BIOS update to fix a bad spreadsheet?!
A customer called me to tell me about an Excel spreadsheet which was crashing at a particular point. This was repeatable on the machine but no one else had the problem. I did what every good tech does: removed and re-installed Office. No dice, it still crashed at exactly the same point performing exactly the same actions. After browsing around for a few hours hoping I could find someone coming close to the issue, I decided we would re-load Windows 7 from scratch and try again. The user went to a spare laptop while I re-loaded theirs.
But then another call came. This spare laptop was also crashing, but with a different spreadsheet and at a different point. Again, repeatable, but also afflicting another machine. What the...? While investigating I had another user tell me they had crashing problems, but with yet a different spreadsheet.
We had different versions of Excel across several machines, all running an up-to-date installation of Windows 7. Common threads were eliminated: it was not caused by accessing over the network as a local copy performed identically; the anti-virus was uninstalled for testing; all updates were checked. But another common object remained.
Just barely a week earlier I read an article written by a programmer who was the liaison between product support and the programming group. He mentioned how one of the first things he asked when being escalated a ticket was, what CPU is the customer running? With the answer he would pull known errata for that particular CPU.
The common thread in my situation? All computers involved were Dell laptops, all but one the same model, and all running superseded BIOS versions. It was a shot in the dark but I understand CPUs have bugs, having been around so long, and I also know that BIOS updates will often carry CPU micro-code updates. What the heck, right?
As I live and breath, updating the BIOS on all of the laptops fixed the crashing problems for all spreadsheets involved. How esoteric can you get? I might have stumbled across that at some point in a desperate carpet-bomb approach to update all drives and BIOS and whatever else, but to specifically target that solution? I might not have if not for an article, written by a programmer to share his experiences, and stumbled upon by a tech just falling down a rabbit hole one night.