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Random Windows Shut Downs

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April 30, 2012 3:27:07 PM

I'm not overly convinced this is a Windows problem, but I seriously don't know what else to list it as.

Background: I am the technician for a small school. We have about 75 users. The users have roaming profiles on a Windows 2003 Server. Our client machines run Windows XP Pro SP3 and are fairly old (~2005-2006 DOMs) Pent 4 or Pent D. We run a learning software program called SuccessMaker Enterprise on the clients from our server. This program uses QuickTime.

Problem: I have one (1) user out of the 75 who continually experiences random shut downs while using the SME program and not being able to run the program the first time he logs into a computer. He has to log in, tried to open SME, it won't run, he logs back out, logs in again immediately, and then it will work. Then, after several minutes in the program, his computer will shut off without warning (I'm not sure if it actually does a Shut Down or if it just crashes). For a while it was doing a complete restart (proper Shut Down and then it would restart). Now though it just shuts off.

I'm not 100% sure the shut downs occur only during SME, as that is pretty much the only program this user uses so there haven't been a lot of other occasions to notice it. It does not matter what computer this person uses (so that takes anything wrong with the computer itself out of the running for an answer). The makers of the SME software insist they have never heard of this problem with regard to their software. So, if that is indeed the case, that pretty much leaves this person's roaming profile to be the problem. HOWEVER, I have created numerous new profiles for him with limited success. I create a new profile and delete all locally stored profiles to avoid cross contamination, and it is still a problem. I finally, in exasperation, created a completely new network account for him, and that didn't even help at all.

This seems to be getting progressively worse. I've only had one other user have this problem and creating a new profile solved her issue (at least for now).

Any ideas? I'm at a loss.
April 30, 2012 8:12:14 PM

Have you seen this happen? Maybe they are doing something to cause this. Watch them work for a bit. Another thing you can try, make their profile local only, not roaming. Roaming profiles are a pain, they tend to cause much more issues than they solve, including long login times, corrupt files.
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April 30, 2012 10:19:00 PM

My first instinct was that he was doing something. However, I have since seen it happen. So has his teacher. I stood and watched one machine restart 3 times in a 10 minute period one day, and he wasn't even touching the thing. He would double click on the program shortcut, put his hands down in his lap, and it would restart while loading the program. After that, I erased his profile and created a new one, which worked for several weeks, but now we are back to the program not working the first time he logs into Windows (it's like it hangs on loading when he double-clicks the program shortcut) and now the computer actually shuts down randomly rather than restarting randomly. We have purposely sat with him--both his teacher and I on separate occasions--to watch what he does, and there doesn't seem to be anything amiss with him clicking or pressing keys.

The possible scenarios seem to be:

1) A problem with the machine itself. The trouble with this theory is that it happens no matter what computer he uses. All Dells but different models.

2) A problem with the software. If this were the case, I would suspect it would happen to other users as well. Though I suppose something could have gone wrong with his account for that software. That doesn't explain why the software won't load for him the first attempt though, and I can't really try to fix that until school is out and then won't know the results of the experiment until school starts again in the fall. The software tracks user progress, and if I create a new account for him in the software he'd have to start all over. Also, the fact that the software mfg has had no reports of this happening to others makes me skeptical of this theory. This stuff is used in thousands of schools and has been for over a decade, so it is unlikely that we'd come up with a problem they've never heard of.

3) A Windows problem. This also seems unlikely because I would, once again, expect others to have the same problem then.

4) A profile problem. This is the most likely explanation given that it only happens to this one student, HOWEVER you would think that creating a completely new network user account (not just profile--I have created a whole new user) would have solved the problem then.

Am I missing any scenarios?

I know roaming profiles are a pain, however, this is an elementary school and for instructional purposes we need to have the students see "their" screen no matter what computer they use. I don't know of a way to do that besides roaming profiles. I'm actually a PC tech, not a network admin, but working for a non-profit means I have to do both jobs regardless. I have a well-loved copy of Windows Server 2003 for Dummies on my desk. ;) 
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May 1, 2012 3:29:39 PM

They will have a local profile no matter where they logon that is their own, the only difference is that desktop icons, unless set by a logon script, will be different from PC to PC.

Just by the fact that this issue follows this person to other computers that others have no problems with, it does point to a profile issue. But the only thing left to try is to change the account from roaming to a regular one.

What most places do instead of roaming profiles, they remap "My Documents" to a network share for the users, and use a logon script to create any shortcuts that are needed for everyone to use. Note that any files they place on the desktop would not move with them, but that teaches them not to use the desktop as a file dumping ground.
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May 1, 2012 4:01:32 PM

I did confirm with his teacher that this only happens when he uses this specific program. It does not happen in IE, Word, or web-based applications that we use for other things.

So, that kind of sends me back to the SME software being the problem at least WRT to the random shut downs. Since it only happens to this user, I'm now more suspicious that the shutdown issue has something to do with his account in that software.

It doesn't explain the reluctance for the program to start for him as that little oddity happens before he even gets a chance to log into the software. The shortcuts used to open the program are not part of his profile at all, they reside in the All Users > Desktop folder on the local machines, so if they were the problem it would be a problem for all the others who use that machine as well. We have approx. 75 students who use these machines with this software all day long and this user is the only one with problems. I even surveyed all the teachers in case they were having problems they hadn't notified me about and nothing that can't be traced to user error (and with 1st graders there is plenty of user error, though they are less dangerous than 6th graders because they follow directions better ;)  ).

Over this summer I may revamp the profile issue to use a policy or script and also disable the ability for users to change their desktops and screensavers. I know I'm being a stick-in-the-mud doing that, but it has become a real problem. Once young kids (8-13 yos) learn how to do that they spend all their time searching the web for stuff to put on their wallpaper rather than doing actual work and paying attention in class (I also happen to teach computer literacy class and I'm about ready to tape their fingers together to prevent them from clicking on stuff they aren't supposed to during class). It also opens a big potential for malware because they have no common sense. They see something they like, they click it. :??: 
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May 1, 2012 4:04:17 PM

The program may be writing info to his profile though, even if the shortcut is in All Users. Check Application Data and the other folders in the profile for anything having to do with this program.
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May 2, 2012 8:16:43 PM

Hello wcstech, I am also experiencing this problem with the SME program. I am a computer technician and work for a local public school system, we have roughly about 15 schools that use the SME software and only one of them is having the issue, that we know of. The computer lab consist of 31 new Dell Optiplex 790 pcs with Windows 7 running SME v1.7.2.2 off of a Windows Server 2003 R2 server. Al tho I have not actually seen this problem happen due to that my office is not located at the school, the teacher in the lab has reported this problem happening since we installed this new computers about 2-3 months ago. Prior to this report, the teacher had reported that the SME software was, on random computers in the lab, crashing with a debugging pop up alert. The current description of the "computer shutdown" is of that the computer is randomly doing a full restart, shuts down all software and windows closes properly; as if you would press the power button on the pc. Currently I have tried a fresh client install of the software, before the server reinstall, and a reinstall of the server side software to fix it with no luck. The only thing I can think of that may help this out is either a fresh client install of the new server install or to start a new database with SME, this schools database has been used for many years.
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May 2, 2012 8:38:35 PM

This is interesting. We are running SME 1.7, but I am planning to upgrade it to 1.8 over the summer. In that process I might do a manual reinstall of the clients (rather than letting it do an auto reinstall as stated in the upgrade guide) and start with a fresh database. I'm contemplating changing the user name scheme for our students anyway so this would be a good time to do it. Fortunately, I have the luxury of doing this as we only have about 30 computers total that use SME and about 75 students that do.

I was also contemplating starting fresh with Windows user accounts as well for the students.
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September 16, 2012 11:19:26 PM

Well, summer has come and gone. I upgraded SME to version 1.8 and did a completely new database rather than copying our old one after the upgrade. I'm still having the problem. So I guess I'm going to have to call Pearson (who in the past has sworn they have never heard of this). It has to be something related to SME and/or QuickTime since the users can use any other software on the same computers just fine. For refresher, here is the problem and possible causes:

Problem: 4 out of 75 users have the computers do a complete restart when using the SME program. They log onto the computer, log into SME, and nearly immediately it does a restart of the computer--as if it had done Start>Restart so not just a sudden reboot. It only does this when they use the SME software. All other software works fine. SME uses QuickTime. It does this no matter what computer they use. We are running about 1/2 Dell OptiPlexes and 1/2 Compaq/HP Evo D51S/DX5150 SFFs.

Possible causes I've considered:

Bad software install (either SME or QuickTime)/virus on the computer - If this was the problem, it wouldn't happen on every computer these users try and would happen for other users as well. Also, it seems like a virus causing restarts would also cause them when using other software (esp. IE). The SME clients were all upgraded over the summer which I believe, though it was automated, involved the 1.7 client being removed and the 1.8 one being installed.

The user - At first glance it seemed like the user was doing something to cause this. I'm not convinced of this however after having watched the user myself for a 10 minute period in which he had 3 restarts. He was not touching the keyboard or mouse at all, aside from what was necessary to enter his user name/password, when this happened.

The user's roaming profile - This was my second thought. That there was something in the roaming profiles of these users that was causing this. I deleted their roaming profiles, deleted the local copies of their roaming profiles, and created brand new profiles for them. They still had the problem. I tried this several times, convinced this was the problem. It never worked or would seem to work for a period of time only to "reappear". I don't think it ever fixed anything but happened to coincide with a few sessions where SME happened to work. It works maybe 1 time out of 50 tries.

The user's network account - My next stop was to create completely new network accounts for the users. This is a pain because I am unable to reuse previously used user names (even if I delete the old account) and causes confusion for the users (elementary-age kids). This did not help at all.

The user's SME account - All users had new SME accounts created over the summer as part of the upgrade rather than me importing our old user database. Still happening.

Nice twist: I can log on with the user accounts and it doesn't happen. Based on what I've seen during the class time when the users use SME, it should happen to me instantly, but it doesn't. The only difference is what time of day I am trying it versus when they have class. The teacher has said she has tried with their accounts during the class period, and it doesn't work for her. Now, no matter what people tend to think about techies, the computer doesn't know that it is me on the other side of the mouse/keyboard even though I'm using someone else's accounts.
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September 26, 2012 2:08:50 AM

Yet another twist: This has now started happening with other software (mainly IE8) for these users. And, if the users come in at a different time, they are able to use SME and other stuff just fine. It seems as if it is the specific 25-minute time slot they typically use. I tried having them use a different network account to log onto the domain with and they had the same problem with shut downs so that takes the individual network accounts out of the running. It happens no matter what computer they use so that takes something wrong with the computer itself out of the running. I don't know what else there is to try. Event Viewer shows nothing that would red flag a shutdown/restart--just a warning about the roaming profiles share being set to be available offline (which I have since fixed) and messages about the A/V being started. Nothing is adding up.
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