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Installing second 512MB RAM stick, Reboot loop...

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September 15, 2008 10:55:31 PM

I have an FIC P4M-800T MoBo, and Award Bios: VTA426 from the FIC factory. I know there's an upgrade available, but I don't know how to upgrade my bios, and I don't know that that would fix my big problem anyway... My computer has been running for a while on 512MB 400MHz PC3200 DDR RAM and I just got around to upgrading it... Supposedly, what I bought is also PC3200, but I don't know how to confirm that as the sticker on the RAM stick itself doesn't say. Both of my sticks of RAM work fine, I've run them both in the computer, and I've done a Mem Test on them both, and had found no errors... But any time I put them into the board together, I get stuck in an eternal reboot loop. I have NO clue how to fix this, and I've been looking for the answer for almost 2 full days now... What can I do to stop this and be able to use both sticks of RAM?

FIC P4M-800T
Intel Celeron 2.6 GHz
Windows XP SP3

If there's anything else you need to know, don't hesitate to ask... Though it may be a while before I get back to you depending on the time as I live in Czech Republic and I'm about to go to bed now...

BTW... Does anyone know where I can find a manual for my MoBo?

Thanx
September 16, 2008 12:13:54 AM

Something similar happened to me recently. Check with the maker(s) of your RAM and find out the maximum voltage you can safely put them at. Then slowly step up the voltage on the RAM until it's stable, but don't go over the max. The lower the better.
This is of course after you find a new BIOS, and only if it doesn't fix it. As for how to do it, it really depends a lot on your mobo. When you first turn your computer on, the very first screen that comes up should tell you how to do it. It's usually pushing delete or f12 or something like that.

Hope this helps, good luck
September 16, 2008 12:27:32 AM

If the 2 sticks of ram aren't the same then you can run into compatibility issues with them, for example they could have different timings or voltage requirements, or they could just be incompatible.

You can try increasing the voltages (but as Icaley said not to more then the maximum voltage) and lower the timings of the ram (normally i would say to 5-5-5-15 but i believe that it is different for ddr ram compared to ddr2 ram, however that would be a place to start)
Related resources
September 16, 2008 5:52:43 AM

Whoa... Looks like I have some serious reading to do! lol You guys are talking about stuff that is WAY beyond my knowledge. I appreciate the help, and I'll see about reading up on the suggestions you've made and see what I can do. If it works, I'll let you know... If I blow it up... I won't have a computer, so I won't let you know... hahaha

Thanx
September 16, 2008 6:03:02 AM

lol. I am deathly tired right now but when i get on tomorrow ill write a post that explains all of that in much more detail.

Cheers!
September 16, 2008 12:55:51 PM

@kyeana... I greatly appreciate any assistance you can offer... I've been getting real tired of people telling me to google the answers to my questions... The internet may be the a repository of the majority of human knowledge, and google may be a great search engine, but when I type a search and over a million pages come up to offer me their knowledge... It's time to just ask someone! lol
September 16, 2008 4:19:41 PM

Yeah google can be a bit daunting, especially when you're only looking for one specific bit of knowledge. I'm in a good time zone right now, so I'll help out with what I can.

Only progress through these steps as far as you need to in order to fix the problem. (ie, if step 1 fixes it, steps 2 - where ever I stop at aren't necessary)

First off, I'd say to go to your mobo manufacturer's page and see what you can find on your mobo (this is a learning experience, right? I'll guide you carefully.. :)  ) The VERY first thing to do is download that BIOS update and find out how to install it. My guess is that will fix it, but you never know.

Second step is to install a program called CPU-Z. It will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about your motherboard, cpu, ram, etc. It will let you know the speed and timing of your current stick of RAM and your new one. Hopefully they match, if not, it's not the end of the world, it just makes it more difficult.

Third step I'd say is to relax your timings. When you turn your computer on, go into the BIOS and find out how to set the timings. I don't know if you have DDR or DDR2. If it's DDR2, set them to 5-5-5-15. I don't know what the setting for DDR is, so maybe someone else could fill this info in for me, or I imagine wikipedia has some good info on this.

Fourth step, is to use that info from CPU-Z to look up your RAM manufacturer(s) and get the max voltage for those RAM chips. After you find out what it is (mine is 1.9V, to give you an idea), CAREFULLY go into your BIOS and find out how you manually set the voltage for your RAM. Every BIOS is different, so I can't tell you how yours works, but mine lets you manually type in numbers. Some give you a drop-down-type box and you pick. Either way, make very small increments (like .05V or smaller) until you find a stable state. But DO NOT go over what the manufacturer says you should. This IS possible, but will make your chips run warm/hot, and will greatly reduce the life of them.

After you've done all of these things, if it still doesn't work like you'd like it to, it may be time for a new mobo (get another opinion first though).

Hope this helps. I'm about to go to work, so I'll try to keep up on this thread, but no promises for several hours.

Good luck, feel free to PM me with questions also.
September 16, 2008 6:27:02 PM

Thanx for the assist! I greatly appreciate the help AND the patience! :) 

Step 1: I actually started doing that last night, and I've been working on it all day today... I went to the FIC BIOS update page, that tells how to do it,
http://www.fic.com.tw/support/motherboard/doc/procedure...
and I downloaded the correct BIOS version, and I followed the instruction thoroughly... Or as thoroughly as I understood them. I thought I understood them pretty well, but I obviously missed something... I had to start another thread in here asking about that:
http://www.fic.com.tw/support/motherboard/doc/procedure...
Anyway, I can't continue with the first step until I figure out that problem, and I'm searching and asking every place I can think of...

Step 2: Love this program! If someone could combine CPU-Z with Belarc Adviser, they'd have a serious tool there... Anyway... I downloaded CPU-Z and I did find a couple of differences, but I don't know what they mean... Both modules are 512MB 400MHz PC3200 DDR1. On the Ram Timings page, the DRAM Frequency is the same for both (166.3MHz) as is the FSB:D RAM (FSB+66MHz) but they differ slightly from there:
CAS# Latency: Old 3.0, New 2.5
RAS# to CAS#: Old 3, New 3
RAS Precharge: Old 3, New 2
Cycle Time: Old 5, New 6

On the Timings Table, the new module had readings for 2 parameters: 133MHz - 200MHz
2.0 2.5
2 3
2 3
5 7

And the old one had readings for 3 parameters:
133MHz - 166MHz - 200MHz
2.0 2.5 3.0
2 3 3
2 3 3
6 7 8

And all parameters for both modules had a voltage reading of 2.5V

I hope that looks as decent after it's posted as it does now... lol

I'm not going to deal with Step 3 or 4 until I hear from you, as I don't want to get ahead of myself... If I'm still going to flash the BIOS, there's not much of a point, is there? Unless changing the voltage and the timings would prevent the need to flash the BIOS... Either way, I don't know enough about it to go ahead at the moment... lol

Thanx again... You have no idea how much I appreciate all the help!
September 17, 2008 1:06:45 AM

If you fix the voltages and timings, it IS possible that the BIOS flash isn't necessary, but its always a good thing to do.

Just so you get the most out of this, let me explain the memory timings to you just a bit. There are a lot of different timings (as you've seen) but the important ones are those first 4 you gave me: CAS# Latency, RAS# to CAS#, RAS Precharge, Cycle Time. They are usually denoted in a X-X-X-X, for example your old chip would be noted as 3-3-3-5, and you new one would be 2.5-3-2-6. If you're setting your timings, you need to set each setting as the higher number, so you should change your settings to 3-3-3-6.

As far as the BIOS goes, I still think that needs to be done first. Unfortunately, the link you gave me to the post on the FIC site is the same as the first link to the "how to" page.

From reading the how to, my first question to you is: You do have a floppy drive, right?

You're welcome ;)  glad to help.
September 17, 2008 6:11:10 AM

Lol... Yeah, I have a floppy drive... In fact, I've made a Startup Disk with the updated BIOS, and another with the version I currently have, just in case the attempt to save my current BIOS failed, I wanted to have a backup. On top of that, when all the problems with flashing the BIOS started, I also created another disk with nothing on it but the new BIOS.

Just to be clear, here's what I've done, along with the problems I've had:

1. Created MS DOS Startup Disk and placed flash833.exe and vta473cf3.bin on the startup disk. Tried to flash BOIS. When trying to save the original, I was told there wasn't enough room on the floppy. (With the Startup Disk and the other files, there is 1.33MB of info on the Disk and the old BIOS is 512KB.)

2. Tried again, using the same disk, but this time I chose N instead, so it wouldn't save a copy of the old BIOS. It went straight to the message, "Source File Not Found". I assumed it meant the new BIOS. Yes, I'm sure that the new BIOS was on the disk.

3. Using another newly created Startup Disk, I tried saving it to a Floppy that didn't have the new files on it. This time it managed to save but, obviously, I got the same "Source File Not Found" message.

4. Using a newly formatted disk, I placed the flash833.exe and the vta473cf3.bin on the floppy, without the Startup files. I used the Startup Disk to boot into DOS, then switched the floppy when it came time to perform the flash. I successfully saved the original BIOS, but I let the computer run, flashing the message "PLEASE WAIT!" for just over 3 hours before I finally just stopped it. I didn't know it had successfully saved the BIOS until I got back into windows.

If you like, here's the correct link to the other post, though I don't think I missed anything, and I think this is actually a bit more clear... At least to me... lol http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/forum/252930-12-problems-... Sorry about that, btw...

As far as I understand, I've done everything properly, and I've done everything I can think of... For now, since I can't perform the flash, I'm going to go try dealing with the timings. If that works, great... If I still need to flash the BIOS (to be honest I'd like to do it regardless, by now, just because it has completely annoyed me!) then I can always readjust the timings in the new BIOS if I need to...

Thanx!
September 17, 2008 6:18:34 AM

Looks like we're both actually online now. How old is this mobo, just for reference? It sounds to me like you've done everything right with the BIOS. I think I'd try to contact your manufacturer and see what they say about it. They might have some magic trick for your model or something.

Did you find out the max voltage on your RAM chips? 2.5V is already pretty high, I mentioned earlier that mine only run at 1.9V.
September 17, 2008 6:33:54 AM

I've contacted the U.S. offices and they told me that I needed to contact the Czech offices for this particular MoBo... I have to wait for my fiancée to be able to do that since she's Czech and the only Czech I can say is "nemluvim cesky" or "I don't speak Czech". lol

On their site, though, I can't even find a manual for my board, and I know that the computer was bought by my in-laws in 2003 or 2004 or so. My other system died on me, and I'm stuck using this one until I can get my Baby back together! lol

I haven't found the max voltage yet, I was just about to try that again in just a few minutes... The problem I'm having with that is, I can't seem to find much info on all this ancient tech... Anyway... I'm thinking of just calling the manufacturers to ask them... I know one of them is a British company and I think the other is in the U.S. so I can handle that, as long as I remember the time differences. hahaha
September 17, 2008 6:38:25 AM

Yeah, I think everything else is kind of on hold (except the timings, they aren't too dangerous) until we know a little more about the hardware. It's almost 2:00 am here, so I'm about to go to bed. I'll check the thread in the morning. Good luck with your research. :D 
September 17, 2008 6:41:48 AM

Cool... Thanx again for all the help... I'll post again as soon as I find the max voltage...
September 17, 2008 7:43:20 AM

I haven't been able to find any specific info about my specific RAM modules, but according to wikipedia, as well as pretty much everything else I've found, the accepted voltage range for the specs my RAM have is 2.6v give or take 0.1v.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DDR400#Specification_stand...

Knowing that, I'm going to try dealing with the timings now...
September 17, 2008 7:46:06 AM

I haven't quite made it to bed yet, but yeah, I agree with the timings. If you decide to push your RAM to higher voltage, do it carefully. When mine was messed up, it only needed an extra .05V to get it stable, and I haven't had a single problem since then.
September 17, 2008 9:10:03 AM

Well... I just learned a very valuable lesson... Never trust a "buddy" when it comes to your computer... A "buddy" of mine came over while I was posting that last message... He read the entire thread and decided that he knew how to handle the situation, and he actually thought it was funny that I did not. Moron... He went in to setup, went into the DIMM control settings and changed "CLOCK" from "BY SPD" to either 166MHz or 200MHz (he can not remember which) and changed "TIMING" from "MANUAL" to "TURBO". Then he rebooted. When the screen came up that tells you to press DEL to enter setup or ESC to cancel mem test, it froze up. I have tried rebooting about 20 times since then and it always freezes at that screen. I have tried changing the RAM, booting with the Startup Disk I made... I even tried removing the CMOS battery and waiting 2 minutes to replace it. I can not get into setup or anything else.

Luckily, I had this old POS laptop laying around that I keep for spare parts... It has a busted screen and it is locked in Czech typing mode, so I am having a very difficult time typing right now, even thought the only things that are different are the Z and Y are switched and the punctuation is weird... Anyway... I connected it to my monitor, keyboard and mouse and was able to post here...

I don't have time to wait for an answer, so I'm posting this just in case I can't find an answer elsewhere. lol

Anyway... Thanx again for all the help, and I look forward to your next bits of advice... More now than ever before! hahaha

About the timings, real quick... I didn't find much that I recognized from this thread or from the CPU=Z program (I don't know where the dash is in Czech). I found the CAS Latency, and it was set to 3 (this was with me trying to deal with those settings with BOTH RAM modules in it) but the other parameters were different:

Current FSB Frequency: 100MHz
Current DRAM Frequency: 200MHz
DRAM Clock: By SPD (Until my friend got a hold of it, anyway...)
DRAM Timing: Manual (See above remark about moronic friend)
DRAM CAS Latency: 3
Bank Interleave: Disabled
Precharge to Active(Trp): 4T
Active to Precharge(Tras): 9T
Active to CMD(Trcd): 5T
DRAM Command Rate: 2T Command
DRAM Burst Len: 4
Write Recovery Time: 2T

If that is the wrong screen, I have yet to find the right one, and of that is the correct screen, I have to discover how the one set of parameters translates to this and vice versa...

Sleep well... :) 
September 17, 2008 2:14:31 PM

My guess is that those timings are probably ok, however, there has to be a way to set them manually. That probably isn't your real problem though.

Seems we have a new problem though. On the mobo, there should some exposed pins with something printed on the PCB by them. Look for things like "RESET" or "CLR_CMOS" or something like that. It should have a little jumper (the best way to do this is to read the manual, but that's tough in this situation) just switch the jumper for like 2 minutes and then put it back, and theoretically, that should put your BIOS back to stock settings.
September 17, 2008 2:40:27 PM

Ok... THAT problem is solved... Right after I posted here, I posted in Yahoo! Answers (sometimes, they're helpful) and it was suggested that I turn off the computer and power supply, unplug it and remove the CMOS battery for an hour or so, so I did all that and went into town for lunch with my fiancée for a few hours... I came back, put it all back together, and it's alive once again... Which kind of sucks, really... I was looking forward to getting a new motherboard! lol

Anyway, thanx for the help on that, and we're back to the original problem... Perhaps I need a new motherboard, after all? lol

September 17, 2008 5:35:55 PM

New motherboard is definitely an option that would help the most. What are the specs for the rest of the machine? You might (depending on the use of the machine) be able to build a whole new PC for not very much money. I know DDR motherboards are getting tough to find.
September 17, 2008 5:49:13 PM

Yeah, the money is the biggest problem... When my machine died, I had to buy this one from my "mother-in-law". It is a total POS, so my fiancée and I wanted to upgrade it a bit, so we bought the RAM, a Sapphire HD 3650 AGP 8X video card and a new power supply... We bought all of that because we could just put it all in the existing system... That has not been the case, however... The power supply is in and running fine, but without the RAM, we can't use the video card... Since we can't afford a processor, I'm working to find a MoBo that will accommodate a Pentium 4 Celeron 2.60GHz (socket 478 according to CPU-Z) and my AGP 8X video card, and DDR RAM... As you said... It's not easy... Thus the reason I'm frantically trying to figure out how to flash the BIOS... Hopefully, I'll get one of the 2 done before too long. I've got some games that are waiting for me to install this new video card! lol
September 17, 2008 5:54:31 PM

I don't know how online shipping is in Czech Land, but this is the ONLY one on Newegg. At least it might give you a model number to work off of.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Again, I don't know pricing on ANYTHING over there, but over here, you can get a decent set of mobo/DDR2/cpu for ~$200. It MIGHT be worth just using one stick of RAM until you can get the cash saved up for an upgrade. Especially if you can't get that BIOS figured out (very weird by the way).
September 17, 2008 6:05:56 PM

Cool... I'll check that out. I appreciate all the help...
September 18, 2008 9:23:24 AM

Update: The BIOS has been successfully flashed, the system is stable and running BOTH RAM modules!

My problem was in typing the entire name of the .bin file... I was writing "vta473cf3.bin" but DOS wouldn't accept that... I finally remembered my old DOS lessons, and got the directory of the floppy and saw that DOS was listing the file as "vta473~1.bin" (or something similar...) so I typed it that way, and it worked with no problems...
September 18, 2008 1:15:16 PM

Oh ok good! That's totally strange that they would let it do that.

Congrats on getting it working! :D 
!