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Reboot problems- is my hard disk the issue?

Last response: in Storage
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March 5, 2005 6:26:03 PM

I have been having incredible difficulty with my computer since I first built it two years ago, and replacement of parts up until now has not fixed it. I am one step short of just bringing it in and paying $100 to have the problem diagnosed, but this forum has never failed me in the past- so I want to try asking for help.

Here's my basic computer specs (I know there is a file I can get with details on my system, but I forget how to- if you need it, let me know, and I'll get it)

Motherboard- Soyo Dragon KT400 Platinum
Processor- AMD Athlon XP 3000+ (333 mhz fsb)
RAM- 2x500mb 400mhz dual channel DDR /w ultra cooling copper heat spreader on each
Graphics card- Radeon 9500 128 megs VRAM
Western Digital WD800JB (80 gig 7500 RPM (whatever the normal RPM is, that's it))
DVD drive- Sony DVD RW DRU-530A
Heatsink used- ThermalRight SI-97 with Vantec Tornado 92mm fan and Arctic Silver 5 thermal conductor paste used
Sound Card- SB Audigy 2
OS- Windows XP SP2
Antivirus and firewall- Norton Systemworks


*takes breath* Whew, okay, that should be a good summary. Here's the problem- sounds simple, but it's hard as hell to figure out. My computer simply restarts- one short beep and it restarts, often I have to turn it off and on again manually as it will just sit blank for a bit, but eventually I think it restarts on its own. This happens when 1) I am web-browsing, sometimes at certain webpages it will just restart. 2) Playing more recent games. Diablo II it never resets on... playing more recent ones, however, especially ones that utilize the power I bought it for, it will regularly restart. Particularly strong 3D games like Rome: Total War. Any 3D game, you name it. 3) It used to happen with burning DVDs when I used my previous processor, AMD AThlon 2500+ but doesn't happen so much now. 4) Almost always resets when I do a full virus scan, and used to reset when I installed large games on my hard disk before I upgraded the processor. Now, just virus- I put the computer in safe mode, and (after rebooting a few times trying to start safe mode) it usually works. My computer is, according to Norton Systemworks, completely virus free, btw.

Here's what I've replaced: I started with an AMD Athlon 2500+ with the HS/Fan that came with it, and upgraded to AMD Athlon 3000+ 333 mhz with my own fan/heatsink. The fan RPM is over 5000, which is good from what I know. The case side has little in the way of air holes, but there is a 92 mm fan on back sucking air in. 400 watt power supply. Due to driver problems I didn't want to pull my hair out getting over, I use an ethernet card instead of the motherboard's.

So, that's the basic state of things. My problem: what is causing these reboots? Why can't my system be stable or handle the kind of loads an AMD Athlon XP should handle without problem? My system temp seems to be okay- when it shut down last, the temp was 107 deg F. It usually runs around 98 F on start-up. I tried lowering the FSB mhz speed, but it won't start up properly unless I have it at 166 mhz (erm, the setting that lets it run at 333 mhz... I forget the terms, but my motherboard has built in settings to let me overclock (which I DO NOT DO) and adjust settings). The heatsink and fan I have SHOULD be more than enough to keep this baby cool.

Goal- I want to find out what is wrong. If I can't fix it, I'll replace whatever needs to be replace. Hard disk file problems? I'll reformat (if I ABSOLUTELY have to), or replace hard disk (what I will probably do if old HD has problems). need new graphics card? Fine. New motherboard? If I have to, I'll save up for it. New case for better air circulation? Sure, no prob. But what I won't do is replace everything randomly until I find out what is wrong.

Any ideas? What info can I give to help you aide me in assessing the problem? This reset issue has gone on since the system was first put together by me- and I had a professional tech look it over and make sure eveything was put together correctly during config one (before I upgraded processor).

Most sincerely,
Patrick
March 6, 2005 2:25:01 AM

1) Use memtest 86 to verify your memory.

2) Use the manufacturers diagnostic utility and do the full test for you hard drive.

3) What brand and model do you have. Wattage ratings are almost meaningless. A 340 watt that can keep the voltage levels stable is far superious to a cheap 500 watt which may not run stable on any PC.

Run prime 95 while monitoring the temps and voltage levels or run Sandra's burn in wizzard doing continuous CPU and Memory benchmarks and watch the readings.

If your system is overheating it may shutdown to avoid damage.

---
Report back when you have tested you memory, hard drives, and temp and voltage levels at 100% utilization.

Also while testing disconnect any usb devices, or for that matter any unnecessary hardware. Just about anythink can crash a PC if it is defective.
March 6, 2005 12:42:11 PM

I believe my memory to be fine- it was tested by the seller (which has a good reputation) at my request ahead of time. As for power supply: here it is.
ColorCases Model: SZ-450WP4
Let me know what you think about the power supply (I am thinking this is the information you were after). Your continued help is much appreciated!

PS- I have a potential preliminary solution. Someone on the CPU forum advised I try taking my Sound Blaster Audigy 2 out, and resetting, then see if the reboot error repeated. As my Sound Blaster obviously works fine, and is high quality, I never looked at it- but apparently via chipsets have been known to conflict with SoundBlasters. So I tried- and so far, using a game which almost always crashes my computer in average settings, my computer has not crashed once even with the settings at max. I appreciate your continued ideas, just in case the error is not fixed, but if I continue to have a "crash free" system I will let you know!

Sincerely,
Patrick
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March 7, 2005 6:48:34 AM

Memory fails just like any other component. Just because it worked when the seller tested it doesn't mean it works now. Also it may work fine in one board, but fail in another. Also the seller wasn't using your exact memory timming ect.

Never heard of ColorCases, could be a cheap brand not sure. Definately not one of the brands that come up when people discuss quality motherboards. I would invest in a better one even if its not your problem.

THG has a recent powersupply review thats worth looking at.

Also make sure you don't have the power set to 230v.

The SB and via conflits where mainly with intel VIA chipsets and early version of the KT133, usually with people who were not using the latest 4in1 drivers.

I think VIA's intel chipsets are not a good as their AMD. I think thats because AMD and VIA work closely together to make sure everthing works, while INTEL views VIA as a competitor and probably doesn't bend over backwords to help VIA create a quality chipset for thier products.

I have used my SB live 5.1 with KT133a, KT266a, KT333, KT400 all with zero problems.

Still, you should reseat all you cards,and move the sound card (last slot works for me), and troubleshoot without the card anyway. Soundcards go bad like any other component.

Also give everthing a good dusting :) 
March 7, 2005 11:13:39 AM

Thank you very much for such a thorough explanation and great advice! Colorcases is the company I bought my case from- they provided very inexpensive, but good looking quality, cases and the power supply was included. But you are right- I am beginning to think a new power supply would not go amiss. My SoundBlaster IS out, and I have found my error no longer occurs- I ran a game that almost ALWAYS crashes within twenty minutes or so at normal settings, all day yesterday (even just leaving it on) and it didn't crash. This is UNHEARD of for me- I think the problem, at least the main original one, is solved.

My diagnosis- I realised that there is a way to turn off the onboard sound from the setup menu, but I'd never done it even though I disabled it from within Windows. Since taking the sound card out did fix the problem, either it was a slot issue or it was related to this device conflict.

A lot of good has come from your advice, though, as well as others. I now know a lot about processes to go through to start troubleshooting all the components of a system. Inadvertently you guys have really help to "train me up" in just a short time. These tips and a few programs thrown my way are great! Thanks again for all your time.

-Patrick
March 7, 2005 12:57:16 PM

Thats it! Leaving onboard audio enabled will almost alwasy cause problems in games (unless you do a lot of tweaking).

Don't feel bad I know someone who's system wouldn't post because they confused a Floppy power connector for the audio cable from thier CD-ROM drive and plugged it in their sound card. Didn't know why the PC would shut down as soon as it was turned on. :) 

Usually when you buy a nice case and resigne yourself to the fact that there is a chance you have to throw out the PSU that came with it.

Since your voltages are good and your system 100% stable under a heavy load (games/prime95+Sandra Burn in) then you can put off buying a better PSU until you actually need one.
!