I haven't blogged for a few days, because my primary computer had a severe hiccup... and I was quite busy trying to fix it. I think the tech story behind this is quite relevant and worth sharing. If you don't get the title, you probably never saw the (quite universal) Martini ad, featuring several internetional stars. Anyway, here goes the story.

During last weekend, at night, I was working with my computer after watching a TV show on it... and almost fell asleep on the keyboard. I had noticed the computer was very hot, maybe because of the surface it was on. So I went to sleep but in the back of my mind I had this idea I had better switch it off, to cool it.

Next moning I did switch off the computer, which had got back to a standard temperature, went to the office, turned it on and got a severe error on the loader. I had seen this in the past, so put in the repair disk and followed the usual low level procedure (manually fixing the boot record configuration). Now it booted, but started to throw errors. Did memory and disk tests, with no specific issues (one of the chkdsk executions found problems, but I had stopped the computer a couple of times while the in auto-repair).

Following links and suggestions I downlaoded Hiren's Boot CD and used some of the low-level disk tests, to no avail. Good I could use that CD to boot a Mini XP, connect to the network, and do an extra backup of all of my relevant files. Still, I was facing the decision to go ahead and reinstall Windows 7, whihc is no big deal, and possibly all of the applications I have (which is a very big deal). A full resintall is almost 4 days to me, but after spending two days trying to fix the machine, I was comtemplating it.

I also posted on superuser.com (stackoverflow.com sibling site) and all suggestions for my error were to get a new hard disk. Still I remember having gone through something similar... and it was not a hard drive issue.

Than, all at once, while trying some of the BIOS settings (as Windows 7 was always stopping while loading drivers for disk or the file system) I noticed the BIOS date. It was very old. When I installed Windows 7 on the computer, I did a BIOS update. Apparently the machine had reverted to an earlier version (although I'm not sure how... and if this can be tied to the extra heat it suffered, as I'm not a hardware guy any more).

Anyway, after updating the BIOS and disabling the enhanced SATA support in it, the computer got back to work flawlessly. After three days!

Anyone to blame but myself? Certainly Microsoft error messages in case of similar errors and the online support they provide are not helpful. Also the restore requests failing with a access violations with a null pointer didn't impress me. And also, the system restore saying it found no issue and than listing errors in the details, are far from helpful.

I found singificant errors and omissions in the documentation and error messages, including for example sfc (System File Checker) returning the error:

There There is a system repair pending which requires reboot to complete. Restart Windows and run sfc again.

There is a knowledge base article explainig the error is incorrect because you cannot use this tool on a mounted drive, and simply forgets to tell you that by passing the windows folder as an extra parameter the tool work. Of course, 99% of usage is when the system broke, so why describe this situation? I found countelss sites with people hanged because of that nonsense error and the fultay knowledge base article.

Anyway, the problem is solved, but I'm not very impressed at the information available on similar issues and the help I could get. Maybe I should have paid Microsoft for support... but I feel it would have been worse!

PS. Now I'd love to see it a Microsoft representative comments on my blog to look for their sites, like they did when I had the previous issue mentioned at the beginning!