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This page is for when your Windows computer isn't working. Here are some suggestions of possible causes of what might be wrong and how to test and fix it.

The May 2014 issue of Maximum PC has an article: Troubleshoot PC Problems with Event Viewer. Download it from Maximum PC here.

AHCI

If you have changed the BIOS or just installed Windows and find that you are getting a Blue Screen of Death upon boot up, you might need to make a change in this.

Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI) is a technical standard that specifies the operation of Serial ATA (SATA) host bus adapters, in other words, how the motherboard see your attached drives.

Many SATA controllers offer selectable modes of operation: legacy Parallel ATA emulation (or IDE), standard AHCI mode, or vendor-specific RAID (which generally enables AHCI in order to take advantage of its capabilities). Intel recommends choosing RAID mode on their motherboards (which also enables AHCI) rather than AHCI/SATA mode for maximum flexibility.

Some operating systems, notably Windows Vista and Windows 7, do not configure themselves to load the AHCI driver upon boot if the SATA-drive controller was not in AHCI mode at the time of installation. This can cause failure to boot, with an error message, if the SATA controller is later switched to AHCI mode. For this reason, Intel recommends changing the drive controller to AHCI or RAID before installing an operating system. (It may also be necessary to load chipset-specific AHCI or RAID drivers — from a USB flash drive, for example — at installation time.)

On Windows Vista and Windows 7, this can be fixed configuring the msahci device driver to start at boot time (rather than on-demand). Setting non-AHCI mode in the BIOS will allow the user to boot Windows, where the required registry change can be performed. The BIOS can then be changed to AHCI.

On Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, the name of the controller has changed from msahci to storahci, and the procedure to upgrade to the new controller to it is similar to that of Windows 7. On Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, changing the SATA mode to AHCI without updating the registry will make the boot drive inaccessible.

Fix

In Windows 7, you can either change the BIOS setting (usually under Device, Hard Drives, or SATA settings) to match the drive, or you can make a change in the Windows registry.

For the registry fix, open Regedit (typing regedit in the Run or Search box will do so) and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\msahci. Right click the word Start on the right side and click Modify. Change the value in the window to 0 (zero) if you want to enable AHCI.

Do the same thing for HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\atapi.

Bad memory

Built into Windows Vista and Windows 7 is the Windows Memory Diagnostics Tool. Type in "memory" into the Start Menu, and you should see the first option will say Memory Diagnostics Tool.

BSOD

The Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) is what happens with several Windows errors that stop your system and display a blue screen with a cryptic error message.

  • BlueScreenView - BlueScreenView scans all your minidump files created during 'blue screen of death' crashes, and displays the information about all crashes in one table.

Cleaning drive C:

When drive C: needs cleaning or is too full.

Windows Disk Cleanup

Disk Cleanup (cleanmgr.exe) is a computer maintenance utility included in Microsoft Windows (Windows 98 and later versions) designed to free up disk space on a computer's hard drive. The utility first searches and analyzes the hard drive for files that are no longer of any use, and then removes the unnecessary files. Open Disk Cleanup by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button. In the search box, type Disk Cleanup, and then, in the list of results, click Disk Cleanup.

Be sure to click the "Clean up system files" button to add in the ability to remove system files. Checking the Windows Update Cleanup box will remove old Windows Update installation packs, they would only be of use if you plan on uninstalling any Windows update you have installed.

Hard drive files corrupted

Run Windows drive error checking.

Missing Windows system tray icons

Overheating

  • HWMonitor - HWMonitor is a hardware monitoring program that reads PC systems main health sensors: voltages, temperatures, fans speed.

Stress test hardware

Video card

Virus / Trojan / Spyware

Windows corrupted