Thursday, August 27, 2009

Windows Vista gets blue screens on device drivers: bad auto update today?

Well, I have my first Windows Vista crash. It took two tries to reboot, and so far the two symptoms are (1) a new message from Dell in IE, and (2) another crash happened as a turned off a camera connected.

So I did the backup and created a restore point, and that all ran OK.

Windows had pushed an update this morning, and the system had been restarted properly, as by directions. The KB updates were 973879, 970653, 972036. On successful restart, the system did generate a crash report and send it to Microsoft automatically.

So far, leaving IE off there have been no more crashes, but I’ve noticed that IE hangs once in a while. And I have a persistent java error in IE.

Spysweeper was clean, except for the usual spy cookies.

Here’s a couple references that I found so far:

Alexander Wolfe of Information Week has “Little Known Recovery Strategies” including the “Complete PC Backup”. He says that Vista Home doesn’t include it, but my copy in 2009 seems to include it. Here is the link.

Here’s a Download Squad report from May 2008 that says that 29% of Vista crashes are caused by Nvidia drivers.

PCStats has a “Beginner’s Guide” to crashes, and it looks like anything but a “Beginner’s Guide”, here.

Later the “problem report” told me it was a “device error” but I didn’t install any devices. It seems to be related to a fix this morning.

Later in the day I learned at Best Buy that Microsoft seems to have released a questionable patch Wednesday. They store had been removing patch files. But it seems that the machine becomes stable if it is shut down normally and then cold-booted.

Here's your typical crash report:Here’s the crash report:

Shut down unexpectedly

8/27/2009 12:51 PM

Not Reported

Problem signature
Problem Event Name: BlueScreen
OS Version: 6.0.6001.
Locale ID: 1033

Files that help describe the problem

Extra information about the problem
BCCode: 1000007e
BCP2: FFFFF80002024B81
BCP3: FFFFFA60017F5798
BCP4: FFFFFA60017F5170
OS Version: 6_0_6001
Service Pack: 1_0
Product: 768_1
Server information: 54aa7cb8-909b-41a1-bbf8-a5a56994921f

Update: August 29, 2009

Microsoft's help screens led me to this solution "harish.kuppm". It's pretty longwinded, but here it is. It's dated late in the day Aug. 28, so it seems that this problem has happened to a lot of Vista users the past few days. Harish writes that the problem comes from a video driver (NVidia?), possibly a wrong version, that leads to this behavior: "The kernel attempted to access pageable memory (or perhaps completely invalid memory) when the IRQL was too high." The problem is a bit like an S0C4 on an IBM mainframe (protected storage), but it's odd that Vista can't trap it and just force the application to abend. This kind of baby stuff used to happen witn Windows ME.

I've seen IE fail a few times, when the help screen says that IE generated a memory exception and had to close (probably in interfacing with the driver). Once it failed on Google's accounts page, but probably had nothing to do with Google. I could restart IE, do the same thing, and everything in Google would work correctly.

I've had two BSOD's when coming back from sleep mode, and other users report this; so I increased the time till sleep mode. A sleep mode problem does sound like nVidia. I also had a problem when disconnecting a camera.

I may walk this over to Best Buy/Geek Squad next week; I'm not sure how to get the right versions of the drivers myself. If someone has another reference, please comment!

Later Aug. 29

Well, I reproduced the BSOD. I closed all browser windows, connected my Samsung digital camera as drive F, and copied a few new images onto C. The instant that I turned off power to the camera, I got the Blue Screen with the same dump and codes. This isolates the problem. That is, since Microsoft pushed an update Thursday morning, I cannot detach a drive.

A couple other anomalies: upon reboot, the boot doesn't finish unless I am connected to the Internet (odd). Then, if I shut down normally, and do a cold boot, the first "good" cold boot, Vista is slow to allow programs to load, but after about a minute starts to work. On successive boots it is quick, as usual.

It also helps to work "simply". When using Word, save it yourself rather than letting it save unnamed documents -- somehow that sets off a driver problem, too.

The other symptom is occasional memory errors from IE -- I don't know if this is part of the same bug.

I do appreciate comments if someone else knows exactly what is going on.

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