Troubleshooting an HP G72 Laptop

I have an HP G72 laptop, loaded with Windows 7 Home Premium, here at the house that has had a series of erratic behavior. There have been problems with the built-in Wifi, the CD/DVD writer, and the display. The problems were intermittent, which makes it very difficult to troubleshoot. The display in particular was troublesome; it would shut off at random intervals ranging from power-on plus one minute, to hours. After checking it out repeatedly over a couple months, the laptops owner also had HP check it out and report that there weren’t any issues. After the problems, particularly with the display, got so bad over a short period of time, he declared the machine fried, gave it to me to recover his files, and bought a new one, to which the files were transferred. I let the machine sit for a bit, and then decided to see if I could part it out.

I wanted to beat the machine a bit before I started parting it out, so I got my trusty System Rescue CD, booted the machine from it, and started exercising it. I expected it to fail in short order. WiFi came up just fine, so did the display and the CD/DVD. And it didn’t fail. I let it sit for almost two full weeks, with a script loading Open Office, the GIMP, and several other large programs, over and over. It never failed. Hmmm….

I started up Windows again. The machine wouldn’t come up on WiFi, and less than two minutes later the display shut off. I spent a couple hours running System Rescue CD, then Windows, then Trinity Rescue, then Windows, then a Fedora Live CD, then Windows. In every case, the machine booted and ran with no problem from the various Linux CDs/DVDs, and then failed when running Windows. By this time, it was clear that I had a flaky Windows installation.

I reloaded every driver. I tried updating Windows. The machine was still flaky. I looked online for hours for some way to enable a log that would show what DLL/OCX/whatever was having problems, with no luck. Finally, I decided that I needed to try a repair action.

I obtained a Windows 7 Home Edition DVD. I tried seven or eight times to effect a repair. This failed in every case; sometimes I was thawarted by a missing DVD drive, but most times the repair would fail when Windows demanded to go online and get the most recent update files; it would be in “please wait” mode for long periods (once overnight). When I tried to get the repair process to run without the online update, the repair would fail with a completely non-helpful error that it could not complete the process.

I decided that a complete reinstall was needed. This literally took 20 minutes. I let the machine sit overnight; it kept running. Two things I noticed: the display was set to 800×600 and the generic VGA driver; and the WiFi was an unknown device.

At this point, I decided to do the Windows activation process. This failed. I wondered if this was due to the hardware mismatch between the previous activiation and the missing display and WiFi. I decided to let Windows 7 start updating (I had the laptop connected to my house network wired), and then I would go look for the drivers at HP.

While updates were going on, I went to HP and saw that there were about 12 different G72 versions, with different WiFi devices. It was getting late, and I decided to mess with it later. The next afternoon, Windows had updated and rebooted twice, and I decided to look for the WiFi driver. I sort of noticed offhand that the display looked a lot better. I checked the resolution; it was in 1600×900 mode! I pulled up the System app, and the proper display driver was in place. There weren’t any of the dreaded Unknown Devices, not even WiFi. I saw the disconnected WiFi icon in the system tray, and it connected pretty much instantly to the house WiFi.

I used the WiFi to download a couple apps like LibreOffice, the various Adobe readers and players, and Firefox. I also noticed that I had IE 10 on the machine.

I decided to re-try Activation, and it worked. The machine has been sitting now for about four days and is solid as a rock.

Observations:

  • I’ve had several machines in the past six months or so, either Windows 7 or Vista, that have been flaky. I think that they are OS issues.
  • Windows needs to enable logging so that a bad DLL or program can be isolated.
  • Windows activation will have problems if you change your wifi and display drivers.
  • Windows 7 updates are smart enough to get the correct driver for at least some unknown laptop devices.
  • I’m guessing I will see at least a couple more Vista and 7 machines with flaky behavior. Overall, I think that the machines are at least as stable as XP, but when they have problems, they go flaky before they crater.

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