Production Systems Settle Down At Long Last

Anybody who’s been following this blog for any length of time knows I’ve been battling incessant stability problems on my production PC for some time now. In fact, I have two PCs that alternate between test and production roles (a hardware configuration table follows later in this posting), both of which have settled down completely in the last three weeks or so. I upgraded both machines in the first half of August, 2009, but it’s taken me some time to work out all the kinks I’ve encountered along the way. I even wrote a story on this topic for my good friend and colleague Esther Schindler at ITExpertVoice.com; it’s entitled “Maximize the Stability  Index on Your PCs.”

As of today, my primary production machine has held a Stability Index value of 10.0 since 11 PM on December 18 — that’s nearly 12.5 days as I write this blog, and at least 8 days longer than that machine has maintained that value at any time since I installed Windows 7 Ultimate x86 on August 9, 2009. Here’s the inflection point as recorded in Reliability Monitor’s graph log:

At the stroke of 11 PM, this machine hit a perfect "10"

And here’s what the stability graph has looked like recently as well:

The goal is what you see at right: flat-lining at the top!

How did I get to this much-sought-after position? You can read my many posting on this subject in my TechTarget Enterprise Windows blog, or the aforecited ITExpertVoice story for more details, but the quick version goes like this:

  1. I quit installing everything and anything on my machines, and stuck only to proven tools I needed to do my job.
  2. I troubleshot and fixed some driver issues, particularly with my Dell All-in-One 968, which kept installing itself as an XPS device instead of a raw print device for some unfathomable reason.
  3. I found a complete set of current and working drivers, thanks to DriverAgent.com and persistent experimentation with various versions as problems presented themselves.
  4. I quit using a RAID 1 array for my system disk, and switched to a single drive system disk instead. I can’t find much evidence that the Intel RAID drivers and Storage Manager cause problems with Windows Vista and 7 system disks, but my experience has been that stability zoomed after making this change on both systems where I’d used that configuration to try to speed things up. Now, I’m using a single SSD for the system disk on each of those two systems with great results.

Just for the record, here’s the info on my two QX9650 systems, where the Test and Production labels tell you which is which:

QX9650 Test and Production Systems
Item Production Test
Motherboard GA-X38-DQ6 Asus P5Q3
CPU Intel QX9650 3.33GHz Intel QX9650 3.00 GHz
RAM 2x2GB DDR2-800 2x2GB DDR3-1066
Graphics Nvidia GTX275 Nvidia 8800 GT
SysDisk Intel X-25M 80GB SSD SuperTalent 128GB SSD
Experience Rank 6.90 6.70

The production system experienced its last reliability fault on 12/10/09 and has been climbing upward ever since; the test system beat that by one day and has been climbing since 12/09. The test system didn’t hit 10.0 until 12/18 (the same day as the production system) and both have been trouble-free for nearly a month now. I don’t know how long this can last, but I’m going to love every minute of it in the meantime.

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