Friend's new computer has some issues

A friend of mine recently purchased some hardware for a PC gaming rig. He's a Mac addict, so naturally his first forray into the PC world has some problems. Here's what he's got:

Biostar IDEQ 200T (SFF PC with built-in 865G mobo)
2.4GHz P4 C (800MHz FSB)
Ati Radeon 9600 Pro video card
one stick of 512MB Geil DDR400 RAM
Western Digital 80GB HDD
Lite-On DVD/CDRW combo drive
Windows XP Home

I and another PC nut helped him put the thing together. After he got everything up and running, he started having a few issues. The first issue was that it would simply not boot up. The problem there turned out to be we had inadvertently set the hard drive to "master with slave" when there was no slave; rookie mistake. So he set the jumper correctly (complete removal) and the system worked fine. But then he started having a few problems with games just crashing at random times. Not cool.

So I thought he might simply need the latest Catalyst drivers. I installed the 3.9 drivers and upon reboot, it would not reboot into Windows. It simply got stuck at the black screen after the Windows XP splash screen. Forcing the power off resulted in the ability to get into Windows, but a simple "restart" would fail to boot up. He also noticed he was having troubles still in games with the occasional crash and immediate reboot.

So we reinstalled Win XP this week. We went through everything just fine, ran Windows Update, blah blah blah, and everything was fine and dandy. The last thing we did was download Catalyst 3.9 and installed it. Upon reboot, it did the same thing as before, get to the black screen after the Win XP splash screen and reboot over and over. *sigh* Not cool. So we went into safe mode and restored to a point before the 3.9 Catalyst drivers. Now he's running whatever drivers came on the video card's CD, probably 3.7.

I did note that the BIOS still had the onboard video enabled. I believe I disabled this before we installed the 3.9 drivers, but I may be wrong.

So where could the problem lie? I don't think it's a heating issue; the side panel is off and the video card chips do get warm, but they don't get way too hot to touch (yes, I made sure I was grounded first). I suppose a BIOS setting could still be screwed up somewhere, but everything looked good to me when I went through it. He is going to run some benchmarking and make sure the RAM tests all pass to eliminate a possible bad stick of RAM. Given what it does with the 3.9 drivers, I'm leaning toward the video card, but what about it, I don't know. Maybe the power supply is not working properly, maybe we need to reseat all the connectors (power, RAM, video card, etc.), maybe it's a BIOS setting, maybe it's Steve Jobs. Who knows?

So, suggestions? What to check? What software diagnosis tools to use? How to narrow down the problems? Any and all suggestions would be greatly appreciated. TIA!

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  1. Simply making sure I have a subscription to this thread. Any and all input is welcome. TIA!

    signature? what's that?
  2. Well, double check and make sure that onboard video is disabled first of all. Then, if Cat 3.7's are working fine, use those drivers. Dont try to keep upgrading to the 3.9's if it's causing the system to crash.

    Secondly, and this is a question I ask *everyone* who's having random or sporadic problems, What kind of power supply are you using? What is it's brand/wattage rating? The most overlooked cause of problems in a PC is the power supply, and with current components like you have in this system, stable power is going to be neccesary to achieve stable results.
  3. go through your bios very carefully and make sure things haven't changed on you. Look especially at the AGP / PCI graphics choice and make sure its on AGP. been there done that, also look up and make sure you have the latest Bios for your board.

    when all is said and done, what you've done for your neighbor is most important
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