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Win 7 Unstable – Gigabyte Q1000C Netbook

Windows 7 and Netbooks

Gigabyte Q1000C NetbookI have had a Gigabyte Q1000C Netbook on the workbench this week. The mini laptop came with Windows 7 Starter pre-installed. First off let me comment on ‘7 Starter’: I do not like these starter operating systems, for that matter all the ‘Home’ versions of every Windows operating system, XP, Vista and 7. They always seem to have problems. It would have been preferable for Microsoft to provide the basic Pro version at reduced price to OEM’s and the public market.

However the problems with Netbooks (at least this example) seems more about the lack of ability of the Intel Atom CPU, and insufficient RAM (2GB), to adequately run Windows 7.

Win 7 Instability Problems

Microsoft is aware of problems running Windows 7 on Netbooks. Their response is “There are too few problems to warrant a fix by a service pack or regular update, instead each issue will be addressed by a Hot-Fix”. Not really an adequate response to the numerous issues raised in online tech forums by owners of Netbooks.

Windows 7 LogoThe problems with this example:

  • Windows Freezes: An ongoing problem that has persisted with the machine since the owner purchased it. Since arriving on the bench on Monday, this has occurred every day, initially so often it was almost impossible to do a Windows update (The owner had struggled with this, and ended up disabling updates – even Service Pack 1 had not been installed).
  • Blue Screen of Death: No fewer than 5 instances of the ubiquitous Windows ‘friend’, the blue screen. After all these years, one would have expected Microsoft to move away from the basics that cause this error – a flawed basic system. After Windows XP, Microsoft should have taken the route Apple took with OSX – Unix.

Fixes Applied:

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iTunes an unusual use

iTunes, more than a media player

iTunes must rate as the Apple product I use the most. iTunes is in use from the time I start-up the box in iTunes logothe morning, to I shut down much later. Music, I cannot work or live without it.

However, iTunes has proven much more than a media player over the years. It has done double duty in a role which I am quite certain Apple never anticipated, as a PC tester.

iTunes for testing PC’s

No, I am not joking. I have used this app regularly over the years to stress test new PC builds. iTunes uses a CPU at 100% duty cycle to convert CD or AIFF files to MP3. Where a PC might have heat related problems, this is one sure-fire way of testing the ‘box’ to discover if there are any overheating problems.

Give iTunes 30 minutes of continuous conversion work to do, and any possible overheating which might cause stability problems and the famous windows blue screen of death (BSOD) will certainly be found.

PC test kitThis test became a standard procedure during the days of Intel’s hot and toasty Northwood P4 processors.

I had a work box back then that had an annoying habit of shutting itself down during video capture. I just happened to notice that when iTunes rips music, it runs a high CPU duty cycle (100%), and decided to see what would happen if  I tried to convert more than a single CD of audio to MP3. Sure enough, after 15 minutes, the box shut itself down….

A few days later, and a massive aftermarket cooler attached to this (P4 2.8G Northwood) CPU, and the box was rock stable, no matter what could be thrown at it. From then on, every PC build that went out of my workshop (I was building gaming platforms mostly in those days) had been stress tested by iTunes for at least 60 consecutive minutes (all were kept running for a minimum of 24 hours before delivery). Read the rest of this entry