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System Freeze-Up Problem

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November 3, 2010 7:41:57 PM

Hello,

I have a homebuilt PC setup that is continually locking-up/freezing or BSOD.

The System Specs:

ECS 6100PM-M2 V2.0 Motherboard (with latest BIOS update)
AMD 9500 Phenomenon Quad-Core Processor
4Gb Crucial DDR2 PC-533 RAM
512Mb nVidia 9800GT Graphics Card
320Gb SATA Hard Drive (1st Disk)
1Tb SATA Hard Drive (2nd Disk)
520W PSU (Can't remember the make)

It was mainly built as a reasonable gaming computer (i.e capable of running COD MW2, Left4Dead 2 etc etc). It has all of the latest drivers and Windows Update installed.

However, the system suffers from regular feeze-ups and/or BSOD, which I cannot work out why.

It's nothing to do with temperature as I have been monitoring this and the temp is quite reasonable. Furthermore, I have had the side removed foe the last few weeks just in case temp comes into it and it still regularly freezes and/or BSOD.

I can't work out what is going on other than maybe the system needs to be rebuilt with a fresh copy of Windows 7 (it currently has Windows 7 64-bit Ultimate installed).

Can anyone think of any other reason why I should be suffering these problems ?

Cheers

More about : system freeze problem

a b B Homebuilt system
November 3, 2010 8:35:01 PM

PSU may be getting too weak.
The 9800GT says it needs minimum 12V current rating of 26A. Does your PSU have that much? How old is it, it could lose up to 10% of its power each year the first few years depending on your usage.

You may have virus/spyware problems.

Those would be my first 2 guesses.
November 4, 2010 1:57:26 PM

PSU is less than 3 months old. I specifically upgraded it from a 400w model because I felt it was not sufficient. Most articles I have read regarding the 9800GT suggests that anything above 500W would be sufficient. Hence the reason for upgrading to the 520w model. The PSU does supply the required rating.

I know that the PC does not have any virus or spyware on it as I have checked it out with AVG AV, a McAfee stinger and also using MalwareBytes (to clear off the Spyware). All report the system as being clean.

Cheers
Related resources
a b B Homebuilt system
November 4, 2010 4:17:24 PM

PSU wattage rating doesnt mean much. Amperage on the 12V rails and voltage stability are more significant. It wouldnt be unusual for a quality 450W PSU to have better stability and more 12V amperage than a cheap 530W. What brand/model of PSU is it?

Re-installing win7 would be worth trying.

What did you change just before the system started doing this? Any bios settings? Having the bios RAM settings wrong (either timings or voltage) can cause similar problems.

Have you tried backing off any overclocking you have done?
November 4, 2010 4:43:26 PM

It's been my experiance that blue screens on newly assemble and freshly installed OS's are not software caused. DO NOT RULE THIS OUT though. Instead look at the hardware. What is the age of the system and how long has it been running it's current instalation of windows? I will assume that it's running windows 7 +- one year. The uber obvious question is did you update the latestet video drivers?. I assume you did. But did you have a preveious nvidia card installed before the upgrade? Nvidia onboard counts. IF so then the latest nvidia drivers has and option to Fresh install the driver so to speak. Give that a try. And for good mesure give your system a blast with Malware bytes and spybot and whatever AV you use.

Now so more technical suggestions. In my experiance blue screen are predominantly ram or hard drive. Grab a download of Memtest. I know you've got more than 3.2 gigs but it will still test most of your ram if not all if you run it long enough at least 4 passes. Grab a copy of your manufactures hard drive tester to test for bad sectors. I like Seatools and IBM/hitachi fitness test they work with most drive brands. If not post the brand and i'll suggest the right tool.

Second tech suggestion. If your M/b gives overclocking level control then go ito the bios overclock section and take a look at your ram settings. CPUZ is a great free easy tool to do this from windows. If the settings are different from advertised then try adjusting them manualy to the advertised settings or the JDEC settings that CPUZ will display for you. Additionaly set the cpu to its stocks speed if not already and disable any performance enchanc/ auto overclock/ cia/ turbo bust/ feature. Those are several names for basicly the same feature across several M/B brands wich is yours?

Also grab one or 2 cans of crompressed air. Remove ram and gpu and give the slots and pins a blast of air even if it looks clean. A single dust partical perfectly placed can cause similar problem but this is rare on modern hardware. (think back to the original nintendo box)

I don't suspect the powersupply the 9800gt is pretty good about telling you if it's insuficient power. Now if the PS is flucuating it's voltage beyond a tolerable range this could cause lock ups and blue screens. If you suspect the ps put back in the old less powerfull one. Don't worry I've seen overclocked 9800gts running on 300 wat oem powersupplys. The worst that will happen is the computer will boot and the card will sound an alram letting you know it's underpowered. You won't harm anything in doing this. IF the lock ups and BSOD go away with the old one than either return the new one and get a differen brand. Corsair, roswell are good or RMA it. Let me know what you've tried so far and if there is a pattern to the BSOD. IE when you alt tab out of a game or at any random time or only when you are doing a certain activity like playing games.
November 4, 2010 6:01:30 PM

Interesting answers.

First off, this system is NOT overclocked in any way or form. It is running at it's standard settings. Bios is at latest level and is simply 'Optimized' from the Bios Menu for optimum performance (according to how the BIOS sees the installed hardware).

As far as RAM is concerned, it has 2 Crucial 2Gb RAM chips. Mem Test has been run on the system numerous times. No problem with the RAM whatsoever.

Power is being supplied by a 580W XPower Light ATX PSU (not 520w as I put above).

It's been running Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit for around 6 months. The problem has been present throughout this time, though so infrequent (for a long time) that I was able to ignore it. Now however, it tends to freeze up often. When it freezes, it can be anytime from 5 minutes to up to 4 hours later.

Strangely, the PC has never frozen whilst I am playing a game on the system, though I have occasionally encountered BSOD when installing some games (which promptly get cleaned off and reinstalled). It seems to me that the PC always freezes when it has been left alone for a while.

Because I have several PC's (including this system) running off an 8 port KVM switch, I am often switching between different PC's so this system can often be left idle for short and long periods of time.

The nVidia drivers are always at the latest level. I check for newer nVidia drivers on a regular basis. When a new nVidia driver is installed, I always choose to do a clean install of that driver. Yes, it does have an inbuilt nVidia graphics card but that is not used. The system is also patched up the latest level with Windows Update.

The only thing that has changed on the system since it was first built 6 months ago, is the PSU upgrade and the installation of the second (1tb SATA) hard drive. However, I can't see that either of those installations are to blame for the occasional freeze or BSOD as the system was already occasionally doing that before those upgrades were installed.

I still am more inclined to believe that 'something' has screwed up on Windows 7 - be it an errant registry setting or some duff dll.

I have Windows 7 running on other home built PC systems (though 32 bit versions) and don't get the same problems on those as I do on this one. That said, the other Windows 7 PC's are not gaming machines. But, as I said, this system does not seem to freeze up whilst I am playing a game.

I have run various 'cleaners' on the system such as Ccleaner and also Comodo System Cleaner to get out any 'crap' from the system.

The freezes are so random though that it defies logic in some respects. Sometimes, the system will freeze during boot (after logging in), whilst other times it will run for a few hours before freezing. As I said, it has NEVER frozen during a game to my knowledge (unless the game has been placed on pause whilst I am away or not using that computer).
November 6, 2010 3:03:23 AM

It's starting to sound more like a bad sector on the hard drive. This does not mean the HDD is bad but that a few spots on the drive is bad. Very common windows usualy gets these clearerd up with a simple disk clean up. But i have seen Computer behave oddly very much like yours is when the HDD OR even the secondary HDD has A single bad sector. Have you had a chance to run seatool to search for a bad sector? If you run it and find 1-5 seatools should be able to repair them without harming windows. IF you seel lots and lots of them say like 20+ RMA the drive as the write head is malfuctioning. Seatools or the aproite tool for your HDD brand will give you an error code that make rmas ver very easy.

Another odity is that many AMD have a feature that can be enabled or disabled on the motherboard. I wish I could rember the name of it but basicly is an EMI interference feature for the PCI express bus lane. Very comon on older AMD athlon boards I don't know if Yours still used that feature if it not needed anymore.

As this issue is from day one of instalation I suspect hardware more than Windows. Now what I would do in your shoes at this point AFTER I did the manufacures HDD test is I would Clone windows to the secondary HDD for a back up. I use Acronis 11 very easy to use. Tip download the full trial and have it burn a recovery disk or whatever it called. That will make a bootable disk with full feature clone backup restoring features. The trial will expire but the disk will last forever. Once you've safley backup windows to a safe HDD you are now free to format all your HDDs reinstall windows again on either drive and see what happens.

There are ways to find the logs of the blue screen and if your a friggin genius with 30 years of Microsoft experinace (small exageration) you can figue out what those cryptic error codes mean.

But for people like you and me try the standard error log this is how you find it.
right click on my computer.
Select manage from the drop down.
In the opened window on the left had side expand event viewer.
Now expand windows logs
Here arer the logs for all recordable crashes neatly sorted for you. Application crashes such as program freeze ups and system crashes such as blue screen or serious lock ups. Look through thouse 2 logs and you should notice a pattern of crashes. usualy you will see the same process or program or driver crashing over and ove again. That is an easier way to pinpoint the software OR hardware thats casuing the crash. Once you notice the item that is repeatedly crashing the system a few google searches should set you on the right path.
November 8, 2010 6:24:31 PM

Actually, I think you are on to something in regard to the Hard Drive, though I don't believe it to be the hard drive itself.

In the System Event Log Viewer, it can be noted that one message is continually appearing every minute or two 'The driver detected a controller error on Device\Harddisk0\DR0'.

It has an event ID of 11 which according to MS means there is a problem with the driver. However, I seem to have the latest version of the Disk Controller driver !!


SeaTools simply tells me that there is a 'failure' regardless of which test I run. I suspect this is due to the Controller Error that Windows is continually reporting !!
November 8, 2010 7:03:08 PM

Does your motherboard have 2 built in hard drive controllers? (This is typical for highend boards the second controller typicly add raid capabilitys) If so switch to those sata ports and your problem should go away. Lets hope that the controller itself is not bad and it is the software driver. Sea tools failing the way you described is a sign of a controller error.

Question are you running seatool from windows? or from a bootable cd? Becuse that will tell you wich it is. If you are getting this failure running the test from the seatools bootable dos disk then it is definitly a hardware failure BUT if it passes in the bootable enviroment and the fails ONLY when run from within windows then it is just a driver error.

If thats the case then open the device manager. Same window in where you found the logs. expand IDE/ata pata controllers section. You should see at least one that has a real name like intell 828xxx sata/achi controller. Or whatever brand it is. IF you don't see anything specific like that then it appears that you are using the base windows driver.

If you can clearly see the sata/achi driver then try doing an unistall and reainstall. If you askes to delet the driver from the HDD then do so. you'll have to get a fresh download from either windows updates or from the manufactures website. DON"T use the cd that came with it as those drivers are ALWAYS outdated.
November 9, 2010 8:22:37 AM

SeaTools for DOS revealed no issues at all with any device.

Uninstalled and reinstalled the controller driver and now have it on test to see if the problem reoccurs. Been running for about 90 mins with no further reported errors on the controller, so hopefully it has been cured !!

Cheers
November 11, 2010 1:07:43 PM

The errors kept coming back, no matter what I did. So I resorted to a complete re-install of Windows 7. As I purposely keep all the data I want to keep on the second hard disk drive, it was not really a problem.

The PC in question is only really used for gaming purposes anyway and so reinstalling the games I want to play is not really a problem.

Having completed the re-install of Windows 7, lo and behold all of the disk problems have disappeared. The PC is running at optimal levels and has been running for over 36 hours now without a single glitch.

Strange problem really (and interesting in regard to the errors being reported by the hard disk controller), but unfrotunate that it was simply easier to perform a complete (fresh) reinstall of Windows.

Thanks to everyone who chipped in with suggestions. I publish the outcome here for others to know how I eventually resolved the issues.
a b B Homebuilt system
November 16, 2010 7:35:29 PM

Thanks for posting the final solution. Maybe it was a corrupted windows controller driver or something like that.
November 16, 2010 10:05:32 PM

What an unusual glitch. I'm glad to see it got resolved. I wonder what could have gone wrong in the initial setup that caused the problem. Maybe windows misidentified the IO controller. Who knows.
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