Sunday, June 21, 2009

Windows 7 Sleep Nightmare

So I went through the horrible ordeal of trying to build my own PC and having the motherboard fry out on me, so I ordered a pre-built system.

In my continuing hubris, I decided to install the Windows 7 stable release candidate, mostly because I heard it was very good, and that Vista sucks. So I got my new machine on Friday night and spent most of yesterday installing new software and configuring the machine to my liking. Until today, I'd been very pleased with Windows 7.

However, there was a small problem that turned into a very large one. My computer is in the same room that I sleep, so I like to have the monitor either power down or go to a blank screen saver when I'm not using it. Sounds easy enough, but no matter what settings I used, the monitor would never power off or go to a blank screen saver. I read some stuff in various forums saying this was a problem with Vista not filtering input from optical mice (basically it thinks you're still using the mouse, so never shuts off). There's a patch for Vista, but nothing so far that seems to work for Windows 7. Still not a big deal.

I did notice the "Sleep" function in the Start menu and thought that might be a good thing to use. I could put the PC to sleep and it would quickly reboot each morning. So I put it to sleep. And guess what, friends and neighbors? The motherfucker wouldn't wake up. I pushed the power button, and the keyboard would light up, but it acted like it was still sleeping. I powered it completely off and then back on. Same deal. I unplugged the machine and tried again...nada.

This was about 5 hours ago. I was pretty upset, because I didn't want to have to return any more hardware to NewEgg and get a new machine. I tried Gateway's customer service. That was a huge freaking mistake. Both their chat and phone reps told me that I had to register my machine before they could assist me. Sounds easy, right? After all, I've got my warranty, the serial number, the SNID, and shitloads of paperwork on the thing. I've even got a piece of paper in the box that says "Register your computer online at It's quick and easy." Yeah, okay. But when I tried to register online, it tells me that since I don't have a 20-digit serial number, I'll have to register either by phone or chat. Guess what the tech support reps told me? That I'd have to fax or mail a proof of purchase to Gateway and wait 48 hours for processing, then call them back. WTF?

I asked the rep on the phone exactly why I couldn't register right then with him...I had all the information. He said it was because the computer was manufactured in June of 2008 and because of the time period between being shipped to the retailer and the purchase, Gateway had a policy of requiring a proof of purchase. Huh? Does that make any sense whatsoever? It shouldn't matter what the gap between the manufacture and the purchase. All that should matter is that I have evidence that I purchased the machine, and that they give it to me upon purchase so that I can quickly and easily verify that I purchased it. This isn't a fucking box of cereal, people. So I'm not happy with them.

I was ready to call NewEgg and just replace the stupid machine, but their customer support isn't open on Sundays, so I decided to wait until tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I figured I'd research the problem a bit more.

Thankfully, I came across this Gizmodo post.

Win 7 Tip: Sleep/Hibernate Mode Is Buggy, May Incapacitate Your Machine

When I came home last night, I thought my previously healthy Windows 7 machine was dead. It was making a horrendous squeal and refused to reboot multiple times. Turns out it was asleep.

I'm not sure what kind of sleep it was in (I was only gone for 6 hours and I've left it alone for half a day before and it was fine), but a regular reboot refused to restart it. So I did that ten times in a row, before giving up. I had to pull out the power cable (it's a desktop) and let the motherboard's lights go off and battery drain out. After this, it was able to correctly boot up again to a "Resuming Windows" screen, which then didn't respond to any keyboard/mouse inputs, so I had to reset again.

It's not like previous the sleep mode in Windows versions worked perfectly, but the manufacturer usually tests it once or twice to make sure that it's compatible enough that you don't have to jump through crazy hoops to re-enable your system. So our hint is to disable sleep/hibernate/power save mode on your system, in case it's incompatible, for now to save yourself headaches later.

And yes, it's a beta, so we're hoping compatibility gets fixed by release time.

Now I had unplugged the machine, but only for a few seconds. I went ahead and unplugged the machine for about half an hour, then tried again. It did exactly what the post said, attempting to resume windows on the first reboot, stalling again, then properly booting on the second attempt.

Holy shit, people. What a noxious bug. It locks you utterly and completely out of your system. You can't boot into the BIOS. You can't boot from CD. You can't do shit because the system never properly shuts down and so stays forever in sleep mode.

That was scary, let me tell you. I would have been irritated by having to reinstall the operating system, but when you can't even do that, things are looking really bad. So now at least I know. I disabled all sleep functions in the power management settings, and I'll never manually use it again.

This when I was planning on writing a blog on the coolness of Windows 7. I was very pleased with it until then. It's fast and slick. I really like the way it handles the layout of screens, the toolbar, and the desktop view. But now I'm a little afraid of it. Mostly, I'm just glad I was able to boot back into my machine.


Jill said...

Thanks for the heads up...I have Windows 7 on one of my machines and really like it too. I was happy I could go from XP to 7, without having to live with Vista at all. But man, what a bug! That sucks.

Hate to say anything bad about your choice but Gateway? I mean, when I taught classes for them, their tech dept. was busy, busy!

But know they are cheap, cheap and understand a student's income.

When you become a rich Dr., you can buy a MAC!

Derek James said...

Hey Jill...yeah, I had almost forgotten that you used to work for Gateway. I almost didn't buy a Gateway (I'd heard bad things, but those stories were years ago), but it had the best specs for the best price. So far the hardware is actually good...I'm just taking a bit of a risk with Windows 7. I never knew a software bug could cripple your system so careful!

Kenny Wyland said...

That sucks! It also sucks to hear that Gateway has gone to hell. I bought a Gateway when I was a junior in college and they were AMAZING at Customer Support. Sorry to see that the mighty have fallen. :(

Anonymous said...


Windows 7 is still in the RC stage so it is still in development. There have been several reports of users who have experienced very similar situations as yourself. The best thing I could recommend is check with the site in which they received help if you plan to give Windows 7 a try again. Microsoft does have an official Windows 7 RC Support Forum located here . It is supported by product specialists as well as engineers and support teams. You may want to post your question there.

Also, the final version, that will have this issue resolved is due out October 22nd. Just in case you wanted to try that one as well.

Microsoft Windows Client Team

Derek James said...

Wow, a response from Microsoft on my blog. Neat.

Actually, I got the issue resolved, and I'm going to continue using Windows 7, because overall I really like it. It just scares me a little now.