Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Acer 5315 shutting down?

This is not one of my normal blog posts.  This is one of those that you hopefully would come across when you search for the following fault:

“Acer 5315 laptop shuts down out of the blue”, or

“Acer 5315 laptop overheats, causing the system to shut down”.

If you have these problems, then is the post that will give you the easy solution.

I investigated this problem and found that the system shuts down due to the CPU overheating.  The computer protects the CPU from frying itself.  The question, however is why does this happen?  The fan is running, everything else seems to be fine.  I tried a lot of different things, but couldn’t really figure it out.

I tried the Acer support centre, who took three days to tell me that this is a “software problem”.  Here’s their solution:

Thank you for contacting Acer’s online helpdesk, and for providing me with these details.

The problem you describe can sometimes be caused by an underlying software issue, and so I should like to suggest you run through a system recovery.
I have provided some simple and easy to follow instructions that will help you perform a system recovery, though please note that all personal data will be deleted, and your system restored to its factory default.
I suggest you first backup your personal files to CD/DVD, an external HDD or a USB storage device if possible, and also recommend that you keep regular backups of your personal files.
Here are the instructions as mentioned:
1. Firstly, please ensure that all USB storage devices are removed before proceeding with a system recovery
2. Restart your Acer product; please then begin tapping both the ALT & F10 keys together repeatedly from the moment you see the Acer boot screen
3. Please continue tapping both the ALT & F10 keys together until you are presented with the Acer recovery console
4. Select ‘Restore to Factory Default’ from the recovery options and enter your recovery password; the default password is six zeros – 000000, though you may have changed this at some time
5. Please press enter to continue, and then follow the on-screen instructions
6. The system recovery will be complete within 30-45 minutes, at which point I trust your system will return to its normal operation.
Thank you for your enquiry and I look forward to your response.
Have a great day.”

Got it?

OK, now this sounds like a typical IT helpdesk solution – if all else fails, re-boot, wipe out everything and re-install it – what a stupid suggestion!  How will that solve an obvious hardware issue?

I tried to read up on the web, and found people with the most amazing solutions.  Stuff like this:

1) Install the script that controls the fan
Download the script in the attachment in the post:
I have also attached it below.
2) Unpack the script
tar xvfz acer_fancontrol.tar.gz
3) IMPORTANT Modify the script to match your hardware (It is set up for a 2GB 5720Z as it is).
gedit acer_fancontrol
Pick the memory size which matches your memory size
4) Try it out
sudo ./acer_fancontrol
If you used the slightly modified script attached to this post, you should see that it prints some messages out like "Ignition Off", "Clutch down" or something. These correspond to the fan speeds, and you should be able to hear the fan working for anything above "Ignition Off".
5) If it works you can install the script
sudo cp acer_fancontrol /usr/bin
sudo cp mempat /usr/bin
6) Make it run automatically
sudo gedit /etc/rc.local
Insert "acer_fancontrol" before the final "exit 0"

And all sorts of other crazy stunts like tinkering with your BIOS and installing other operating systems.

go into terminal (or whatever you use) and type:
su root <-- it didnt seem to work with the sudo stuff, it kept saying your not root blah blah blah and thats the only way it didnt complain about it
cd /proc/acpi/thermal_zone <-- This will get you into the right folder.
gedit cooling_mode <-- make sure that its this file your editing.
and then add this into it when it opens up in a text editor:
cooling mode: active
save the file, then restart the computer.

(…What the hell?)

This is all nonsense.  The problem is not with the operating system, not about whether it’s 32 bit or 64 bit, Vista or XP - nothing to do with that.  It’s a HARDWARE problem, you stupid geeks!  Hardware is the manly stuff that actually make things work, like wheels and gearboxes.  Not everything can be fixed by updating software!

I saw one bloke’s response where he mentioned something about opening the internal fan and removing the dust bunnies.  I thought that I’d been there and done that, having already blown out the notebook with a compressor.  But then I read on, and realised that you have to open up the fan, and you’ll see what he means.

All the other wise geeks ignored this bloke’s comments and kept on with the nerdy-talk – BIOS patches, ISO file editors and who-knows-what.

But no one really had a proven solution.  Most of these geeks screwed up their computers beyond repair, causing even more problems.  Some talked about putting the notebook in the fridge to cool off, some messed with their CPU voltages.

One bloke even took his machine back to Walmart and got a full refund!

I took the advice from the smart guy on the forum, and opened the fan.  Now looky here, here’s the answer!  At first I thought I was looking at some sort of gasket between the fan and the heat sink block, but when I totally removed the fan I saw that this was in fact a dust bunny that blocked off any air supply to/from the fan:


Note that even if you try to blow the notebook out with a compressor, you won’t get rid of this little sucker without unscrewing the fan cover and removing the fan. 


So, this isn’t a virus, it’s not your BIOS patch, it’s not the Acer ePower management software, it’s just a plain old dust problem.  You can’t even blame Vista for this one.

Suddenly this old laptop is running sweet, full speed 100% CPU usage at a cool 50 degrees Celsius, in stead of the normal 80-85 when no program was running.  Awesome.

Cost to repair: $0.00

Value of this knowledge: Priceless.

Oh, and yes – don’t try the Acer helpline – a waste of time.