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A friend was complaining that her 3 year old Windows Vista install was taking "up to an hour" to become usable after booting, so I offered to take a look at it. There was a whole mess of stuff starting up on boot, but I broke the Windows habit before Vista was invented so don't know what's essential and what isn't. I ended up installing Ubuntu 11.10 on her empty D: drive and leaving her with a dual boot.

I installed the "xfce4" package because it was defaulting to a weird looking desktop with square icons down the left hand edge. Now it looks more like the Windows interface she's used to.

All seemed well until the next day when I received this from her:

Hi, Chris!  Everything is really working well so far, thank you so much again!!!!

The only thing that is happening today is that the laptop is randomly shutting itself
off while I'm typing.  I haven't hit the button, the battery is fully charged, etc.
I'm just going along, typing away, and all of a sudden it turns itself off.  Any
ideas why that would be happening?

Other than that, I'm really happy with the changes.  :-D

Any idea what the problem might be? Windows on the same computer never just powers off. It's a 2 GHz Celeron machine from 2008 or so, and she's doing nothing very intensive on it. Email in Google Chrome and documents in Libre Office is the extent of it.

I set up a 3GB swap partition, so I doubt it's running out of swap, and am stuck for ideas. It's an Acer Aspire 5315 ICL50.

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My first guess would be that it is overheating but it could be a number of things really. – edm Mar 12 '12 at 20:23
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I answered a similar question to this some time ago as follows:

"I had the same problem with an Acer Aspire 5315 which was given to me to mend. The answer is to download the latest BIOS from Acer and flash it. The issue arises as several (maybe all) Acer models use the Acer installed software to manage the fan. If that software is removed either because the user doesn't want it, to update Windows, or as I did, to install Ubuntu, then the fan will not work correctly. It may start when the laptop is booted up but if the machine hibernates, sleeps etc then the fan will not restart causing overheating and cut-off. It seems that Acer acknowledged this some time ago and used a BIOS upgrade to correct the problem. I did this with my machine and now have had no problem for 3 weeks (as opposed to cutting-out every few minutes before)."

Months down the line the laptop is working fine so the upgraded BIOS did the trick.

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Thanks John. Looking at the Acer site, the BIOS they have available is dated 2008, which is about as old as the laptop (… ) but I'll give it a try. Is this version 1.45 the one that fixed the problem for you? – Chris Moore Mar 14 '12 at 2:31
Hi Chris, I mended the laptop last July so that must have been the BIOS I used. The owner has the laptop back and its been working fine ever since. – JohnBUK Mar 14 '12 at 23:17
Hi John. She brought the laptop back to my yesterday. I flashed the BIOS (lucky I had set it to dual boot windows, because the BIOS flashing program was a .exe) and now the fan runs while Ubuntu is booted. Thanks for your great answer! I attempted to remove the rear panel to clean dust out of the airvents but had no luck at that. I think I'll call it a victory anyway... – Chris Moore Mar 18 '12 at 1:51
Great news Chris, pleased it turned out OK. – JohnBUK Mar 19 '12 at 23:16

In my experience, when a computer shut down like that, it is hardware related. I would double check to make sure that there is no loose hard drive connection or memory stick not fully inserted. I would also run to make sure that the memory is not failing. Just realized the link I gave you requires you to pay for a boot cd with memtest86. There are several free boot CDs which include memtest. A quick search turned up This is what happened to me in the past when I had a computer rebooting randomly - bad memory.

Since the computer never restarted under windows, it probably means that the hardware is alright. Thus I would look into drivers problems. Maybe there is one specific driver that is giving problem? Maybe remove any external connection (printer, usb thumb drives, scanner, other), and see if it stills does the same thing?

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Thanks for your answer. If it's a RAM problem wouldn't I expect to see crashes in Windows too? The hard drive was partitioned into two equal sized halves, C: and D: in Windows. D: was empty, so I used that. Could it be that only the D: half of the hard drive is failing, and so it doesn't cause problems in Windows? There's nothing plugged into the laptop at all when it crashes. It boots from hdd, and accesses the network wirelessly using a built-in wireless interface. I wonder also if maybe the fan isn't turning on in Ubuntu, and so it's overheating and turning itself off because of that. – Chris Moore Mar 12 '12 at 20:30
Note that it's not "rebooting randomly" - it's powering off instantly and staying off. Overheating does seem likely. – Chris Moore Mar 14 '12 at 6:10

Some Acer Notebooks/Laptops are known for problems with HD-Controller and some other are known for CPU high temperature. For a Laptop or whatever PC, the switch off like that mainly the problem is CPU over temperature. Ram and HDD gives some signs if they're about to fail.

In Cases of DUAL BOOT OS with an HDD split in two partitions of equal size, this doesn't mean that even Data Processed on each OS should be equal. So, when using Low performance need OS (like XP) you may not encounter CPU Over Temperature, but when using Linux you try to charge a little more so CPU is going more hotter because as we know, CPU Temperature is in relationship with data processed and especially in cases of over-clock CPU.

Anyway, I guess your Laptop doesn't submitted any Hardware problem, and doesn't necessary need BIOS flash but:

  1. Carefully BIOS Configuration
  2. CPU Thermal Grace replacement
  3. HDD total checkup and repair (in cases that OS Freezes or slow down).

To be sure First Step is to bakcup your data and reinstall Windows OS and Linux OS From the beginning because some errors show up during an installation and this way may identify if all its OK or not. In case of failures you'll need Professional Utilities for a total check up of your Hardware

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