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How to diagnose PSU failure?

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March 3, 2009 4:02:45 PM

Howdy,

I just assembled a new gaming rig. Runs great, except during Fallout 3 when it will randomly restart in the middle of gameplay. I've read that the PSU has caused this for others , but I'd like to make sure before I go through the RMA nightmare. Is there a way to diagnose this?

i7 920
Gigabyte X58
hec Zephyr 750w,
EVGA X260 superclocked
etc.


Thanks

More about : diagnose psu failure

March 3, 2009 6:28:31 PM

Unless you can measure the power output at the time its crashing its hard to diagnose what the problem might be. You could pull it out, hot wire the power good (green wire) to a ground to get it running, and then check the specs on each line for voltage but it may not be conclusive.

That PSU should be adequate for what you are doing. BUT, I have never heard of that brand until just now. Is it possible that you are overloading one of the 12v rails when gaming? That PSU has 4 12v rails. Its is possible, depending on hows it designed, however unlikely, that you have every single device in the machine hooked up to 1 of the 12v rails. I personally despise multiple rail PSUs as you never really have the full wattage on tap that you have a with a large single rail unless your using every rail.

My personal advice is try to return it on the grounds its faulty. Newegg is a decent company. Take the money from the return, and buy a Corsair or PC Power & Cooling 750 watt unit and dont look back.

2 things you never cheap out on when building a PC:
Power Supply
Motherboard
Its possible you took the cheap road with the PSU.
March 3, 2009 6:32:56 PM

One other thing. HECs replies to negative reports on Newegg are not stellar by any means. Looks like alot of cheap cop out answers....
Related resources
March 3, 2009 7:17:45 PM

As far as the rails go, both video card plugs are on the same rail so there's no way around that. CPU rail isn't a choice, either so the only variables are the HD and optical drives which should have minimal draw I would think.

I think I'm just going to return it and go with the Corsair, either 750 or 850. I goofed up by starting a budget build then not sticking with the plan. In the end the only budget stuff left was PSU and RAM. Lesson learned.

Thanks, mates.
March 3, 2009 10:50:01 PM

Since we're on this topic, how can you tell the difference between a failing PSU and one that just doesn't have the juice for your hardware?

Heres my situation: (and this may help you out a bit too Meconium since I describe how I found my power problem)

I recently upgraded my PC with more memory and a new sound card. I was having stability issues that I initially blamed on Creative Sound blaster Drivers. After an hour or so of use, the system would become unstable, first by losing sound, freezing, etc. I tried a bunch of different drivers for the sound card until I finally gave up and went back to my onboard sound. I went into my bios to re-enable my onboard sound and noticed one of the voltage readings in the red. The 3.3V rail was at 2.9V.

I took my PSU voltage tester out and pluged it up, it read 3.36V. I pluged the PSU back into the motherboard, checked the bios and it was no longer in red... but it was low. 3.05V.

I reinstalled the sound card, and ran my computer while running Everest and monitored the 3.3V rail. At idle it was at 3.06. I did a stress test and it dropped slightly to 3.02. I ran that test for only about 15 minutes. I then just let it sit idle, checking every so often to see if the sound dropped like it had been doing. Finally I saw the voltage drop to 2.90 and when it did the sound went out. So there, I found my problem... it's power related.

So what does that mean? Is the power supply having issues or am I pushing it too hard? Heres my setup:

Antec TPQ-850 850W PSU
Asus P5E3 Delux Wi-fi
4GB Corsir DDR3
Intel Q6600 Quad Core
Two HIS Hightech ATI Radeon 2900XT 1GB DDR4 running in Crossfire
Sound Blaster X-fi Titanium Fatal1ty
Koolance INX720BK Watercooling Kit Cooling the processor and the two video cards
A few fans, black lights, Case has a LCD thingy on the front with temp readouts.

I've checked a few PSU calculators online but I recieved different info from the different sites. One said I needed around 750 Watts while another said I need close to 1000 Watts. Do I upgrade or do I RMA?
March 4, 2009 3:01:49 PM

Nez

Creative FTL :pfff:  Dump it and just use the onboard. I seriously doubt, unless you have an incredible set of headphones or speakers you can tell the difference in quality. Id be willing to bet its a driver issue more than anything in this case especially if your using Vista.

The 3v rail means jack anymore in current PCs. Almost everything runs on the 12v rail now. I wouldnt worry about that. 850 watts is plenty and that Antec unit is decent. Make sure you are spreading the load on your 12v rails across all 4 rails. Antec may or may not have special instructions on wiring Xfire or SLI setups. Depending on how the PSU is wired you may be stressing 1 or 2 rails very hard and its causing a thermal shutdown. Ill say this again as it merits repeating, I dislike multi rail PSUs.

As far as the crashing goes. I would strip the PC down as far as possible. Nix the Xfire, soundcard, extra fans and lights. Get it just running on a HD, CPU, and a single videocard. Get the most current version of your video driver installed making sure you completely remove the old driver. (Note: Im still running 8.12 ATI drivers for Xfire as they seem the most stable in my machines. Look at my machines under More Info under my name.) Once you have driver installed, run something that will stress your 3d system to the max. If its OK, add the second videocard and run another test. If stable, add the sound card, install current drivers and retest.

Tracking down crash issues is painfull, but you need to be thorough in your testing or youll never get it narrowed down.

Best of luck.
March 4, 2009 7:14:04 PM

Kaldor, thanks for the advice.

One thing I forgot to mention was that after I removed the sound card and went back to my onboard I was still having stability issues. While playing a game I would have a BSOD and once while sitting idle in windows the system froze in a very pixelated and colorful manner. That had me rule out it being an issue with the creative driver since the sound card wasn't even physically installed. Windows Vista said it was the video drivers that caused the issue... but isn't it always?

Yet another thing I forgot to mention was that I've also done a memory upgrade a few days before I installed the sound card. I need to rule that out as a possible problem as well.

I could be wrong, but I believe system memory runs off of 3.3V. If that is under voltage then that could cause an issue.

The reason for the card was (other than Creative's Env. Audio) was the Dolby Digital and DTS. I use my computer on a receiver via optical cables. The onboard only outputs stereo sound through it's optical port.

I will take your advice in trying to narrow down the problem by running light and adding until I have problems. I'll post back here in a few hours with an update.
March 4, 2009 7:57:27 PM

Yeah, you should have said about the memory thing right away. What are you running for ram? And are all 4 slots full? If you have all 4 slots full, and your ram is rated at 1.8v, you may need to tweak your RAM voltage up .1-.2 to get it up and running stable. Some mobos have issues with all slots full. By default now when I install more than 2 sticks of RAM in a PC I tweak the voltage .1 before I even load into Windows.

Interesting on the sound card too. I dislike Creative though. I have run sound from my 4850 thru HDMI cable into the back of my reciever then to the TV. Thats probably the best solution if its possible to do it.
March 5, 2009 1:08:24 PM

Yes all memory slots are taken up. I had to do a bios update in order for it to read the new memory chips. Unfortunatly I have to use memory with 2 different clock speeds, 1066 and 1333. (The 1066 was no longer available). Its my understanding that the motherboard would just downclock the 1333, which according to the bios it did. The Q6600 only runs at that bus speed anyway but do you think that could contribute to the problem?

I was unable to work on the computer at all last night. Wife Aggro. :kaola: 

My audio reciever does not have HDMI inputs. Best it has is optical. I wish I could run the HDMI though the video card, it would have made life easier. I do plan on a better audio setup in the future.
March 7, 2009 11:35:40 AM

Quick update:

I was testing my system with components removed. Everything was going OK until I got back to have both video cards installed. When I tried to enable crossfire one card would fail. Vista claimed incompatible driver for the failed card. I went back and ran one card at a time and they ran fine. I tried to go back to both and windows crashed on start up. Went back to one card, windows still crashed on startup. Now no mater what the setup, I cannot get into windows. Can't get into Safe Mode either. I popped in my windows disk and tried to do a repair. Got a blue screen: PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA. (Or close to that message)

So what started as difficulty installing a sound card has turned into a nightmare. I've been monitoring voltages through BIOS as well, they were fine. Needless to say, I don't think its PSU. :( 
a b ) Power supply
March 7, 2009 1:48:26 PM

Nezacant said:
I went into my bios to re-enable my onboard sound and noticed one of the voltage readings in the red. The 3.3V rail was at 2.9V.

I took my PSU voltage tester out and pluged it up, it read 3.36V. I pluged the PSU back into the motherboard, checked the bios and it was no longer in red... but it was low. 3.05V.

I reinstalled the sound card, and ran my computer while running Everest and monitored the 3.3V rail. At idle it was at 3.06. I did a stress test and it dropped slightly to 3.02. I ran that test for only about 15 minutes. I then just let it sit idle, checking every so often to see if the sound dropped like it had been doing. Finally I saw the voltage drop to 2.90 and when it did the sound went out. So there, I found my problem... it's power related.


Software readings are meaningless.
March 7, 2009 3:07:57 PM

theAnimal said:
Software readings are meaningless.


So are men's nipples but they're there anyway.
March 7, 2009 3:18:31 PM

Another update:

Installed an IDE HD and I'm now in the process of installing windows on it so that I can retrieve my data from my RAID 0 before I reformat.
March 7, 2009 5:38:10 PM

Installed A Corsair 750w and all is well. With rebate it costs about as much as the "cheap" one. Now to pay for shipping and await my refund.
March 8, 2009 1:34:12 PM

Nice Mec, I'm glad it worked out for ya. ;) 

Now on my end, I backed up my data and reinstalled windows. It's running on minimal hardware. I allowed it to sit idle over night. When I woke up this morning the computer was frozen. I hard rebooted and it hard restarted while trying to boot into windows. I went into bios to take a look at the voltages again. That 3.3V was low again. I tried once more to boot into windows. I got in and reinstalled everest. Checked the voltage there and sure enough the voltage on the 3.3 is low. Now nothing other than windows is installed (Well and Everest now) and I'm running on minimal hardware. I'm positive its the PSU. I'm going to RMA this power supply.

Thanks to everyone who tried to help. I'll update later on after the power supply is installed.
March 24, 2009 1:32:46 PM

Final Update:

Replaced that power supply and now everything is running great again. No problems at all after running the computer for 72 hours straight. So much for software readings being meaningless. ;) 
!