Troubleshooting advice - crashes

Hi everyone -

I'd like to get some feedback on a crash issue I've had for several months. I'm by no means a computer expert, and I've done what I know to do so I'm just poking around to see if I can find any suggestions.

I have a Gateway GT5628, about 5 years old. It was up until about 10-12 months ago my gaming PC – nothing stunning but able to handle most stuff on medium settings - and it was very dependable. It's past time to replace it, but the thing's got a quad core in it and it's a shame that I can't stretch it a little more since it'll still run new games.

Here are my basic specs:

Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad 2.40GHz
Memory: PC2-5300 DIMM (3.0GB expanded to 4.0)
Hard Disk: 500 GB, 7200 RPM, SATA II hard drive
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GT 512MB
Power: 400 Watts
Op Sys: The Dreaded Windows Vista Home Edition

I'll try my best to answer any questions I can about further specs, but may need some direction for where to look. Again, regular computer user but I don't crack the hood often.

The problem:

Random crashes, sometimes during startup, sometimes after minutes/hours/days of running. Sometimes accompanied by a loud fan noise just prior to crash, and sometimes not (I don't think it's the graphics card fan, from the 1-2 times it's happened with the case open). Sometimes accompanied by a bluescreen, sometimes not. Sometimes it will crash out 10 times during repeated attempts at startup, and sometimes it will last through a week of use and hibernation. The 'weeks of use' scenario is becoming more and more rare, though. Very rarely I get beeps. Nothing recent, no pattern I can remember unfortunately. I know this usually means a motherboard error?

The information I have:

When I am lucky enough to see a bluescreen for three milliseconds and jot down the error code (Apologies, I could not find one I'd written down and haven't seen one recently), I Google it and it's always related to memory.

Things I have done:

1. Run antivirus & anti-malware regularly (Norton, Avast, Malwarebytes). The system is clean as far as I can tell.
2. Run Memtest multiple times. The first 6-8, no memory issues reported. Once very recently it reported errors, but crashed out before I could record the data. Re-ran multiple times, never was able to replicate another test with errors.
3. Cleaned the fans/CPU/case thoroughly.
4. Made sure all components are seated properly.
5. After lots of frustration, and most tech-y friends saying, “Your memory is probably bad,” I finally bought some (used) memory since I found it cheap. Since I was having trouble pinpointing what stick was causing errors, I replaced them all. I filled all four slots, but managed to upgrade from 3 gigs (1, 1, .5, .5) to 4 (1GBx4). The specs match and there is no compatibility problem that I am aware of. It powered up for a couple hours and gave me false hope that it was all fixed before crashing out again. So alas, the problem persists. I guess it's not the memory.

Misc information that may be related:

It started off as a very occasional crash issue, and has turned into a very persistent one.

Very rarely when I run chkdsk, I get some orphaned files and such (no bad sectors from my recollection). I'm not sure if this means the hard drive has a role in this, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

I put in the 9800 GT 3-5 months before the problem started. I don't think it's related, since the problem did not start immediately. What was in it beforehand was an GeForce 8500 GT that got to be too wimpy for what I was playing.


So, guys, any ideas? Is my motherboard just shot? Could it be some kind of overheating issue? If so, how do I check this? I'm happy to hear your thoughts. I'm close to giving up and just letting it collect dust until I can afford a new gaming rig. Unfortunately, right now that's just not in the cards for me. Thanks so much for reading this spammy post! I hope the verbosity pre-empted some of the usual responses seeking more info.
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  1. hello... inspect your 9800GT fan, it is a very good GPU, but the single card fan design, makes that FAN have to run very hard to keep the card cool... replacements are very in-expensive... Plug in your old card to determine if this might be your problem,
  2. Thanks, IronSounds -- I'll take a closer look at the GPU and see if that might be where the problem is.
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