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8 Is Enough: When Bad Things Happen to Good OSes

The first time I installed Windows 8 on my main desktop, a Core 2 Quad-based Dell Optiplex 755 tower PC with 8 GB of RAM, it didn't go so well. Windows 8 installed fine, but after getting all my core applications installed, I started experiencing seemingly random system freezes, which required me to manually shutdown the PC and restart. It happened pretty frequently, so frequently that I quickly gave up and went back to Windows 7 on that PC.

(That didn't go so well either, and while I was curious how or whether Windows 8 might have contributed to the problem, it took some doing to get Windows 7 reinstalled on that PC again. I've come to believe that this was the first sign of what is now a complete SSD failure and was not at all related to installing Windows 8. In fact, Windows 8's issues may have been tied to that faulty SSD as well.)

Since then, as previously described, I've reinstalled Windows 8 on my PC, using a different SSD. And I've reinstalled my set of core apps, configured things as I want, and pretty much transitioned cleanly to the new OS. I wrote about this previously as well, but one point I'd like to make here is that this process still takes a long time. And that makes it hard to even consider doing it all over again.

If you've been following along for a while, then you know this is where the fun starts.

Windows 8, inexplicably and seemingly randomly, began spontaneously restarting. I'd open a new email and Gmail and--boom!--the screen would go dark and the PC would reboot. I'd click a hyperlink in a web page, same thing. There was no rhyme or reason to it, but Windows 8 would unceremoniously reboot from time to time.

Leaving aside the happy news that Windows 8 reboots quite quickly for a moment, this is obviously troubling. I record two podcasts every week, for example: What if it decided to give up the ghost in the middle of recording? Or what if I lost or scrambled some critical data because the PC died at just the right moment? This lack of trust is what doomed my first Windows 8 install on this PC.

This situation was a bit different, however. The system was rebooting without warning, not just freezing up. Maybe there was a different issue causing it.

At least I know where to look: The Event Viewer, which still exists in Windows 8, of course, as a traditional MMC-style application. (Use Start Screen Search to find it.) Here, you can examine various system events, and after a crash like the kind I was experiencing, you can find out exactly what happened.


For the full story, you'll want to examine the Details tab, which can be copied to the clipboard in XML format if needed. But in my case, the EventData contents--"LMS Service cannot connect to HECI driver"--was enough information. These terms seemed familiar for some reason. After a bit of research, I discovered that LMS stands for "local manageability service" and HECI is "Host Embedded Controller Interface (HECI)." So it was likely a driver issue related to Intel's management chipset, which is common to many PCs these days and used in businesses to remotely manage PCs. It's also something that doesn't need to work properly in a consumer's PC.

And sure enough, for this particular PC, there are two Intel-related drivers I've set aside on my home server because they're hard to find and install, even on a shipping OS like Windows 7. And that's partially because Dell only provides Vista-level drivers for this machine. And these drivers need to be installed in compatibility mode to work properly in Windows 7.

I did so in Windows 8 as well--we all desire that clean Device Manager, after all--but in this case, doing so was apparently a mistake. So I uninstalled the driver, leaving an ugly hole in Device Manager. But it would be worth it is the sudden reboots stopped.

That was Wednesday.

I woke up this morning, sat down in front of the PC and clicked on an email message. Bang! The screen went black and the PC rebooted again.


OK, back to the drawing board. When the PC booted up, I immediately went to Event Viewer. The time was 9:07, so the actual crash--and whatever caused it--must have happened at 9:06, given the speed with which Windows 8 boots. And sure enough, starting at 9:06:32, there are a couple of Critical issues. One particularly pertinent error, "Windows failed to resume from hibernate with error status 0xC00000BB," is followed by a few post-crash errors noting that the PC had rebooted.


Here's the thing. Microsoft has said repeatedly that Windows 8 will be fully compatible with any PC that can run Windows 7. And as you may be realizing, too, my particular PC is a Vista-era PC, and it was never brought up to date with Windows 7 drivers. (And really, damn Dell for that.) I've been kind of mulling over in my head whether it wouldn't make more sense to move to a more modern PC--say, one based on a second-gen i3, i5, or i7 processor, given that the Core 2 Quad processor in my current PC is already two generation behind. But the OS compatibility issue may end up being the more daunting one. And that's a shame, because this system performs quite well regardless of its supposed obsolescence.

You know, aside from the spontaneous rebooting thing.

So I'll keep troubleshooting this, and I'm open to any ideas you may have. I did look at the Power Management control panel and noted that Hibernation was already disabled. But I turned off something called "hybrid sleep," which I believe combines the old Sleep and Hibernation modes. We'll see how that goes.

Barring a miracle stay of execution, it may be time for a new PC, or at least a newer PC, for daily use. I'm not going to give up on running Windows 8. But it may need to occur on a different box.

More soon.

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