OK, so I’m finally starting to relax a little bit. After six weeks of intermittent crashes and daily blue-screens, I’ve now gone four days on my production Vista machine without a major hiccup. I’ve still had a few minor problems, as I’ll soon report, but it now seems somewhat safe to say that the system is reasonably stable and appears inclined to stay that way. I have one word to comment on this state of affairs: “Hooray!”
Diagnosis: Stability Problems Addressed
First, let me report on what elements appear to have contributed to my stability problems:
- Windows Security Software contention: Based on behavior I saw on my test machine last night, my reading of lots of online postings and error reports, and what I observed on my production machine in the last few weeks, I am inclined to believe that AVG AntiVirus and Spyware Doctor just don’t get along that well. I’ve read countless reports from others who report excessive CPU activity, no apparent system activity, frozen or hung Wiindows GUI, and an inability to access Task Manager or Restart/Shutdown functions, mostly in combination, and seen this happen often enough myself to conclude that these programs have issues working properly together. Take either one away (and replace it with Defender, for example, when removing Spyware Doctor, or with PC Tools AV, when removing AVG, for counter-example) and things settle down and work reasonably well.
- Nvidia Graphics Driver Instability: I’m running Nvidia 8xxx cards on my production and test machines and both perforce use the same driver. I had occasional bluescreens reported as related to graphics drivers for versions 175.19 (which Nvidia still reports as the “latest and greatest” such driver on its Website) and 177.79. Only when 177.83 with Physix (which I don’t use) became avaialble recently, and I installed it last weekend, did my graphics driver hiccups appear to subside (and have hopefully disappeared).
Continuing Clean-up Efforts
Now, let me report on my continuing clean-up efforts to make my Vista install ship-shape, as the big problems appear to have been retired:
- Printer driver issues: After acquiring my first-ever USB attached printer, I ran into and then fixed some apparent print driver problems for the Dell AIO 968 printer involved. This is reported in Yikes! A Positive Encounter with Dell Tech Support. It turns out that operator error from yours truly was the ultimate source of the problem, and easily fixed.
- Windows Search issues: Two problems here, one of which was easily resolved by removing my non-existent offline files entry from the Indexing Options item in Control Panel. The other is an ongoing, possibly misreported error related to the Outlook crawl scope that is used to guide searches inside that application. See Recent Vista Fixes: Windows Search and WMI for more info.
- Windows Management Interface (WMI) gotcha: This has popped up on every Vista machine on which I’ve installed SP1, or have built using a post-SP1 OS install image. If you read over the details at Recent Vista Fixes: Windows Search and WMI, you’ll see why I’m inclined to foist the blame for this on Microsoft, because they made it break and they also provide a fix. Couldn’t this just be included as a post-SP1-install cleanup script?
On the Radar, But Not Worth Fixing (or No Fix Available)
Other unresolved items in Event Viewer that my research convinces me are either trivial, spurious, or misreported still include the following:
- Windows Spooler Service errors and warnings: because I installed and shared the wrong print device, Vista squawks about its lack of availability. Even after I unshared this device, then deleted it inside the Printers item in Control Panel, these reports persist. I’ve changed the error reporting/logging behavior of the Spooler Service as recommended in the related Event Log Online Help suggestions, but will live with this.
- Continuing Windows Search errors and warning: more whining about inaccessible search elements or scopes. Search is working fine for me, so I’ve looked up the various explanations and have concluded that fixes are either too tedious to complete, or the problems either irrelevant or negligible enough to ignore.
- Winlogon: An occasional warning message “The winlogon notification subscriber was unavailable to handle a notification event.” occurs when I try to start Task Manager using Ctrl-Shift-Esc and the attention sequence goes unanswered. This happens when the PC is very busy, or when I’m hung. Lately, thank goodness, this has been only because of the former and not the latter. I’ll live with this.
- COM+/EventSystem: I’m getting a “bad return code” from the COM+ Event System, where the Event Log entry tells me to contact Microsoft Support Services to report the error. There’s no way to do this except by phone as far as I can tell, and I don’t have time to screw with this right now. It doesn’t appear to be affecting my system or to impact its stability, so I’m letting this one sit (or fester, if you like) for the time being.
To me this says that the noise level is down to a barely audible murmur, and that things with my Vista install are about as good as Windows ever gets. I’ll keep an eye on this, but I’m OK with the way things are going right now, and glad to be able to devote more attention to work and income generation.