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New PC randomply locks. No log. No mem dump. How to debug?

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September 1, 2009 7:05:22 PM

Hello,

I'm in a puzzling situation and could use some help in figure out what to do next.
I just built a new PC. It's simple and relatively cheap:
MoBo: Biostar GF8100 M2+ TE
CPU: Athlon II X2 240 (2.8GHz)
Ram: 4GB (2x2GB)
HD1: WD 500GB WD5000AAJS
HD2: Maxtor diamondPlus 9 250GB
Audio: integrated
Video: ntegratedPCI card: Pinnacle system studio AV/DV E4
OS: Windows XP (32Bit) SP3 fully updated

Problem: in what seems to be a random way, the PC completely freezes. The mouse locks, the keyboard becomes completely unresponsive. I simply have no options but to manually shutdown by pressing the on/off button.
Since everything freezes, there's nothing in any logfile I could see. No memory/core dumps.
One note that might be important: if instead of shutting off and then turning back on I press the reset button, the POST hangs when detecting the 1st SATA drive (which happens to be HD2).

Up until the moment that the PC freezes, everything seems perfect.
Other info: I have disabled standby: the PC freezes if I'm actively using it and/or if I am gone for some time (screensaver goes off, then the display shuts down: if I'm lucky, it'll come back to life when I move the mouse. Otherwise, it will be frozen).

I have run memtest+ (using one of the Ubuntu CDs) and got no errors.
I've run Prime95 and got no errors ... until it froze completely.
I have updated to the latest Nvidia driver and the latest BIOS for the MoBo.
I have not found any updated driver/firmware for the HDs.

Last note: the Pinnacle board was installed in an older PC with an Asus A8N-VM and was working fine till, well, till a few days ago when I moved it to a new PC. I have no reasons to think that the board is not working.

What do you suggest I do?

Thanks ...
September 1, 2009 7:11:32 PM

First thing I think of is what you skipped - the power supply?
Anonymous
September 1, 2009 7:26:31 PM

Memory brand, speed and voltage? Did you adjust any of the memory settings in the bio's or did you leave them as they were when installed/never adjusted ? :) 
September 1, 2009 7:27:21 PM

dndhatcher said:
First thing I think of is what you skipped - the power supply?


Interesting that you think of that. Why?
I have a 400W PSU. The TDP of the CPU is 65W and there's practically nothing else running: the integrated graphic is hardly a power-hungry one.
Don't get me wrong: everything is possible: I'm just curious that you think of that as the first possible cause.

Any tip on how to pin-point to the PSU?
Anonymous
September 1, 2009 7:33:28 PM

Memory brand, speed and voltage? Did you adjust any of the memory settings in the bio's or did you leave them as they were when installed/never adjusted ? :) 

PSU Brand?
September 1, 2009 7:35:23 PM

I agree with AGirlsBuild, you need to manually set the RAM speed/timings/voltage in the BIOS.

What 400W PSU do you have? A POS power supply will cause all sorts of problems ranging from system instability to fried components.
September 1, 2009 7:46:33 PM

Quote:
Memory brand, speed and voltage? Did you adjust any of the memory settings in the bio's or did you leave them as they were when installed/never adjusted ? :) 


The PSU is "Codegen" 400W.
The memory is Hynix DDR2-800 (2x2GB).

Memory was my first guess but Memtest+ came back negative on 2 passes ...

Your post though gave me an idea: I'm running now with only one of the 2 modules: I want to see if it makes a difference.
I'm pretty sure I'll see a difference in performance, but at least I can rule something out ...
September 1, 2009 7:48:03 PM

Quote:
Memory brand, speed and voltage? Did you adjust any of the memory settings in the bio's or did you leave them as they were when installed/never adjusted ? :) 

PSU Brand?


Forgot to answer about BIOS: I flashed it to the latest version, then loaded the "Optimal values".
After seeing that the problem persisted I have tried a few changes, but none related to over-clocking, timing and what not.
I'm running everything "plain vanilla": I was expecting it rock solid ...
September 1, 2009 7:55:01 PM

shortstuff_mt said:
I agree with AGirlsBuild, you need to manually set the RAM speed/timings/voltage in the BIOS.

What 400W PSU do you have? A POS power supply will cause all sorts of problems ranging from system instability to fried components.


Well, I never had this brand before. I guess we can assume is not the best of brands ...
About RAM timing: i figured that DDR2-800 should handle quite well default timing.
I left everything on "auto": do you have suggestion on which settings to use?
September 1, 2009 7:57:45 PM

You would need to post the exact model # of your RAM so I could look up the timings and voltage specs. There should also be a sticker on the RAM with the timings and voltage recommendations.
September 1, 2009 8:01:21 PM

shortstuff_mt said:
You would need to post the exact model # of your RAM so I could look up the timings and voltage specs. There should also be a sticker on the RAM with the timings and voltage recommendations.


Well, I'm going to "quote" what's on the sticker ...
PJ
DDR2-800 2GB
TD2G16CA-FP
September 1, 2009 8:12:29 PM

yankeeDDL said:
Interesting that you think of that. Why?

Any tip on how to pin-point to the PSU?

Any time a computer at idle decides to freeze up on its own I suspect bad power. Even brown-outs from inconsistent power at the wall can cause random freezing. Plus it seemed to be the thing you had not even considered.

Did you move the old power supply with the motherboard? Do you have another power supply you could put in and try? Swapping it out is the quickest way to eliminate a failing power supply as the problem.

Also inspect the motherboard carefully. Someone had me look at a computer with kind of similar problems and when I opened it up, one of the capacitors was blackened and obviously had melted.
September 1, 2009 8:24:43 PM

dndhatcher said:
Any time a computer at idle decides to freeze up on its own I suspect bad power. Even brown-outs from inconsistent power at the wall can cause random freezing. Plus it seemed to be the thing you had not even considered.

Did you move the old power supply with the motherboard? Do you have another power supply you could put in and try? Swapping it out is the quickest way to eliminate a failing power supply as the problem.

Also inspect the motherboard carefully. Someone had me look at a computer with kind of similar problems and when I opened it up, one of the capacitors was blackened and obviously had melted.


I will have a look at the board. Unfortunately, I don't have another PSU I can use to try it out ...
I see your point though. Thanks.
Anonymous
September 1, 2009 8:36:06 PM

yankeeDDL said:
The PSU is "Codegen" 400W.
The memory is Hynix DDR2-800 (2x2GB).

Memory was my first guess but Memtest+ came back negative on 2 passes ...

Your post though gave me an idea: I'm running now with only one of the 2 modules: I want to see if it makes a difference.
I'm pretty sure I'll see a difference in performance, but at least I can rule something out ...


After running each stick to weed out any bad module try to set the voltage on the ram to it's stock 1.8V. Try this with the timing set to auto first.
September 1, 2009 8:43:13 PM

Quote:
After running each stick to weed out any bad module try to set the voltage on the ram to it's stock 1.8V. Try this with the timing set to auto first.


Alright.
I'm going to let it run today on 2GB and see what happens.
I'll check the voltage settings at next reboot (may be on Auto).
Normally it crashes within 3~4hrs ...
Anonymous
September 1, 2009 8:50:13 PM

yankeeDDL said:
Alright.
I'm going to let it run today on 2GB and see what happens.
I'll check the voltage settings at next reboot (may be on Auto).
Normally it crashes within 3~4hrs ...


Alright let us know. I just keep thinking memory because i had one do the same-thing after 6 to 8hrs on the dot, And it passed all test just fine. Turned out a combination of voltage and timing was causing it. At-least a good starting point. :D  I love diagnostic things it is so fun and takes so much time. :cry: 
September 1, 2009 8:51:39 PM

Yea, I've seen a system with incorrect RAM timings and voltage pass multiple passes of Memtest86+, but fail during everyday use.
September 1, 2009 9:00:05 PM

iirc, Codegen = fecal matter, but I could not find a competent technical review on this one. If it came with your case, it probably cost around $10, if that. You're right that you don't need a lot of power, but you do need quality. Antec, Corsair, PC Power & Cooling, Seasonic, Enermax, and the newer, 80+ OCZ are good.
Anonymous
September 1, 2009 9:05:04 PM

Onus said:
iirc, Codegen = fecal matter, but I could not find a competent technical review on this one. If it came with your case, it probably cost around $10, if that. You're right that you don't need a lot of power, but you do need quality. Antec, Corsair, PC Power & Cooling, Seasonic, Enermax, and the newer, 80+ OCZ are good.


+1 No matter the problem it would not hurt to avoid more problems by picking up a good PSU. Let us know.
September 2, 2009 7:25:05 AM

Guys (and ladies?)

thank you all for the help.
For starters, after ~12hrs the PC is still up an running (with only one 2GB stick).
I'm going to let it run for another 12~24hrs; I'm thinking to kick off Prime95 too just to make sure that the RAM is is use (and in general the whole system is under some stress).
If it keeps cranking, I see two possibilities:
1) The module I took of is defective (I can check it by taking out the one that's working now and put that one in)
2) When both modules are in the "default" voltage/timing is not correct and needs some tweaking.

My previous PC had a Thermaltake 430W and an Asus A8N-VM. With 4x1GB sticks, the MoBo could not handle full bus speed and dropped from 400MHz to 333MHz. That's simply because of the load on the bus was too high. This could be a similar situation: only the Asus was smart enough to set itself to a good operating condition while this new one doesn't.

About the PSU: indeed, it came with the case. No question that getting a good one would save me some headaches in the future.

I'll keep you posted. Thanks again: I appreciate it.
Anonymous
September 2, 2009 7:43:38 AM

yankeeDDL said:
Guys (and ladies?)

thank you all for the help.
For starters, after ~12hrs the PC is still up an running (with only one 2GB stick).
I'm going to let it run for another 12~24hrs; I'm thinking to kick off Prime95 too just to make sure that the RAM is is use (and in general the whole system is under some stress).
If it keeps cranking, I see two possibilities:
1) The module I took of is defective (I can check it by taking out the one that's working now and put that one in)
2) When both modules are in the "default" voltage/timing is not correct and needs some tweaking.

My previous PC had a Thermaltake 430W and an Asus A8N-VM. With 4x1GB sticks, the MoBo could not handle full bus speed and dropped from 400MHz to 333MHz. That's simply because of the load on the bus was too high. This could be a similar situation: only the Asus was smart enough to set itself to a good operating condition while this new one doesn't.

About the PSU: indeed, it came with the case. No question that getting a good one would save me some headaches in the future.

I'll keep you posted. Thanks again: I appreciate it.


Good work.. Hope things keep going in the right direction for you. Thanks for including us ladies. Theirs a first time for everything. Thanks again. ;) 
September 2, 2009 4:34:09 PM

I say update the BIOS. Your Athlon II 240 may simply not be fully properly supported so whenever the board tries to do those nice power saving options it could just be locking itself up.
September 2, 2009 5:20:17 PM

Hmm,And now a word from our sponsor, your psu, when you buy a system with a "generic" psu you need to be mindful of the probability that that psu was designed for that system and may not work with an off the shelf system,remember lowest bidder etc,also when you buy your own psu ALWAYS buy more than what you need right now,,that way you can go through a few upgrades with a known good PSU..
Remember the boy scout motto "Always be prepared..":) 
September 6, 2009 8:12:31 PM

Folks,

I thought I'd give you an update.
First of all: the problem was/is the 2nd hard drive "the 250GB Maxtor".
I still don't know what is going on exactly (it may be simply "dying") but once I disconnected it I had no problems.
I did test each of the 2GB RAM modules separately (and using either channel) but the "freezes" continued, which made me rule out the RAM (unless I was so "lucky" to have two defective RAM modules ...
I have also disconnected the Pinnacle acquisition card, just to be sure.
I tried to plug back in the 2nd HD and the crashes restarted.

On the PSU:
- I agree that Codegen is not exactly name brand
- Yes, it came with the case but I did check first that 400W were plenty for what I had in mind. Even with an entry-level discrete GPU 400W are plenty
- This said, I did order an Enermax 80+ (also 400W) which is pretty much as good as it gets as far as 400W PSU are concerned.

Last note: Megamanx00 suggested I'd update the BIOS: that's actually the 1st thing I did but (clearly) did not help.

Looking back, some of the clues could have pointed me towards the HD: the fact that after a "soft" reboot (click the reset button) the POST would hang at SATA detection, could have suggested that one of the HD was "hanging" somehow.
I find it odd because I never had any problem with that drive on my previous PC: I was using Ubuntu though. Pity I can't use it on this new one, but there's just no way I can decently run a GeForce 8100 on Linux.

Anyway, thanks a lot for your suggestions and help: I hope this experience will help somebody in the future.
Cheers.
September 7, 2009 12:03:00 PM

dokk2 said:
Hmm,And now a word from our sponsor, your psu, when you buy a system with a "generic" psu you need to be mindful of the probability that that psu was designed for that system and may not work with an off the shelf system,remember lowest bidder etc,also when you buy your own psu ALWAYS buy more than what you need right now,,that way you can go through a few upgrades with a known good PSU..
Remember the boy scout motto "Always be prepared..":) 


By the way, I do have an ATI HD2600 which runs rather hot. I think even with that one in, 400W should be plenty.
I'm thinking: ~80W for the CPU (TDP is 65W), 10W for the HD, say, ~30W for the MoBo ... I'm still far from 400W.
You have to be careful with oversizing your PSU: efficiency peaks towards max wattage (so, a 400W PSU is most efficient when delivering close to 400W) so I'm loosing efficiency by running it at lower wattages. It's always a compromise between flexibility and efficiency ...
!