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System Instability, Where and How to Start Troubleshooting?

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June 6, 2012 10:02:58 PM

In November I built myself my first home built computer. I had previously been gaming on a several year old laptop, so at the time anything was an upgrade. I wasn't looking to by an extreme gaming computer, just something that would play games decently - so I cut some corners and did what a could with a $500 budget. I got a very inexpensive case, used some old video cards from a friend, and passed on the third party heat sink.

Here's my build:
MB: Gigabyte GA-Z68A [link]
CPU: Intel Core i3 [link]
PSU: Corsair CX500 [link]
RAM: 2x 2GB Wintec DDR3 1333, 1x 4GB AMD DDR3 1600
GPU: 2x NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT running in SLI mode
Case: APEX SK-393-C
OS: Windows 7 64-bit

I currently have 2 80mm fans. The case specs claim it supports 120mm side fans, but I'm not sure I believe they will fit on the side panel without running into my GPUs, so I haven't bought them yet.

I don't have anything overclocked.

My stability problems are all over the place, here are some of the problems I've experienced:

System Lock-Ups While Running - These have occurred while gaming, while surfing the internet, etc.
System Lock-Ups On Boot - I often freeze on the windows loading screen, the one where the windows logo pulses on the screen.
BSOD - These happen while gaming, but have also happened while my computer was idling and I was across the room.

Today I ran some stress on my RAM and GPUs, stepped away and when I returned my computer had BSOD'd and restarted - at which point my graphics settings were very odd and when I went into my NVIDIA CP, got the error "You are not currently using a display attached to an NVIDIA GPU.

My computer does run a bit on the warm side, but I have never noticed a large spike in heat around the time these things happen. I downloaded HWMonitor and Speed Fan today - but they're giving me conflicting information. HWMonitor gave me <a href="https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B6SlPY-Dozn7Tjh2Nk1ySl...">these results</a> which put my CPU temperatures between 36 and 39, while SpeedFan gave me <a href="https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B6SlPY-Dozn7WkVqanpXVU...">these results</a> which put my CPU temperatures between 68 and 70 and added in a third temperature for my MoBo that reads 127C?

So my question now is - where do I start? I don't have a lot of money to make upgrades all at once, so I have to pick and choose. My first thought was to start with a case with a better airflow system, but now I'm not so sure. Looking at the HWMonitor results, it seems like most of my components are are in a decent temperature range except for my graphics cards. But the SpeedFan results put a lot more of my components in the red with regards to the temperatures they are sitting at. And, I'm not even sure that overheating is the main problem - since I have experienced BSODs while my computer is idling.

Any suggestions or advice on where to start would be much appreciated!
June 6, 2012 10:14:35 PM

I would start with the RAM. Are you saying you are running 2x2 and 1x4 all at the same time?

First thing I would do is take that oddball stick out of the mix, the 1x4.

Then run memtest86+
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June 6, 2012 10:38:40 PM

cranked said:
I would start with the RAM. Are you saying you are running 2x2 and 1x4 all at the same time?

First thing I would do is take that oddball stick out of the mix, the 1x4.

Then run memtest86+


I got a third memory stick because my original build with only 4GB wasn't enough when I was running games.

I should have mentioned, but forgot to - I ran memtest86+ today with all three sticks in and got no errors. I ran two full iterations of the test. Should I still look into it without the 4G stick?
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June 6, 2012 10:47:08 PM

You need to find out if you have a hardware or software problem. If you have access to a known good HDD install W7 on it and see how it runs. You don't mention your HDD in the specs so I'm wondering if it's an old one. Personally, I change HDDs at 3 years, even if they're running fine. Consider an SSD. If the fresh OS install still produces problems then the only way to find the problem is to replace components one at a time with known good ones. Maybe you can borrow components from running computers. After doing this a few times you end up with your own set of known good parts. Maybe you have a friend whose ahead of you on the evolutionary scale. Good luck.
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