XP PC shuts down regularly, unexpectedly

Posted on 2012-08-24
Last Modified: 2012-09-01
I have a Windows XP Pro SP3 PC that apparently turns itself off some time between 6-8 a.m. every morning.  Not sure when it started, as it isn't a PC we checked often until I realized this was happening.

I have a script on another server that pings it every hour on the :45, and e-mails me if it doesn't get a reply, so that's how I know it's happening regularly and within the same time period.

Event logs show events stop displaying around 1-2 a.m. (but that may be because nothing much is going on) and then they pick up again with the startup events where I have turned the PC back on.

The PC is attached to a UPS and nothing else on the UPS is turning off.

There are two scheduled tasks but they both run at like 1:00 a.m.

There is Sophos anti-virus, but it updates every 10 minutes.  The updates seem to go fine all night.

It is set to automatically run Windows updates.

I did an in-place upgrade yesterday, but it still turned off again this morning.

There is some software on there that I'm not sure where the disks are and I'd hate to have to re-set up if avoidable, so I'm hoping someone will have some more suggestions of things to check or try before a complete reformat and reinstall.   Thanks.
Question by:GlennSimpson2

    Expert Comment

    When you say it turns off, was it shutting down or restarting?
    If it's restarting, then maybe because automatic update is set to 'automatically install the update' at certain time like 6 am, then restart after update process is complete.
    Then you should choose other options like 'manually install update' to prevent it to keep restarting after update.

    Author Comment

    No, it is shutting down and not coming back on (until I manually turn it back on).

    Expert Comment

    Then you should figure out any app that make windows shutdown automatically. If you're sure there's nothing in scheduled tasks that looks like running shutdown script, look for other app.
    Some app such as file/torrent downloader has that feature. There's an option to automatic shutdown after download is complete. It might not be just file/torrent downloader though.

    Author Comment

    The only things I find are an atomic clock sync program, the anti-virus, and the other basic stuff.  In fact, I just figured out that the program that this PC is supposed to be running all the time wasn't running, because it's not in the Startup list (it is now).  

    I turned off the Atomic Clock, and I may try to get up early tomorrow and remote in and see if I can see anything as it happens.
    LVL 91

    Expert Comment

    any errors reported in event viewer?

    Accepted Solution

    No, the only errors are the usual stuff from when one remotes in and has "local devices" turned on, so the "you can't really use that printer" stuff shows up, but nothing else.  And there's no events at all specifically around the time of the shutdown - the events die out around 1-2 a.m., and then pick up again with the startup items where I restart the machine.

    Saturday morning it restarted at approx 6:25.  I was watching, and there was no indication - just lost the remote session.  I went in and moved the PC to another UPS plug (actually a different UPS) in hopes its a power thing.
    LVL 10

    Expert Comment

    Since there was something that changed the startup list, you should run a HiJackThis scan on it and check the log for suspicious items.  Exercise caution with this utility.  Be very sure you know what you're doing with it before you use it to make any changes to your system.

    Add the antivirus / malware category to your question so that EE malware and virus experts will take notice of your question and offer their advice based on your situation.  They may ask you to post your HJT log.

    You could also run the machine from a clean boot and see if the shut down issue still occurs.  This only allows Microsoft Services to run and disables all other automatically run programs and services.  It effectively eliminates the OS as the problem (if the issue goes away).  Systematically re-enabling the other startup items and services (after rebooting the system each time), will eventually reveal the culprit by process of elimination.

    This will mean that the machine will be unavailable for normal use since the program you normally use it to run will be one of the disabled items.  This will also disable the antivirus software while it is being eliminated as part of the problem.  These two should be the first to be re-enabled for testing.  Again, each item reactivated requires a reboot of the system to test the system properly.

    Running your machine from a "clean boot".

    Step 1

    Click Start, type msconfig in the Start Search box, and then press ENTER.

    User Account Control permission

    If you are prompted for an administrator password or for a confirmation, type the password, or provide confirmation.

    Step 2: Configure Selective Startup options

       1. In the System Configuration Utility dialog box, click Selective Startup on the General tab.
       2. Click to clear the Load Startup Items check box.
          Note The Use Original Boot.ini check box is unavailable.
       3. Click the Services tab.
       4. Click to select the Hide All Microsoft Services check box.
       5. Click Disable All, and then click OK. (Disables all non Microsoft Services)
       6. When you are prompted, click Restart.
    LVL 16

    Expert Comment

    1. Check there is nothing in the Task Scheduler to cause it to switch it off.
    2. I know that there are BIOS options to cause a power-on but perhaps there also settings to power off.  Have a look.
    3. Is a cleaner unplugging it nightly to connect a vacuum cleaner?!
    4. Look and see what is running in the background and see if any of it does scheduled stuff which includes a shutdown.  Defrag software for example sometimes includes an option to shutdown after defrag finishes - as do download accelerators.

    Author Comment

    Tomorrow morning will be the "changing the plug" test, and then if that isn't it, then I'll get up early Monday and boot it into Safe Mode and see if that makes a difference.  If it does, then I'll try the msconfig idea.

    Nothing going on in Task Scheduler except some backup scripts that begin and complete at 1-2 a.m.; not sure on BIOS either; the machine is in the server room, so nobody is getting in there.  I've looked at the tasks and I don't see anything that could be shutting it down, but I'll look again (especially if the Safe Mode works) and maybe the services.  I don't believe it specifically has any defrag or download accelerators.  This PC has one job and it really doesn't get accessed much.

    Author Comment

    Sunday morning - no shutdown!  Possibly some problem with the UPS?  Will wait till Monday morning to decide if problem is solved...

    Author Comment

    Monday morning, no shutdown.  So while I'll probably need to spend some time figuring out what's what with that UPS, looks like this issue is closed.  Thanks for the input.

    Author Closing Comment

    It was my own solution, and it was blind luck.

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