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Clean Win 7 (and old XP) system Hangs Daily

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December 10, 2009 7:06:34 AM

Several years ago, I built a Win XP system that worked fine for years. For the past year or so, it's become almost unusable because it inevitably hangs at some point. It can hang at any time, it's almost random except using Firefox would almost guarantee it will hang within a few minutes.

Here's what I've done:
Performed clean install of Windows 7 Pro (32-bit). This new install hangs during boot about 25% of the time and if not then, it will hang withing a few hours of uptime (particularly if I'm not using it). At one point, Win 7 showed a message about the prior boot failure and the error log to be sent to Microsoft identified the fault as a bad driver (I haven't installed any additional drivers).

Re-seated RAM
Ran Memtest (no issues)
Disconnected all USB devices other than keyboard and mouse

Here's what I have:
Asus P5GD2 Deluxe board
Pentium 4 HT 3 GHz LGA775
Zalman CPU cooler (giant heatsink w/ integrated fan)
Corsair PC4200 DDR2 RAM (2 x 1 GB + 2 x 512 MB; 1.5 GB each channel)
ATI Radeon X800 XL (PCI Express)
WD Raptor
Antec Sonata III (with front and rear fans)

I always have been very disappointed with the CPU because it runs extremely hot (it literally warms up my office a few degrees) and all the fans are way too noisy. I've given up on it and have been using my laptop computer instead. Since my laptop won't support Win 7 Aero, I wanted to get my PC working again so that I can use it as my primary machine (with Win 7).

I'd like to figure out what the root cause is so that I can replace only that part and keep using this as-is. I don't really need a powerful rig, I only use it for business applications, never gaming. The most demanding thing I do is occasionally use VMWare to access old XP installs that I've virtualized before doing a clean install on one of my computers.

I'd appreciate any suggestions for troubleshooting this. Perhaps it's what I've described is commonly understood to be the signs of a bad motherboard or RAM and I just don't know that.

Thanks!
December 10, 2009 12:13:16 PM

download the latest catalyst driver...
I feel its the problem with your graphics card..

Best solution

a b B Homebuilt system
December 10, 2009 2:57:33 PM
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First, it could be that Windows XP was just freezing because it was gunked up from typical "Windows rot", and when you installed Windows 7 your motherboard is so old that it doesn't have drivers that will work with the new OS. Especially if you tried installing the drivers from the CD that came with it -- those are almost guaranteed to be out of date for Windows 7. So if that's the case, first thing I would do is download the latest BIOS and motherboard drivers from the manufacturer's site and see if installing them helps. Maybe you will be able to get it to run in Windows 7 that way.

For older motherboards, though, they may not have even come out with Windows 7 drivers at all, which would mean you're out of luck for that OS. In which case I'd say do a fresh install of XP, update to the latest XP drivers and BIOS, and see if that helps.

While you're doing all this, now would probably be a good time to replace the CMOS battery on the board itself -- they often die after a few years, and when that happens, it can lead to corruption in the BIOS, or at least cause the machine to "forget" any specific settings that were needed to make it stable.

This might be important largely because you have four sticks of RAM -- when all four slots are filled, sometimes they require a little extra voltage to be stable. So if you had that set manually before and just left it for years and forgot about it ... and then the motherboard forgot the setting, it could be causing undervoltage issues, which would cause freezing issues. In fact, RAM voltage is probably the biggest cause of freezing issues and normally the first thing to look at, but since you already seem to have signs that point to software problems, that's probably where to start in this case.
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a b B Homebuilt system
December 10, 2009 4:39:17 PM

I agree that RAM issues are the most common cause of the problems you're describing. Memtest86+ is good at finding faulty sticks of RAM, but not great at detecting incorrect RAM settings or insufficient RAM voltage. Are all your RAM sticks rated at the same speed/timings/voltage? Have you manually set the RAM speed/timings/voltage to the recommended specs in the BIOS?
a b B Homebuilt system
December 10, 2009 5:56:13 PM

shortstuff_mt said:
I agree that RAM issues are the most common cause of the problems you're describing. Memtest86+ is good at finding faulty sticks of RAM, but not great at detecting incorrect RAM settings or insufficient RAM voltage. Are all your RAM sticks rated at the same speed/timings/voltage? Have you manually set the RAM speed/timings/voltage to the recommended specs in the BIOS?


One more question that raises: I can't tell for sure from the original post, but it sounds like the memory might be mismatched. If possible, you want to pair identical sticks together. So if the 512MB sticks have different specs from the 1GB sticks and you pair one of each together, it could cause trouble as well.

However, I'm still left wondering if the RAM really is to blame, because the system was stable for so long before this started happening. I've had experiences with RAM working OK under incorrect settings in the short term and then giving problems later ... but that's usually been more like a few months, not a few years. (shrug) at any rate, you now have about four or five good places to start troubleshooting.
December 17, 2009 12:00:12 PM

sayantan said:
download the latest catalyst driver...
I feel its the problem with your graphics card..


Thanks for your suggestion. It was hoping that was all it was, but I did update the Catalyst driver and still had the problem with it hanging. I next removed the video card completely and since there is no onboard video, I used the PC through Remote Desktop for hours and it was looking like the video card was indeed the culprit until the machine spontaneously rebooted.
December 17, 2009 12:09:18 PM

capt_taco said:
One more question that raises: I can't tell for sure from the original post, but it sounds like the memory might be mismatched. If possible, you want to pair identical sticks together. So if the 512MB sticks have different specs from the 1GB sticks and you pair one of each together, it could cause trouble as well.

However, I'm still left wondering if the RAM really is to blame, because the system was stable for so long before this started happening. I've had experiences with RAM working OK under incorrect settings in the short term and then giving problems later ... but that's usually been more like a few months, not a few years. (shrug) at any rate, you now have about four or five good places to start troubleshooting.


Thanks for your suggestions capt_taco, all the RAM is Corsair Value Select DDR2 PC4200.

I decided to see what it would cost me to update the MoBo, CPU and RAM and I also checked to see what my old stuff would fetch on eBay - at best, $100 for all components. I was a little surprised because at the time I built the system five years ago, everything I bought was the latest and greatest. It completely served my needs for years, but I didn't realize that it's practiacally worthless now. It's time to get a new system. I've even torn it down to part it out on eBay. I'll try to reuse the Sonata 3 case and WD Raptor. Thanks for everyone's help!
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