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How do I troubleshoot consistent hang problem?

  • Windows XP
Last response: in Windows XP
November 30, 2009 3:23:00 AM

I'm experiencing a 100% consistent hang problem on one of my XP Pro SP3 machines. It occurs every time I run Acronis Disk Director 10 and possibly other programs such as the Disk Manager and a few others.

What happens is this: I launch Acronis Disk Director 10, which loads and runs without error for about 60 seconds, whereupon the system hangs completely: CTRL+ALT+DEL does nothing, and I have to reboot. Exactly the same thing happens when I run Acronis' troubleshooting tool.

My instincts are telling me the hang is related to accessing a disk in "raw" mode, as several programs do, including Acronis' and others. But I don't know how to troubleshoot this problem since there are no error messages and no crash dumps.

Any advice?

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December 2, 2009 6:02:35 AM

Thanks for your reply, nicolatesla. Here are the answers to your questions:

How much memory does your computer have installed?

4 GB, 3.6 GB of which is available to Windows.

push control alt delete, open the task manager
look at the bottom of the task manager window where it says: CPU usage
when the system hangs, does the CPU go 100%?

There's no possibility of testing this, since the hang is sudden, immediate, and total. CTRL+ALT+DEL does nothing whatsoever at that point. However, there's no reason to believe CPU or RAM saturation are the cause, since there's just a single, fairly small app running at the time. All the other processes in the background are unchanged. I launch it, and about 60 seconds later the system will hang each and every time. And on my other machines, this app (Acronis Disk Director 10) is totally benign and works perfectly every time. There's no disk thrashing that would indicate a new process had begun, and recall that this is 100% completely predictable and repeatable.

too many processes, not enough memory, not enough cache memory in the CPU will cause what you describe.

First, none of those conditions apply to my situation. Second, even if they did apply, I've never seen a 100% perfectly repeatable hang arise from those conditions.

Recall, please, that I'm looking for hang troubleshooting guidance, since I didn't expect anyone to be able to diagnose this problem based solely on what I could write about it.

But I am grateful for your response, as it's the only one I've received.

December 2, 2009 6:58:37 AM

first open the task manager BEFORE you open the single small app
second there's a bunch of apps running all at the same time, you can see them in your task manager, but not open on your desktop, yes, they are ALL running after you start windows. That's what eats up the memory.
That is incorrect. It also absolutely, positively NOT what's going on! I've been a programmer for 35 years, and while I don't know with certainty what's causing this particular hang, it is almost certainly related to opening a raw disk device, which Acronis DD 10 and the XP Disk Manager does, but virtually no other application does (save Window's license checker). I repeat: What you describe is absolutely, positively NOT what's going on!

Do all your other machines have all exactly the same memory and processors?
No, the others that work perfectly are more limited. And before you ask, I know precisely which services and processes are enabled and running, as I painstakingly prune them first. You see, I've been a programmer for 35 years.

stop assuming and start eliminating the possible causes one at a time, start by looking at how much the processor is loaded when you open the app.
I will bet 25 cents that the processor reads 100% when you open that app up.

open task manager FIRST, what does the processor CPU read in %?
Now open the app up, What does the CPU % read when the computer freezes? Is it frozen at 100%? Check this, do not assume anything.
Very well. I tried it, and before launching the app in question, the idle process was getting 99% of the CPU time, which means that only 1% of the CPU is in use. And on my other XP machines, the CPU utilization of the app in question never exceeds 5% (and that's the high end; usually, it's just 1%), which is only logical, as the app is I/O bound.

You do know what the phrase "I/O bound" means, certainly.

Please stop challenging me on such basic and primitive grounds. As a programmer of 35 years' duration, I long ago ruled out such primitive potential causes. I repeat: What you describe is absolutely, positively NOT what's going on!
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December 2, 2009 7:01:23 AM

This sort of problem can be caused by conflicts with anti-virus software. Do have any running? If so, try disabling it temporarily to see if that stops the problem.

Have a look here for further resources relating to trouble-shooting XP.
December 2, 2009 7:35:09 AM

Ijack said:
This sort of problem can be caused by conflicts with anti-virus software. Do have any running? If so, try disabling it temporarily to see if that stops the problem.

Have a look here for further resources relating to trouble-shooting XP.

Thanks for your reply, ijack!

All my XP systems run the same anti-malware tools, so since the problem didn't arise on any other system, I doubted that could be at root in this situation. And while I had already tried disabling two out of the three anti-malware tools on that system (which didn't help), I put off disabling the third for two reasons:

(1): You can't disable it without uninstalling it completely, which is a hassle, and,

(2): I had already disabled it's active scanners.

But now was as good a time as any to try uninstalling the third, so I just finished uninstalling and rebooting and tried it again with no anti-malware tools at all.

Alas, the same thing still happens. When I run any of the 3 apps that require opening a raw disk device on my hard drives (which are: XP's Disk Manager, Acronis Disk Director 10, and Acronis' diagnostic tool), roughly 60 seconds later, the system still hangs. If I don't run any of those 3 apps, I don't see the problem.

But it was worth trying, and I am grateful your comment reminded me to get rid of that 3'rd tool anyway.

Finally, as for the link you so graciously provided me: It's wonderful! Exactly the kind of thing I was looking for!

I am extremely grateful to you, ijack -- have a virtual beer, on me!