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Need Help wiht Unstable System

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October 9, 2012 1:14:30 PM

Hi guys. First off, thanks for reading this and attempting to help. I'm stumped and could really use some fresh perspective here. My system has been very unstable and I need to figure out what's causing it. Basically, on stock clocks and voltages the PC won't even boot. It auto-restarts after the Windows XP loading screen. If I leave it at stock clocks, but increase the voltages, then it'll boot into windows and generally works fine, most of the time. Once I try to play some games, it either 1) Locks up the entire system or 2) Restarts the PC. No BSOD.

I thought it was the CPU overheating, but I don't believe so, now. I've ran IntelBurnTest for 10 passes on standard and it's gotten the CPU up to 72C and did just fine. On another occasion, it's locked up on the desktop when the CPU was running at 45C. Not to mention that increasing the voltages makes it MORE stable... I'll try to include as much information as I can, below. I'm hoping that someone will see something I'm missing or have some kind of idea as to what's causing this issue. Thanks in advance, guys!

Parts

Motherboard: XFX nForce 780i SLI 3-Way
CPU: Intel Core2 Duo E6600 (Dual core, 2.4 Ghz – All stock)
Memory: 2 x 1GB Corsair XMS2 DDR2 (Model#: CM2X1024-8500C5)
GPU: GT 210, 512 mb, PCI-e x16

Clocks

CPU: 2400 mhz (Stock)
FSB: 1066.7 mhz (Stock)
Memory: 800 mhz
CPU Mulitplier: 9x (Stock)
PCI-e x16: 100 mhz (Stock)
SPP ↔ MCP Ref Frequency: Auto (Stock) Actual: 200 mhz

Memory Timings

tCL: Auto (Stock) Actual: 5
tRCD: Auto (Stock) Actual: 5
tRP: Auto (Stock) Actual: 5
tRAS: Auto (Stock) Actual: 18
CMD: Auto (Stock) Actual: 2T
tRRD: Auto (Stock) Actual: 3
tRC: Auto (Stock) Actual: 22
tWR: Auto (Stock) Actual: 5
tWTR: Auto (Stock) Actual:9
tREF: Auto (Stock) Actual: 7.8uS

Voltages

CPU Core: 1.5v (Set) Actual: 1.45v
CPU FSB: 1.4v (Set) Actual: 1.44v
Memory: 2.2v (Set) Actual: 2.21v
nForce SPP: 1.45v (Set) Actual: 1.45v
nForce MCP: 1.4v (Set) Actual: 1.4v
HT nForce SPP ↔ MCP: 1.4v (Set) Actual 1.4v
GTLVREF Lane 0: +00mv (Set) Actual: +00mv
GTLVREF Lane 1: +00mv (Set) Actual: +00mv
GTLVREF Lane 2: +00mv (Set) Actual: +00mv
GTLVREF Lane 3: +00mv (Set) Actual: +00mv

PSU Voltages (As reported by BIOS)

3.3v: 3.32v
3.3v: 3.32v
12v: 12.08v
5v: 5.06v
Vbat: 3.06v

HT Multiplier

nForce SPP → nForce MCP: 5x
nForce SPP ← nForce MCP: 5x

Spread Spectrum

CPU: Center Spread
HT: Auto
PCI-e MCP: Auto
SATA: Disabled (No SATA drives connected. All drives are IDE)

Temps (As reported by BIOS)

CPU: 53C
Board: 34C
MCP: 75C

Misc.

SLI-Ready Memory: Disabled
Limite CPUID MaxVal: Disabled
Intel SpeedStep: Disabled
CPU Thermal Control: Disabled
C1E Enhanced Halt State: Disabled
Execute Disable Bit: Enabled
Virtualization Technology: Enabled
CPU Core 1: Enabled

Hope that's enough information to at least get some ideas flowing. Thanks in advance, guys!

More about : wiht unstable system

October 9, 2012 1:37:23 PM

You should tell us what the Power Supply Unit is, usually if your power supply is unstable, it wont be enough to power the whole system, also, your hard drive might have a slight problem. Have you ever overclock your system before? Overclocking may lead to problems if not properly done.
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October 9, 2012 1:44:07 PM

The most likely causes of PCs freezing up are roughly:
1) Bad processor
2) Bad motherboard
3) Bad RAM
4) Bad Hard Drive
5) Bad Drivers
6) Overheating PSU

Glancing through the parts you listed the first thing that sticks out at me is the Corsair XMS RAM. This sort of RAM is well known for being absolutely horrible.

I would start looking for a different set of RAM that you can try in the computer to see if the problem goes away or not.

Secondly, you can investigate the driver aspect. Boot into safe mode and try to crash the computer there. If you can't, the problem is much more likely to be driver related. If the problem is hardware, it will still crash even in safe mode.

Also, the lack of a BSOD doesn't tell you very much. The default in Windows 7 is to not display a BSOD, to instead just immediately restart. If the system remains with the default configuration then you would never get to see a BSOD on the computer even if it were having them.

To change that behavior, do the following:
Right Click Computer
Properties
Advanced System Settings
Startup and Recovery
Settings
Uncheck Automatically Restart
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October 9, 2012 3:33:30 PM

@Nuclear101:

Yeah, PSU was my first thought, but as far as I'm aware, if it's the PSU then increasing the voltages shouldn't make the system more stable. If it did anything, it should make it less stable, though I admit, my knowledge of electrical workings is pretty limited. I'll be disassembling the entire system in a few days. Waiting on some thermal paste to arrive and I'm going to re-seat all the heat sinks. I'll get the information on the PSU then, as this case is a bitch. I was going to test the PSU, but I found that my voltmeter was messed up. HHD passes diagnostics, as does the CPU for that matter. It's by no means definitive, but it makes it less likely that the HDD is the cause. I've never overclocked it. Also, it wasn't my PC up until resently. It was messed up for my cousin and he gave it to me. It was giving him a "Bad Image" error upon booting up windows 7. Since I've worked on PCs for the past 9 years, he figured I could do something with it. And honestly, this is the first time I've not been able to figure out the cause of a problem, which is why I'm here. I was really hoping someone had experienced the "increasing voltage at stock clocks makes the system more stable" problem before and could direct me to the most likely cause. I'm more thinking motherboard problems, but I'm just not sure. Also, the MCP temp is very high... I read the this board is notorious for overheating MCPs. This is also one of the components I'm suspecting, but still... Increasing the voltages should make it HOTTER and less stable. None of this makes any sense, lol.

@Raiddinn:

Yeah, I'm aware of the likely causes, but now that you mention an overheating PSU, it does get rather hot... Much hotter than I'm use to seeing. If it is overheating then it could be having trouble holding the voltages steady, but then again... It doesn't make since that increasing the voltages makes it more stable... That's really what I need to know... What could be the cause of more stability at higher voltages. I thought of the ram, too. First, I considered a problem with the memory controller and tried with 1 stick only. Tried both of them at a time and crashes happen in the same way. They also paste Memtest86+ for 2 passes. Not definitive, again, but enough to make them less likely to be the cause. I originally thought that drivers could be the cause, but it doesn't fit with the voltage thing. If it were driver-related, voltages shouldn't have any affect on stability. I guess I'll go ahead and rule it out by testing it anyway. As far as crashing it... That's going to be hard to do... The CPU has passed 10 passes in IBT at standard, which is the highest I can do with my ram. CPU temps reach a high temp, 72C, but the computer doesn't crash. Though, at lower voltages, if the PC even boots at all, it DOES crash during IBT.

I have BSODs enabled, but I don't use windows 7, I much prefer XP over that "baby-sitting" windows 7. I realize I'll have to use it eventually, but I'm gonna keep using XP until I have to switch. The interesting thing is that even though I have it set to NOT automatically restart, it still does. Either that, or it simply locks up completely.

Thanks for the help guys. If you have any additional thoughts, please share them with me!
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October 9, 2012 3:55:16 PM

it the ram i had the same issue with an older intel p35 mb from g-byte. board would post fine with the ram but under load or muilt tasting would lock up or blue screen. errors stopped as soon as i switch to slower ram. if the ram has lifetime warranty i call the vendor up and swap for slower ram. did that with my crucial ram. just get a good level two tech. let them know the ram is fine other then it a timing issues due to the ram running faster then the mb can handle.
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October 9, 2012 3:55:31 PM

Increasing voltage commonly increases stability. For that matter I have never heard of decreasing voltages increasing stability.

When someone is OCing, one way to go about it is to just set the part where you want its performance to be and then increasing voltage to it until the computer is able to boot with those settings.

Memtest - Two passes isn't good enough, I have seen errors as late as the 7th pass personally. Even if the RAM passed all 10 passes, I would still switch it out for something else as a step in the testing process. Using that RAM in another computer would also be a good idea.

Case - If your case "is a *@#($@#" then that would lead me to believe that a bad case causing a PSU to fail would be more likely to be the root cause. A bad case can easily cause a PSU failure.

Voltage stuff - Tiny differences in voltage aren't enough to bring down most any PSU. It is the amps that bring down most PSUs. Incorrect voltages do mess stuff up, but its usually the other components like the motherboard and video card that are damaged by it.

It is called a Byzantine error when something appears to be working right, but it is in actually doing something unintended (like the gate guard at the Great Wall of China being paid off by Genghis Khan to open the gate - it worked and it shouldn't have).

Byzantine errors are common with computers and PSUs are no exception. It wouldn't surprise me one bit to hear that the bad case was causing the PSU to malfunction which causes a crash somewhere else.

BTW, I am also a PC hardware technician and I just wanted to say that I don't really see Windows 7 as a baby-sitting OS. It is annoying to have to hit OK to do some things, but it makes the computer more hacker-proof than it would otherwise be. It is a small price to pay for the added protection you get. Increased security in the computer world, as with anywhere else, generally involves some kind of annoyance (see Airports), but most people can get by with slightly more annoyance if the benefits are worth it.

For Windows 7, its arguable that the benefits are indeed worth it. Especially so if you care about networking. It is infinitely easier to setup a network with multiple wired and various wireless devices and get everything to recognize everything with Windows 7 as compared to with XP. So much so that its kind of amazing how people were able to get by with XP being as sucky as it was.
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October 9, 2012 4:30:09 PM

@Raiddinn:

Yeah, I understand that increasing voltage should increase stability, but the point is that I HAVE to increase voltage from stock when all clocks are at auto, which is stock. I shouldn't have to increase voltage for stability at stock clocks. And if something is messed up at stock voltages, then increasing shouldn't have any effect, unless something is really messed up. Now, if I had overclocked it, then yeah, increasing voltages would be normal. It's just worrying that I have to increase them at stock clocks.

I know that 2 passes isn't enough to be sure, but it lowers the likely-hood enough that I can look for a more likely cause. And if it comes down to it, I'll have to replace the ram anyway, but if I have to start swapping out pieces then there's really no point. It'd be smarter to just build another system. Like I said, I'm hoping for a "eureka" from someone who's seen this problem. I can't say I've EVER seen a system that I had to increase volts at stock clocks to increase stability and I've worked on many a PC. I'm hoping someone who has seen this comes along. It's just not cost effective on this system to start swapping out parts.

The case isn't really bad, it's just unwieldy. It's a NZXT Lexa Blackline. I personally don't like it, but I can't call it "bad," either. And the person that built this was an idiot... There's gonna be a lot of work to do when I do get my thermal paste in. Cable management will be a big one...

Windows 7 is definitely a benefit to the world as a whole. I just personally don't like it. I used to use it and disabled UAC is easy enough, as is taking complete ownership of the folder tree. But, it's like the shiny new car people buy when they have an older car that they've taken very good care of. I like the older car. But yeah, I agree, it's good overall, just not for me. And yeah... They really improved the networking and driver setups in windows 7, I have to give them that, lol. But then again, when windows 8 is mainstream there will be similar arguments about 7 vs. 8.

As a side note, it's nice to talk to another professional! And really, thanks for the help. Hopefully, someone will be my knight in shining armor and say "Oh, yeah, I had that once. It turned out to be..." That would help me not waste time and resources in other, less likely areas, which is what I'm hoping for. Probably not, though, lol. I mean, in 9 years I've never seen a problem like this. Never even read about a problem like this. Though, I'm honestly not the best out there, but still. I guess we shall see.

@smorizio:

Thanks for the reply. It depends on what you mean by "same issue." Did you have to increase voltages across the board to gain stability? I guess I kind of misrepresented what I actually need help with. Sorry for that. I can troubleshoot the normal crashes, that's not a problem. What I really need is for someone to give some insight on why increasing the voltages at stock clocks would affect stability. That could help point me into the right direction as far as the crashes go. I've also already loosened the timings and lowered the frequency of the ram. I set the ram frequency to a 1:1 ratio with the fsb. Even that showed no difference in stability, which surprised me, since the ram defaults to well over that ratio.

I guess I should just change what I'm asking to: Has anyone ever seen a case where you've needed to over-volt at stock clocks?

And again, thanks to everyone that's replying. It's very appreciated!


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October 10, 2012 2:42:50 AM

with ram the older ddr-2 use cpu-z read the ram model and google the ram info. under the spd info on the bottom it show the voltage that the ram needs to run. on some older mb if the ram was 1.6v or higher the mb bios on some boards were not made for overclocking ram and would default to 1.5v. the spec for dram at the time. people would have to set the ram voltages from auto to man mode and set them. the same issues used to crop up when people used 4 large stick of dd ram..the large over size ram would drop the ram voltage down below 1.5v and pc would lock up..crash or blue screen..most time bumping the voltage up a little fixed the issue. you see that the rated voltage of your over clock ram is going to be more then 1.6v the standard 800 ddr2 ram is 1.5v. my old 1066 ram was rated at 1.65v you may fix the problem if the ram voltage is bumped in the bios to want the ram needs. but i find on the older chipsets p35 and the nvidia clones of them it better to stay with stock 800 ram speeds.
do you know why the older mb and faster ram lock up...it because of pci bus timings. intel clocks the stock pci bus at 33. (stock clock for the system.) standard 800 ram is 400 clocks by 2. 100 speed on the bus (3x33). 100 by 4 inside the ram. the ram is running a stable 1:4 to the pci bus speed. the cpu is 33 x to reach the speed of the cpu rated speed. most cpu are running a 1:9 or 1:10 to the pci bus. when you drop in 1066 ram it 533 speed. as ddr 800 is running at a 1:4 speed the 533 is running at a 1:5.33 ratio. if you were looking at these under a standard o-scope the dram is not going to line up with the pci bus. (dc sqauare signal) __-----_____---------______-----------______--------_____. in real world if the timing was 100 percent for all they all land low and high at the same time from the main mb clock chip. with over clocking it not just about voltage it geting the part to be stable a a high stock pci bus speed. drive the pci bus to far from 33 clock on new mb and things like keyboards and other devices start not working. people are going to post and say it poo poo and that you can slow newer ram down..i tried that on my p 35 mb too the ram speed from auto and set the ram speed for 800 and 1.65v and windows still blew up. the system got stable when i sent the ram kit back a second time and i went to local shop and pick up a cheap 800 speed ram to keep the system running. with the cheap ram the system was stable for the first time. I got cruscial to send me back a 800 speed kit and not the 1066 kit i had. new slower kit worked fine. to you i go ask someone for some slower ram and toss it in and see if it fixes your issue before you rip your system apart.
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October 10, 2012 2:59:20 AM

@smorizio:

Thanks for the reply. I see you've had some tough times, yourself, lol. Glad to see everything's good for you. Unfortunately, that can't be what's wrong with my system. It ran fine for over a year. Same hardware. But, more importantly, I've finally got the system stable by pumping up the voltage to very high levels. Still wish I knew what was the cause of all this, but I guess I just have to make do with what I can get right now, lol.

Thanks for the help, everyone. I'll go ahead and mark this as solved, though I'm sure I'll be pondering this for a long time to come. :) 
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October 10, 2012 2:59:35 AM

Best answer selected by Chrispm84.
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October 10, 2012 1:26:27 PM

Borrow different RAM and try it. Swapping that one piece is doesn't make it worth trashing the whole thing. Besides, if it does work you can ebay the fixed system for a lot more than the $20 the RAM will cost if you have to buy a new stick.

Besides, its not about that. It is about fixing the thing and not wondering what is wrong with it. The hard ones are where you learn the most. In this case its not just you either. Two of us have now invested in sorting this out.

Everything I know about computers points to a RAM problem, but I don't know everything about them either.

The only thing that throws me off is when you said that this worked fine for over a year just now. Does that mean good stability without increased voltage during that time?
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October 10, 2012 1:38:27 PM

@Raiddinn:

Yes, it was working just fine for over a year. Got a "bad image" error upon windows 7 boot, then was given to me. That's when this entire thing had started.

On a side note... I've since thrown caution to the wind and increased the voltages, severely... Everytime it crashed, I increased all voltages by 0.05v. I had to do that, one time vs. the voltages posted in my original post, and so far, the PC hasn't crashed at all. I haven't had time for the extensive testing that would be required to find which one/ones of the voltages are the problem.

I thought maybe a short somewhere that was resisting the output of the PSU, but it seems unlikely since I've not been shocked, yet, lol. Perhaps a BIOS problem? Reporting the wrong voltages? But, then again, the voltages have been confirmed to be increased with a few different pieces of software, as well.

At the end of the day, though, I don't really have the time/resources (I'm poor, lol) to start trouble-shooting it. When I get some extra time, though, I'll check and see if my voltages were severely low for some of my components. I forgot to originally check this, since the defaults on the board are auto and it had worked fine on auto for so long. I'll check it, though.

I'll continue to look into it, from time to time, but I can't promise daily updates. I'll have to wait a good bit of time, between trying different things, unless Bill Gates decides to adopt me, lol. Just subscribe to this thread and we'll eventually figure it out. Peace, and thanks for caring so much. I've always been a member of another tech forum, but this one seems to be pretty nice. So, thanks for that.
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October 11, 2012 3:33:02 PM

Did you ever try to fix the Bad Image error?
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October 12, 2012 11:57:33 AM

Not really, no. It was windows 7 and I had no interest in using it anyway. I assumed that from "bad image" it was most likely corrupt system files. My cousin (who I got the PC from) isn't what we'd call "smart." It's more likely that it was a virus or other software-related issue than something hardware. I tested the HDD and it looked fine. SMART reports all ok and windows' disk checker didn't catch any problems.

An update... I've increased the voltages across the board and slowly worked on resetting them back to stock. It seems (if I'm remembering correctly here, lol) that the only voltages that I have to leave increased are FSB and RAM. Increasing RAM only helps, but it took some on the FSB to get the system completely stable. I've found the magic numbers, but I still want to know why... Something happened and I wanna know what it was, lol. But, so far, running two days, 24/7 and with heavy gaming and it's not had so much as a hiccup. Just looking for the cause, now.
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October 12, 2012 4:48:57 PM

If there is some kind of system corruption, it could have to do with the problem, conceivably.

If it indeed was a virus or something similar, they have been known in the past to be capable of causing hardware to do strange things.

If the whole problem started with bad image, that might not be a bad thing to try to address.
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October 12, 2012 6:25:09 PM

It's technically possible that a virus could've survived, but I reformatted AND recreated the MBR, so I'm pretty safe there. And if it were the HDD going out there would most likely be some indication of it. But, it tests just fine. I think it's just one of those things that are always gonna be a mystery. As far as I can tell, it's fine. No problems with stability and no overheating. Maybe the board just isn't very could at managing the voltages?... Who knows, lol.
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October 13, 2012 4:29:38 AM

Sorry, I didn't remember you mentioning that before.
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October 13, 2012 8:40:05 AM

This topic has been closed by MouseMonkey
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