Intermittent computer problems

Intermittent computer problems have to be one if not the most problematic thing to diagnose in a computer.  Here’s a brief example.  Someone brings in a computer saying it “shuts down” from time to time.  You run the diagnostics, run a test on the hard drive: it passes.  Run a test on the ram: it passes.  What’s left?  Well there is the motherboard, processor, power supply and add-on cards such as video and sound cards.

I’m going to side track a little bit but when you cannot recreate the problem yourself, it’s extremely hard to fix the problem.  The most you can do is guess as to if the problem is fixed or not.  That’s not good at all, especially if you don’t see the problem happen in the shop and you release the computer back to the client and a day or two later they call you and exclaim that the problem is still there.  That doesn’t make you look good, at all.  It makes you look like you over looked the entire problem.  This is where a good warranty comes in to play.

So you tell the client, bring it back, I will take care of it for you.

They bring it back in and you put it up on the bench.

You see the problem happen immediately.

NICE! you say!  Now I recreated the problem and can now fix the issue.

So you leave it up on the bench and retest everything.  Sure enough, everything passes.  What the heck?  What could it be?  And worst of all the problem appeared once during your brief check but hasn’t returned since.  Of course, that’s what an intermittent computer problem is!

Well what’s next?  You can leave the system on your bench for x amount of time running all these random stress tests with no problem and then what?

I honestly don’t know right now.  I’m still trying to figure it out.  In fact, I have two computers at my shop that are problematic.  The first one is a Gateway computer and it will randomly drop video.  I honestly believed it was the video card and we swapped it out and it worked so I released it.  Sure enough a week later I get a call about it not working again.

These problems are so random and intermittent that it’s hard to say definitively that x is the issue.  Not only that but if you pitch the video card as bad and they replaced it and it wasn’t that, it makes the customer pissed off because they just spent money on something that wasn’t broken.

Anyhow, I thought I’d liven up the blog and let everyone know I’m still around.  Just having a hard time at work with politics and crap like that.