Spinning blue circle at random times, system unresponsive afterwards

Copper Contributor

Spinning blue circle at random times, system unresponsive afterwards

Dell XPS-870, 24gb, Samsung 860-EVO-500, i7-4770 3.4ghz
Win10 21H1 - 19043.1288
running latest Avast free as well as Splashtop Streamer for remote access, along with dozens of other programs.

Customer says this problem started up maybe a couple of months ago. After powerup, it seems to run fine for some random period of time, say between 10-12 minutes or maybe up to 45 minutes or an hour before this happens.

What occurs is you can be clicking on various icons, processing emails or Word docs, Excel sheets, whatever, just humming along, when at some point you will click on "something" on the desktop - doesn't matter what it is... now, instead of opening the file/running the program, you get the dreaded spinning blue circle of death. At that point the system refuses to execute anything - you can right click taskbar and then select task manager but it won't open. You can click the start button and the start menu appears but none of the selections do anything when clicked. If you by chance had a windows explorer window open, at this point you cannot do anything in that window, nor can you X out of it. In short, the only way to make anything happen is to hard-power-down the machine - no other way to restart it. Once the fail occurs, the blue circle mostly follows the cursor around or replaces the cursor but it is useless as it cannot actuate anything either.

I have run Malwarebytes and Rogue Killer, and can find no evidence of any malware. He does not download and run any unknown software, as he has learned that painful lesson a long time ago. Scans were done in safe mode.

I cloned the disk to another known-good SSD and verified the problem still exists. The test disk is running on a different and brand-new data cable. I tried an in-place upgrade with a downloaded ISO from Microsoft, installed that, problem still exists. Then I did a factory reset (all of this on the clone copy) which worked and appeared to solve the problem, but the customer has no install disks for his very numerous software items so that's not really a solution he likes at this time.

I removed, rearranged, and reseated the memory, then ran Memtest86 overnight with no errors. Also, earlier I had cleared the event logs and now they're chock full of the usual windows nonsense about failing this and unable that... nothing that coherently resembles evidence about this issue though. I've looked at the logs immediately after an event and nothing really stands out. I updated the BIOS from version A04 to A14. In device manager, I deleted and reinstalled the hard drive. Deleted and reinstalled the video device. Same for network adapter.

I tried unwinding the latest Windows updates but it only let me do the "Quality" update - it said "something went wrong" when trying to unwind the Features update.

I once left a task manager window up and then got it to fail. Task manger seemed to continue on displaying activity, so there was no obvious culprit hanging I/O somehow. So the system continues to run, just not for the current user.

I've had the box for a week now. I re-cloned the original disk back to my test ssd and just left it running logged onto a standard account all last night. I checked the uptime this morning and it said that it rebooted an hour after I left it on. I subsequently discovered that it apparently had downloaded an update last night so it obviously rebooted when that happened. But it ran untouched for around 12 hours.

So I started poking around on it again today and was able to run for around an hour, hour and a half... then it failed again.

I'm sure I've read 200 posts about this flavor of problem all over the web and no suggestion I've found has made any difference.

I'm out of ideas at this point. Judging by the amazing number of posts I've seen on spinning blue circles, I'm aware that this sort of thing is a long-standing issue and that it apparently is caused by maybe hundreds of reasons. I'm hoping my description of the symptoms might trigger an idea I haven't already tried.

Customer has to have it back tonight and he'll stumble along as long as it takes me to figure this out. If it goes on much longer he says he's giving up on Microsoft and going down to the Apple store about 2 miles away to pick up a new Mac.

Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

2 Replies
I’ve noticed similar issues with a Surface Book 8GB that begin after the 21H2 update.

_(I am still investigating this, as well as display artifacts / screen resolution dropping down to 640x480 when Edge uses too much memory.)_
One user suggested removing the free Avast software which I did, and that solved the problem in this case... but that spinning blue circle of death is of course all over the place, particularly in Win10...