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ASRock Z68 Extreme4 Randomly Freezes

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August 2, 2011 11:51:25 AM

This past weekend I built a new system using the following components:
Intel i7-2600K CPU
ASRock Z68 Extreme4 Motherboard
2x4GB G.SKILL DDR3-1600 RAM
2x XFX HD6970 2GB GPUs / Crossfire
SeaSonic X750 Gold PSU
2x ADATA s599 128GB SSDs / RAID0
Lian Li PC-9F Case

It's essentially the June $2000 System Builder Marathon PC. I figure, Tom's Hardware knows more than I do, I might as well listen.

Anyway, I put the system together, installed Windows 7 after configuring the BIOS and had it up and running like a champion for the first two days. I had a few minor hang-ups as I installed various drivers and fiddled with some of the BIOS settings. On about the third morning, I restarted the system. Instead of booting up like normal, it hung past POST, reset, and proceeded to boot, reset, boot reset, every five or ten seconds. I shut it down, let the fans and everything completely spool down, then booted it up again and tried to enter the BIOS. No luck.

From that point on, it will run for only about a minute, max, before it will randomly freeze. I've managed to get into the BIOS, changed settings, reset the CMOS, pulled components, all with no success. I've tried different RAM and moved them around in the slots. I've pulled the GPUs and tried the onboard video.

I was thinking I might need to flash the BIOS with new firmware, but the system won't run for longer than a minute, so I don't want to risk corrupting the BIOS.

Strangely, if I leave the system off and unplugged for over an hour, it will run for slightly longer before freezing, almost as if it's a heat or capacitance issue somewhere.

Unfortunately, I do not have a second motherboard or CPU, so I am unable to swap them for troubleshooting.

Does anyone have any ideas or suggestions? At this point, my options seem to be boxing up the motherboard and CPU and sending them back to NewEgg for replacement. I'd like to avoid that. Living on Guam makes the shipping a bit of a nightmare.

Thank you in advance for the help.
August 2, 2011 1:43:32 PM

Did you set the ram up with factory specs? If not I would recommend clearing the bios(do this anyway if you keep freezing) and enter the ram voltage and timings manually. You might need more qpi/dram voltage to run at 1600mhz so that's another possible reason for the freezes.

a c 107 V Motherboard
August 2, 2011 4:41:38 PM

lol That's really helpful, werner. You do know that ASRock is on par with those right?

SD:
Use the neat little Clear CMOS button on the back I/O panel to clear the BIOS back to defaults. Something in the fiddling you did likely is preventing a full boot sequence.

That's a very nice system. I would have done the SSD/HDD combo instead of RAIDing two SSDs and having to run garbage collection manually (as RAID disables TRIM), and I would've gone with a 850W SeaSonic, but those would be the only changes I'd make. It certainly puts my own system to shame.
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August 2, 2011 11:49:46 PM

I've cleared the BIOS multiple times, with no success; I've loaded default values within the BIOS, cleared the CMOS via the back I/O panel switch and even removed and replaced the battery on the motherboard. The system still freezes within 60 seconds of boot.

One other thought was a system short somewhere. The motherboard is clear of the case via the standard stand-off screws, but without actually taking a multimeter to the case, I can't prove that.

I guess my best option is to send back the motherboard for replacement, right?
a c 107 V Motherboard
August 3, 2011 2:31:45 AM

Before doing that, assemble the system outside the case. Just put the mainboard on cardboard or something and put the minimum components in -- one stick of memory, hard drive, and that's it. See whether or not it boots normally without a graphics card.
August 3, 2011 2:44:15 AM

Honestly the motherboard being bad would be a decent guess, but not without ruling out several other potential causes.

My first guess looking at your setup would be too small of a PSU. Graphics cards nowadays are power-hungry, and trying to run 2 6970's with 750w would put a tremendous strain on the PSU.

Nicely specced I'll admit though.

My suggestion would be to assemble a basic shell, start with just the board + memory + CPU. Then add SSD's. Continue running off of onboard graphics during this as well. Then if stable add one video card, this is likely where the tipping point will be right at the video cards. Have you verified that the G-Skill 8gb kit is on the compatability list for that specific board? (Yes I know a ton of memory works without that, but that's one thing to check off).

I'd upgrade to a 1000w PSU personally either way if you're wanting a multi-gpu setup, as even if that 750w CAN run that, you're likely running that thing at or near max capacity, with no room to upgrade in the future, and likely straining the PSU more over time.
August 3, 2011 3:20:06 AM

Alrighty, I'll check the RAM compatibility first, then I'll remove the motherboard and test it outside the case. If it continues to fail, at least I'll already have it out and ready to ship back to NewEgg.

I'll most likely get a new PSU while I'm at it. Evidently, I'm (literally) behind the power curve. When the system WAS running, however, I had no problems running graphic intensive games. It seemed to handle to load, though I obviously can't say anything about the performance over time.

I meant to ask this earlier, but in reference to the hard drives, what did you mean by garbage collection and TRIM? I've got an older 1TB SATA HHD that I use for data storage and backup, so the only thing on the SSDs are the operating system and software.
August 3, 2011 4:42:04 AM

Many times a system that's being borderline underpowered will run on what it's given for a short/medium period but will sooner than later end with instability and/or not working at all from the PSU falling over dead.

Personally if you're wanting ultimate speed, with good space for storage, while your at it return the 2 SSD's, eliminate the raid. They're good drives, but overpriced for their performance ratio now. Especially considering they're only sata II.

If you want excellent storage/OS/boot performance with (What I'm assuming) a ~$410 budget (assuming you ordered them from newegg) here's some options I recommend:

PCI-E If you have the room and aren't opposed to it:
220gb, The Read/Write speeds are rated for 740/690, compared to the two you had which are rated at at 280/270, which even in a raid 0 array will MAYBE get it into the 300's.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Or if you're wanting to stick with Sata but use sata 3:
256gb Crucial M4
Read/Write speeds rated for: 415/260
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=20-148-...


Either way if you're not positive what garbage collection and TRIM are then you're going to have to do some research into SSD's because any drive you pick is likely going to require at least a little TLC into settings to have them perform stable and remain fast over time.
August 3, 2011 5:18:09 AM

Interesting. Looks like I have some reading to do. Granted, I was pretty darn happy with the performance boost that came from the two RAID'd SSDs.
a c 107 V Motherboard
August 3, 2011 5:29:36 AM

ASRock and G.Skill play very well together. There is no incompatibility issue there.

That SeaSonic is one of the best -- if not the best -- 750W power supplies available, and can put out over 900W while still maintaining excellent control of voltage and ripple. However, I still would have gone at least one size up to begin with for that CF setup. I have a SeaSonic 560W power supply in my single-card system.

Garbage collection and TRIM are commands that SSDs run to keep their performance at peak levels. When data is moved on an SSD, the area where the data was must be zeroed out before it can be written to again. They do this when your system is idle whenever possible, but if necessary, they will do it as you are using the system.

However, the automatic TRIM command is disabled when SSDs are put in a RAID array. That means you must use a garbage collection program manually, so the written-to areas are reset. Otherwise the areas will be reset as the writes are happening, which dramatically slows performance.
August 3, 2011 5:55:53 AM

Sounds good. I'll look up third-party garbage collection programs while I'm waiting for new components to arrive. Not that I really need to, since it seems that a single SATA III SSD will outperform the RAID0 array. Makes for an easier setup, too, I suppose.
August 3, 2011 8:06:56 PM

SDirickson said:
Sounds good. I'll look up third-party garbage collection programs while I'm waiting for new components to arrive. Not that I really need to, since it seems that a single SATA III SSD will outperform the RAID0 array. Makes for an easier setup, too, I suppose.


Ya I can guarantee you that a single Sata III SSD will be faster. I've personally benchmarked 2 Crucial drives in a raid 0 array that were top of the line last year (Rated for 355/215 each) and tested single ones, the Raid 0 array provided for a minimal speed increase which wasn't justified by the increased cost and complications from the array.

Honestly you could get a single Sata III crucial drive from last year and it'd likely be all you need, with read speeds of 355 and write of 215, an average hard drive is around 100/60ish on a good day if not slower.

However that PCI-E card looks badass and seems to be around the same price, read speeds in the 700s? Insane.
August 3, 2011 9:05:55 PM

The PCI-E card does look pretty nice, though the compatability and setup issues seem daunting. Their website has a very short list of compatable motherboards.
August 3, 2011 11:14:58 PM

SDirickson said:
The PCI-E card does look pretty nice, though the compatability and setup issues seem daunting. Their website has a very short list of compatable motherboards.


I would take the compatability with a grain of salt, it's just like memory compatability, it simply means those are the boards that they have physically tested it with and know it works on. Personally I'd imagine any board with the same chipsets and same controllers as the boards on the compatablity list would work fine, that and I'd imagine any good performance board would work as long as it has a true PCI-E x4 capability.

However, I will agree it will require more setup and TLC with settings to maintain it. However, it will blow the other options out of the water as current drives are hitting even the limits of Sata III. That's why I gave options for both as I wasn't sure if you'd be willing to jump on the PCI-E boat yet. Personally if I was weighing the two, I'd shoot for the PCI-E, but I've setup plenty of SSD's at this point and would feel overly-comfortable setting up a PCI-e SSD.

I wish I had unlimited money, as if I did I would get the 500gb-1tb SSD PCI-E card's they have out. Some of them are approaching speeds close to 2GBps (2000MBps). Too bad I have a problem with spending more money on a SSD than I did on my car though.
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