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Computer freezes after being on for 5 minutes

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July 20, 2010 9:28:34 PM

Hello all,

I built my computer myself about 5 and a half years ago. It's been quite an up and down journey, but overall my computer has been running fine (minus a few hiccups).

Recently my computer began crashing during intensive program use (i.e. running 10 programs at once or running a game that takes up a lot of system resources). The BSOD would appear briefly (too fast for me to read) but my computer would just restart on its own and it would run fine for normal use.

About a week later the crashes started to happen more frequently, during simple tasks like watching a video file. Again the screen would either go black or go to the BSOD then restart on its own.

Fearing a software problem I backed up my files and reformatted my computer. Then instead of crashing and restarting my computer just freezes after being on for five minutes.

My next guess was my RAM so I ran a memory test with windows which yielded errors during the LRAND portion of the test. I thought my RAM was the problem so I replaced my current RAM with my old sticks (which to my knowledge worked fine when I removed them).

HOWEVER, while I was running my RAM test I also noticed that my primary case fan wasn't working (I had removed my case to make sure everything was running properly inside of my computer). After poking around I found that one of the metal pins in my fans power cable had come loose and wasn't plugged in. I positioned the metal pin in the correct position with electrical tape and now the fan works perfectly. (In addition to this I removed my non-essential components, such as my USB hubs, from my computer)

In order to test my computer I loaded it up, clicked around for a bit, then went online and began to download windows xp service pack 2 (having just reformatted, this seemed like a good idea). My computer freezes as soon as the download starts. I've tested this several times, and every time I try to download windows XP service pack my computer freezes. Although I've got a gut feeling that my computer would freeze regardless of what I do.

Sorry for all that back story but I assumed it would help.
HERE ARE MY QUESTIONS:
1. Did the fact that my fan wasn't running (for an undetermined amount of time) completely destroy my computer?
2. Does this sound like a motherboard failure? Or a PS failure? Or a processor failure? Or a video card failure?
3. Any advice would be great!

System specs:
Intel Pentium 4 3.2 ghz processor
MSI Intel 865PE/848P + ICH5 Chipset Board
Geforce 6600 256MB
Antec 500w PS
2xWintec 1GB RAM (removed)
2xCorsair 512MB RAM (replacement)

Thanks in advance!
a c 113 B Homebuilt system
July 20, 2010 9:48:22 PM

1. It's possible I suppose, those old Pentium 4s ran kinda hot.

2. Yes to all of those. You will need to narrow it down somehow.

Some suggestions

Next time you test your RAM do it from a boot disk. This puts less strain on the other parts of the comp and so is better for isolating RAM issues from MB or PSU issues.

An older Antec PSU could indeed be staggering now. If I knew the exact model I could say more.

Sometimes just the strain of a new installation can push old hardware over the edge. I've seen it many times.

Whenever you re-install XP, it's very handy and proper to use a slipstream version. This not only eliminates the download hassles but can help ensure the OS installs the right way.
http://lifehacker.com/386526/slipstream-service-pack-3-...

MSI is not known for longevity. Have you visually inspected the board for bad caps or scorch marks?
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July 20, 2010 10:04:58 PM

Thanks for the quick reply!

When I ran my RAM test I used a bootdisk created from the windows memory diagnostic tool. Again, the errors appeared in the LRAND section, although I'm not exactly sure what that indicates.

The Antec PSU model number is: EA-500D. I purchased that about 2-3 years ago so although its not brand new, it's on the newer side (compared to the rest of my system!)

I'm not entirely sure what I'd be looking for in terms of bad capacitors (I admit although I'm fairly capable with computers I am not a guru). As for scorch marks I do not see any.

I'm prepared to narrow these problems down somehow, but I'm not sure how to go about it. I'm open to advice!
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a c 113 B Homebuilt system
July 21, 2010 12:19:41 AM

Ah yes I would not suspect the Delta-built EA-500D of suddenly developing issues.

That's a socket 775 board and processor, right? So the PSU is appropriate for the system... older systems are 5V-heavy and so modern PSUs aren't appropriate, but that should not be an issue here. (I see it's a 478 board now... that's OK, still 12V)

A bad capacitor will bulge at the top, much like a rotten can of food. It might also leak.

If you boot into a DOS environment does the computer stay up?

Is this a full hard lock every time? No ctrl-alt-del? You have to do a reset with the reset button?

In my troubleshooting guide is a link to Ultimate Boot CD and also a link to an article on BSODs (although perhaps not so relevant at this stage). Booting with the CD may give you some tools going forward, and will test if you have basic stability still.

You might take the side off the case and point a fan into it, see if that improves the time your system stays up.

Since your RAM was failing in a DOS environment, it seems more likely that this is a configuration issue or a board failure. Did you confirm in your BIOS that the RAM was running at the proper speed and voltage?

If the northbridge on the board was overheating or failing I can see this all playing out just like you describe.

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July 21, 2010 1:02:36 AM

Glad I could clear up the PSU problem. I guess thats one down and several others to go!

I just did a thorough search of my board and did not see any bulging capacitors. I also checked the sides for leaks and did not see anything notable (although I've never searched for leaks on a board before, I'd imagine they stand out quite a bit)

My computer does a hard lock every time (now) with no ctrl-alt-del and can only be turned off with the reset button/main power switch in the back.

I will test it in a DOS environment tonight as well as trying to aim a floor fan into the side of my computer as you recommended.

As for your third piece of advice, I'm not exactly sure how to check whether or not my RAM is running at the proper speed and voltage through the BIOS. I have a limited experience working with the BIOS and usually only perform simple options like changing boot order.

It sounds like you think the answer might be involve me doing some BIOS stuff so I'm more than willing to follow some step by step instructions from you.
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a c 113 B Homebuilt system
July 21, 2010 1:18:48 AM

Lets see where the other stuff leads us, then we'll look at the BIOS. It's hard for me to step you through a board that I don't have, but I can tell you in general what to look for.
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July 28, 2010 12:53:13 AM

I apologize for the delay. I recently gave my computer to a family friend who is extremely knowledgeable about computers and has a litany of spare parts lying around. Essentially he's going to test my hardware independently and figure out what the problem is. I'll be sure post his final analysis just in case this problem happens to anyone else.
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!