Since replacing my motherboard with a brand-new one, I have been absolutely confounded by crashes that tend to happen either at the startup of most programs or about 10 minutes in. Normally, I would guess this was a problem with the RAM sticks themselves, but I have tried it with both the old "bad" memory, with two brand-new sticks of identical memory in their place, and with all four sticks together and gotten the same results:
Attempt #1: Installed new motherboard. System booted/loaded slowly and would either freeze at program open (no error, just froze) or a few minutes into program (memory dump). Tried reinstalling all drivers, reseating memory, etc., no improvement.
Attempt #2: Opened case and discovered hard drive improperly connected to SATA port. Reconnected properly; problem persisted. Reinstalled all drivers, reset BIOS, etc.; problem persisted.
Attempt #3: Reinstalled Windows Vista (64-bit). Same problems persisted.
Attempt #4: Replaced memory sticks with two brand-new sticks. Problem persisted. Reinstalled Windows and reset BIOS with the new sticks in place; problem persisted.
Attempt #5: Did CD boot and formatted hard drive from command prompt. Reinstalled Vista. System worked fine; was able to run Crysis at max settings for 2+ hours no problems. Girlfriend installed Sims 3 and played for several hours with no problems. Next day, same problems returned.
Attempt #6: Did CD boot and formatted hard drive again. Reinstalled Vista. Was able to play Sims 3 and Crysis indefinitely with no problems. Today, system gives new error (Parity check - Memory parity error) at program startup sometimes and freezes/memory dumps the rest of the time.
At this point, I have no idea what on earth could be causing it. The motherboard, RAM and video card are essentially all brand-new, and it's a brand-new install of the OS onto a blank hard drive. Anyone have any help?
Yes, I've tried reseating everything but the CPU (I'm trying to avoid that if possible because my CPU fan is a real pain in the ass to remove and reinstall)
The problem is also weird because it's not intermittent -- IF I wipe the hard drive, the machine will run fine for a day or two, but then once the problem reappears, it stays for good.
One other thing I've heard suggested is that since it's a new board, the BIOS defaults to voltage settings for the memory that are too low, and I have to manually override them. I will have to look into that also.
Hmm. Found out the mobo was defaulting to supply only 1.55V of power to each RAM stick, but the RAM required 1.7V. Going into the BIOS and changing it fixed all the problems. Except the next time I tried to boot it, I got no video and three flashing lights on the back of the video card indicating it's not getting power. I checked and CPU, mobo and card are all on separate 12V rails off an 850W power supply. Cannot for the life of me figure out why it thinks it's underpowered.
The PSU is ridiculously overpowered for the job -- 850W, with separate 12V rails for each of the mobo, CPU and video card so you won't run into just such a problem. It was also tested at a repair shop not long ago for an unrelated problem that turned out to be the on/off switch on my case being broken.
From what I've been able to gather in the last week or so, Intel motherboards are OK for a basic system, but they eat a** if you've got anything other than standard-issue parts that you leave at factory settings. I'm betting the new mobo will cure the problem if it ever shows up.