Dell Precision M6500 Stability Problems

During the time that I’ve had a Dell M6500 I’ve really enjoyed it.  In particular I like its dual-drive and RAID 0 support for better disk I/O, and its support for up to 32 GB of RAM.  The striped drives have definitely been an improvement over laptops’ consistent problem of painfully slow disk I/O.  When I bought it I never imagined I’d boost it all the way to 32 GB, but didn’t want to be stuck at 4 or 8 GB either.

Unfortunately, my M6500 is very unstable.  The stability problem almost always manifests itself as a hard reset – i.e., no blue screen, no warning, etc.  It’s just like the days before NT (Win 3.x, etc.) when you’d push the computer’s reset button.  Bam!  Straight to boot sequence & BIOS screen!

The resets are highly unpredictable as well.  Sometimes I’ll go a week without having one, and sometimes I’ll have 15 – 20 times a day!  I’ve searched and tried so many different things that I can’t remember them all any more.  At one point I was convinced the network drivers were the problem because resets seemed to occur during heavy network traffic.  But then something I found online made me suspect the low-level drivers of Microsoft Security Essentials (blogged here), but the resets continued.

Then, I thought I’d have a break-through!  An actual Blue Screen instead of a hard reset!  (BSOD’d Again! Windows 7, 64-bit), but that turned out to be a dead-end, too.

Oh wait! Now I remember that my first suspicion was VirtualBox which I use for virtualized development environments.  That was even before I suspected the network drivers.  I uninstalled VBox and switched to VMWare Workstation for a couple of weeks, but the resets occurred whether I was using a VM or not.

Sigh.  The only consistency I have found is the instability’s randomness.  And that’s certainly no help for diagnosis.  So, I’ve spent the past 24 hours ensuring I have all of the most recent Dell-recommended firmware and software updates for the M6500.  Fingers crossed that this will have magically fixed the reset problems.  If not, hopefully someone else has had similar problems and will be able to tell me how to resolve them.


BSOD’d Again! Windows 7, 64-bit

Today’s BSOD on my Windows 7 x64 laptop:

A clock interrupt was not received on the secondary processor within the allocated time interval.

*** STOP: 0x00000101 (0x31, 0x0, 0xFFFFF880009EE180, 0x1)

Actually, it’s been quite a while since I’ve had an actual Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD).  Since I’ve been having random resets, this BSOD may actually be helpful for diagnosis.  My primary development VM (VirtualBox) was installing the beta of Visual Studio 2010 SP1 at the time.  I sure hope the environment is intact enough to do some work!

UPDATE, 1/13/2011:

The clock interrupt BSOD occurred again overnight (~3:15 am).  I left a VBox VM running with software installing, but that completed long  before the BSOD.  I took a quick snapshot with my cell before restarting the M6500.

BSOD – Clock Interrupt screenshot
BSOD – Clock Interrupt

Security Essentials Causes Hard Reset? (WRONG)

I’ve been having intermittent hard resets (no BSOD) over the past few months.  At first I thought it a problem with VirtualBox because it always happens when VBox is running.  I do most of my work in VMs, however, so I began to suspect that it was just coincidental.

Then I thought it may be due to my laptop’s network driver.  Correlation? Sometimes resets would occur during significant network activity – downloading a multi-gig ISO, for example.  Unfortunately, resets also occurred when network activity was all but idle.

Recently I noticed some a nasty serious of events in Event Log which indicate that Microsoft Security Essentials (MSSE) is the culprit.  My laptop reset tonight and, sure enough, the same MSSE event was in the log.

MSSE OOBE - Critical Event

A little research online provides some credibility to MSSE being the culprit.  In particular, skr68’s comments in this post on 5/11/2010 ascribes BSODs with the same Event Log data.

So, after tonight’s reset I confirmed that the “Microsoft Security Essentials OOBE” error was in the Event Log, and then I uninstalled MSSE.  Yup, I’m flying unprotected – forgoing virus protection for now.  The best case scenario is that no more resets occur over the next few weeks.  If that happens, I’ll gladly spend some bucks on non-reseting virus protection