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Office 2003 Apps Started Hanging Several Times Daily

Posted on 2011-03-13
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Last Modified: 2012-08-13
Excel, Word, and Outlook have started hanging on a Windows XP machine. When it happens, the keyboard and mouse are completely non-responsive. The only recovery is to hold the power switch in to turn off the PC and then restart.

I see application hang messages in the Windows application log. Those started last December and have increased in frequency over the last week or so. Now happening two to ten times per day. Mostly in Excel, but that is what the user uses most. The hangs do NOT occur at startup of the app. They happen while the app is in use and sometimes when closing it.

Dell Precision Workstation 370, Windows XP Pro SP3, Office 2003 SP3. PC has the latest BIOS.

No particular new software since December - just updates to Windows, Firefox, etc. Kaspersky Internet Security full scan reports that the PC is clean.

Any ideas what could be causing this and how to troubleshoot it?
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Question by:Pete2009
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by:edbedb
ID: 35123890
System lockups are often due to overheating. I would install SpeedFan to monitor the operating temperature
http://www.almico.com/speedfan440.exe
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by:Pete2009
ID: 35124627
I installed SpeedFan. The only temperature it seems to find and monitor is the external hard drive. No other fans, voltages, or anything. It doesn't seem to be providing much useful information on this computer.
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by:Maximz76
ID: 35125380
Is the video card made by ATI? Some people have reported problems with video card drivers interfering with Office applications.  You might try this:

1. Uninstall ATI drivers and reboot
2. Use CCleaner to clean out the registry of any lingering ATI registry entries and reboot
3. Install newest version of video drivers. (If you were using the newest drivers then use a slightly older version of the drivers in case the new drivers were causing the interference.
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by:Maximz76
ID: 35125416
Also, you mentioned that the only new software added to the PC since December included Microsoft updates. There were some updates for Office back in November 2010 that have been giving some users problems so you might try uninstalling only the most recent updates from Office (going back to November) and see if the user still has the same issue. I would try this first before uninstalling the video drivers since it's quicker and easier to test.
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by:edbedb
ID: 35126801
If you have an Intel CPU, this monitor should work.
http://www.techpowerup.com/downloads/1872/Real_Temp_3.60.html
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by:mtz1of4
ID: 35127148
You could also try a reinstall of Office on her machine.
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by:Pete2009
ID: 35128644
Hi everyone,

Thanks so much for these suggestions. Maximz76 - yes - the video card is an ATI Radeon HD2600XT. I use the DVI output to drive a Dell 27" LCD monitor.

edbedb - yes - it is an Intel Pentium 4 3GHz processor.

mtz1of4 - would you do just a simple uninstall of Office through control panel or supplement that with a complete rip? I have a MS procedure for a complete rip from a couple of years ago.

I will get to work on these suggestions. It will probably take me two to three days to get through this given the other stuff also on my plate. I will update as soon as I can.

Pete
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by:wellous
wellous earned 75 total points
ID: 35129757
Pete ,
Do system restore to a date before Dec, when you know that the PC was working good,
This action will not delete or affect your files/folders which were created /modified after Dec.

Hope it helps,

Brgds, Wellous
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Author Comment

by:Pete2009
ID: 35130192
A new wrinkle just surfaced.

About a month ago this same PC had problems where the screen went black at random times. I fixed that at the time by replacing the DVI cable and thought it was resolved. Frankly I forgot about that until just now.

Here is what just happened: The screen display froze while the user was in Outlook trying to close an email message. Then after a few seconds the screen went dark. The LCD monitor LED turned blinking orange which indicates no input video signal.

This combines the two symptoms.

I used the power switch to turn off the PC and restarted it. For now, it is again working.

I suspect the video card is going bad and needs replacing. Does this sound logical? Or should I still try some of the above troubleshooting?

Thanks,
Pete
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by:mtz1of4
ID: 35131286
hmm, all of a sudden, it doesn't sound like Office, but a hardware issue, could be video card, could be memory, could be overheating, as suggested above.  could be a virus.
but as far as the Office reinstall, i would first try just a quick reinstall, and update it. if that doesn't help, then uninstall and reinstall,  depends on how much time you want to keep trying things., but it sounds more like hardware issues at this point.  and it could even be a harddrive crashing or bad sectors.
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by:Maximz76
ID: 35137239
If you have another video card from a different machine that you can swap out with the one having problems to test and see if that's the problem I would try that first.  
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by:Pete2009
ID: 35138339
I'm getting an EVGA nVidia GeForce GT240 card delivered today to give it a try.

The situation has gotten worse. The computer crashes about every ten minutes in one of three scenarios - frozen screen, dark screen, or frozen that then goes dark.

In case the video card does not work, does anyone have tips on how to troubleshoot a PC that crashes this often and that may not have a display? I would hesitate to even uninstall or install something since it might crash during the operation.

Thanks,
Pete
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by:edbedb
ID: 35139084
Like I said in the beginning. It's probably overheating.
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by:Pete2009
ID: 35139309
Edbedb - RealTemp did not work either. It says that it cannot support a Pentium 4. Is there a different tool that can make the measurements?

Do the symptoms suggest that something in particular is overheating - e.g. video card, motherboard, or something else?

Thanks,
Pete
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by:edbedb
ID: 35139630
You can give this one a try.
http://www.majorgeeks.com/download.php?det=311

If it were me, I would just go ahead and service the CPU cooler whether I can verify that it is overheating or not.
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by:Pete2009
ID: 35140653
Edbedb - I'm not an expert on this. The fan is working.

The PC is a seven-year-old Dell Precision Workstation 370. Is the cooler literally a replaceable part? Then again, if that is the issue it may not be worth repairing.

How would I service the cooler?

At the moment I turned on the PC to try to get it to fail again. I realized it might show me a fault code on the four diagnostic lights on the back of the PC. I didn't think of looking at those earlier.

Thanks,
Pete
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by:edbedb
ID: 35141649
As long as the fan is working there is no need to replace anything. If the cooling fins and or vents were clogged and you cleaned them you might be all set.

Otherwise, you might have to remove the cooler from the CPU, clean the surfaces and apply a new layer of compound.
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by:Pete2009
ID: 35143616
A brief update. I vacuumed the cooler, video card, and main fan. I'm going to run the computer for a day or so to see what happens. Hopefully it works well again! If it fails I will have my eye on the four diagnostic LEDs on the back of the PC.

I'll update here soon.

Thanks,
Pete
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by:Pete2009
ID: 35143953
It took about one hour for the hangs to start occurring again. Twice within about a half hour. Both times the screen first froze with the mouse movable but unable to select anything and then a few seconds later the screen went black. Once the screen goes black, the LCD monitor indicates the DVI input is inactive.

The lights on the rear of the PC are all green, so they offer no help.

My next step is going to be replace the video card unless someone feels a different next step would be better.

Pete
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by:Pete2009
ID: 35144052
I am also thinking of replacing the heat sink compound on the processor. I see Amazon selling a cleaning and compound kit:

Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound 3.5 Grams with ArctiClean 60 ML Kit Here is an image of the contents:

 picture of contents of thermal compound I am considering getting
I like the fact that it includes a cleaner and a thermal grease. Does this seem like a reasonable one to use?

Pete
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by:edbedb
ID: 35146231
The lockups you are describing now sounds more like a failing hard drive than the CPU or the display adapter.

Please check the system logs in the event viewer for errors that occurred at the time of the lockups.
Click Start>Run then enter Eventvwr.msc
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by:mtz1of4
ID: 35146943
before you do that, make sure the hard drive important data is backed up.
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by:Pete2009
ID: 35147918
The data is fully backed up, thanks. Both to an external hard drive and to an offsite service (Mozy).

By coincidence yesterday I ran the Dell system Diagnostics 20-minute test - the briefer version of their complete diagnostics. That passed with no errors.

Over the past several days there are only two types of errors in the system event log. These have also been occurring intermittently earlier than that. One is a system error and the other is associated with the ATI video card. Here is a screen capture of each:

system log error message #1
system log error message #2
Given this, do you still suspect the hard drive? If so I suppose I could get hold of the Western Digital drive diagnostics and run that. The ATI error log message still has me thinking about the video card. I don't understand the system message at all.

Pete
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by:Pete2009
ID: 35147943
One note - the Microsoft Help & Support Center information link in the event log error messages above provided no useful information about the messages.

Pete
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by:edbedb
ID: 35149199
I would follow the advice already given to try another video card to see what happens..
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by:mtz1of4
mtz1of4 earned 140 total points
ID: 35151137
yes, definitely start with the video card, then move on to look at the hard drive.
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by:Pete2009
ID: 35153258
Still have a problem.

I replaced the video card and installed the drivers for the new one - EVGA Nvidia GT240.

After a little more than an hour of operation, the PC hung again. Froze with the screen visible, the mouse movable although unable to select anything, keyboard dysfunctional. Had to use the power switch to turn it off. I restarted it and after about five to ten minutes it hung again.

There were no error messages in the System or Application logs. There are a lot (more than 50) of "information" messages from TCP/IP that the network card was now connected to a network connection. I've never seen that long string of TCP/IP messages before.

So, what next steps do you suggest?

* CPU thermal compound?

* Hard drive? (I see no basis for this, though, given lack of log messages and that it passed the brief version of the diagnostics.)

* Something else?

Thanks,
Pete
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by:edbedb
ID: 35154262
When the computer freezes from the cpu overheating, the mouse will freeze as well.

If you haven't checked the hdd with chkdsk yet I would try that. Otherwise, I would run an extended diagnostic on the hdd.
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by:mtz1of4
ID: 35155152
And you have scanned for virus/malware, correct?  I've seen one cause intermittent reboots before so I wouldn't be surprised if this is a virus, but it certainly sounds more like hardware.  
Have you checked Memory?
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by:Maximz76
Maximz76 earned 140 total points
ID: 35155801
Definitely sounds like a hard drive with bad sectors.  If they are WD drives then you can download the utility for the specific drive from WD's web site and run it from a floppy disk or CD.  I'd try both the quick text and if it passes then try the extended test and see what it says.
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by:Pete2009
ID: 35156458
OK. It's a WD Caviar GP model WD5000AACS drive. I downloaded WD's DOS-based diagnostic and burned it to a CD.

The five-minute quick test passed with no errors.

I just started the extended test. It says the test will complete in about two hours. So, I'll update then.

Pete
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by:Pete2009
ID: 35158122
Well, the hard drive extended test completed normally with no errors found at all.

I just started it again. I figure since the problem sometimes only shows up after the computer has been on for a while, maybe something will show up now.

But it's starting to look like I need some more ideas.

Pete
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by:Pete2009
ID: 35158143
Oh - to answer mtz1of4's questionabout viruses - yes - Kaspersky Internet Security full scans come up clean.
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by:edbedb
ID: 35158158
You checked the drive with chkdsk /f ?
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by:Pete2009
ID: 35158168
The Dell brief memory test passed along with the other Dell diagnostics the other day.

Pete
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Author Comment

by:Pete2009
ID: 35158374
Edbedb - no - I have done the WD tests but not chkdsk /f. WOuld that possibly detect something the WD test does not? If so then I'll run it.
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by:edbedb
ID: 35158618
The test is totally different. Diagnostics checks the drive integrity and chkdsk checks the file structure.
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by:Pete2009
ID: 35158723
I ran chkdsk /f on the system partition. The summary message disappeared before I could finish reading to see what it said. I didn't notice a problem in there but I couldn't read it all.

* is the log file stored somewhere that I can find it?

* Should I also do this on the swap partition and the data partition?

* What next?

Thanks,
Pete
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by:Pete2009
ID: 35158867
I did the chkdsk /f on those other partitions - there I was able to see that they completed normally.
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edbedb earned 145 total points
ID: 35159478
If it's still not working I would go ahead and service the CPU cooler. You don't need that kit. I just use a single edge razor blade to clean the old compound off then use my finger to apply a very thin layer of fresh compound on both surfaces.
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Author Comment

by:Pete2009
ID: 35162057
A brief status update: I did the following:

* WD drive diagnostics (passed)
* chkdsk /f on all three drive partitions (passed D: and E:, couldn't see C: results)
* replaced the CPU thermal compound

At this point the user is using the PC to see how it operates. It has run well for about four hours now. I'm hoping this continues!

I'll update, probably late Friday or Saturday (US Eastern Time).

Pete
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Author Comment

by:Pete2009
ID: 35177731
The system seems to be running normally again, for about two days now. Since I did three steps at once I can't tell which did it - WD diagnostics, chkdsk /f on all partitions, and replacing the CPU thermal compound. I am inclined to think it was the thermal compound but it is only an inclination.

I can't thank all of you enough for your suggestions, practical focus, and timely follow-through. I will award everyone points.

Pete
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