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Unstable system, trying to fix (need help!)

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September 1, 2008 10:08:31 PM

Ok, so I'll summarize here. Built a system somewhere around then end of 2007/start of 2008. Has stability problems, sometimes it can go for quite a while (in terms of days/weeks) without a crash, other times (like yesterday) it can BSOD four times within a few hours.

Have RMAed RAM once, which helped for a very short while. Have already sent a new mail to the place I ordered the parts from, and awaiting their answers. In the meanwhile, I'm troubleshooting even further.

Old ram would give ugly memtest86+ issues, I haven't had time to sit through a proper memtest of the new RAM, although it still BSODs. Suspecting motherboard is messed up, but I'd prefer to prove myself wrong.

Do note that this is a "stock" system, in that it is NOT overclocked, it runs standard coolers, etc. The aim here is NOT to overclock, just make it run stable at "intended" values.


Ok, so I finally went to the BIOS to check some settings, and found that the latency settings for the RAM weren't up to par. The clock speed was correct, but it was running 5-7-7-24. Now, my RAM should be good for 5-5-5-15. If I've understood correctly, running the 5-7-7-24 timing should in theory have made my system more stable, right? Would setting it to 5-5-5-15 somehow help solve my problem (heh, increase performance AND increase stability? sounds too good to be true)?

I also have several other RAM settings that I have no idea what values to give.

Do keep in mind that I've more or less never r tinkered with voltage, latency settings and values in that proximity. Could someone help me out with what values I should be running here?

Current settings:
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5-7-7-24

ACT to ACT Delay (tRRD): 4
Rank Write to READ Delay: 4
Write to Precharge Delay: 8
Refresh to ACT Delay: 68
Read to Precharge Delay: 4
Static tRead Value: 6
Static tRead Phase Adjust: 0
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RAM should be able to run at 5-5-5-15, what should all those other settings be set to?



Quick specs on the rig
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Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3
CPU: Intel Pentium Core 2 Duo E6850 3.0GHz
RAM: Crucial Ballistix 2GB Kit (2x1GB) (BL2KIT12864AA1065) (Specs at bottom of this page: http://shop.crucial.com/1/2/crucial-ballistix-2gb )
GFX: XFX GeForce 8800 GTX 500M
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Also worth noting... is it just me, or are these temperature readings strange? (Pretty much just running Firefox on Vista here):

SYSTEM: 54C
CPU: 33C
CPU CORE0: 24C
CPU CORE 1: 27C

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EDIT: Oh, forgot to ask, is there somewhere to set the DDR2 RAM voltage properly in the BIOS of this board? The nearest thing I can find is the PC Health Status showing an uneditable voltage value that it is running, and the MBIT menu allowing me to overvoltage... however, I can't find anywhere to undervoltage (not that I have any immediate plans to do so, but I'd like to know).

More about : unstable system fix

a c 113 B Homebuilt system
September 1, 2008 10:33:49 PM

Probably the DRAM voltage is automatic and you can then adjust upwards.

First thing to do would be to download and run CPU-Z and check the SPD tab for a list of what your RAM settings should be. You can then adjust in BIOS to match those settings, and see if that helps.

I see nothing very strange about the temps. System might be a bit high. Use RealTemp for accurate temps of the CPU cores.

What case and Power supply?
September 1, 2008 10:34:50 PM

not all motherboards allow voltage adjustments. this is mostly on low-end boards so that n00bs don't fry their components. a P35 board should not be like that however. my suggestion for you would be to reset the bios through the jumper on the motherboard. (check the manual for more detailed info on how to do that). doing that will reset all the bios settings back to default, which may as a result reset a setting that may be causing the instability.
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September 1, 2008 10:41:50 PM

If by system you mean motherboard temp, I'd say you have a problem there. What program are you using to get the temps? Usually the MB temp is lower than the CPU temp.
September 1, 2008 11:19:35 PM

Ok, first things first.

Sorry, I did indeed forget the PSU/Case specs.
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Case: Cooler Master Centurion 534
PSU: Corsair HX520W
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Got myself CPU-Z and brought up the info I could get. Looking at the info (which I've screenshot for you), I end up having two questions.

1. The max. bandwidth... the RAM sticks are PC2-8500. Does it show PC2-6400 due to a limitation of the motherboard or something? Or is there something odd going on here? This goes for both slot #1 and slot #3.

2. I'm still a bit confused as to what values to input in the BIOS. Apart from the regular timings (which I've now set to 5-5-5-15 as per Crucial's specs), you have those "advanced" timings that I mentioned above. Is there anything in that screenshot montage that could help you pick out more specifically what additional settings should be made?



Also, I read a post about someone who'd had a problem with his Gigabyte board, where his BIOS had RAM clock speed set to 800 MHz, which was correct in his case. However, manually setting it to the very same value solved it for him. I was considering trying the same, but when I do that, you have this nice and fancy flashing title in red in the bios saying "System voltage not optimized". I'm guessing it wouldn't be harmful to do that (after all, the values should theoretically be exactly the same whether I set the clock speed to auto, or manually set them to 1066), but I don't have the money to shell out if I mess something up and void warranties. Are there anything else I should check there?

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@Nik_I: Unfortunately, resetting CMOS has been tried... and tried, and tried, and tried... :\

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@Calinkula: Indeed, that was what confused me. Well, it says system temp in the BIOS, so that should indeed be the motherboard. Problem is, I have no efficient way of cooling it further... on the other hand, as long as I haven't overclocked the stock cooling should in theory be sufficient.

I can note that I have been working on getting a decent airflow in the case, having gotten a majority of the cables running through cable channels along the case bottom and walls as to get them almost completely out of the way, and trying to get a decently balanced CFM intake/outtake. Of course, the HDD placement isn't the most fortunate considering that it is blocking the way for the main intake fan.
a c 113 B Homebuilt system
September 1, 2008 11:48:32 PM

Your FSB is at 333, so your RAM should be as well.

Use the settings from jedec #2 (on the SPD tab). This will put your actual RAM speed at 667.

As far as the PC2-6400 designation... yeah well technically you just have RAM that is guaranteed to overclock to 1066... that's the way it works.

Not saying this will solve your problems, but it's a good place to start.
a c 113 B Homebuilt system
September 1, 2008 11:50:43 PM

Oh, and take off the side of the case and point a desk fan into it.... if your MB is overheating that should improve things quickly.
September 1, 2008 11:53:51 PM

According to the Crucial website you need 5-5-5-15 timings @ 2.2v for your RAM at stock. Don't worry about it saying PC-6400, I run some Kingston PC 8500(ie 1066 Mhz) on a Asus p5k SE and it shows up as PC-6400. Looking at your CPU-Z your RAM is running at the right speed.

I looked at your case on Newegg and as long as you have 1 120mm fan blowing in and 1 120mm blowing out you should be good on the airflow.

Check your north bridge heat sink and make sure that the heat sink hasn't pulled away. (even a very very very slight space would cause a problem) If you have a gap there it would explain your high MB temps.

September 2, 2008 12:28:38 AM

I do recall having tried the desk fan method, albeit I can't remember the results anymore :p  Guess I'll try it again later. Same goes for reseating the NB heatsink (I'd also need to go grab some more paste). Heck, I should really have been sleeping by now.

The biggest problem is that I don't have a consistent way of triggering the errors. As said, it can BSOD 4 times within a few hours, or go a week or possibly more without any issues. This means that it's hard to figure whether it would be the desktop fan working the mojo, or the random hand of fate.

Well, I usually have 1 rear exhaust, 1 front intake (which is unfortunately partially obstructed by the HDD bay) and 1 wall-mounted intake blowing towards the PCI cards. All of those are 120mm.

I have also as a temporary measure, and in a very very sloppy way mounted twin 80mm over two 5.25" bays as extra intakes.

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Hmm, the NB being the culprit does seem logical, consider that although I have been given tons of other random errors, a good third and possibly more have seemed to be memory related.

On the other hand, I have seen it even complaining about my discs, despite them having been thoroughly checked for errors several times.
September 2, 2008 12:45:08 AM

Well, I looked on the Gigabyte website and checked the QVL for RAM. Your RAM wasn't on the list, but that doesn't mean it won't work. If you think it's the RAM, clock the RAM down to 800Mhz, try only one stick and try different slots. Swap sticks if you still have a problem.

IMO you have too much CFM in and not enough CFM out. Personally, I like to have at least twice the CFM blowing out as I do blowing in.

My setup is 27 CFM in, 63 CFM out and an E8200 @ 3.6 hitting about 55C on full load.
September 2, 2008 9:35:38 AM

Indeed, my CFM in at the moment is much higher than CFM out, but that is a temporary, "emergency" solution. The CFM was fairly balanced until I added the twin 80/80 in front, however, the twin 80/80s was a succesful experiment in that it did take off 2-3 degrees from the system temp.

One of the reasons I did so was due to the HDD bay near the intake. Although it had a higher CFM in, a good deal of the air from the front fan would get lost due to the HDD bay pushing the air closer to vent holes, whilst the HDD placement would have warmed up some of the air quite a bit.

It is a temporary solution however (just as a desktop fan wouldn't be a permanent one). This twin 80s solution was installed while I was on the forums here yesterday, so I did have a decently balanced CFM before (yay for unevenly performing fans :p  ).

Now, my long term plan is to exchange my exhaust fan for a more powerful one, move the HDDs up to the 5.25" slots and install HDD fans, and possibly cut out a 120 hole on top of my machine to create another exhaust port.

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As for the RAM, that is one thing I didn't check when ordering, but I did mail the company I ordered from who assured me it should work. However, I should indeed have checked it.
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