We gave the laptop back to her, explained what we'd done, and asked her to bring the laptop back to us the next time this happened.
We didn't have to wait long. The next day she brought the laptop to us with the same scenario: In the morning she saw a screen full of random programs and the hotkey wizard open.
We checked the BIOS hardware log and noticed a pattern.
- At 9:26 p.m., the machine had been put into sleep mode.
- At 11:48 p.m., it had been woken up via keystroke on the keyboard.
- At 12:05 a.m., the CPU's thermal limit of 120 degrees F had been exceeded, leading to CPU speed reduction and increased fan RPMs.
- At 12:56 a.m., the thermal limit of 120 F had been exceeded again, leading to a critical thermal warning message.
- At 1:19 a.m., the machine cooled down and all was well again.
This was bizarre. Why would the PC suddenly wake up in the middle of the night, get really hot, then suddenly cool off?
We explained our findings and asked the user if she had any ideas. She got a funny look on her face, said she had a theory, and promised to report back to us in the morning. Sure enough, the next morning we received an email from the user stating that she had discovered the cause of the problem and attached an incriminating picture.
She explained that she checked several times after leaving her laptop for the night and everything was fine. But when she snuck into her den at midnight, she caught Boots, her fat orange cat, preparing to take a nice, warm nap on her laptop.
It all made sense. As Boots stepped on the keyboard and settled down, he brought the laptop out of sleep mode and opened random programs -- and of course the hotkey wizard. And as his warm, fluffy body snoozed on top of the unit, the internal fan had to work overtime to keep it from melting down. Then when Boots was done with his catnap, he'd jump down, leaving the programs open and the computer cooling down. Mystery solved!
We all got a good laugh from the situation and were glad to know our detective work had finally paid off. Even with the weirdest issues, there is always a logical explanation -- you just have to keep digging until you find it.
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This story, "Midnight mystery: The case of the 'weird' laptop," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.