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Bad Memory? Or bad Mobo? Hmmm.

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August 29, 2007 6:58:17 PM

Hello all of Toms Hardware land! I am Justin. A mere citizen of this wondrous internet democracy we all have access to. In just a bit I will explain of what my problems entail and you shall make a choice to help or not help. But first, you must decide. Will you join me on this monstrosity of a joy ride? If so. Please continue. Ok, here's the run down. Specs: AMD 64 3200+, 2GB PC3200 RAM (A-DATA) (2X1GB), Gigabyte GA-K8N-PRO Mobo, ATI RADEON X800, 120GB HD. Everything in my computer is stock except my video card and RAM. I have not ever had any problems with anything up until last summer (yes, this problem has haunted me that long, hopefully you can start to conceive how grand my issue is). The problem: Basically i can normally compute fine. Be it surfing the web, iTunes, downloading "things", what have you. Though when i start to multi task this where the problem comes in. It is random though. I could be all at once surfing the web, listening to iTunes, downloading, and installing a game and nothing would happen. But sometimes my problem will hit; Blank Blue Screen of Death. It uses guerilla warfare, very deadly, only attacking with NO pattern. I could just be importing a CD into iTunes and will go all blue and stall. When I try to play ANY game of mine it will crash to a memory error. WoW, for instance will let me play between 5 and 30 minutes then crash to desktop and give me what seems to be a memory error. Counter-Strike Source will let me play around the same time and also crash to desktop giving the memory error from its diagnostic. On my motherboard there are 3 DIMM slots. I have 2 sets of memory; A A-Data set consisting of 2 1GB sticks and a Kingston value set consisting of 2 1GB sticks. With each module I have and no matter what DIMM slot I choose or in what order my MemTest86 test results always are the same. Memtest will get to 20% on its first pass and then will start showing up red errors. Due to this odd consistency I have shunned out of my mind the possibility of one or all of my RAM modules being bad. Because why would Memtest on different modules start to show errors at the SAME time? Another note; My mobo DIMM voltage is 2.5v, my Kingston 1GB sticks are 2.6v and my A-Data sticks are 2.5v, just for reference. I can not get any further with my problem because the Memtest results just lead to many a brainfart. If you have the patience and hardiness to stay with me and read all of this then I am definitely in your debt. If you have ANY and I stress ANY idea of what might cause such...unconsistent consistency with my Memtest the PLEASE let me know. Like I said, the Memtest results are ALWAYS the same no matter how I lay my RAM modules in the 3 DIMM slots. Another thing also, maybe it is relevant, I'm not sure. When I bought this computer it had x2 512MB sticks in DIMM slots 1 and 3 running dual channel. Well now no matter how I put in the RAM modules memtest says its running single channel. Even if I put 1GB stick in slot 1 and 1GB stick in slot 3, it will still run single channel. Is my Mobo suppose to automatically detect and run dual channel? Or am I suppose to manually change it? Again, Thank You so much for any input at all.
September 1, 2007 5:52:59 PM

Perhaps all the memory is dying? Had any power cuts recently? It could also be a motherboard problem as you say, but there's no real way to test it without simply swapping out either ram and mobo and seeing what effect that has. What PSU do you have? Have you had the ram overclocked?
September 2, 2007 10:55:58 PM

I have had a couple power outs lately. Though the problem has been in effect for a year. My PSU is the one that came with my system when I bought it 4 years ago. It has never shown any problems. I am pretty sure it is not my memory. It has to be my Mobo or PSU.
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a c 104 } Memory
September 3, 2007 12:25:39 AM

It is unwise to mix memory vendors, particularly with different voltages. Some motherboards are very sensitive to this. Try running memtest on each stick individually in the first slot to test the individual sticks. Try running your system with only a matched pair of good sticks from the same vendor.
September 3, 2007 12:31:56 AM

I Have done that. I tested a 1GB Kingston module in slot 1. I tested an A-Data 1GB module in slot 1. Both failed Memtest at 21% of its first pass. I have not mixed vendors at all. I have tried to raise my motherboards voltage by .1 and .2, neither worked with either A-Data or Kingston.
a c 104 } Memory
September 3, 2007 12:41:52 AM

21% with both types is very strange. If you get the same results in slot 2, then it may be time to RMA the motherboard.
September 3, 2007 12:43:17 AM

On older systems mixing Ram does not work well. I recommend never mixing Ram. Try taking out all of your Ram and pulling the battery out of the motherboard for atleast 3 mins. That will reset the cmos and it will rerecognize your ram. Sometimes just swapping them out just confuses the system. While doing this try one stick at a time and resetting with the battery trick each time. This should allow you to test each ram stick without freezing at the same spot.

Possibly a bad PSU. Did it start acting up after a hardware upgrade? Fing a PSU calculator on the net and see if you have enough watts. You could also buy a cheap PSU tester under $10.00 on Ebay. I bad wire and it can cause problems.

Check the motherboard for bulging or leaking capacitors.

Clean the contacts on the ram with a pencil eraser to get rid of any black marks.
September 3, 2007 1:17:57 AM

What exactly is RMA'ing the Mobo? Wow, thanks for all that roadrunner. I'll get right on that, and try different things. Thanks all.
September 3, 2007 1:25:01 AM

The simplest thing to do would be to borrow some ram that you know works, from a buddy or colleague or someone and see if that has the same effect.

As roadrunner says testing the PSU and looking for bulging or leaking capacitors on mobo would help.

Where did you buy this system? Would you be able to find out which make and model of PSU you have?
September 3, 2007 1:27:42 AM

RMAing the mobo means sending it back to the original manufacturer if it is still under warranty, to be replaced.
September 3, 2007 2:37:41 AM

Took out ram then battery and let sit for 3 minutes. I put the battery back in and started my computer up. I did this with my A-Data 1gb modules with one in dimm slot 1 and another in dimm slot 3, I have 3 DIMM slots total. I immediately ran memtest. My A-Data RAM is DDR400, though memtest recognized it as DDR334 running single channel. This I do not understand because my system is capable of dual channel. It got to 21% of test 7 during the first pass and errors started showing up. Just like the other tests. How do I check for bulging and leaking capacitors? There were no black marks on any of my ram modules that I could tell. I then took my A-Data ram out and reset CMOS again, then restarted with a 1GB Kingston RAM module in the first DIMM slot. Same thing, 21% of test 7 during first pass. All my modules are DDR400, which is what my Motherboard uses. When I run memtest my A-Data 1GB modules show up as DDR334 and my Kingston 1GB modules show up as DDR400.
September 3, 2007 4:09:10 AM

You posted the wrong board. I looked it up and it has 4 slots for ram. Capacitors are easy to tell if they are leaking, or bulging. They should be flat. Is your Ram DDR or DDR2? DDR wont run dual channel. You still got the 512 Ram you could try? Have you overclocked? Try setting Bios to defaults.
September 3, 2007 4:57:59 AM

On my Motherboard it has 3 DIMM slots and right beside the first one it says GA-K8N-PRO. My RAM is DDR. My motherboard uses DDR. I have not oc'ed anything. I tried updating my BIOS but that did not work. How can I straight reset the BIOS? Appreciate the information.
September 3, 2007 5:20:36 AM

Should be an option in the Bios to set defaults.
I just realized you have a pretty hefty video card. You said your video and ram is only things not stock. What kind is your computer? Odds are it has a 250 watt psu. Which is not enough. You need a good branded psu in the 450 to 550 range depending on how many drives you have.
September 3, 2007 5:33:08 AM

I got it from IbuyPower in October 2003, it came with a RADEON 9800 PRO. I upgraded to the X800 PRO in 2005. I had stock RAM with the X800 PRO up until last summer when I upgraded my RAM for the first time. I did not have any problems until I installed the 1GB Kingston value module last summer. The it started crashing randomly like it does, that's what leads me to think it has to have something to do with my memory. My PSU is stock, though I have not had any problems until my first memory upgrade last summer. Now I am just running a 1GB A-Data module in DIMM slot 1. I have 1 DVD/RW drive and 1 120GB HD. I'll try resetting the BIOS.
a b } Memory
September 3, 2007 5:40:56 AM

Can you use just ONE DDR stick at a time, not both of the 512mb's ones? If you just try and use ONE DDR stick in slot one and try running Memtest, maybe you'll get a good pass with one of the 512mb sticks.
Your stock voltage for the ADATA is 2.5V and the Kingston is 2.6V. I'm betting that the mobo defaults to 2.5V and the ADATA likes to have maybe 2.6V or something like that to run at 400mHz (just a guess here). When you pull out the CMOS battery, for 3 min., this action SHOULD reset your mobo settings to the default settings (which could cause your DDR to run in single channel mode). Not sure exactly where you can set your dual channel mode in your BIOS, but there should be an option there to enable the dual channel features (I believe). Now if your BIOS got corrupted (which I think might be possible) you might not be able to reset the BIOS fully. I know that if your BIOS got corrupted (maybe by a power outage or something like that) you can always buy a NEW BIOS chip online, from various companies, and install that into your mobo, but I'm not sure that would necessarially be the right troubleshooting method for your problem. So here's what I would try.
1) Install only 1 ADATA 512mb memory chip into slot 1 (after reseting BIOS chip) and run Memtest.
2) If first ADATA chip fails, try the 2nd ADATA 512mb chip in slot 1 (after resetting BIOS again)
3) Try putting in a known good DDR chip from a friend or from another system into slot 1 (after reseting BIOS)
4) You could try putting one of your DDR chips into a friends system and see if any of them works or not.
5) buy a new mobo s754 and try it all over again, but this option wouldn't be the best way to handle the situation. You would be better off getting a newer system and transferring your HD's/DVD's to your newer system.
6) Get another PSU from a different system and plug it into your existing system and see if that works or changes anything. You could also get the PSU tester, like roadrunner suggested.
Here's a link for the mobo that he's using, I think
http://www.allstarshop.com/shop/product.asp?pid=8029
Looks like a s754 mobo.

My 2cp's
September 3, 2007 6:26:00 AM

I do not have my 512MB modules anymore. So I can not do that, great suggestion though. I currently do not have any friends who have desktops lol, so SOL there as well. I have a huge gut feeling that it is not my RAM, but merely a setting that has gone a rye on my motherboard or in my BIOS. What kills me is no matter what 1GB module (I have 2 1GB A-Data modules and 3 1GB Kingston modules) I put into my first DIMM slot it always fails at 21% of the first pass in memtest. Even if I put them in the second DIMM slot or just the third, they still all fail at 21% of test 7 during the first pass.
September 3, 2007 6:29:47 AM

Try running one gig for a day or two. If you still have trouble I would try a diff PSU, the one you have isnt all that great especially if you upgrade anymore. If that doesn't fix it you need a new mobo. I'm pretty sure its a psu issue though.
September 3, 2007 7:09:21 AM

I'll consider that, thanks. Might just save up for a new rig since mine is so old.
a b } Memory
September 3, 2007 8:38:52 AM

Currently you can get a s939 (which is a dying/dead platform) x2 CPU and mobo combo at newegg. You would be able to move your memory to it, but your video card would need replaced too. So not sure if you really want to do that. Best scenario would be to get an AM2 x2 CPU and mobo w/memory, GPU, and PSU. Would probably cost you around $400-500 to do. You could transfer your DVD drives and HDD's to the new system.
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