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Serious Hardware Issue

Last response: in Systems
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June 20, 2007 7:06:39 PM

Hello,

Since a few weeks I've been having a hardware issue that is absolutely driving me crazy. I've registered here as I know there are a lot of knowledgeable people about, and my direct circle of friends and forums couldn't help me out. I hope someone here can.

My system is:

OCZ 520w ModStream PSU
MSI K9N Platinum Motherboard ( 601-7250-020 version)
AMD Athlon 64 3500+
Corsair TWIN2X 1024-5400C4 1024 MB, PC5400, 675 MHz, 4, Non-ECC
HIS X1600XT IceQ Turbo 256 MB, PCI-e 16x
Maxtor 160GB ATA-133 5400 RPM
SB Live! 5.1
Lite-On DVD-RW Lightscribe 8x

The problem is: random reboots and the following sequence occurring: at any given moment (although programs that require a lot more resources, say games, do trigger it more) the screen goes completely black, it comes back frozen with sound sometimes playing on, sometimes freezing as well, and after a few seconds to half a minute, the system reboots. I cannot play any games, and even while being in Windows (or sometimes during the boot sequence) this occurs often, making using the PC a pain.

I've narrowed it down to a hardware error as a full scan on viruses/malware followed by a fresh format resulted in this occuring straight away. It has, as said, happened before booting into Windows so it cannot be a software issue. Also the GPU runs at 45 degrees stable and gets to 55-60 tops when being stressed. The CPU is idle at around 40 degrees and stressed around 45. Both of these are NOT overclocked. I have already tried voltage settings to stabilize as well. The southbridge chip on the motherboard was getting very hot, but I've added sufficient cooling so this cannot be the problem either. There's also a lot of airflow because of case-fans.

With a lot of tries (silly reboots here as well), I've managed to let Memtest86 run for 27 hours with not a single error. This would definately absolve the system memory. I have replaced the Chieftec PSU that came with my case with the OCZ one (+120w and good quality), problem not solved so this absolves the PSU. Prime95 has given errors after different periods of time, ranging from directly to up to 10 hours. SiSoft Sandra hasn't helped me to determine the error either.

I cannot believe the soundcard/harddrive or processor would be the cause of these kind of problems, if I am wrong please say so, but am I? If not that leaves two possible culprits: the motherboard and the VGA. I have reset the CMOS on the motherboard and had a look at flashing the BIOS, however the MSI AMI-BIOS flashing process is just so retardedly retarded (no guide for a massive list of possible commands to be executed), I did not want to go ahead with that in risking to completely blow out the motherboard.

I just cannot determine which of these two it is, and as I'm a student I can't really throw around money replacing both on the fly. Is there anyone here who can give me any pointers as to what the problem is? Thank you in advance!

Regards from Holland,
Geert

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June 20, 2007 7:33:27 PM

It sounds heat related. Something may have been damaged before you took remedial steps, so it is still causing problems. It could also be your sound card. Take it out. Take out anything but the minimum your system needs to boot up (e.g. a single stick of RAM) and see what happens.
Look for leaking capacitors on the mobo too.
June 20, 2007 7:38:47 PM

if prime 95 is giving you errors i would say its ur cpu rite?? isnt that what it means. i say ethier ur northbridge is screwed on ur cpu is defective, try another motherboard, or try another cpu, an see what happens. probably the only way you will ever figure this out.
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June 20, 2007 7:56:26 PM

Quote:
It sounds heat related. Something may have been damaged before you took remedial steps, so it is still causing problems. It could also be your sound card. Take it out. Take out anything but the minimum your system needs to boot up (e.g. a single stick of RAM) and see what happens.
Look for leaking capacitors on the mobo too.


Will have to agree, that it might be your sound card. Did this happen after new drivers for either graphic or sound card were installed. Or maybe MS Update, since they always try to force you to use their drivers' fixes for Hardware that eventually cause probelms down the road.

By the way what Operating System are you running, XP or Vista?
June 20, 2007 8:08:52 PM

Check the heatsink is correctly installed.

Socket 775 Intel HSF have a habbit of not going all the way in and need to be locked in place to get full effect.

Remove the board from the case and check non of the plastic lugs are bent or half missing from underneith the board
June 20, 2007 9:20:13 PM

Thank you very much for your replies everyone. Any tips are most welcome :) .

@ jtt283: Heat related was one of my thoughts as well, it is possible that the southbridge chip on my motherboard (there is no NB) has received damage through overheating as well as CPU as the heatsink wasn't properly installed first time and the core went to about 80 degrees celcius. This was fixed after noticing the problem. I'll take out the soundcard right now and run ATi's ToyShop demo, always makes my PC go wacko and see what happens. Other than that I see no leaking capacitors. I hate the motherboard anyway and I've ordered a new one because of a deal with my dad: Gigabyte M55-S3. There isn't much else I can remove to make the system properly boot than the soundcard and a stick of RAM.

@ KnowsItAll: I would think so as well, Prime95 is RAM, CPU, or the motherboard. Since I've established that the mem is mint it just leaves those two. I can't just try a new mobo and CPU for shits and giggles as I don't have that budget. I've ordered a new mobo and hope it will solve the problem.

@ Yoosty: Nope it's happened during the Windows XP setup/format, during memtest86 and while booting so it isn't anything driver/software related. I'm looking right into the soundcard though.

@ Hellboy: The heatsink is properly installed, but I will check the motherboard tonight.

Again thank you for your responses.
June 20, 2007 9:41:57 PM

Update: It's not the Sound Card, uninstalled drivers, turned PC off, removed card, turned back on used Driver Cleaner, rebooted and got it with not turning onboard sound on and with turning it on in BIOS.
June 20, 2007 10:49:43 PM

have you updated the bios and cleared the cmos, some intel chipset have problems with core duos and need a bios update
June 20, 2007 10:55:06 PM

Quote:
have you updated the bios and cleared the cmos, some intel chipset have problems with core duos and need a bios update



Im leaning towards the videocard, borrow one for a night and see what happens.... I build pcs, and i got to say ati cards seem to fail more than nvidia. It seems more ATI video card brands do it on the cheap component side, saying that i dont rate sparkle cards either
June 27, 2007 5:42:15 PM

Problem solved. It was a faulty graphics card. HIS X1600XT replaced with MSI X1950 Pro, PC working like a charm again. I hope it's of use to someone else out there trying to determine what is wrong with his/her PC.

Thanks again everyone for your input.
!