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Determine if your stall is due to hardware or software

This very simple tip will help you determine if your computer stalls are due to a hardware or software issue.

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Inevitably, you will be challenged with a hanging computer. It could be stuck on a blue screen flashing a "Please Wait" message endlessly -- or seemingly frozen in time. Your biggest problem is determining where to look for the problem -- is it hardware or software related?

Here is a quick test that is accurate about 90% of the time. First, try to recreate the problem and get it to the point where the computer has just hung. If you can't do this, don't worry about it -- the trick still works.

Next, begin pressing a single key on the keyboard. Count each keystroke. If you get a beep on the 17th keystroke, then you know your computer hanging is a result of a software problem. If you do not hear the beep, then you know you have a hardware problem.

The reasoning is simple. Each keystroke is entered into a 16 byte keyboard buffer. Normally, if the hardware is working properly, each of these keystrokes is dealt with by the software application. It would withdraw the keystroke from the buffer ensuring that you never hear the beep of a full buffer. But if you do hear the beep, then the application is not doing its thing - it is not withdrawing that keystroke. The hardware is operating correctly because you could hear the beep. It is the software application that is the culprit.

This was last published in September 2002

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