One of the most popular features that appears from time to time in our long-running WServerNews newsletter (now in its 23rd year!) is a section called Ask Our Readers. Individuals who have subscribed to our newsletter (currently almost 200,000 IT pros from all over the world!) sometimes send us questions about troubleshooting some technology issue they’re struggling with or to ask for our recommendation concerning some product or service they’re looking to use or acquire. (By the way, you can subscribe here if you’re not already part of our growing WServerNews community.)
Whenever we receive such questions, we insert an “Ask Our Readers” item into our next issue where we share the subscriber’s question and ask if any of our readers (many of whom are experts in their particular IT field) can help the questioner by suggesting a possible solution or workaround. Sometimes we get only a couple of responses to the question, and often at least one of these is helpful to the questioner. Occasionally, if it’s a particularly difficult or complex question, no responses may be forthcoming from our readers, and in that case, we may try to redirect the questioner to some other online resource or forum where they may find more help concerning the matter. And once in a while, a subscriber’s question may spawn off a whole series of replies leading to a lengthy technical discussion that may raise additional questions that we then put forth to our readers asking for their help concerning them.
Recently, however, I experienced a technical issue of my own that has left me somewhat stymied. But instead of using our WServerNews newsletter to seek help from the larger IT pro community, I thought that this time I’d try something different and write up an article about it for our TechGenix website.
The problem I encountered happened on one of the Windows 10 PCs in our office. The PC is an HP EliteDesk 800 G1 Tower PC bought refurbished from Newegg a couple of years ago. The machine has a 512GB KingFast solid-state drive (SSD) disk in it. It’s always a good idea anytime you ask for help with an IT problem to start by providing the hearer with basic background info like this, otherwise, instead of answers, you just end up getting more questions from those listening to your woes. Everything was going swimmingly well on this machine until a notification appeared indicating that updates had been downloaded and were ready to be installed, and the machine only needed to be restarted to complete the installation of the updates. (Windows 10 on this machine is set up to download updates but not install them until told to do so.)
Troubleshooting the issue
So, I clicked the restart notification and selected the option to restart the machine immediately. My desktop disappeared, and an “installing updates” message was displayed, indicating progress on installing the updates. But then suddenly, a BugCheck screen (used to affectionally be known as the Blue Screen of Death or BSOD) appeared indicating that a 0x0000001E KMODE_EXCEPTION_NOT_HANDLED Stop error had occurred. What this Stop error apparently indicates is that a kernel-mode program generated an exception that the error handler didn’t catch. The first of the four parameters displayed in the Stop error was 0xC0000005, and this interprets as STATUS_ACCESS_VIOLATION, which means a memory access violation occurred. The fourth parameter 0xFFFF820D8A96FC60, which indicates the address in memory that the driver was attempting to access. Anyway, that’s according to Microsoft Docs, at least. Big help.
Did I just install a flaky update? As I mentioned in a recent issue of our WServerNews newsletter, Microsoft has been notorious of late for releasing software updates with bugs in them. So my first guess was that this was what had occurred, but before I tried the standard troubleshooting procedure when Stop errors are encountered, I decided to just start by manually powering the machine off and powering it on again.
And guess what? The machine booted up, the installation of updates completed, the login screen appeared, and I logged on and got my desktop. And when I opened some of my applications, everything seemed fine. Hmmm.
Better check the event logs and see if I can find out more about what happened is what I thought of next. So, I opened up Event Viewer as administrator and created a custom view to display all critical and error events that had recently been logged in the Windows logs:
I quickly found the BugCheck error that had been logged some minutes ago:
Not much help there, so I clicked the More Information link to get some event log online help on the matter. My browser opened and displayed Page Not Found. Great.
Then I noticed the bunch of disk errors that had been logged in the above picture. I clicked on one of these disk errors to select it and view more information:
Eeeshhh, a bad block on my SSD disk, which is my system disk. Let’s check some more of these disk errors. Bad block, bad block, bad block. Not so good.
When I came to the end of the dozen or so disk errors, Event Viewer displayed a bunch of WindowsUpdateClient errors that had been logged just prior to the disk error events:
As expected, these WindowsUpdateClient error events indicated that installation failed for the various pending updates on the system. But the updates all did get installed successfully after I powered the machine off and on again.
So, did one of the updates cause problems with some sectors on my disk? Or, more likely, did some bad blocks suddenly appear on my SSD and end up borking the update process? But why did the updates get installed successfully after I powered the machine off and on again? How did Windows handle the bad blocks that had suddenly caused a kernel mode exception?
Time to run chkdsk. Let’s go the full nine yards and try to repair anything that needs fixing on the disk and recover any readable information from any bad blocks it can find on the drive. Here’s the command I ran in an admin CDM prompt window:
chkdsk c: /f /r
I then restarted Windows to start chkdsk running on the system drive. Yep, chkdsk seems to be running OK, so time for coffee.
The logon screen has appeared, so let’s log on and start Event Viewer again so we can see what chkdsk has reported. To do this, we’ll create another custom view like this:
Let’s take a look at that chkdsk event to see what chkdsk has reported:
What? No event was logged by chkdsk? How can that be? I checked my monitor a couple of times during my coffee break, and chkdsk was merrily chugging along through each of its five stages of operation. What’s going on?
So, should I be worried about the future health of the SSD disk in this system? No additional bad block errors have been logged in Event Viewer since then, but this does this mean I’m safe. How can I test the health of my SSD drive? What software tools would readers recommend for this purpose? I ask this because this is actually the first time I’ve ever encountered bad blocks appearing on an SSD in one of our office machines. Perhaps I’ve just been lucky. What would our readers recommend at this point for investigating the problem further and staying more on top of things in the future with regard to the health of our SSD drives in our systems? And why didn’t chkdsk log any results in Event Viewer when I ran it on my system.
I’m open to suggestions concerning all this, so please feel free to use the comments feature below to share your thoughts and expertise on these matters. And hopefully, your troubleshooting responses will help make this article useful to anyone else who encounters problems of this sort, which is really the ultimate reason that I’ve written this article.
So, thanks in advance!
Senior Editor for WServerNews
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