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ASUS A8N-Premium - Unstable (yes another one)

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March 2, 2006 11:38:06 PM

DISCLAIMER:
There are so many threads on this motherboard that it is almost impossible to know if this has already been answered - but from what I could see there were none exactly like this one.

I bought new components a week ago, and I was REALLY looking forward to playing around with my new (in my opinion) really cool computer. But, alas: I have been trying for over a week now to get my new components to behave, but there is a [/img]gremlin somewhere inside my case that makes the system very unstable. Any help and/or suggestion is greatly appreciated, as this is really driving me insane!

The Setup:

Motherboard: ASUS A8N-SLI Premium – Driver: nForce AMD 6.70 - Bios: 1011-005

CPU: AMD 64 4200+ X2

Memory
: Geil GE2GB3200BDC 2x1GB DDR PC3200 400MHz CL3 Value Dual Channel (@2.8V) – inserted in slots A1 and B1.

Graphics adapter: ASUS EN7800GTX/2DHTV/256M PCIe - Forceware 81.98

Case: Antec P180 with the three included 12cm fans running

Hard drive: Samsung Spinpoint P120S 250GB "SATA2" – attached to the SATA1 port (sort)

PSU: MIST 500W Modular

OS: Windows XP SP2 – all patched up.

CD-ROM: Plextor PX-716A

Note that the CPU is water cooled using the Zalman Reserator 1 plus – the graphics adapter however (for now) has its original cooler.

The Symptoms:
The problems are several, so I am listing them separately.

1. Windows installation fail 9/10 times.
I’ve started doing windows installation on an ATA/133 drive as a test of the systems stability. I unplug the SATA drive mentioned above, and hook this one up as MASTER on the IDE1-port. In the window setup I delete all partitions, create a new one and start the installation on a freshly formatted partition.
6/10 times right after complete network installation (which is about halfway through the installation I would guess), suddenly the CD-ROM is nowhere to be found, and so the installation is brought to a complete stop (“Please insert Windows XP Professional CD in drive D:”).
3/10 times there are other errors. My favorite of them so far is: “Could not install the following hardware: System” :|
1/10 times it actually installs.

2. The installed Windows is not very stable at all
I have never seen Windows behave like this before: Programs won’t start / will crash during startup – however after a reboot usually the programs that did not want to start will now start, while programs that worked will now crash. So, after a reboot I never know what programs I can use – it is like a lottery! Programs that have stopped working and then started working again include Thunderbird, Firefox, Internet Explorer, NOD32, Call Of Duty 2, Automatic Update and more. Very strange behavior indeed!

3. Event viewer reports disk problems
I know this is not the root of the problem, as the system also is unstable with the ATA/133 drive mentioned in 1. , but every day there are a few of these warnings in the System log (these are the only warnings/errors):
Event Type: Warning
Event Source: Disk
Event Category: None
Event ID: 51
Description:
An error was detected on device DeviceHarddisk0D during a paging operation.

Analysis:
I have done some analysis of course, and tried to eliminate as many sources of instability as possible.

1. Rightmark Memory Analyzers stability test (a one hour test) said it could not find any faults with the memory.

2. The program “CPU Stability Test 6.0” also said everything is OK

3. S.M.A.R.T.-analysis of the hard drive reports no errors.

4. Reading the sensors on the mother board indicates that heat should not be a problem (although the only time I have seen the Windows Installer behave like this earlier, heat has been an issue).

5. I am running the latest nForce drivers for the chipset, using the latest BIOS for the mother board and the latest Forceware drivers for the graphics adapter.

6. After talking to support where I bought the components, I was told to increase the voltage of the memory to 2.8V – but this brought not noticeable changes.

All neccessary info about my system (including temperatures, RAM-timings etc - pretty much everything) can be found here: Detailed System Information



Any help at all to help me locate the culprit is very much appreciated – and might even save my sanity (or at least prolong it). ;) 
March 3, 2006 12:45:39 AM

maxtor SATAIIs neeed to be set to SATAI to work correctly in most NForce4 MBs, including this one

if there is a setting for SATA I try it, or ask Samsung if they have had probs with Nforce4 AMD
March 3, 2006 10:51:32 AM

Thanks for the info! :D 

I am going to put my Samsung in "SATA1"-mode, but this does not explain why Windows does not want to install on a regualar ATA/133-disk (as described in #1 of "the symptoms"). And this Windows CD has been used quite a bit, as I like a fresh Windowsinstallation as much as the next guy :p  - and it has never been a problem installing windows from it before.
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March 3, 2006 11:20:53 AM

Could be memory. I once built a system and had similar install and instability problems for a week. I replaced a number of parts but never the memory since it would pass the full POST test (when enabled). After about a week of fighting with this, the memory started failing the POST test. Swapped the memory and things were perfect for 3+ years.
March 3, 2006 12:01:52 PM

I had a similar problem on a machine I built for a friend using an Abit mobo. Turned out that lots of people were having the same problem and it required an adjustment to the stock voltage settings in the bios. By turning up the AGP voltage and turning down the memory voltage I was able to stablize the system. I got the idea from people in the Abit tech support forums who were experiencing similar problems, it might be worth looking at the Asus forums to see what people are doing to solve similar problems.

Also, the link you posted to the Geil website lists the voltage settings for your ram at 2.5-2.65v but your post says that in your system it is posting at 2.8v. Try setting it to 2.6v and see if that helps at all.
March 3, 2006 12:07:12 PM

Quote:
Could be memory. I once built a system and had similar install and instability problems for a week. I replaced a number of parts but never the memory since it would pass the full POST test (when enabled). After about a week of fighting with this, the memory started failing the POST test. Swapped the memory and things were perfect for 3+ years.


Yes, the memory is my suspect too, so I just burned a bootable ISO of memtest86+ which I am running now while I am at work. :)  I'll let you know how that all works out!

Quote:

I had a similar problem on a machine I built for a friend using an Abit mobo. Turned out that lots of people were having the same problem and it required an adjustment to the stock voltage settings in the bios. By turning up the AGP voltage and turning down the memory voltage I was able to stablize the system. I got the settings from a guy in the Abit tech support forums who was having the same problems with his system.


Hehe I was adviced to increase the memory voltage actually! 8O And now they recommend I send back the RAM - but I am going to do some more testing - if memtest86+ runs for 8 hours straight without problems, then in theory the mem should be fine...
Also when I get back from work I will try with a different PSU and a different CD-ROM.
March 4, 2006 3:22:02 AM

I've been a busy bee today, and a lot has happened. I think everything is ok now actually - although the system has only been running for some hours now (but without even one small hickup).

I ran memtest86+ - the bootable ISO-version (www.memtest.org). Brilliant piece of software - only 900kB for the whole ISO and it really helped a lot! After running it 20 minutes the lower half of the screen turned red... the memory modules were faulty - or at least faulty with this motherboard! YIPPIE!! The question then was whether or not these modules would work at all with this motherboard! As I am building my wifes computer as well, I opened hers (which is not hooked up yet) and "stole" her RAM. Inserted the modules into my computer, and starting running memtest86+ again. 5 hours later the screen is still a pleasant, happy, strangly calming blue! It was time to conclude that my memory modules were faulty!

So, being optimistic I started with the windows installation procedure again, and guess what? The Plextor "disappeared" midways through the installation AGAIN. At this point, I pulled the sob out of the case, went into my storage room, looked around, found an old Sony 32x CD-ROM (yupp, not even a burner) and inserted that one. Tried to install windows again, and ... IT WORKED!

So far, so good. But will Windows behave? Well, I've installed a ton of software on it now... And started and stopped different kinds of software a lot - rebooted a lot etc. etc. So far it is rock solid! :D 

I guess I will update the firmware on the Plextor now to see if it can avoid being put out of its misery! If no improvements, I guess I'll just go for the NEC-burners. Cheap and people seem to have no problems with them as far as Ive read.

Thanks to all of you for your help... I'll update this thread on Sunday when the computer has been running long enough for me to give the system a verdict of stable or unstable.

Thanks again!
!