My PC Odyssey.. HEEEELP (long, but desperate)

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Ricardo C, Aug 11, 2004.

  1. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

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    Last year, I posted asking for help because of random reboots I was experiencing after installing a new motherboard, replacing one which had accidentally lost a capacitor. The problem turned out to that the RAM timings were set wrong. However... I fear the first motherboard's demise may have affected my hard drives...

    When I first installed the new MB, I got occasional BSOD's, (except these used the Tahoma font, and didn't have the same header as the standard BSOD) during bootup. The screen would flash out so quickly I could never quite read what it said. Thinking the capacitor incident had damaged my hard drive, I replaced it with my slave drive, and did a fresh XP install on it. The first time I tried to install it, it also gave me that non-standard BSOD. After a second try, the install went through.

    Throughout the year, I've experienced occasional random reboots. They sometimes happened while playing a game, or sometimes by doing something as simple as trying to access the history files in my Yahoo Messenger. Other times, trying to run a Quicktime movie in full screen would do it. In fact, trying to install Quicktime in the standard directory is a surefire way to make the system reboot. I had to install it on "C:Program FilesQT6", which makes me think maybe I do have an accute case of bad sectors.

    Anyway... Last month, the random reboots increased a lot, it wouldn't be odd to have it happen five times in a day. I uninstalled the latest video drivers I had (which Windows hadblamed for one reboot), and all seemed to be well, though I'm still not sure they were directly related.

    Yesterday, my chipset fan died on me, and after I put the system back together after replacing it, it booted up fine but treated most of my hardware as if it was new. Fine. I let it reinstall drivers for most components, but it didn't install the driver for my network adapter. I got out my drivers disc and tried to install it manually. It wouldn't "see" the XP driver file. I ran the setup utility, which caused the system to reboot immediately after it was finished.

    Then... The system wouldn't recognize my slave drive, and wouldn't even finish the bootup sequence (sometimes it would flash the BSOD and reboot, other times it would get as far as the welcome screen, other times it would simply go blank). When it does boot up, it's not long before it fails again. At some point, it went back to identifying my network card as new again, and this time it did install the driver that came with XP.

    The system is pretty old (Athlon 1.4 Ghz, 256 MB RAM, GeForce 2 MX card), but I simply can't afford to buy a new one right now. I'm thinking I'll have to buy a new HD, but I thought I'd ask here first, in case anyone has any other ideas as to what may be causing this problem.

    Thanks in advance for any help.
     
  2. WayneO

    WayneO Supporting Actor

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    What a mess...........What motherboard? There's so many things to try, I don't know where to begin, but first I highly doubt a hard drive is causing BSOD's. Usually memory(along with bad BIOS settings), heat(the 1.4 Tbird was one of the hottest running AMD's) or a bad power supply are the most common BSOD causes. First, I'd reseat your heat sink on your CPU with a fresh coat of thermal paste. Then reseat your memory in a different slot. Then boot up and go into your BIOS and monitor your CPU temps with the case closed up, if you're getting 60 degrees Celcius or higher you got troubles. While in there also check your voltage readings from the power supply, any dipping too low? Also, if you can, set your memory timings in manual mode to factory specs, forget auto(by SPD). Do these things before going further. Good luck.

    P.S. If you could borrow a friends power supply to test with, I'd do that as well.
     
  3. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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    Bad RAM is a common cause for such problems too. Never buy no-name brand memory. Always try to stick with reputable memory manufacturers like Micron, Corsair, Kingston, etc.

    You mentioned it started getting worse since last month...sounds like a heat problem (summer!). I'd inspect the CPU heatsink, make sure the fan and heatsink are clear of dust and lint, and even try cleaning off the old heatsink thermal paste/tape and applying a new thin coat.

    What brand of RAM is in it? I'd bet it's a cheap-ass no-name piece of junk. You may need to run a program like Memtest86 (do a Google search) to verify the memory subsystem is working properly.
     
  4. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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    BTW, here are my laws of PC troubleshooting:

    - hardware problems can be fixed if you replace the right component

    - trial-and-error is a fact of life - replace parts until it works, then you will definitively know where the problem lay

    - diagnosing the problem as hardware or software is an ART

    - never underestimate the power of spyware and adware in bringing a computer down - use spybot and adaware as frequently as possible!

    - never buy no-name brand parts

    - always research before upgrading - Google is your friend

    - the cheapest computer system you find will always suck

    - have a backup plan

    - onboard video and sound tend to suck

    - the only integrated audio solution that doesn't suck is one based on the NVIDIA SoundStorm
     
  5. DaveGTP

    DaveGTP Cinematographer

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    (Just speculation here) Personally, since you had a chipset fan die on you, and it's been flakey for a long time, it sounds to me like the motherboard was running too hot for a long time, causing the erratic behavior. When the northbridge or whatever fan finally died (probably the longterm cause of the erratic behavior), it toastied the board a little too much.


    I would speculate motherboard. But that basically means a new system build and that sucks.

    I would try getting a can of air and making sure the motherboard is dust free. Is the 256 MB 2-128MB sticks? If so, try running on just one stick. Switch the sticks around in the memory slots. Etc. Pull all of the cards out - try booting with a minimum amount of components - video card, 1 HDD, memory. Always eliminate as many possibilities as you can with the first pull of hardware by yanking as much as you can.
     
  6. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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    If possible, you can try leaving the case open, and have a large house fan blow into it. It'll be noisy, but hopefully it will keep the computer from overheating. [​IMG]
     
  7. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

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    Thanks for the replies, everyone.

    Before I address them, let me fill you in on the latest developments (you're gonna love this...)

    I succesfully formatted both drives. A Scandisk surface scan revealed zero bad clusters. Technically, the drives are in perfect working order. However... Attempting to install XP would cause the BSOD after it was done installing the temp. instalation files.

    My brother (who went through the PC and was just as puzzled as me) dug up an old copy of Win98 SE, which installed fine. The system booted up, and everything was right with the world. I installed DirectX 9.0c, WMP 9, Firefox, Winamp, XnView, and ran Windows update. It worked perfectly fine throughout the night.

    Then this morning, I tried to install the one piece of software I just can't do without, since I need it for work: 3D GameStudio. As the setup file was setting up the Installshield wizard, Firefox crashed, then the system followed. From then on, it's been impossible to get W98 to boot up into normal mode (it warns me of a security problem), and safe mode is iffy at best. I re-formatted, and re-installed, only to have W98 crash upon the first boot-up following the instalation.

    I'm at the end of my rope here. If the hard drives are physically fine, then there's some sort of hardware conflict in the chain. I got a semi-decent look at the Xp-caused BSOD yesterday, and it mentioned something along the lines of "IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL". I searched for the term on the web, and found that it meant that a device had tried to access a memory address it was not allowed to. I have a single 256MB stick, could the BSOD be referring to it being misplaced? A bootup RAM check revealed no errors. Should I switch it around anyway?

    The MB is a Biostar. I got a good deal on it, so I went with it :b

    I don't think the MB got toasted when the chipset fan blew. I caught it early, and the system has worked well for over 12 hours at a time since then.

    I will definitely clean up my hardware, since there is some dust buildup (I keep the case open permanently, you do NOT want a closed case in 90+ heat and 84% humidity)

    Wayne, Max, Dave, I'd like to thank you for your patience getting through my massive post (and its sequel), and for your suggestions. Unless someone warns me against it, I'm gonna try switching the RAM around. Since my very first problems with erratic behavior with this new MB started due to incorrect RAM timings, it's possible that it's a memory problem again. I hope so. I really really don't want to have to spend more money on this machine. Especially since I don't have it, and although my parents have shown willingness to help me out, I don't want to trouble them with this crap unless it becomes critical to my ability to work.
     
  8. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

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    New update...

    Haven't switched RAM yet. Decided to try to reinstall W98 with different combinations of peripherals. It invariably crashed while detecting my non-P&P devices. One time the screen went black with a bunch of blue wavy lines on it. Even more worried now. Someone tell me this means it IS a memory issue? Pretty please? :b I really want to believe the solution IS that simple [​IMG]

    Also, the CPU IS running hot. It's hit as high as 71°. And my BIOS setting shows the CPU fan at around 6000 RPM, it has another setting that reads "sys.fan = 0 RPM". I'm not sure what this means, since the only other fan on board is the chipset fan, which is working fine.
     
  9. DaveGTP

    DaveGTP Cinematographer

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    If that is 71 degrees F (not C), that temp sounds fine.

    If Win98 ran and installed, and it was stable for a while...

    Hmmmm


    I still suggest booting and installing windows with a bare minimum of components. Yank the sound card, ethernet card/modem, USB devices, floppy drive, all of it. Install with HDD, Memory, Video Card (and I guess a CD ROM to install Windows from). Eliminate as many things as possible at once.

    Change out the IDE cables if possible and reseat all devices that you can. I know it seems weird to have a cable go bad, but I've seen it on the ancient computers I work with for my job (VAX/VMS systems).
     
  10. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

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    That's 71° C, 156° F [​IMG]
     
  11. WayneO

    WayneO Supporting Actor

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    71 Celcius! OMG, serious cooling issues and most certainly the cause of you're problems. You need to open the case and throw a 20" inch box fan on that thing, LOL. Seriously, time for a HSF reseat and some case fans............or more/better replacements.
     
  12. DaveGTP

    DaveGTP Cinematographer

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    GOOD LORD!! !

    No wonder the thing isn't working. My 1800+ runs at like 105F - quite warm. My friend has his 2500+ overclocked to like 3200+ and it still runs around 100F.

    Perhaps the CPU fan isn't working as well as it should - or, perhaps the heating paste (or whatever it's called) underneath the fan is loose or dried up.

    I suggest buying a new heatsink/fan combo. They are cheap.

    Or at least shut it down, pull off the heatsink, and check how much thermal paste is under it. If it looks problematic - clean off the old remnants of the paste from the CPU and heatsink, and get some new paste from somewhere (computer store, newegg, etc). Also cheap. Re-paste it with just a thin layer of new stuff (also cheap).


    http://www.newegg.com/app/manufactor...alog=62&DEPA=0 - CPU Fan/heatsink combos at newegg. In the "Compatible" bar on the lefthand side, choose Socket 370/Socket A.


    And don't run it anymore at the temps it has been running at - wait until you've got it cooled better.
     
  13. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

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    Thanks, guys, I do have some thermal paste around, I can probably take care of it tonight. Here's hoping that's all it is. I just read a horror story from a guy who spent over two years getting these random IRQL crashes, and replaced both his RAM and his MB, only to trace the problem back to a faulty CPU. Yikes.

    Thanks again for your patience and advice [​IMG]
     
  14. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

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    I got the CPU temp down to 35 C or so (might be more now since it's been on a while). W98 installed without a hitch. I'm gonna try installing GameStudio right after that, and if it passes that test, I'll bring on XP.

    I love you guys. Err... In a strictly fraternal, platonic, non-sexual way, of course [​IMG]

    EDIT: GameStudio installed fine, too. It seems as though my PC's out of the woods [​IMG]Temp. when I turned it off was 59 C. Still too high for my liking, will likely go ahead and buy a better CPU fan.
     
  15. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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    hehe...sounds like you're on the right path to enlightenment. [​IMG]

    When you reseat the CPU heatsink, make sure it is oriented correctly. I had major issues when the computer store installed the heatsink in the wrong orientation! Make sure it is seated perfectly flat, otherwise one side of the CPU will cook, even if the temperature sensor says it is good. Crash galore!

    You should grab the Prime95 and run it in benchmark/test mode as well, to test general CPU/memory stability once you get XP running...
     

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