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Operating System Problems...

Last response: in Windows Vista
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January 1, 2009 12:30:39 PM

My friend asked me to reformat his computer recently as he was getting the blue screen of death every now and then, I have reformatted many times and never really had any problems. But this time it was different. I did the typical thing and put my Vista 64bit Business CD in and went through the typical settings, making sure I completed formatted the hard disk before installing Vista. Everything went well and the install seemed to be fine, the first thing I did on his computer to get it back up and running was install all the windows updates. Then I would follow by installing his graphics, sound and chip set drivers, just in case they had service pack dependence issues.

Now, as I was installing the updates I had issues with the installer module crashing after it had downloaded the updates and was doing the install phase, when the update did crash I did the typical thing and stopped the installer restarted and tried again. But while looking in the update history is continued to say many of the updates where failing. I tried and tried to update the machine but it was crashing the installer or just stalling all the time. I decided I must have done something wrong when installing Vista so completely wiped the disk again and tried to fix the problem.

With a fresh install I went to do what I did before, update windows. This time I didn't get a modular crash, but instead 54 out of the 74 updates failed... I tried again and they continued to fail and fail. I read in troubleshooting and looked on the internet and it mentioned about corrupt cache files, I followed the windows instructions and cleared the downloaded updates to try and get fresh downloads, but again I was getting random failed updates.

I then tried using a different Hard Drive, one from my old system but I know it works. I completely reformatted it then installed Vista, but strangely enough it had the same issue. I was beginning to get confused and thought well... may be its my Vista CD, it might have got scratched. I went to get my XP SP2 CD and tried that, again making sure I reformatted before installing. But to my astonishment it was having exactly the same problem as Vista was having... updates continued to fail.

I thought for a moment this might now be a Microsoft problem... may be corrupted drivers, like what has recently happened with the Nvidia drivers using specific languages. But I came back from a meal with my girlfriend and he told me he couldn't install games, not a single game would install. Something about CM2 or CS2 or something, my friends girlfriends brother said that's typically an issue with reading data through the IDE cable, so again I went to his box of bits and opened a brand new IDE cable plugging it in, reformatting and installing. But again... the same problem.

His machine is up and running, but he continues to get failed updates and every now and then a blue screen of death. He has university deadlines as well as myself and after spending two whole days trying to fix it I have got no where. His machine works and runs, but is unrealisable and unsecured.

Does anyone know why this issue would be present as currently I'm lost...
January 1, 2009 1:20:44 PM

Well, as it sounds like you have already guessed, it sure looks like a hardware problem, since it was blue screening before you reinstalled and it also crashes with both Vista and XP.
The failed updates just sound like a symptom of a deeper problem and his inability to install other things and the blue screens would tend to confirm that. So don't focus on the update issue for the time being.

So, what to try. You will need to approach this as a general hardware troubleshoot because the symptoms could be caused by a number of different things, which makes it hard to guess or to rule out anything. However, the most likely culprit at this point would be something to do with RAM, either a bad stick of RAM or improperly configured in the BIOS. You have tried a different hard drive so let's rule that out too, at least for the moment.

1. Start by unhooking/removing all but the essential components. No external drives, USB devices, TV cards, etc. One hard drive only, etc.

2. Enter the BIOS and make sure his RAM voltage is set to manufactures spec. The spec. voltage is usually printed on the RAM itself and/or the package it came in. Also be sure the timings are correctly set. If this does not fix the problem then . . .

3. Download Memtest86 http://www.memtest86.com/memtest86-3.3.iso.zip. That link is to an ISO which you burn to CD with any burning software. You then boot from the CD and the rest is automatic. If you get errors this will not necessarily mean you have bad RAM but it could mean that. So if you get errors try testing each stick one by one until you find the bad one. If each stick of RAM produces errors then it is likely either a RAM configuration issue or perhaps a motherboard problem.

4. If this does not help then let us know and we can try something else. It would also help if you post back with the full system specs.
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January 1, 2009 2:51:53 PM

Ah, thanks very much for the advise. I just checked his timings and they where correct, but his voltage was set to 1.9 when it was supposed to be set to 2.0-2.1 I changed it to 2.1 and restarted. Now I'm just waiting for Farcry2 to try and install, as its one of the things that was problematic.

Just a quick question though, how can I tell if that's fixed it or not? If Farcry2 does install, should I then reformat again and get all those updates done properly?

Just curious as to what I should do if Farcry2 does actually install...
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January 1, 2009 3:13:47 PM

Hmmm, Farcry 2 didn't install. Do you think I should still try to reformat?

Oh another thing, I noticed when I was installing Vista the first time that his DVD drive was making strange noises, kind of like a DURR DURRR DURRR DURRR DURRR every now and then. Not the typical sounds you hear from it.

Could a messed up CD Drive cause these issues? I could try getting my DVD drive from my PC and stick it in his, but is it worth trying?
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January 1, 2009 4:11:51 PM

If the CD was messed up you would likely have gotten stuck during install, however, this coulsd still be a problem - these things don't always conform to perfect logic and since it was making a noise it might be worth trying another one.

As for what to do next try either the memtest mentioned above or else take out all but one stick of ram and try the PC then, then try another, try to isolate a bad stick of RAM. How many sticks of RAM are in the PC? We need the system specs.
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January 1, 2009 5:03:43 PM

EVGA Motherboard 680 Chipset (Running LED FF, Fully Functional)
EVGA 320mb Superclocked 8800GTS
2GB x2 G-Skills 8500 5-5-5-15
2.4 CoreDuo Intel
Asus 550WATT PSU
320GB HD 7200 IDE (Master)
DVD-RW IDE (Slave)

Think thats about it... he is doing some work on his slightly functional computer now so what I will do is try the memory stick idea, then try the DVD drive. There is one major thing to point out though, the memory is brand new. Literally only bought a few days ago. The problem was when I had to take everything out of his computer and put it into a new case. This is when the blue screen started happening a week later. Then with the reformat it has turned into this. Although, he did have problems installing Team Fortress 2 and it randomly stopped working a few days after I installed the new RAM.

I think it might be the RAM, but its brand new :o 

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January 1, 2009 5:07:23 PM

Oh I just got some more information about the problem as well, when installing games (although he managed to install photoshop) they all say the same error, that is

Unable to copy something to something because its corupted or something along those lines, followed by...

CRC ERROR

Any help?
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January 1, 2009 6:34:59 PM

Could be a CD/DVD read problem which would go back to trying another drive, but it could also be RAM problem - data could be getting garbled going into and out of the RAM. Since you are having problems with other things too such as the updates this would tend to let the drive off the hook though.

The fact that the RAM is brand new is no assurance the RAM is good - getting a new bad stick is not uncommon. The fact that the RAM is new and the problems started happening shortly after you got it would also indicate that possibility.

I would surely try looking into the RAM at this point.

Just try running with one stick alone and then the other alone - that might tell you a lot right there. And also re-seat the RAM in the slot - perhaps when rebuilding the system you didn't get a stick fully seated. This can and will cause intermittent issues like this. And try putting it into a different slot as well, sometimes the slot itself can be flaky.

There is always the possibility you have a motherboard issue but you need to rule out RAM first, for sure.
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January 1, 2009 6:54:30 PM

I see, thanks very much for all your help. Its been very valuable and I'm greatful for you to take some time to help me with this frustrating issue. I hope to solve the issue tomorrow. Thanks again.
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January 2, 2009 9:38:39 PM

Just thought I would let you know that I resolved the issue today, it was the RAM. My friend is going to send it back and get a replacement. I would just like to thank you for all your help and support. Its been very helpful and I'm greatful for you taking the time to help me. Again, thanks :D 
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January 2, 2009 11:04:30 PM

You are very welcome. Glad you got it resolved.
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