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Random Hard Lockups

Last response: in Systems
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December 17, 2009 1:09:33 PM

I've been building my own systems for years with very few problems. My latest build has been really perplexing.

Here's what I built:

AMD Phenom II X4 Black Edition
4 2GB sticks of Kingston DDR3 RAM
MSI 790GX-G65 motherboard
Antec 1200 case & Antec 1000W PSU
Ati 4870X2
WD 1GB hard drive
Soundblaster X-fi xtreme gamer

Right off the bat the system would start up properly so I took it apart and checked all my connections. Put it back together and it seemed to work great for about 2 months. Recently, it has started freezing at random times mostly when playing 3D games (WoW). Sometimes the audio will keep playing sometimes it won't. The whole thing just freezes, no blue screen or anything and I have to hit the reset switch. It seems like sometimes I can hear a change in the case like one of the fans or something. I've left the case open and when it freezes, I look at everything and all the fans are indeed spinning.

I suspected the video card, so I bought an ati 5870 and put it in (yes I am connecting both 6 pin power connectors). Same issues. One of the times it froze up the video card fan went FULL blast like an airplane jet.

Next, I suspected a motherboard malfunction so I replaced the motherboard with a new Gigabyte board that just came out with the 790FX chipset. Same problems.

Yesterday, I figured it had to be the PSU so I bought a BFG 1000W unit and installed it last night. All seemed well and I played WoW for like 4 hours and figured I had the problem solved. Then, I noticed the screen flash to grey a couple times and a couple quick flickers to black. Finally, it flickered to black and stayed that way. Sound kept playing but I couldn't do anything but hit the reset switch. I immediately went back to WoW and played for like 5 minutes and the audio made a loud sound and the system froze again.

Late last night, I took out all my memory modules and installed 1 at a time and booted from a memtest 86 3.5 CD and ran the tests. What I noticed right away was that memtest was showing each module as the wrong type of RAM. Anyways, I let the test go twice through on each module. Every module passed the test once through except for one module which showed errors the 2nd time through. I also tried the test on 2 modules at a time, and the system rebooted itself a couple times after like a second into the test. This was with the bad module NOT installed. I ran the Windows memory diagnostic tool overnight with all 4 sticks installed and this morning there were no errors displayed.

Is my memory the only thing left that could be causing these problems? Is it possible that all 4 of my RAM sticks could be bad? I don't know why memtest doesn't show them as DDR3. I don't think it could be the processor but is there a diagnostic I can run on the CPU?

I'm at a complete loss. I've never had these problems with any systems I've built. I've also replaced all the major components without the issue getting resolved.

More about : random hard lockups

December 17, 2009 4:41:44 PM

Another thought - could my hard drive be the culprit?

I am thinking that the one stick of RAM failed that one time because memtest doesn't recognize DDR3?
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December 17, 2009 8:36:18 PM

OK. I got home and Gigabytes EasyTune 6 and see that I hvae PC3-10700H(667MHZ) memory. That can't be right! I think I should be running 1666MHz memory.
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December 18, 2009 6:10:05 PM

Anyone have any ideas what the problem could be? I ordered 4 new sticks of RAM from Newegg. Aside from that, the only hardware left to look at is the HD and the processor. Is there any way to test for errors on an AMD Phenom II?
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December 18, 2009 6:16:17 PM

It sure sounds like the RAM was the problem the whole time. That doesn't surprise me since RAM problems are easily the #1 cause of system freezing problems. When you get your new RAM make sure to manually set the RAM speed/timings/voltage to the recommended specs in the BIOS and run Memtest86+ on them overnight to make sure they're functioning properly. Manually setting the RAM settings in the BIOS is even more important when you're using four sticks of RAM since it's harder on the motherboard and RAM controller.

P.S. Which exact RAM kit did you buy?
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December 18, 2009 8:21:40 PM

No, not all RAM works very well at all on "Auto" settings. Some RAM can use XMP profiles, but it doesn't work very well in my experience. Your new RAM is rated at 1600MHz with 8-8-8-24 timings at 1.65v. If you want to ensure the RAM is running at its rated specs, you should manually set all those values in the BIOS.
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December 18, 2009 11:01:37 PM

So, when I install the ram, if I leave it at "auto" it won't necessarily use the correct timings and voltage? Couldthat be my problem now ith my current ram?
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December 21, 2009 11:49:06 AM

I ran my Kingston RAM over the weekend with manual timings set per their spec on their website. I still had lockups and strange flashes of grey bars on the screen when playing 3D games. I also came to my computer once and moved the mouse to wake up the display. It came to a screen with blue bars on it and then the Windows desktop appeared, except the Aero interface was disabled.

I'll be installing my new RAM tonight with the settings of 8-8-8-24 1.65v. Can any of the problems I am experiencing be the CPU or the Hard Drive? I'm not sure if a CPU can be defective and still function at all. I'm also not sure if the hard drive could be causing any of this.
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December 21, 2009 9:45:19 PM

OK, I have my new Corsair memory installed. I hit DEL about 50 times to make sure I got to the BIOS screen to set my timings. Keyboard wasn't doing anything in bios so I restarted the computer and hit DEL only once. Set the timings and booted into Windows. I spent about 3 minutes doing something, and the computer went blue and then rebooted.

Now what?

Could the random lockups be the hard drive or the CPU?

Also, CPUID shows the RAM as 667 Mhz, but I thought it was supposed to be 1,667MHz??
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December 22, 2009 5:32:49 AM

You have to do more than set the timings. You also have to set the speed and voltage. The voltage is the most important thing to set. If CPU-Z is showing 667 MHz, then your RAM is running at 1333MHz. CPU-Z always shows RAM at half the rate. I bet your system will work just fine once your manually set ALL the RAM values, not just the timings.

You should also run Memtest86+ overnight once you get the RAM values set correctly.
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December 22, 2009 10:54:50 AM

I set the voltage at 1.65v and the timings at 8-8-8-24. There are some other settings in the BIOS for DRAM but I have no idea what they are. Not to argue with you, but running the RAM slower than spec wouldn't cause stability issues would it?
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December 22, 2009 11:07:38 AM

OK, I looked in BIOS and saw that DRAM speed was set to AUTO with a speed of 1333MHz. I put it on MANUAL and set it to 1600. I looked at all the timing settings and a lot of them listed in SPD are different than what is set. SPD shows 9-9-9-24 but I changed those to 8-8-8-24 based on specs. lot of the other settings that I haven't touched so show different than SPD though.

EDIT: When I was playing with my BIOS this morning, i was able to get into it sometimes and other times the computer just booted to Windows. Sometimes when I got to the BIOS, the keyboard wouldn't respond. I then plugged a spare keyboard in and was able to do what I needed. Can all these stability problems I have been having actually be my keyboard? It's a Logitech diNovo wireless bluetooth.
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December 23, 2009 2:46:48 AM

OK, I installed a brand new WD 1TB hard drive. Installed Windows 7, installed WoW, played for about 20 minutes and the screen went black while sound kept playing. I had to hit the reset switch.

I've now replaced the graphics card, motherboard, RAM, PSU, and hard drive. It seems that the only thing left is the CPU. Will AMD swap it out for me? Can anyone else offer some suggestions?
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December 24, 2009 12:17:50 PM

So, I assumed that the hard drive wasn't the issue so I put my old 1TB back in and set up a RAID0.. Works really nicely!

I was downloading some stuff and left the computer for a while. Came back to a black screen and couldn't get anything to happen. I did see the hard drive light flashing though. I rebooted and finished everything up. Played a little torchlight and the display flickered a few times so I shut down the PC for the night.

My new Phenom II X4 is arriving today. The CPU is the only thing I haven't replaced yet. I am guess that the random nature of the lockups and screen corruptions must be something with the CPU. If this doesn't solve it, I am at a total loss as I've built a whole new computer with the exception of the case.

Speaking of case, I have an Antec 1200. It has several fans which just connect to the power supply. None of them go the motherboard. Is it possible that with this design, the motherboard can't properly regulate cooling since it has no control of the fans?
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