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Homebuild killing sound and video cards

Last response: in Systems
March 29, 2006 1:52:30 PM

Hey all

I was wondering if someone could help me with a PC problem I've been having. I have a pc I've built that been running fine for around 9 months. It's a P4 3 gig (S478), Gigabyte 8KNXP Mobo, decent quality 500wPSU, Gigabyte 6800GT graphics card, a couple of hard drives, two optical drives and a Creative SB Live card.

A couple of months ago my 6800GT died so I sent it off for a warranty return. While waiting for it to be returned I used my TI4600 quite happily. I then decided to upgrade my sound card and bought an Xfi Extreme Music. That worked for around half an hour then stopped working, no sound was coming out. I returned it and bought another from a different company and the same thing happened with the new one. MY 6800GT came back a couple of weeks ago and I tried it out and it died almost immediatly (it was the same card I sent off). I'm going to return it but the company I'm dealing with are terrible and it's going to take weeks and weeks to get sorted.

I'm a bit wary of buying a new 6800GT and an Xfi card as I'm wondering if my machine is a card-killer and it'll kill any new card I put in it. When i take out the broken 6800GT and the xfi everything works fine with my old SB Live card and TI4600 so I just can;t understand what it is about my pc that could be killing cards. I reckon it must be something to make two Xfi cards die so quickly. I know about building machines and anti-static measures, etc but being busy at work, I'm no longer really interested in digging around trying to work out what's wrong, I just want a working machine. I'm close to spending £1500 on a new Alienware system but I can't ring myself to spend it when I have a pretty decent machine already.

Does anyone know where I should start checking on my pc to find out if it is really causing damage to cards that I put in it? Surely it can' be something like voltage surges or whatever as my TI4600 and SB Live cards have worked fine since I got them years ago. Also, does anyone know of any quality control issues with Xfi cards that may explain why I've bought two and both of them have broken so quickly?

In case this is relevant, I think my CMOS is dying too as often when I turn on my pc is says "BIOS checksum failed loading defaults" and I have to go into the BIOS and set it all up again. This doesn't really bother me, it's no biggie I'm just mentioning it in case it's relevant.

I've stuck for things to try here and don't really know what to do next apart for giving up and buying a new machine which I'm loath to do.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

a b B Homebuilt system
a b U Graphics card
March 29, 2006 7:11:22 PM

Going to be difficult to isolate in light of the fact that they returned your existing 6800GT to you...

ANy friends with agp slots and similar/equivalent cards and at least 350 -400 watt PS that could test your 6800GT in their rig for you?

Latest drivers for chipset installed? (which version/revision is your mainboard, as I noticed that Gigabyte list 3 different versions, plus Ultras ,etc..)

Is video card supplied supplemental power input with it's own non-shared molex pwr connector? (do not use "y" adapter, sharing with hard drive, etc..)

As for SB live issues, ..

Onboard sound disabled? (after BIOS failure, any chances that onboard sound is defaulting back to "on", causing conflicts with SB live? ) latest drivers? Complete fresh format/OS reinstall?

Latest mainboard BIOS?

It's also at least possible your PSU has developed some issues....perhaps you have a friend with a suitable 400 watt unit you could temporarily swap with for troubleshooting purposes?
March 29, 2006 7:43:57 PM

this sure sounds like a power problem. The cmos check sum failure could be as simple as a battery on the system board going bad or it could also be that there is something shorting power or the power supply is starting to fail intermitently. All works well with older components but that may be because they dont draw as much power. replace the system board battery first and see if the cmos check sum failure goes away. if not start looking for power problems such as failing power supply, mother board power regulators or possibly a damaged power cable. look in cmos power management for the current voltages and watch those for severe fluctuations. even a high end power supply can expierience failure so dont rule it out completely.
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March 30, 2006 7:56:51 AM

Hey all

Thanks for taking the time to get back to me.

I've recently done a full re-install and made sure I'm using the latest drivers for pretty well everything.

The 6800GT does have a molex connector and I am guilty of using a Y and sharing it with the two hard drives. And 2 case fans. Yep, me bad. Would that really cause so many problems tho, surely the only problem it might cause it a lack of power to the card causing crashes, not completely wiping out the card. Of course saying that it's hard to tell if the card is genuinely defective and it's not my system at all but then again what about the X-Fi's?

I reckon replacing the CMOS is as good a start as any. I happen to have another 8KNXP in my garage (don't ask) so I'll swap the CMOS and see if I can at least store the BIOS settings properly.

Regarding my X-Fi's and onboards sound, I set up the BIOS pretty well every day as my settings keep getting lost and have it down to a tee so I would definitely have disabled onboard sound.

I wonder if it's worth getting a new PSU. Going by your comments it could be a good place to start. I've had my current one for a couple of years now and maybe it's so full of dust and fuzz it's just not working properly. I'll have a look at the voltages and see what it's putting out and see if it all looks ok or is fluctuating or something.

If we forget my 6800GT for now which may be genuinely faulty, the question is, why does my PC run fine for months on end with an old Soundblaster Live but seems to kill two X-Fi cards within half an hour of them being in? Both cards died when the 6800GT was not being used so that's not relevant. Does an X-Fi draw so much more power than a Sb Live that it could cause this? Could both X-Fi cards be faulty?

Anyway, I'll start off with the CMOS and monitor the PSU output and see what happens.

Cheers chaps
March 30, 2006 10:47:37 AM

Putting a 6800GT on the same power line as two hard drives may very well have excceeded the amperage output on that line from your PSU...

If your were overdrawing on that line your graphics card wouldn't suffer from a lack of power, it would draw out of the PSU whatever wattage it needed until the PSU itself caved in, which could cause voltage spikes..

Ever notice how people suffer from hunger spasms because they're burning more energy than their body can make? Could be what your PSU is doing..

So your PSU could be damaged... I'd check that first.
a b B Homebuilt system
a b U Graphics card
March 30, 2006 11:52:39 AM

"The 6800GT does have a molex connector and I am guilty of using a Y and sharing it with the two hard drives. And 2 case fans."

Y adapters are not recommended, as there can be insufficient voltage/current across to many parallel connections....; the GT video card alone may have peak power requirements during gaming of up to 70-75 watts, and two additonal drives requiring/stealing 20 watts each is not good....

Lets get that potential power problem solved before we tackle sound issues, as power probs can induce all sorts of other anomalies....
April 3, 2006 7:48:13 AM

Hey all

Ok, lesson learned - no more Y connectors for me. Things have taken a bit of a turn for the worse now, often my PC won't even POST properly and I have to switch it off, pull out my old graphics card, reboot, put the card back in, reboot and then it comes up ok.

There's something badly wrong and it all *seems* to point to the PSU. I suppose I'll have to go out and spend even more money on it getting a new PSU to see if that helps.

Thanks for all your help guys, I really appreciate it.