troubleshooting black screens & boot failure

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Jay_S
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troubleshooting black screens & boot failure

Post by Jay_S » Tue Nov 24, 2015 7:17 am

Hi all,

After over 5 years of near 24/7 operation, my HTPC has started to exhibit a major problem.

Build:

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-G41M-ES2L
CPU: Intel Celeron E3300 LGA775 @ stock clocks + Scythe Ninja Mini.
RAM: G.Skill 2 x 2GB DDR2-400 (F2-6400CL5-2GBNT)
GPU: EVGA Nvidia GT220
SSD: Crucial M500 128GB SSD (boot, Windows & apps)
HDD: Seagate 500GB 3.5" (media)
OS: Windows 7 Pro x64
PSU: Antec EarthWatts 380 Watt that came with my NSK2480


Symptoms:

While watching recorded TV on Sunday night (Windows Media Center), in the middle of play-back of a recording, sudden audio & video garbage, then black screen with the message "missing boot volume". I hard powered off and powered back on, and Windows booted. I ran: SFC /SCANNOW, which found nothing. Scratching my head, we resumed watching the recording. A few minutes later, another crash to black screen & the same error message. Ugh.


What I've done:

I ran Memtest overnight: 11 passes, no errors found.

i then ran Spinrite at level 2 on the SSD. It found and recovered data from several dozen bad sectors at the very end of the SSD. It found no problems with the HDD.

This morning the PC started POST, but was very slow to initialize installed components. And then the missing boot volume error as above. I could not get into Windows. I didn't have much time to keep trying before work.

What do these symptoms suggest? Failing SSD? Failing SATA controller? Failing motherboard? Short of replacing parts one by one with 5+ year-old hardware (which I don't have), I'm not sure how to continue testing.

Tonight I'll keep trying to get into Windows; maybe there's something in the event logs.

Maybe boot a live CD (shares the SATA controller) and do some stressful disk operations to see if it crashes again? If it does, boot from USB (doesn't use the SATA controller) and test again?

I would prefer to fix this machine, since it does everything I need it to do despite its age. In case I can't, I have some new Skylake parts on order (mobo, CPU and DDR4). But I'd rather not spend a weekend reinstalling & patching Windows, etc. if I don't have to.

Thanks,
Jay
it's the only jib I got, baby

boost
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Re: troubleshooting black screens & boot failure

Post by boost » Tue Nov 24, 2015 8:03 am

My guess: failing SSD. I would check the status with SSD Life.
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Jay_S
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Re: troubleshooting black screens & boot failure

Post by Jay_S » Tue Nov 24, 2015 8:51 am

boost wrote:My guess: failing SSD. I would check the status with SSD Life.
I'll look into that, thanks.

Also, I misspoke: the SSD in this machine is a Crucial M4 - not a M500. Purchased in 2011 and outside of its 3-year warranty. If I can boot into Windows I'll try to take an image of the drive and then play around with it more. I have never updated its firmware; the latest version was released on 04/02/2013.

I spoke with Crucial support, who suggested I do a "power cycle":
http://forums.crucial.com/t5/Crucial-SS ... ta-p/65215

I'll give that a whirl as well.
it's the only jib I got, baby

edh
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Re: troubleshooting black screens & boot failure

Post by edh » Tue Nov 24, 2015 9:58 am

Speedfan will let you look at SMART data if you want to try that instead of SSD Life. There are many other tools too.

Taking a full backup now would be a good idea before trying anything else.

With some drives a 'low level format' can correct for errors that you may not have found yet. This has to be done with tools provided by the vendor so you may want to see what Crucial make available.

Reinstalling the OS might fix it too but if it presents errors when formatting then a low level format might be required. It could also be a motherboard issue maybe?
Raijintek Metis: i5-6400, Scythe Ninja 4, Asus Z170i Pro Gaming, 8Gb RAM, GTX 950, Crucial 250Gb M.2, Seasonic X-400

Jay_S
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Re: troubleshooting black screens & boot failure

Post by Jay_S » Tue Nov 24, 2015 11:15 am

I don't have any critical data on the SSD. I'll image it just to make restoring to a new SSD more convenient (if that's my path forward). All my data is on the mechanical HDD or duplicated elsewhere.

I had major issues running Speedfan 4.40 on this machine 5 years ago. I can try a newer version. This is just for SMART data? I think I can read this via smartmontools / Gparted live CD.

Crucial's "Storage Executive" software does not support my old M4. When I spoke to Crucial support, they immediately asked me to do the "power cycle" procedure linked above. Now, I haven't done it yet, so maybe it will work. But it seems like that's a solution to a problem I don't have. The link calls this a fix for SSDs that do not appear in BIOS. That's not my problem - mine does appear in BIOS, but it takes a long time to initialize during POST and then fails to boot.

linux hdparm can low-level format a drive
http://superuser.com/questions/203305/h ... 949#485949

I'll reserve that for last resort. I'm going to scavenge a HDD from work and install it in my htpc. In theory if my motherboard is the problem, I'll have the same issues with the spare HDD. Fingers crossed that the issue manifests without too much waiting.
it's the only jib I got, baby

Jay_S
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Re: troubleshooting black screens & boot failure

Post by Jay_S » Wed Nov 25, 2015 7:44 am

So I got the SSD to boot into Windows normally. Took a system image using Windows built-in backup & restore. Scanned through the event logs - no errors other than "unexpected shutdown" (no kidding!). Installed current Speedfan and ran the SMART long test. It found nothing wrong with the SSD; all SMART values were within acceptable limits. I updated the SSD's firmware to the latest version; the update process survived reboot and Windows booted normally again. So everything appears to be OK. <shrug> I no longer have confidence in it though, and wish I knew exactly what the problem was.

I did not do the "power cycle" procedure suggested by Crucial because I didn't have time. I plan to, for whatever good it will do (since I don't have the problem it supposedly solves). But that will have to wait 'til next week.

I did have another idea: since Spinrite found bad sectors on the disk, maybe it doesn't have enough spare flash cells. So what if I reformat to a much smaller capacity (overprovisioning). Since my SSD is just for Windows and applications, I don't need anywhere near it's 128GB capacity. I could overprovision like ~30% and still have space to spare.
it's the only jib I got, baby

Jay_S
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Re: troubleshooting black screens & boot failure

Post by Jay_S » Fri Dec 04, 2015 7:55 am

Conclusion for now - the problems have not reappeared. I still don't know what the actual problem is/was, but my HTPC has been happily doing its thing again for the past week without issue. I cancelled or returned the Skylake parts I ordered and will continue using my old HTPC for as long as possible. I'll revisit this thread if/when the problem returns.
it's the only jib I got, baby

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