Solution (for whomever may have stumbled upon this page through Google):
My computer was freezing on a random basis because I used Acronis Disk Director Suite to partition my hard drive (issues with Vista compatibility?). Anyway, I had to write 0's to my hard drive (using KillDisc, i.e. deleting my entire hard drive and reinstalling everything) and no more issues.
OK... Where do I start? Background to the problem
(why not send to HP while under warranty)
(You may skip the explanation straight to the problem below if you just wanna help me out already
If "send to HP" in the title doesn't give it away: My HP Pavilion is under warranty, but the thing is - I've sent it back to HP for repairs twice already (for the same screen-related problem). I hate their customer service for giving me a bad product and not fixing it the first time
. I'd do anything to not sent it in again for another few weeks... Hopefully I can do something myself (I'm competent enough to do / learn to do very advanced procedures). Problem
First off, I would not consider myself technologically inept, and I take good care of my hardware and software. But I can't find any pattern whatsoever in anyway. The last thing I did before the freezing started that might be related is partitioning my 320GB HDD to 60 gigs reserved for Vista, and the rest for media and personal files. I used Acronis Disk Director, but I'm understanding this shouldn't make a difference, even if it would fail a CHKDSK (the partition is formatted anyway after installing Vista).
It would seem obvious it's a hardware problem - seeing as even after a clean install it kept acting up. (My first system was preinstalled by HP, my second using a downloaded anytime upgrade disc with the same previous activation) - two completely separate installations, same exact issue. I've been keeping my new system very clean with as little installations as possible to reduce possibilities of software issues. On the other hand, the freezing itself shows symptoms that I would think point quite clearly to software issues: the active window freezes, but the mouse still responds - and if I dare click (anywhere, active window or not), the whole thing then freezes (the screen freezes and stays on, precisely the way it was the moment I click) and I have nothing to do but forcefully shutdown my laptop.
I see no pattern in anything I'm doing specifically (or not doing) that causes the freeze. I know how to Google, but I'm not sure what to Google for. Following some results, I looked at the Event Viewer, and didn't find anything prior to the freezes that would hint anything. There are four errors after every startup, one of them saying that the system could not successfully load the crash dump driver... Which was the only other thing I could count on that would help me diagnose this weird problem. I can't find any documentation for WinDbg for Vista (even though I understand it's slightly advanced), but I don't think this is relevant seeing as Windows isn't loading the crash dump driver on startup, and I can't find any .dmp files or folders resembling "Dump" in the Windows folder or anything that can be opened in WinDbg...
At this point I'm supposed to write up my specs and config (or use that nifty system information app I found on this forum), but I see no reason for that since I can't even narrow it down to whether it's a hardware/software issue! The only thing I can narrow it down to (since it has happened on two separate system installations) are the HP drivers (from their website), some very reliable software (Firefox and a few others I've been using for months with no issues) and my laptop hardware. None of which sounds like a cause for OS freezing. Basically I have Vista Home Premium 32 on an HP Pavilion (dv5 series). I'd gladly post any and everything requested if you think it can lead to solutions.
This is the first time I'm ever posting an issue on a forum, because all my past issues were resolved with Search And Research skills. Unfortunately, this issue seems so broad and so abstract, I don't think I know how to figure it out on my own or with Google's help.
Basically, the bottom line question is: How do you diagnose system freezes or crashes in Vista?
This forum has helped me out many times before, and I know there are excellent people here whom I can surely trust to help me out, so that hopefully I can resolve this and learn for the future and help others as well. I appreciate anyone's spare time, and I want to cooperate as much as I can to do this without the damn customer support (who have yet to reply to an email I sent them two weeks ago)...
Thanks in advance!