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"Delayed Write Failed" — on FIVE computers at a time?

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After a while I'm here again, this time with an urgent plea for help. On some of my computers and on my friends', too, began appearing the following problem these days:

After a long period of idle (usually overnight) the system crashes with several error messages "Delayed write failed..." The files involved are usually $Mft and C:\Windows\system32\config, but random others as well.

In this situation always stop working USB and the network card. Sometimes there's possible to perform a standard restart, sometimes a hard reset is necessary. The disk can be repaired using chkdsk with relatively no harm.

The computers are quite different, hardware-wise and software-wise, one of them even has an SSD. Needless to say the disks are in a perfect state, I even replaced two of them, but to no avail. This happened last night on three computers again. Some are in the same LAN, one is completely away.

I am now pretty sure it is not a hardware failure. As for the software, the only common things are that they all use Windows XP SP3 (but different language versions), and they all use BitDefender Free Edition. There are no others substantial similarities.

I spent a lot of time reading different forums, but the only outcome of this was that I'm not alone. No solution whatsoever, though. I read about some virus, but could that be true? I used MalwareBytes and Kaspersky's TDSSkiller for additional scanning, but they found nothing. I also heard rumors that MS put something in theirs latest updates to force XP users to upgrade, but I'm very skeptic regarding such conspiracy theories.

Anyone? This forum is my last resort. Please...

Take a look at the event viewer. Although not as extensive with information as modern versions of Windows, even the one in Windows XP should be able to give you a hint of where to look for the error.

Do these errors occur at the same time? Are the computers you mention in close proximity (for example: same housing block)? Then I would try a voltage stabilizer or UPS or high quality PC power supply on at least one of the computers and check if that makes a difference. If so, you are getting bad power from the grid, which could cause the hard disk controller on your MoBo to act up giving you these kind of errors. That could also happen when the hardware you are using is getting old or got too hot too many times. This can even create bad blocks on brand new hard disks almost directly after these are connected and used for the first time.

I have learned a long time ago that software like MHDD is much more reliable in telling you the true state of your hard disk. More so than anything else Windows can offer. Windows also keeps telling you there are no problems when there clearly are. MHDD is dangerous software to use and should only be used by people who really know what they are doing and don't mind the spartan interface. 

Where I live in Paraguay electricity can be very problematic. Now I have a Windows PC that I use as a server and it automatically reboots after a power failure. At some point in time Windows wouldn't boot at all anymore because it couldn't read/write on the registry files. After restoring working copies of these registry file by hand in the recovery console several times I got tired of it. After restoration Windows would boot, and chkdsk would fix whatever else was wrong and the system remained working until the next power failure. Mind you, there was no problem rebooting the server if stopped and started the normal (Windows) way.

Now I divide my hard disks into partitions. At least 3 but I prefer 4. In other threads in this forum I explained why (in a very opinionated way), so search for those posts if you want to know, I won't bore you with this here and now. The 1st partition only contains the Windows installation (no user data, temp files or page file) and in this way the first partition was only 5 GByte in size and still had over 20% of free space.

To solve my dilemma I shrank the second partition by 5 GBYte and move the 1st partition into the "liberated" space on the hard disk (MiniTool partition software is freely available and works very well). Now the PC starts up without a hitch after a power failure as well as the normal reboot procedure. Point is that Windows/chkdsk deemed the 1st 5GByte of the hard disk to be good, while it clearly wasn't.

Problems with flaky power grid also became a lot less after I installed the better class of power supplies in all of my PC's (80% efficiency Gold rated), much more than using UPS'es (I have 7 or 8, all of them with fried electronics (some even came from the USA) after a while I stopped repairing them. Too much hassle for hardly any gain (in my local situation, your location cannot be as bad as here, so use an UPS!).

$MFT is the Master File Table where the NTFS file system keeps track of the files on the hard disk/partition. The other one is a part of the Windows registry that isn't written correctly. As mentioned earlier, there are ways to restore these files from the registry, but that will require working with the recovery console. Sorry, too tired to google it for you...but you should be able to find these instructions.

Changing anti-virus software might help as well. Also, check in the Windows Device Manager if your network card and USB controller have an option enabled that allows Windows to turn these off to conserve power. If that is the case, turn this off and see if there is a difference. If so, your OS was too eager to conserve power.

Those are the first things that sprung up in my mind after reading your post. If the above works out for you...great! If not...back to the drawing boards then.

Thanks for your reply.

Of course I looked already into the event viewer. The only suspect messages I found there, related to HD, were repeated warnings from PerfDisk: Unable to read the disk performance information from the system (Event ID: 2001). After a series of these follow assorted crashes of random apps and disk-related errors.

These errors occur solely after some hours of inactivity. So far they never appeared while working on the machines. Even the machine left idle for a couple of days doesn't crash every night, though. So far I was unable to track down any pattern.

As this happened just recently, and as the symptoms are always the same (I mean the same files, disabling USB and network inteface), I don't believe it is hardware related. On one of the affected PC I replaced successively motherboard, power supply, cables, RAM, and finally the hard disk. So, just the CPU remained, but the results are the same. Hard to believe that CPU causes this, and on other machines almost simultaneously, too.

As for the system settings, I've experimented with tweaking things like LargeSystemCache values, as suggested throughout some forums, but without any change whatsoever.

Well, this is going to take some time. At the moment I'm experimenting with disabling automatic updates. So far, so good, but it's too early. Next, the substitution of the antivirus will follow. I'll post the result after a few days of experimenting here.

Would be grateful for any idea.

If not already done, then I'd suggest you consider getting a free trial version (if available) of HD Sentinel installed - refer Hard Disk Sentinel PRO - Mini-Review.
This will confirm the detailed heath status of the disk(s) involved. (You need more facts one way or the other.)
Also check the Write-caching policy settings for the disk(s) involved.
Have you had any power fluctuations?

Do the drives spin/power down after inactivity?

I'm just making a wild guess.  But if your disk monitor program cannot gather performance info and delayed writes are failing I wonder if it could be that the disks are asleep?

Check if all HD are in Performance Mode with sleep/spin down settings at Never.
Do not allow network cards to shut down to save energy. I've never been much of a fan of sleep energy saving settings.  To save energy I shut the system off overnight.  :)  I realize in a corporate environment sometimes you gadda' do what you gadda' do though.


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