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  • Writer's pictureMichael Jacoby

An Eventful Month

Updated: Jan 16, 2021

A glitchy Windows BSOD representing the issues I had with my laptop and why I couldn't update throughout the month of September 2020.

The visitors of this site, all 33 of them (as of this writing), might have noticed that after practically a spring/summer of updates at an almost monthly pace that after my update in August nothing appeared. Normally, I try to balance creating content for the site, including writing and producing webcomics, developing new ideas for writings, compiling strange MPA(A) rating reasons, and updating and developing my graphic design portfolio, with developing material in my spare time for me to post to my other platforms, from photomanipulations and extra art on DeviantArt to uploading VHS oddities, nonsensical shitposts, and the occasional YTP on YouTube.

Since June, I’ve had to balance all that with a new job for making some extra money during the pandemic as while I still have my freelance graphic design job, new orders for that (while very occasionally arriving) have severely declined. And at the other job, I mostly have six-hour shifts, sometimes consecutively day-to-day, that end around closing time, and eat up my whole day. Despite all this, I still managed to update the site mostly monthly...until September. Just why is that? Well, it all started late August going into the next month.

I was seriously considering venturing into the self-publishing territory. I did an admittedly moderate search into self-publishing sites before settling on Lulu, taking a page from Peter Paltridge yet again. The book was to be a comic book containing the first three issues of Americus Video, all released on January 17, 2017. It was meant to test the waters to see if anybody would be interested in it, and if they were I would publish larger collections of my webcomics, too. And maybe some other stuff like a photo book. And maybe even Like Herrings and Onions. Lulu seemed to be the perfect fit at first, with a diverse series of products, including comic books, photo books, and calendars. Also, you could also make things on InDesign, which I’m skilled in! Seemed too good to be true!

In the first week of September, shortly after publishing the then-newest issue of The Sbuirrels, I started developing the InDesign file for my book. My laptop was making a loud, whirring noise, almost like a vacuum cleaner. The left side felt a little warm, too, but that sometimes happened and I never thought anything of it...until I was working on my book. Suddenly, the computer produced a blue screen of death, referencing something about a DC_WATCHDOG_ERROR or something to that effect. The computer eventually restarted and I went back to work. As I continued designing the book, the laptop would sometimes freeze and the BSOD happened again listing the same reason.

As I kept on using my laptop, the same BSOD kept on appearing, when I would check my email, when I would just browse the internet, when I would work on my book, etc. I decided to use it sparingly, but managed to get a clearer view of the BSOD issue: It told me to search for “DLC_WATCHDOG_ERROR” after the computer restarted. A cause for this screen, according to sources I found, was the CPU overheating and shutting down to prevent any damage.

Searching led me to many solutions for this problem. One of which was to update my IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers driver, which I did. It seemed to work at first, but the BSODs still kept on coming, complete with the same message. Another solution was a seemingly simple one, where I could just clean the dust out of the laptop’s fans. I wasn’t sure how to disassemble my laptop to get to the fans, but I found out I could clean out the fans by purchasing compressed air. Another potential cause for this was said to be a faulty USB drive and possibly I should stop using it. But there was one problem: The thumb drive I was using also had major site material like the favicon, the logo, and the webcomics. I was also using this thumb drive for developing the comic book, so I couldn’t stop using it!

Another situation was also developing on my laptop during this time. Whenever I tried to turn it on after leaving it off for a while, it didn’t start up normally. It just showed a black screen with white text that stated the “storage capacity of the battery stated below to be very low” and it might need to be replaced. Said battery was the “Primary (Internal) Battery (801).” As I panicked about the potential end of my laptop and how I could possibly get a not-very-costly-but-still-good one in the midst of a pandemic, I used my other devices to search for a solution.

After searching, I found a forum where a user with a patriotic profile picture (hopefully not an indicator of any potential jingoism) said that the warning was referring to the external battery, the one on the bottom of the laptop. I couldn’t believe it. I just got that battery last Christmas and was using it all year and it was going bad already?! Fortunately, the solution was simple: just take the battery out and re-insert it again. The screen never appeared again.

Another screen, however, kept on appearing. Another BSOD, with a new problem listed: “DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL.” Sources I found said that causes for this included an overheating CPU. I looked around for solutions, one of which I found was to update the sound drivers, which I did. While the IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL BSOD stopped appearing, the original DLC_VIOLATION_WATCHDOG screen kept on appearing. Searching for answers, I found the solution most blatant to solve the problem, a solution that was repeatedly referenced throughout the pages I viewed: cleaning the laptop’s fans!

I admit that I never even attempted to clean my laptop’s fans—a horrible mistake in retrospect, which would probably explain the left-side of my laptop feeling rather warm and my computer sounding like a vacuum cleaner all these years. I never did this, despite learning about the importance of cleaning computer fans during high school where my career major was Computer Science. Consequently, I was a little afraid, hoping to not do any damage to my laptop in a process that’s supposed to help it. I mustered up my courage and drove to my nearest Best Buy, located in East Gate Square, on the borders of Mount Laurel (and the Best Buy not in Moorestown despite being a shopping center across from the Moorestown Mall and near the border of that town), and bought a two-pack of compressed gas.

Green to this laptop-cleaning business, I studied the cans carefully to make sure I don’t do anything stupid. It said it had been scented to avoid drug abuse, to keep the cans out of a warm environment, and not to shake up the cans prior, during, or after use. I purchased the pack and drove all the way home, cautious about the heat in the car formed from the weather outside. Luckily, I blasted the air conditioner on to keep the inside of the car cool on the trip home and no issues occurred.

I watched a video on how to use compressed air for laptop cleaning. It said I had to use a tiny red straw to make sure the air gets through and the fluid in the cans wouldn’t ruin my laptop. I panicked at first, not noticing such straws at first, then I saw them taped to the cans. Using other instructions for cleaning laptop vents I found elsewhere, I took my laptop to my bathroom, where it can be ventilated (as the cans recommend that you use the stuff in such an area) and quickly sprayed the stuff into the vents, hoping it would clean them out.

A little later, I started my laptop and no BSOD appeared. It seemed to be successful!

At least for a little while. The same DLC_WATCHDOG BSOD kept on appearing. I figured my fan must be very dusty, so I sprayed some more compressed air on varying days. In the meantime, I also searched for more solutions.

I found two more solutions from here. One was to repair corrupted system files by running the Windows SFC utility. To do this, I had to open the Command Prompt as an administrator and type in SFC/scannow, but it didn’t seem to work. I tried the other method on the site: The CHKDSK, which was said to check the disk drive for any errors. In Command Prompt (running as an administrator), I had to type CHKDSK C: /F /R /X and then hit “Y” for yes. After this, I restarted the computer and the process began.

There was a spinning animated graphic next to the percentage progress. I started this process in the mid-to-late afternoon, around 4 PM. It seemed that the percentage increased after every minute (one minute it was a 4%, the next 5%, the next 6%, etc.). It was when it got to 21% that things seemed to be slow and the process wasn’t progressing, despite the animated graphic still spinning. I decided to do other things while the laptop was doing its stuff, feeling that it would probably progress faster if I wasn’t looking, like stopping and rewinding a VHS tape to the very beginning rather than it still playing while rewinding.

I later returned to the laptop; it was around 5 PM and almost dinner time. I noticed that it was off, like when the battery was totally drained. I had no idea if the CHKDSK thing worked or not. I recall being a little nervous. So, I decided to take a dinner break to calm my nerves.

After dinner, I started up my laptop again and the CHKDSK stuff was at it again, restarting at 1% and again remaining stuck at 21% as the graphic was still spinning. I was told that sometimes this process could take a while (and it was best to let the process continue) and that sometimes the computer could freeze from this. It seemed to be like the latter to me at first, but as frequently mentioned, the spinning graphic was still moving.

It was getting into the later hours of the night and it was still at 21%. I tried shutting it off and restarting it via the power button, but the process kept on starting. I looked for ways to end it on another one of my devices. I found out that I had to press the Escape key (or any key) after starting up the computer before the percentages appeared. This I did and the computer eventually started up normally, although the BSODs still happened.

Another solution I found was to update my BIOS, something I had never tried before. I looked on the site for my computer manufacturer and followed the instructions. It took a little bit and the entire screen was engulfed with the BIOS updating screen, complete with stretch-o-vision. It said I had to keep my laptop plugged in throughout this, giving extra heat to my battery, CPU, and laptop as a whole. Luckily, everything seemed to be okay after the restart. Except that my sound didn’t seem to work now. For the sound, I tried updating the sound drivers on Device Manager but to no avail.

I was starting to get a little frustrated by this point, feeling my laptop’s life was starting to come to an end and not knowing what to do or if it could be replaced with my files going in the new one. It looked like I was gonna have to actually open my laptop and clean out my fan. It seemed easy enough (although I’ve never done it before) and I had compressed air. It seemed like a simple solution!

But then I saw videos showing the specific steps to disassemble my laptop and it seemed much more complicated and dangerous. Not helping matters were videos that started off saying things to the effect of, “YOU DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK!” I was afraid of doing this overly complicated process out of fear of inadvertently destroying my laptop in the process that’s supposed to aid my laptop. Because of this fear, I didn’t grow the balls to even try to disassemble it.

I searched for videos showing any potentially simpler situation and most of them showed similar disassembly steps. Except for one. One video showed not just a step-by-step process of laptop disassembly, but also gave a recommendation for a tool to cool down your laptop, something I had never heard of before: buying a laptop cooling pad (or simply just a cooling pad). I searched where I could get one. I made another trip to the Mount Laurel Best Buy to see if they had one. It turned out they didn’t have one.

I later ventured to my local Staples in Hartford Corner in Delran. Initially not noticing the cooling pads at first, I found them near the front/middle of the store. There were three available, I think most or all of them were from Targus. One was a small, single-fan one that cost around $19; another larger, dual-fan one (that would fit my 16.5-inch-long laptop) was around $40; and another large one around $50-56. Not wanting to spend a great amount of money, I chose the smaller $19 one.

Everything worked fine at first. The left side of my laptop felt much cooler than before (albeit still a little warm) and no BSODs appeared again, even when I had that thumb drive plugged in. No freezing ever happened again. However, there turned out to be a major flaw, which was the cooling pad’s small size. A few days after buying it, I tried placing just the left side, hoping it would be majorly cooled. It was and no freezing or BSODs occurred. But it got very awkward whenever I had to close up the laptop for the night when I had to sit the whole thing on the tiny pad or when I first tried to awkwardly open it for the day (usually after putting the whole left side on the pad).

This was becoming rather ridiculous to me. I couldn’t open and close my laptop like this all my life. I later went back to the Staples in Hartford Corner to return and hopefully exchange the smaller cooling pad, even though I got rid of the pad’s packaging. Fortunately, I was able to return the tiny pad, but unfortunately, they didn’t have any cooling pads left. There were two more places, both at East Gate Square. One of the Mt. Laurel Best Buy; the other was my other local Staples, located in the same shopping center but actually in Moorestown! I decided to try the latter place first.

Like the store in Delran, I initially didn’t notice the cooling pads in Moorestown. It turns out they were also near the middle of the store, but unlike the first store, they were at a bottom shelf. This store had two Targus pads, both probably dual-fan. One was around $40 and the other was around $50-6. Both seemed suitable, size-wise, for my 16.5-inch-long-laptop, but again, I’m a cheapskate and didn’t want to spend an extreme amount of money, so I picked the $40 dual-fan one. I’ve been using that one ever since. So far, no issues have happened. I haven’t seen any BSODs or battery issue screens at all. The left side of my laptop feels much cooler than before.

And as for my sound issue, it was solved by going to my computer’s manufacturer site and downloading a new sound drive. It took a little while and was downloaded almost all the way and seemed to stay that way for a while, but ended up completing and restarting. I now have sound again.

And that’s the story of why I couldn't make an update all September. As for the self-publishing stuff, I’m probably going to leave Lulu and go for something else, some site where proof copies aren’t required to publish your book. Don’t get me wrong, I get the necessity of proof copies, but I just don’t want to spend my money for something that’s supposed to make me money...for every edit of the book I make. Seems a tad excessive.


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