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Is my CPU dead?

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November 17, 2011 1:10:57 AM

Today my computer took a big poop. Crazy colored lines and checkered squares appeared on my screen and the computer crashed. I tried leaving the computer off for 15-20 minutes but when I turned it back on it was only good for maybe 5 minutes, then went crazy again.

I have had the problem for months now of the computer hanging after 5 minutes once it has booted up the first time. Subsequent restarts have "fixed" the problem until the next time the computer has been off for a while and been booted up again. A few weeks ago for the first time I got a blue screen crash that gave me the STOP error 0x0000009c. I've had a couple since then. My online research made me believe that that could be related to either the CPU dying or an outdated video card driver. I updated the driver and it didn't help so that only leaves the CPU.

My assumption is that the CPU has finally died. I took the CPU out to give it a look and there is no physical damage. I thought maybe reseating the CPU might help but it didn't. The thing is, the weird colors seem more in line with a video card problem than that of a CPU. How can I tell? I have an i7 in there right now and to replace it would cost me $300. I'd be pretty pissed off it I spent that money only to find out it was not the CPU after all.

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November 17, 2011 1:26:33 AM

First of all, Please list your PC Spec because we cant tell if you got a i7 1155/1156/1366... There's 3 different kind of i7's... List all your spec like Memory, MoBo and HDD and other stuff... Your CPU voltage could be a problem IF you have a build one instead of a pre-build... if it's a build you make, go into BIOS and set voltage manually to 1.2v or so...
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a b à CPUs
November 17, 2011 1:35:00 AM

In any event there is almost no chance of wrecking your CPU
Are you able to see anything on the screen at all ?
If so then I assure you there is no chance on CPU damage.
Boot the PC in Safe mode
wipe all drivers using driver sweeper (google)
then restart the PC and download the latest drivers
I have done no looking into this for you.
But quite simply if anything at all comes on the screen at all at any point you do not have a CPU problem, despite anyone's argument to the contrary.
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November 17, 2011 2:15:55 AM

That was my thought, it was only the info I uncovered about the STOP error that made me think it must be the CPU. If it isn't what could it be then? The graphics card? I'm thinking it isn't the CPU either. I hadn't thought to boot in safe mode but I'll try it now.

Incidentally, I was able to run a diagnostic tool at the startup screen before the OS loads, and everything passed. CPU, memory and HDD are all functional according to the diagnostic. It does not test the GPU. The odd thing is, the screen during this test does not get funky AT ALL. Ever. Which is inconsistent with what happens when Windows starts to run.

Here's the little info I'm able to get about my specs, since I don't know them off by heart. Sorry I can't be more specific but to get more details I have to have a computer that doesn't crash immediately upon entering Windows:

i7 920 2.67GHz quad core
4GB DDR3 RAM
Western Digital 500GB HDD SATA 7200
GeForce 9800GT

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November 17, 2011 4:33:51 AM

Well I entered Safe Mode and rather than delete all the drivers, I decided first to just uninstall a couple of programs that I had installed a few hours before all of this happened in the hopes that it might fix the problem. When I booted back up everything seemed to be normal. The computer went a whole 10 minutes without freaking out. I started playing Skyrim and about 20-30 minutes in everything went crazy again. I tried rebooting and had the same old problems.

I went back into Safe Mode and used the driver cleaner to delete all the drivers. Upon rebooting I installed only the graphics driver. I figured Windows can take care of the rest as it sees fit. It's now been about half an hour and so far so good, but I have not stress tested the system with something like Skyrim yet.

Clearly it's not a hardware issue. Hopefully the driver cleaning fixed whatever was causing the problem, presumably a driver somewhere got corrupted. Thanks Spentshells for the suggestion. It may just have done the trick. And also saved my ass because I have work to do this weekend that I need this computer for... And you saved me the agony of spending $300 on a CPU I didn't need and can't return :) 
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November 17, 2011 4:54:13 AM

It it happens again remove all the components and inspect your mobo for any signs of bad caps and such. PC freezing are normally related to that
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November 17, 2011 4:36:49 PM

I provided exact steps to help you. Please follow them as stated to be 100% sure the steps will not help.
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November 17, 2011 5:11:18 PM

Crazy colored lines & checkered squares are usually the sign of your video card memory crapping out. Exact same symptoms with my 5-yr-old 8800GTX card, except I didn't wait around long enough to see the computer crash. Luckily I had an AMD 5770 lying around, so I went into safe mode, wiped all the NV driver files out, shut the juice off, pulled the NV card out and then put in the 5770 and installed the latest ATI drivers.

Well actually after I had the NV card out, I took the entire box outside to my driveway and used an air compressor to blow out 5 years of dust bunnies & assorted crap - made a really nice brownish-grey cloud that the wind blew over to my neighbor's house :D . A heck of a lot easier than using a brush or those puny cans of compressed air. I did make sure no water left in the compressor from the last use, and as it was a cool and dry day, not much moisture in the newly compressed air either.

Anyway, back to the story - computer booted up fine afterwards, only issue I have is that some older games that ran fine on the NV card are a bit flakey on the ATI card.. Also my neighbor looks at me funny now, but that's OK :D .
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a c 188 à CPUs
November 17, 2011 6:31:53 PM

+1 for fazers_on_stun

I had some of the same issues with an older video card and it was overheating that caused the problems. See if you can clean it and than try to play again if it starts to act funny put your hand up close to the card and see if you can feel any extra heat coming off from it.

Christian Wood
Intel Enthusiast Team
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a c 83 à CPUs
November 17, 2011 7:54:09 PM

I had a similar thing happen when the fan on my 4670 died, so it would over heat. Crashed the computer with colored squares minutes into playing a game, and it would occur on the desktop and casual use within an hour or 2. Shut the computer off for 15+minutes to cool, and it would be fine again.
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November 23, 2011 11:26:19 PM

Well here's an update to the situation for anyone interested, and yes as it turns out it was my video card

After about 2 days of running fine, after deleting all the drivers, the computer went right back to funny lines and colors. This time it also did it in safe mode, which it hadn't done before, and I realized that a) it was definitely a hardware issue, and b) that the most likely culprit was the video card. So I put my video card into my roommates computer and yes indeed it was the GPU causing the problems.

Now here's the interesting part. I baked my video card and, 3 days later and many many hours of use, including 5 hours of Skyrim on ultra settings and a couple of 3D Mark stress tests, things seem to be okay. I did say that last time and was wrong, but... maybe it worked? Amazing to me that putting a piece of computer hardware in a toaster oven for 10 minutes could have saved me several hundreds of dollars, but you never know until you try it.
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November 24, 2011 12:34:17 AM

Hope you didnt burn the muffins
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November 24, 2011 2:04:22 PM

jtrory said:
Well here's an update to the situation for anyone interested, and yes as it turns out it was my video card

After about 2 days of running fine, after deleting all the drivers, the computer went right back to funny lines and colors. This time it also did it in safe mode, which it hadn't done before, and I realized that a) it was definitely a hardware issue, and b) that the most likely culprit was the video card. So I put my video card into my roommates computer and yes indeed it was the GPU causing the problems.

Now here's the interesting part. I baked my video card and, 3 days later and many many hours of use, including 5 hours of Skyrim on ultra settings and a couple of 3D Mark stress tests, things seem to be okay. I did say that last time and was wrong, but... maybe it worked? Amazing to me that putting a piece of computer hardware in a toaster oven for 10 minutes could have saved me several hundreds of dollars, but you never know until you try it.


Hmm, never heard of that working for a video card before - did you spill water or beer or other liquid on it?? :)  My wife dropped her cellphone in the toilet - several times actually :p  - so I'd fish it out, pull out the battery immediately and then either freeze it or bake it. Worked OK up until the last time when it finally drowned for good.

Most mid to high-end video cards generate a lot of heat anyway when playing games, so this seems kinda weird. But glad you got it fixed, at least for a while..
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November 27, 2011 1:47:01 AM

The card is a 9800GT which according to what I've read generally runs at 65F when idle, which mine does according to my tests. That is already pretty hot. So the fact that baking it appears to have worked is, as you say, even more surprising. But I've gone nearly a week now and things are still fine - been playing a lot of Skyrim and no problems.

I stripped the card down to the board and put it in a toaster oven on some balls of foil at 180F for about 10 minutes. That's all it took. Let it cool off for about 10 minutes, put the heat sink back on and popped it back on the motherboard. Good as new. How long it'll last I don't know, I doubt it's something I'll be able to do a second time. But if I even get 6 months out of it I'll be happy because even though it's an older card now by today's standards it still does the job for me.
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November 27, 2011 2:08:24 AM

fazers_on_stun said:
Hmm, never heard of that working for a video card before - did you spill water or beer or other liquid on it?? :)  My wife dropped her cellphone in the toilet - several times actually :p  - so I'd fish it out, pull out the battery immediately and then either freeze it or bake it. Worked OK up until the last time when it finally drowned for good.

Most mid to high-end video cards generate a lot of heat anyway when playing games, so this seems kinda weird. But glad you got it fixed, at least for a while..


Baking doesn't mean heating the card to dry it out if you spill something onto it. It means cooking the card so that the soldering melts, reconnecting anything that may have pulled away from the PCB.

What can happen, is that the card's heat warps the board, pulling the connections loose from the PCB. Since someone mentioned the card gets hot and why it doesn't do it on its own, its because its only the chip that gets hot, not the entirity of the PCB. A majority of that heat is transferred away immediately and away from the card, leaving it fairly safe. In addition, chips typically shut down around 90C, or about 196 F. Typically, thats a worst case scenario. Most cards should get hotter than 82 C, which is 172 F, lower than what it typically takes to melt the solder.

When you bake the card, the heat is spread equally to all parts of the card, not just the chip or heatsink. This is why it works.

Edit: Also, most solder that is used in electronics have a melting point of about 180, which is why that temperature works. Again, no card is going to burn that hot long enough to cause any damage to the solder. If it does, baking may fix it. But at that point you have other problems on your hand in dealing with the card is over heating like that.

Also, idling at 65F is insane! I have the 8800 GT, which is the same as the 9800 GT, and it idles at 52 C. In games, I hit 72 C, in crysis I can hit 77 C. What kind of air flow do you have? Granted, I also have my fan spinning 100% all the time... maybe that's it. I'll go away now.
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November 27, 2011 4:55:13 AM

ur quick cook method is only a short term solution, i would think.... the most likely reason that worked is because of a shorted(in this case bad soldered) connection in the vid card... the temps that it is reaching while ur using it playing games is enough to cause mild solder degredation about the wire inserts and surface mounted components.. i would recommend adding some cooling in the direct area of the gpu.. and if u have the patients and ability, reseat the heatsink onto the gpu .. i don't know enough about skyrim but from what i've seen it can be hard on gpu are the settings that you're running at.,
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November 27, 2011 6:40:55 AM

Yes you're right, I doubt this is a long term solution. To be honest, it being an older video card I'm less inclined to spend money on a cooling system than I am on spending a couple of hundred on a better GPU. But I figure if I can get more life out of the card until it finally bites the dust, I might as well. More to the point, for anybody who has a similar problem to mine, stick your card in the oven. The worst that can happen is you'll make a bad card worse. That was my theory. The best that can happen is what happened for me, which is that you can resurrect a card for a little while.

Right now I'm running Skyrim at 1920x1080 with basically ultra settings - full draw distance, full water effects, 4x antialias and 4x anisotropic filtering. I'm visibly pushing the card's capacity because I see noticeable frame rate drops occasionally, but I think that is a good test. I want to be able to run the game that way and if it works for now, wonderful. If it craps out again, I'll get a new card. I guess technically I have already reseated the heatsink because I had to take it off in order to put it in the oven in the first place. Otherwise I feel like any other effort on my part beyond cooking it is probably not worth the time or money on a card that is kind of old.
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