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Troubleshooting query

Last response: in Motherboards
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January 16, 2010 10:03:54 PM

Sorry, this is kinda long.

About 2 or 3 months ago developed a problem that appeared to be hard drive related. I had a SATA drive (WD 320Gb) that started making clicking noises and the system would 'hang' for a bit, or die altogether and start a reboot. I read up on the symptoms on the net and decided to replace the HDD. I installed a new Seagate 7200.12 1Tb drive and all seemed well, for about 6 weeks, then it started clicking too. Annoyed at the thought of a 'DOA' HDD I started pulling the data off that drive and was planning to return it, but in the process noticed that by re-arranging the cables (power and SATA) to the drive, it worked fine. For another 2 weeks, then it happened again. Fiddle with cables again, HDD works again. I ran Seatools for DOS and it found one bad sector and repaired it; it now gets a clean bill of health.

During all this I had noticed that the main occurrence was when I was doing something graphics related, so maybe the graphics card was dying... it did have a weak power connection (ATI Saphire X1650 Pro, 512Mb AGP) so maybe it had a small crack somewhere interrupting a circuit. I changed the graphics card and again, system was stable for a few weeks, then problem returns. I also now wasn't trusting the SATA connections (although by now I was pretty sure that the problem wasn't the drives) so installed the OS on an old 80Gb IDE HDD and use the SATA drive for storage. The reboot happened again this morning, with the clicking coming again from the SATA drive. Having the OS on an IDE didn't prevent the crash.

To clarify a point, the clicking noise is the sound of power being cut to the drive; the click is the sound the heads make returning to neutral, and it is followed by a whir as the head spin up again immediately.

To summarize: the problem occurs with 2 SATA HDD (doesn't rule out the same fault in both drives), through both SATA ports on the MB, I've used 2 SATA cables, tried 3 graphics cards, and altered the location of the OS, but the problem persists. Short of throwing the whole thing out and buying a new computer, I'm not really much closer to tracing the fault/s. As it is I almost have enough spares to build a new machine.

The motherboard is a Gigabyte 8I865GME-775 with BIOS F3 and is about 3 years old.

Any thoughts?

P

More about : troubleshooting query

a b V Motherboard
January 17, 2010 7:25:57 PM

Shouldn't hurt to update your BIOS. But the common thread I see in all of the issues you described is power. What PSU do you have, and how old is it? It sounds like it might be time to replace it.

Do you have, or can you get another PSU you can throw in to test the theory?
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January 17, 2010 8:58:18 PM

ekoostik said:
Shouldn't hurt to update your BIOS. But the common thread I see in all of the issues you described is power. What PSU do you have, and how old is it? It sounds like it might be time to replace it.

Do you have, or can you get another PSU you can throw in to test the theory?


Interesting you should say that... I was planning on upgrading the PSU this year anyway. The current unit is 400w which is right on the edge of requirements for the current graphics card (ATI 4650 AGP 1Gb), but the problems began with the Saphire X1650 card installed and that required a 350w PSU with a fully loaded system, so I don't think that is it. I do have F5 BIOS ready to go, but to be honest, flashing a BIOS I see as a last resort... although it would theoretically allow me to get a dual core CPU... oh, and the PSU is about 3 years old, and I don't have another handy as yet.

Thanks for the reply...

P

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January 17, 2010 9:14:00 PM

System crashed while I was replying...

Questions:

Could it be a CPU problem?

Might it be worth trying an IDE/SATA converter and trying to run the SATA card from the second IDE port? That might tell me if it's a physical short somewhere with the dedicated SATA circuit... or not.

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January 17, 2010 9:31:07 PM

Yeah, sounds like a PSU issue I had several years ago... always seemed to be something else... until I swapped PSU's with another rig I was working on ( going from a 650watt down to a 550antec) ticked me off... badly! Hate to recommend it, because PSU issues are sooo hard to diagnose, but try to beg/borrow/steal another Power supply.
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January 17, 2010 10:37:52 PM

Before spending any money, maybe you could try the drive in a friends computer and see if it has the same problem there. If not, it's probably the power supply...or possibly the mobo.
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a b V Motherboard
January 17, 2010 10:46:13 PM

It could be CPU. It could be anything. But I still think PSU is a good candidate. And I don't think it's because of the size of the PSU. I'm sure 400W is good enough for your system. If it's 400W from a quality PSU in working order. You didn't mention the name or model number of the PSU.

Here's the things I picked up on in your first post:

  • developed a problem that appeared to be hard drive related
  • a SATA drive (WD 320Gb) that started making clicking noises and the system would 'hang' for a bit, or die altogether and start a reboot
  • installed a new Seagate 7200.12 1Tb drive and all seemed well, for about 6 weeks, then it started clicking too
  • was planning to return it, but in the process noticed that by re-arranging the cables (power and SATA) to the drive, it worked fine. For another 2 weeks, then it happened again.
  • Fiddle with cables again, HDD works again.
  • the clicking noise is the sound of power being cut to the drive
  • the click is the sound the heads make returning to neutral, and it is followed by a whir as the head spin up again immediately.

  • so maybe the graphics card was dying... it did have a weak power connection
  • I changed the graphics card and again, system was stable for a few weeks, then problem returns.
  • installed the OS on an old 80Gb IDE HDD and use the SATA drive for storage. The reboot happened again this morning, with the clicking coming again from the SATA drive. Having the OS on an IDE didn't prevent the crash.


    As you said "To summarize: the problem occurs with 2 SATA HDD (doesn't rule out the same fault in both drives), through both SATA ports on the MB, I've used 2 SATA cables, tried 3 graphics cards, and altered the location of the OS, but the problem persists." That's a lot of hardware already tested!

    It could be a problem with the motherboard. But as power is the recurring theme in your post, I questioned the PSU first. If it's a "low tier" PSU that would further lead me to suspect it.
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    January 17, 2010 11:56:17 PM

    It's a generic PSU... if there's a brand I can't see it. It was a cheapish box when I bought it and I've been slowly pushing it up since then. I don't have access to another computer to try, and as the problem may not happen for a week or so it's a bit much to ask anyway. It would not surprise me to find that it is a low tier PSU. I'll just push forward the purchase of a new PSU. Like I said, it was on this year's shopping list anyway. If that doesn't help, my next suspect would be the motherboard...

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    January 21, 2010 6:48:13 AM

    Update:
    Got a replacement PSU; 'A Power' 720W unit. Very cheap ($25 plus PaH), but with a warranty so usable for testing even if it isn't the greatest. Also has dedicated sata and 6 pin power for the graphics card, so frees up some cables...
    Installed, and immediately the issue returned... but after an hour of fiddling I think I can say that it is power related, not motherboard.
    I'm not prepared to declare a new PSU DOA, especially when it was exactly the same symptoms I was having before, so the 400W unit is probably fine (goes into spares).
    I started testing the rig more systematically; I ran it just with the IDE drive, and it seems stable. I tested the 2 SATA drives I have, and they gave intermittent trouble. So, I got a box (the one the new PSU came in) and sat the 2 SATA drives on that and began playing 'musical chairs' with the cables and ports on the motherboard. Individually, both drives work fine regardless of the MB port they're plugged in to, but tried to run both and it crashed. Of interest was that I had made very sure that the SATA cables were well seated before power-up, but after the crash noticed one cable was slightly out of it's socket. Possibly enough to short the system. I reseated again, powered up, and having watched the cable to check for movement, and seeing none, the system is stable and running a total OF 5 hard drives; 1 IDE, 2 SATA and 2 USB. I might just go and spend a few dollars more on some new SATA cables and hopefully these will be a more solid seat in the connectors.
    A new case and another motherboard and I have 2 computers...

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    a b V Motherboard
    January 21, 2010 10:37:06 AM

    Good sleuthing. Do your sata cables have metal locking clips on the ends of them? If not, something to look for in your next cables. As you upgrade I would seriously consider investing in a name brand PSU.
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    January 21, 2010 11:14:28 AM

    Thanks, but it's only good sleuthing if it works :??:  Early days yet. The problem was intermittent over weeks. No the cables don't have clips... something to look for... never seen them. Thanks for the heads up... as to the brand name PSU, cost is an issue at present, and $25 was more attractive than $150 for a brand name... and like I said, this came with a warranty so was considered worth the risk for 12 months

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    April 28, 2010 11:34:54 AM

    I think I may have a similar problem.
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    a b V Motherboard
    April 28, 2010 12:13:24 PM

    This thread is dead. If you need help, start a new thread. Be very specific: include your components, and anything you can about the problem - what is going wrong, how it manifests itself, any testing you've done. PM me a link to the post and I'll take a look.
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    !