Another Vista Rule To Follow (and Bemoan)

When I restarted my blog in early March, I penned a screed entitled “Uhhh….Is This Thing Live?” to recount some hard-learned lessons about how to keep Vista stable and operational. These included the following dicta:

  • Avoid unnecessary installs
  • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
  • Hide unwanted updates
  • If an app or the OS asks you to reboot, don’t wait

To this list of activities to avoid, I’d like to add another item based on some hard recent experience. Thanks to some deliberate and some accidental violations of the first two items in the preceding list, my production Vista system has been flaking out on me lately, much like it did during the shakedown period when I was tweaking and tuning to get the system as stable as possible.

Over the last four weeks (pretty much since I decided to install iTunes on my production PC on a now much-lamented whim) I’ve watched my reliability index decline slowly and steadily from the 9.72 value I worked so long and hard to attain to the pretty lousy 5.76 where it sits right now. My biggest issue is that for reasons upon which neither the System nor Application logs in Event View can shed any obvious light, various applications will “go gray” and be tagged as non-responsive in the Vista runtime environment. If I don’t immediately reboot, it’s just a matter of time before Explorer goes bye-bye and I lose the ability to reboot voluntarily. At that point, I must hit the reset button on my PC to regain control over the machine. And of course, that counts as a “disruptive shutdown” which shows up in the Miscellaneous Failures category as a chargeable error in the Reliability Monitor as you can plainly see in this screencap.

Look at all the application and miscellaneous failures

Look at all the application and miscellaneous failures

Every single one of those Miscellaneous Failures is a disruptive shutdown, in fact, and reflects either my inability or unwillingness to reboot when I saw the apps start getting flaky. Outright application failures include explorer.exe (4), PaintShop Pro (1), Internet Explorer (2), WHS ClientInfo.exe (1), TrueImageMonitor.exe (1), WHSTrayApp.exe (1), fm3032.exe (a fax server app that works with my Dell 968 AIO), and itype.exe (Intellipoint, Microsoft’s keyboard driver environment).

I’ll be darned if I can find any rhyme or reason for this trouble, but I’ve now learned that if I reboot at the first hint of trouble, I’ll be able to avoid the applications freeze-ups that precede a complete system hang. I’m starting to think that my registry is at least partially hosed, and am doing what I can with CCleaner and RegHeal to try to keep it cleaned up and cleared out.

If anybody has any suggestions about analytical tools or troubleshooting approaches to suggest, I’d really like to get to the bottom of this. I’m starting to think that a fresh Vista install may be the best solution, if I can’t hang in long enough to upgrade to the commercial version of Win7 once it’s released. All ideas are welcome, though, so please share them with me. At the moment, I’m still scratching my head and wondering what gives.


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