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Stumped on blue screens of death

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Anonymous
August 24, 2009 1:32:25 PM

Hi everybody. I'm having some serious trouble trying to isolate the cause of some random blue screens of death (and possibly software crashes), so I was hoping perhaps you could weigh in on the matter.


First of all, my system:


Motherboard: Asus M3A78-CM
CPU: AMD Athlon X2 64 6000+
CPU Cooler: Stock
Memory: 2GB DDR2 stick (not sure what brand, but probably cheapo value ram or something)
Video Card: Gigabyte GeForce 9800 GT 1GB (GV-98TOC-1GI)
Video Card Cooler: Stock
Video Driver: 186.18 (the latest one certified by Gigabyte, and yes I tried the more recent one)
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Blue 640GB SATA (WD6400AAKS)
PSU: 600 watts (will have to check model later)
Airflow: One lower front 120mm intake fan (purchased later), one rear 120mm exhaust fan, one side CPU intake funnel, one empty side intake grill under the video card
Optical: Crappy IDE CD-RW drive I ripped out of an old HP Pavilion
OS: Windows XP Pro SP3 32-bit
DirectX version: 9.0c
Antivirus: Avira (free version)
Primary use: Second Life (yeah yeah, ha ha, point and laugh)



The problem:


I purchased this system back in June. At first I experienced nothing unusual. But then I started to get BSOD's randomly while playing Second Life (which I shall henceforth refer to as SL for the sake of brevity). These BSOD's seemed to increase in frequency as the summer wore on. The error messages they produced were all over the map and never consistent from BSOD to BSOD. No I am not an overclocker.



Things I've tried:


* Buying a front intake fan
* Malware scan (which revealed that I was infected with Delphi, I'm ashamed to admit)
* Reinstalling Windows and downloading all critical updates
* Making sure all system drivers are correct and up to date
* Trying different versions of the nVidia driver, using Driver Cleaner before each install
* Flushing out the system with CCleaner
* Examining minidumps (which was pointless given the randomness of the BSOD errors)
* Installing AMD Dual Core Optimizer
* Installing AMD Cool n' Quiet driver (yes I set Windows power management to minimal)
* Installing Asus PC Probe (the temperature readings were normal, CPU spiked at 67 celcius before adding front intake fan, now spikes around 57)
* Installing Gigabyte Gamer HUD (GPU temperature spiked in the mid forties, no I didn't touch the voltage slider)
* Flashing the BIOS of my board to the latest version (2003)
* Using different versions of the SL viewer
* Lowering the graphics settings on SL
* Setting the graphics to performance mode in nVidia control panel
* Running the system with the side panel off and a giant desk fan pointed inside
* Tightening all screws and reseating all components and cables (with a wrist strap, of course)
* Putting the 2 gig memory stick in another memory slot
* Running Memtest overnight (no errors)
* Running Prime95 overnight (no errors, and the CPU thermals were way higher than anything SL could ever hope to generate)
* Running Data Lifeguard Diagnostics extended scan on the hard drive (no errors)
* Running CHKDSK (no errors)
* Running 3dMark06 free edition (no errors, and everything displayed beautifully with the exception of the CPU test, in which framerates slowed to a crawl)
* Moving cables aside to maximize airflow
* Moving the computer to the floor with the front pointed at a floor air con vent



Things I've thought of but haven't tried yet:


* Stress testing the video card with Furmark (renders highly detailed fur, very hard on GPU, will do this in the evening)
* Cleaning all the contacts with isopropyl alcohol
* Replacing components one at a time to see if anything stops the problems (I don't have the resources for that)
* Running professional hardware diagnostics (ditto)
* Installing Windows 7 (I've preordered a copy for October)
* Dusting (no way dust is a problem this early on)
* Buying a side intake fan for the vent under the video card
* Adjusting memory voltages in the motherboard BIOS setup (that might be a bit dangerous given my lack of experience doing such things)
* Yelling at it until it bows to my iron-fisted rule
* Throwing cream pies at the motherboard and then spraying it with seltzer
* Taking it out to dinner and telling it how much I love it




Other notes:


* It seems as if when I bought the front intake fan that the BSODs pretty much stopped, although SL and Firefox crashes seemed to increase in frequency as if in place of the BSODs. However, yesterday I got another blue screen (in a particularly complex simulation in SL) after a week without seeing any BSODs.
* The BSODs and SL viewer crashes seem to generally occur when a large volume of textures and objects tries to render all at once (particularly in crowded areas). Firefox crashes seem to occur at random.



So there you have it. A fairly exhaustive summary of the whole unfortunate business. If you have any suggestions or questions, feel free to chime in. I'm running out of ideas.
August 24, 2009 1:39:23 PM

This sounds like a GFX issue, try to run some GFX intense benchmarks (think 3Dmark08) and not something that just runs the CPU (like prime) or ram (memtest).

IF it is something about that, it seems that you have insufficient cooling for the card (esp when you buy the front intake fan, it would be feeding its air directly to the vid card)

IF that is a the issuse, you may need a new case, or lots more fans, or an after market HSF on the card (how much experience do you have? this isn't as easy as a CPU cooler install)


EDIT: Just saw that this is in one of your to-dos, and well thats all I can think of.
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Anonymous
August 24, 2009 1:46:21 PM

theholylancer said:
This sounds like a GFX issue, try to run some GFX intense benchmarks (think 3Dmark08) and not something that just runs the CPU (like prime) or ram (memtest).

IF it is something about that, it seems that you have insufficient cooling for the card (esp when you buy the front intake fan, it would be feeding its air directly to the vid card)

IF that is a the issuse, you may need a new case, or lots more fans, or an after market HSF on the card (how much experience do you have? this isn't as easy as a CPU cooler install)


EDIT: Just saw that this is in one of your to-dos, and well thats all I can think of.



Yeah, a video card issue would explain why the front intake fan made such a huge difference. The GPU temperature readings look normal, but I know those temperature diodes can be pretty unreliable. Its also strange because I thought that video card problems generally manifested as video artifacts moreso than BSODs. If it is a video card issue, I'm betting Furmark will reveal it.

3DMark08? I thought the next one after 3dMark06 was 3dMark Vantage, which is for DirectX 10 and thus not for Windows XP.
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August 24, 2009 1:54:16 PM

Vantage is just there to (less) confuse ppl afaik, they didn't wanted this whole 06 04 02 deal when people are like o i get 100000 3dmarks, not realizing its the 01 edition



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August 24, 2009 4:20:04 PM

Re-installing Windows rules out software, so doing all the other software tests and registry cleaning was a waste of time. Its either the DDR memory, or the GFX card, I would least expect the mobo to be the problem. Start with the cheapest option. Buy another 2Gb of DDR2 Memory, or even a 2Gb Kit, which is pretty cheap and take the other one out and see what happens.
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