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HELP! How do i narrow down the problems? RAM, CPU or Board?

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January 28, 2007 2:41:06 AM

UPDATE: Memory problem found and remedied. Now I'm still experiencing a problem. The system takes a really long time to boot after running it all day. Read last post below.

Hi,
I just put together the following system and it ran fine for an hour or so but then weird issues came up and i'm not sure how to troubleshoot it.

First here is my configuration:

Windows XP Professional SP2 - Genuine and updated with all security fixes + defender + malicious software removal tool
POWER SUPPLY: ANTECSP-500
MB: GIGABYTE GA-965P-S3 P965 775
CPU: INTEL|C2D E6300 1.86G 775 2M
MEM: 512Mx2 A-DATA 1.8V DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) ADQVE1908K
HD: Seagate 320G|ST 7K 16M SATA2 ST3320620AS
VC: BFG Tech BFGR76256GTOCE GeForce 7600GT 256MB 128-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16

Here are the problems I'm experiencing:

At first the system would hang up for a few seconds at a time randomly while doing tasks like surfing the web, opening and closing explorer windows and opening and closing applications. Now i know this is normal when opening an application as the system is processing a lot but this is a lot more than usual and happened even when i was just opening a file browser window or just dragging a window around.

As time went on it seemed to get worse so i checked the bios to see if anything was overheating like maybe the CPU. It seems to be fine as it's reporting 35 degrees C in the BIOS. When I rebooted it took unusually long to boot into windows (2mins+) and when it finally did things were so slow the machine was barely usable. Task manager reported the CPU usage to be 1% and i checked all of my running processes online to make sure none were spyware or malware.

I tried uninstalling some of the background software (Xpize, EasyTune5) i had installed to see if performance would improve and it seemed to do very very little.

I randomly got a Blue screen of death saying Physical Memory dump so I thought it might be a memory issue, so i moved my 2 sticks of DDR2 to the other 2 open slots on my motherboard (still running in dual channel mode) but there was no difference.

Lastly i tried using just 1 stick of 512 in slot 1 of my motherboard (single channel now) and performance improved slightly. The system took less time to boot but still ran awful.

Randomly now I get a popup when the system boots up that says "CPU has been changed, settings reset" but i didn't modify any settings or touch the CPU.

Any ideas? Are there any tools I can use to diagnose my components?

Thanks in advance.
January 28, 2007 2:45:39 AM

Sorry to say it, but probably easier to just reinstall Windows.

If you don't wanna go that route:

-update all your mobo, video, chipset, etc drivers
-download mem86, burn the iso onto a CD, run it and see if it finds errors with your RAM
-check background processes, turn some off
-turn off Windows firewall, virus, disconnect your internet too and see if that makes a difference
-check Virtual memory settings
-go into BIOS and let it sit there for awhile. Watch temps and see if crashes. If no crashes, but crashes in Windows, then reinstall Windows. If crashes in BIOS, you got a hardware problem.
January 28, 2007 2:52:08 AM

thanks... i figured i'd need to reinstall but i'll try the mem86 test first.

I just noticed something. My system only crashed twice (Physical dump of mem screen) and both times while messing with the raid controller driver. The first time was while uninstalling the JMRaid driver and this last time was while installing drivers from motherboard_driver_sata_gb_sata2raid_bootdisk_32.exe. Do my problems sound like it might be an issue with the SATA controller?
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January 28, 2007 3:07:10 AM

Thanks very much for the suggestions... i really appreciate your time. I do have a couple more though...

I had already flashed the bios to the latest revision (F6) using @bios.

I am now running the mem test and so far so good 65% and no errors...

I am wondering about the SATA controller. I dont' really understand how the drivers could be affecting me since I'm new to all of this. RAID only matters when when you're running multiple drives right? How is the controller affecting my situation? I'm running a single 32gb drive and i have it plugged into the SATA1 port which, as i understand it, is controlled by the Intel chip. There are 2 sata ports controlled by the Gigabyte but i'm not utilizing them so i don't see how updating the driver for that would affect things. Can you please explain?
January 28, 2007 3:12:45 AM

Let memtest run for a few test passes, not just one.....let it go about 20 minutes at least.......just in case.

Yes, RAID is for multiple drives. I didn't realize what you were saying in earlier post, sorry. Make sure your single SATA drive is plugged into the yellow SATA port (the top one), not the purple one.

But when Windows installed you might have had an issue with a corrupt file or bad install, etc. Not sure. But I've had weird Windows issues before, spent alot of time trying to figure it out then just decided it was faster to reinstall and then everything was fine. Go figure.
January 28, 2007 3:16:35 AM

At the end of PASS 1 mem86 found 51 errors!!! looks like it's the RAM huh. I wonder why it ran fine for that first hour or so when i installed windows and was playing with it. Do you think there might be more to these issues? Motherboard maybe?

UPDATE: btw. Are there any other utilities like mem86 that will test my CPU, Hard Drives, Motherboard? This really helps narrow problems down.
January 28, 2007 3:21:00 AM

OUCH, sounds like you got stuck with bad RAM no doubt.

If you are somehow able to get your hands on other RAM (even 512 megs from a buddy for one night), try that and see what happens. If that's not an option, then bring it into a shop, they can pop in RAM and do a quick test, you'll know within a very short time. Get them to do it while you're waiting there and they might not even charge you.

Well, at least it sounds like you found the problem......... 8O



Not too sure about other programs to diagnose problems that are free.....do a Google and see, you should probably be able to find something. Might be worth your while to bring it into a local shop and spend $20 for them to test it for you though.
January 28, 2007 3:35:56 AM

I'm now testing each stick individually to see if both are bad or just one. If just one, I'll reinstall windows and see how it runs. If they are both bad i'll pick up some memory locally and try it out. If i still have problems i'm swapping the ram and motherboard. Any recommendations on a good replacement motherboard for around $150? I thought i did enough research when i chose this one but i might have been wrong.

Thank you very much for your help. Good night.
January 28, 2007 3:42:02 AM

The S3 mobo is a good choice. IF it's the mobo too, you may have simply gotten a bad one. But it sounds like it's your RAM though. Yes, try each stick to run memtest and see what happens, great idea.
January 28, 2007 10:33:51 PM

Based on your symptoms, I'd say the problem is your RAM.

Get a copy of Memtest and run the full scan. Make sure that you actually sit there and watch it as it runs. It doesn't stop when it finds errors and it doesn't generate a log. It is also extremely important to run through the entire set of tests. I have direct experirnce with a failure in RAM showing up near the end of the last test. The consultant I worked for once upon a time got into a fair bit of hot water because another employee cut the test short after the first 3 ( out OF 7 or 8 ) tests didn't find any errors and sent it back to the client as OK. System back 2 days later, full test run and - OOOPPS!.

You should also check your BIOS settings to ensure that they haven't somehow changed in the background. Not supposed to happen I know, but the MoBo I am currently using does this crap from time to time. Never seen this before, but there's a first time for everythying, as they say.

If your RAM and BIOS check out OK, I'd be looking at the MoBo and seeing if it is still under warranty. If it is, you would be best advised to RMA it and get a new one. But before you RMA the MoBo, see below.

You must visit the web-site of your MoBo's manufacturer and confirm explicitely that the RAM you have is approved by the MoBo manufacturer to be compatable. If the RAM you have is not on the list, RMA the RAM and replace it with something on the list. Some MoBos are extremely fussy about the RAM used. If you do have to replace the RAM, it is still a very good idea to run Memtest on the nhew RAM. I have had a case where 3 out of 4 brand new sticks were DOA. If the RAM you have is approved by your MoBo manufacturer, RMA the MoBo. Run Memtest with the new board anyways.

You should also verify that all your components are properly seated and connected, and that all your drivers are current and working correctly.

Note also that you should check for IRQ and poprt conflicts, and make any adjustments as required. As one example, Creative cards are fussy about having IRQ 5 dedicated to their use exclusively. Failing to set this in the BIOS is a guarantee of wierd and difficult to trace problems. Tragically, none of the documentation that comes with the card mentions this leetle dtail, and ity is not easily founfd on the web-site.

Hope this helps.
January 28, 2007 10:56:41 PM

Thanks for the ideas. I did narrow it down to one of the 2 sticks of RAM being bad. I reinstalled the OS again using only the other and the computer runs great. I'm RMA-ing the RAM and trying to get an advanced replacement from newegg so i can use the computer in the meantime. Hopefully the next set of RAM will be good.
a b à CPUs
January 28, 2007 11:02:05 PM

Most DDR2-800 requires you to MANUALLY set the voltage in BIOS to a specified higher level. Did you do that?
January 28, 2007 11:03:20 PM

I hope your new RAM is good! NewEgg is very good about RMA's.
a b à CPUs
January 28, 2007 11:06:53 PM

I might repeat myself over multiple topics related to RAM, but you can also try to increase the DRAM voltage a notch. If the MB cannot give a consistent 1.8V for the RAM it could cause errors.

I had the experience of doing 2 RMA on the same RAM just to find-out the the problem was probably my motherboard or PSU (don't care much, it's an old system anyway). Since then I advise people to check this to save RMAing back and forth pieces of equipment and paying shipping when they can just flip a BIOS setting.
January 28, 2007 11:36:55 PM

Prime95 is a good utility for testing your CPU RAM and cooling system. Run it for 24 hrs, if you have no problem your good to go. It has tortue test for stressing the CPU and ram. Just set the ram to match your system. You want your temp monitors open the desk top. It will run your temp up in a hurry. I have had better luck with it crashing ram faster than mem86.
January 30, 2007 3:13:25 AM

Thanks for all the info guys. I ran a mem86 test for about 7 hrs on the remaining good stick of RAM and it found no errors which leads me to beleive the memory problems are over. I am however still experiencing issues.

The reason i decided to run the memory test on the remaining stick for so long after i previously determined it to be good from an hr test is because I am getting random hickups in the audio when i'm playing mp3s on my computer. I know the mp3 file is good because i ran it on another computer. This was a minor issues but since i just dropped $1000 on a computer i wanted to be sure everything is going to run well. Anyway after this 7hr mem86 test i restarted the machine after only making one bios change (turned off boot from CD) and my machine is now taking about 5-10 minutes to boot up. Once it boots it seems to run great but it shouldn't take this long. This was something that was happening after running the machine for a while with the bad RAM but now that I am only using the good stick and I've reinstalled i know it's not the RAM. I'm thinking BIOS or SATA controller but i don't know what to do to pinpoint it.

Any other suggestions? I also thought it might be my CPU overheating or something but the temps are good (~35 degrees C)
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