Someone Here Will Know
Published on June 23, 2012 By Daiwa In Personal Computing

I've been having a problem with one of my Win7 64b rigs (Vostro 360 All-in-One) periodically (every couple of weeks or so) running out of resources (I get a message to that effect) &/or simply crashing with the screen going black, at which point the system will be very unstable/unresponsive to mouse/keyboard input if it will respond or not come back up at all.  Usually I have no choice but to power the machine off & restart.  Sometimes I can get to TaskManager and initiate a shut down but it never completes & I have to power off anyway.  Sometimes on restart I'll get the "Windows did not shut down properly..." dialog, but most of the time it just boots back into Windows normally.

This is a new machine purchased in April & the problem started within 2 weeks of coming out of the box.  Went through all the hardware Dx stuff on my own & with Dell, everything checked out fine.  Updated the video drivers through Intel's site with Dell's blessing but that hasn't resolved the behavior.

I have another Win7 64b machine (laptop) that is set up nearly identically, with all the same software (ODNT included, of course) although the 360 has Trend Micro AV/firewall and the laptop has Kaspersky, and the 360 has a wireless keyboard/mouse.  The laptop has 6Gb of RAM while the 360 has 4Gb.  Those are pretty much the only differences.

I tax the laptop very heavily every day.  The 360 is used for nothing but intermittent browsing and email (Thunderbird) and the occasional Word document.  Facebook & Farmville are its most common tasks (not by me, thank you).

In troubleshooting why the laptop never even burps let alone crashes or runs out of resources while the 360 has been doing so regularly if unpredictably, I happened upon a process running on the 360 which was using ~250,000 handles (yes, that is 250 thousand) at the time and incrementing up by 1 handle virtually every second.  It is a process which resides in a folder named 'Dell KM632 Wireless Keyboard Caps Lock Indicator' so I suspect, logically enough, it has something to do with the wireless keyboard (which is OEM - more on that later).

After a fresh reboot, the process initially grabs ~150 handles and immediately begins incrementing by 1 handle roughly every second.  Every other process seems to hover around the number of handles it grabs initially.  A few system processes get into the low 3,000's, nothing but this one process gets higher and no other process manifests this inexorable increase.  Baseline physical memory use is about 1.5Gb at boot and when the machine gets into trouble I've been able to see it at about 3.2Gb (85-88%) on those occasions I've been able to get to TaskManager.  I don't think memory is the resource which is running out, but perhaps I'm wrong.

I recalled a post Brad had done a few years ago about handles being important to system performance in XP, that if a process got over about 2,000 handles it could cause system instability.  This led me to think perhaps there was a 'handle-leak' with this .exe, analogous to a memory-leak.

So I called Dell again and found out that any 'software' support requires a 'software warranty' (an .exe is software, dontchaknow) and I only had a hardware warranty.  I tried, in vain of course, to explain that this was OEM Dell software, apparently necessary for the function of the hardware keyboard without which the brand new computer was useless, that if the keyboard were connected by USB cable we'd be talking a 'hardware issue' but no, there was no love in India.  So I purchased the software warranty (under vigorous protest for the record) and the tech proceeded to do a bunch of routine silliness such as deleting temp and prefetch files, uninstalling CCleaner & MalwareBytes, checking a couple of reg entries and rebooting, at which time he announced that the problem was fixed, that I would have no more trouble with my computer.  He insisted that the number of handles used by that process had nothing to do with the problem I had reported.  He could not explain why the machine was crashing no matter how many times I asked him.  Neither could his supervisor.  Neither would answer the question, 'Is the number of system handles infinite?'  Neither would (or could) answer the question, 'What is the maximum number of handles available in Win7?'  He just insisted that all the hardware and software were now just fine and if I had any more problems I could call Dell again.  Tellingly, when I first asked the tech if he knew what handles were, he said 'No'.  Later he said that his supervisor had reassured him that they had nothing to do with the problem of running out of system resources.

So, now that my rant is more or less complete, DO handles matter in Win7 64b?

Thanks!


Comments (Page 1)
on Jun 23, 2012

Oh, and the 'handle march' continues - now up around 4000 handles & climbing.

on Jun 23, 2012

Teh google is your friend...

http://blogs.technet.com/b/markrussinovich/archive/2009/09/29/3283844.aspx

It appears that yes, the issue you identified is ABSOLUTELY a bug.  Dell Software for the lose, no big surprise. My advice, get a real keyboard because you and I both know Dell won't fix the problem any time soon (or even acknowledge it is a problem.)

on Jun 24, 2012

Funny, I had finished reading that very article just before I clicked back here to JU to find your reply.  I had searched on the subject several ways before posting, but finally asked the question in the right way for that article to appear in the results just a bit ago.  Even though the limit is technically over 16 million, at 1 handle per second the number of open handles would be over 1.2 million after only 2 weeks' up time and that can't be a 'good thing'.

It is annoying in the extreme that defective OEM software isn't covered by Dell's basic warranty.  I knew Dell's techs didn't have a clue, and told them so.  Like talkin' to Peggy.  The nimrods even admonished me to never even look at TaskManager, like it was dangerous or something.

The sole function of the handle-leaker appears to be to enable a brief on-screen graphic when Caps Lock is toggled - it needs hundreds of thousands of handles to do that?  Pisser.

That 'new keyboard' just cost me $200 (software warranty), and that's without the hardware.  Of course, the OEM keyboard & mouse use the same USB dongle, so I'm not sure I can just plug in a cabled keyboard & go.  Double pisser.  Maybe I can just disable the .exe somehow & keep using the same keyboard.

on Jun 24, 2012

Triple pisser.  I disabled the process and the keyboard & mouse work fine.  No more handle avalanche.  Turns out it is a totally superfluous process that merely substitutes one set of OSD graphics for another.  I still get a (different) graphic on-screen indicator when I toggle CapsLock.  Gofrickinfigure.  Dell really should send a memo to India & let them know WTFIGO.

on Jun 24, 2012

 

WTF..........

 

#1 - Don't ever write a OP that long again.....I'm too fuckin' old to spend that much time on anything.

#2 - It's a memory leak.

#3 - It's a wireless Keyboard / mouse combo for Christ's sake. No more, no less. You can spend as much or as little as you want.

#4 - It's Dell bells and whistles software. Un-install the shit and use Windows drivers, et al. 

on Jun 24, 2012

#5 - Listen to Yrag.

 

 

 

But ignore #1 - he actually gets a kick out of others' grief....the bigger the better....

on Jun 24, 2012

I'd personally call Dell back and escalate this to the point where they refund your money. If they don't, call your credit card company and explain what happened and ask them to deny the charge. They probably will.

on Jun 24, 2012

But ignore #1 - he actually gets a kick out of others' grief....the bigger the better....

Indeed. The lad is headed for some serious shopping.

on Jun 24, 2012

The reason why the techs couldn't answer your question is probably because they don't deal with the crapware side of things.

on Jun 24, 2012

It was worth it just for your reply, Yrag.  200 well-spent bucks. 

It's Dell bells and whistles software. Un-install the shit and use Windows drivers, et al.

The absurdity is that it's barely one bell and certainly no whistle - completely pointless bit of software.

I guess Dell's on to something:  Install defective OEM crapware, then charge you to (not) fix it.  Brilliant.

on Jun 24, 2012

I got a Wireless Logitech combo with no caps/num/scroll lock display at all.  I found a handy little program called Keyboard Leds that does a great job and can be customized as well.

If you find yourself in need of a good systray/on-screen notifier, I recommend it.

on Jun 24, 2012

Forgot to mention:  Of course, the first option they offered me was the nuclear one - 'Let's restore your computer to factory settings.  That will fix it.'  No skin off their nose if I have to spend 2-3 days re-installing all my apps.  I explained (politely, of course) that the factory settings were the problem, but it was completely lost on them, bots that they are.

on Jun 25, 2012

Imagine that......calling all the way to India for support, its the American way. Kidding aside I'd suggest dumping the Dell but its a tad late for that. Hope your problem is solved. If not......reply #6.

on Jun 25, 2012

No, Uvah, the machine is a nice rig & I'm pleased with it now that the memory leak is plugged.  Software support will be making a follow-up call & I'll give them what for, though.

Wizard1956
If you find yourself in need of a good systray/on-screen notifier, I recommend it.

Thanks, Wiz, but the OSD notice is evanescent anyway and I can usually tell when CapsLock is on by looking at what I'm typing.  Windows also thoughtfully tells me if it's on when entering passwords.

on Jun 25, 2012

Got the callback from Dell.  Left him speechless & dumbfounded.  Told him I wanted my money back since they not only did not fix the problem they had no clue what the problem was, had ignored me when I explained what I correctly suspected was going on, left me to find & fix the actual problem with their defective/bug-ridden window-dressing applet with a huge memory leak on my own and that an ordinary customer shouldn't have to be smarter than Dell's 'Software Solutions' staff to get an issue like this resolved.

Not sure he had any idea what I was talking about.  Said he'd send me an email.  We'll see what happens from here.