors

by Deadly Ernest In reply to Strange computer - Networ ...

This appears to me as a being a combination of factors, some are user orientated and some may, repeat may, be hardware problems of the most esoteric kind.

Esoteric hardware problems can come about from odd power sources or an intermittent problem with a device. But the resetting of file associations is definately a software issue and one often cuased by the use of other software.

I know you said that you checked the system for new software, but have you done a file search based on last used or last modified date first thing of a morning? I suspect that the 'extra' users may be running some games from CD, this can be done without loading software but can cause some file association changes. In such a case some tracks will show via the file modification dates.

The suggestion re a swap of systems would be a great way to seek further info on this problem.

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Start with HW check...

by Jennifer.Gardner In reply to Strange computer - Networ ...

If you boot to the Dell Resource CD that came with the laptop, you can run a full diagnostics on the hardware. If no problems are found, then rebuilding the OS is the best option. Without a complete reformat/reinstall, you'll be beating your head against the wall trying to track down all the weird problems.

Have you asked what the teenagers are using it for? Are they just typing homework in Word, or are they installing and later uninstalling games? That could explain the change in file associations. If I were you, I would seriously consider restricting user permissions - easy with W2K.

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