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Computer locks up/freezes - please help me diagnose this!

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July 27, 2007 10:36:13 AM

First of all I'm sorry if this thread is in the wrong place.

For the past 2 weeks or so, my computer has been locking up. It might happen 10 minutes after a restart, perhaps 5 hours after booting, but it happens with disturbing regularity. My computer completely freezes up (the sound stutters a few times then stops, and the screen is frozen - the computer is totally unresponsive to CTRL-ALT-DEL or even Caps Lock) and requires a hard reset. The freezing has occured in SupCom, CS:S and on Windows XP (SP2 32bit) desktop and Firefox.

No hardware changes were made before the symptoms started 2 weeks ago.

I have installed a fresh copy of Windows XP 32bit on a separate HDD, using the very latest drivers for all my harware, but got exactly the same problem - a lock up 1 hour into a game of SupCom.

I have also run Memtest86 for about 10 hours with no faults found. Though I was surprised Memtest ran for that long without the computer freezing up... a clue perhaps?

Here's my hardware:

PSU: 550 Watt Yesico 0db
CPU: Athlon X2 4600
Memory: 4x512MB (2x Corsair TwinX XL, 2x OCZ 2-3-2-6)
Motherboard: Asus A8V Deluxe
GPU: ATI Radeon X1950 Pro AGP 512MB
Sound: Creative X-Fi Fatality FPS
HDD: 1 x 200GB WDC, 2 x 320GB WDC, 2 x 500GB in Raid 1 array (1 WDC, 1 Seagate)

DVD and floppy
PCI Lan card

I have run this exact setup since Easter 2007, but the problem only started a couple of weeks ago. I believe it to be caused by hardware because of my fresh XP install. If you could suggest likely culprits to test first, I would appreciate this (I know I could strip out the computer and add a component at a time - but I'd like some advice on which to try first). If any more information is needed please ask, and thank you in advance!

July 27, 2007 10:38:18 AM

Oh, and I've checked CPU, GPU and system temperatures, and all are within normal ranges (i.e. 55 degrees C for CPU, 65 for GPU under load, and 35 for system). Also my case is clean and without dust buildup.
July 27, 2007 11:34:25 AM

You could try running with the side of your case off to see if it is a temperature problem . Those Yesico PSU's are quiet, (fanless) but add nothing to case ventilation.

What kind of computer case do you have and how many fans?

I had a problem with random re-boots about once a week, it would happen surfing the internet or gaming
(high or low load) The blue screens were suggesting memory errors. I figured I would try cooling my RAM.
I stuck the ASUS Northbridge cooling fan between my RAM chips and no more blue screens. Finally something
to do with the P5W DH northbridge cooling fan!
Related resources
July 27, 2007 12:11:55 PM

Interesting idea bobj, about cooling the ram - the case is an old aluminium Lian-li case. I run it with both side panels off.

I have Zalmam CPU fan (cu 9500 I think...), GPU has its own stock fan, a rear exhaust fan, and 2 HDD bay fans.

However 10 hours of Memtest (ran it overnight) suggest it probably isn't ram. I don't actually get blue screens, just a total lock up.

Cheers for the input, and getting more information out of me that I forgot to include ;) 
July 27, 2007 5:06:52 PM

update windows, update drivers?

is it stable not in programs?
is it stable in safemode?

clue: BUY A NEW CASE

are your fans all clogged up with dust too?
July 27, 2007 5:45:31 PM

Try taking out the soundcard and play games for a while - Creative drivers are prone to this kind of behavior. You might have to use newer/older drivers than what you installed this time.
July 27, 2007 5:47:39 PM

try turnding down hardware acceleration for your soundcard. control panel -> sounds and audio devices
July 27, 2007 7:54:01 PM

Update - I have removed the PCI Network card, and am using onboard Lan (used the PCI card as pings were more stable). It may not be the culprit, but 3 years ago I had a wireless card die on me and kill 3 PSUs (yes, take out the PSUs and nothing else... figure that one out) before I diagnosed it. It's just another thing to remove from the equation.

@Coldmast

Sorry if I wasn't clear - it happens on a clean install of Windows XP SP2 fully updated running the latest drivers for all my hardware.

It has also crashed on the desktop soon after booting XP, before I've started using the computer, but after all the usual guff has loaded (i.e. xfire, steam, messenger, icq etc). Though safe mode is an interesting idea; I haven't tried running for a protracted period in that.

Why exactly would I buy a new case?

And no, I clean my case and fans regularly - they are not clogged with dust.

Ty for the input. Safe mode is a good idea.

@utaka & fjabad

Good thinking. I will try completely removing my X-Fi and drivers to see if that is causing the issue.

Though to be honest, I feel the sound stutter is unrelated to the crashing, and is just a by-product of it. Just a feeling, since the X-Fi has been working for a number of months without issue.

As for drivers - I have used two different versions of drivers on two different XP installs.

Again, thank you for your input guys.
July 27, 2007 9:06:43 PM

I have a computer that I have been getting BSOD's recently with and in the same manner as you described though the hard ware is nothing like what you have. I sold it to someone in my family so we are working on it together. This is a shot in the dark but our problems might be related. He mentioned that when it BSOD's there is a specific message as to what windows says that BSOD was caused by. The BSOD says that 'the volume is an unmountable boot volume' or something very close to that. I looked it up and its mentioned that we should do a check disk to try and repair it. He actually tried installing a fresh copy of windows also but only did a high level format and not a low level format which obviously would have taken care of any partion problems. Subsequently the problem persisted.
The strange thing is that the computer was running perfectly when I sold it to him; it was mentioned in an article I read that it can sometimes be caused by sudden loss of power among other things. Try to think back to any abnormalities that could have caused this kind of corruption on your HD if you think this could be the culprit. I know in the past I have had similar builds to yours do that jus before the power supply quit. Essentially it was not enough to power everything I had and slowly burned out.
July 28, 2007 7:30:07 AM

Quote:
Why exactly would I buy a new case?

A:
Quote:
I run it with both side panels off.


I'm just kidding around trying to get some more information.
I can be abrasive, at times, but seriously I like to help
August 4, 2007 5:32:30 PM

Okay, first off an apology for not posting in a while - I went off on one of my random jaunts, so I've been away having a whale of a time ;) 

@coldmast - hehe, sorry for being so sensitive, and ty for getting more out of me :) 

@kona - very interesting reply... though I don't BSOD, you raise an EXCELLENT point about random power losses. I address it further down. I haven't found any problems with my HDDs and I have run low level scans on them.

So here's what I tried.

I removed my (disabled) PCI wireless NIC - no effect on the lock ups

I removed my (enabled) PCI wired NIC and went to onboard - no effect on the lock ups

I removed my (enabled) PCI X-Fi Fatal1ty FPS Creative sound card and went to onboard sound. That was 2 days ago... and no lock ups! It seems to have solved my problems, but the question is how?

The reasons I can think of are:
1) The computer was drawing too much power for my PSU; taking out the three PCI components has made it happy.

2) The X-Fi was damaged by a power outage. Removing the faulty piece of hardware fixed my problems.

Against 1) is the time my computer worked with this hardware setup. This is tempered by kona's suggestion that there was some attrophy over time. However I have had an underpowered PSU before, and the symptoms were very different (GPU was hit by lack of power - graphical corruption under load).

For 2) is that I have just moved to a new area. My house is in a location that gets very short power cuts (i.e. a second long). There have been perhaps 4 of these that I can remember.

So I will continue to run with onboard sound for a while I think, and keep you updated. Interestingly when I put 'x-fi computer freeze' into the Google the first hit is a thread on a Creative board with people having the same problem as me (with X-Fi's AND Audigy 2s...)

Also kudos to utaka95 and fjabad for pointing at the X-Fi when I didn't want to hear it!
!