SysRq and Inspiron 1720

While trying to figure out while my laptop, a Dell Inspiron 1720, has been freezing occasionally, I found out that you can use SysRq codes to communicate directly with the Linux kernel to get system operations done even while the machine is locked up. This is handy as it allows you to specify a sequence of actions to safely sync your disks prior to rebooting your computer. Then you don’t have to go through the trouble of running fsck on your filesystems.

The typical sequence that you are told to input is to hold down Alt+SysRq and then slowly type r e i s u b. This presents a slight problem on the Inspiron 1720 since the SysRq key is shared with F11. Accessing the SysRq key requires pressing the Fn key but you must not have the Fn key depressed while you type the subsequent letters or they are interpreted as something different. I have found the easiest way to perform this magical little finger dance is to use your right hand to press the right Alt key with your thumb and the SysRq with a finger. So the sequence is:

Left hand: Press and hold “Fn” key (between Ctrl and the Windows key)
Right hand: Press and hold “Alt” + “SysRq” keys (Alt+F11)
Left hand: Release “Fn” key
Left hand: Press and release “r” key. (Screenshot dialogs may start popping up. Ignore them)
Left hand: Press and release “e” key. (Your GUI should collapse to a tty, most processes terminated)
Left hand: Press and release “i” key. (Progress of key shown in the tty, most proceses killed)
Left hand: Press and release “s” key. (Progress of key shown in the tty, syncs filesystems)
Left hand: Press and release “u” key. (Progress of key shown in the tty, unmounts filesystems)
Left hand: Press and release “b” key. (Progress of key shown in the tty, starts reboot)
Right hand: Release all keys

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