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Author Topic: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?  (Read 6489 times)

Jammo the OrganizedFellow

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How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« on: September 14, 2009, 03:37:39 PM »
 :(
I've got a hardware problem that I do not how to diagnose nor solve.

Constant freezes. Doesn't matter what application is running.

I have a custom built PC. Parts purchased & assembled April 2008. I had it built by an experienced friend of a friend, who has built several gaming rigs, and is no longer available to assist me.
Here is my parts list (quick copy/paste from NewEgg Invoice Details):
Quote
1 x Thermaltake M9 VI1000BWS Black SECC Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail
1 x GIGABYTE GA-P35-DS3L LGA 775 Intel P35 ATX All Solid Capacitor Intel Motherboard - Retail
1 x Intel Core 2 Duo E6550 Conroe 2.33GHz LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor Model BX80557E6550 - Retail
1 x G.SKILL 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F2-8500CL5D-2GBPK - Retail
1 x Thermaltake Purepower RX W0144RU 600W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready Modular Active PFC Power Supply - Retail
1 x XFX PVT88SFDF4 GeForce 8800 GS 384MB 192-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card - Retail
1 x SAMSUNG 20X DVD±R DVD Burner Black SATA Model SH-S203B - OEM
1 x Western Digital Caviar Blue WD1600AAJS 160GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - OEM
1 x Microsoft Windows XP Professional With SP2C for System Builders - OEM

I'm assuming that this is a hardware issue because I've had this problem start when I had XP, over a year ago.
At the time, I thought it was a software issue, or some other non-hardware matter. So I took the opportunity to try Kubuntu (I've used Ubuntu off and on many times since Edgy Eft.)
Problem didn't occur for a while, then suddenly happened several times per day.
My wife thought it was a bad hard-drive. This was a few months ago, when Win7 was available for download, so I downloaded and burned it.
I formatted the hard-drive using Ubuntu Live CD, and replaced it with a similar one as before (from a local store).
The problem persists. If I can figure out how, I may run both hard-drives (RAID? right?) to double my storage.

Win7 has been awesome! :)
I'm really digging it. Last night, for the first time in MONTHS, it froze again. And yet again upon reboot, and again right before this post.
I opened the case earlier. Took two aerosol air cans, and expelled most of whatever dust I found. Including the fans, power supply, around CPU heatsink, and the little heatsink on the graphics card.
I also unplugged each and every plug that I could get my hands on, and one by one, unplugged and replugged them, to ensure everything was nice and properly fastened.

I am currently not working, short term disablity. So any solution that is either free, or low-cost would be most appreciated!
:)
As an aspiring web developer/designer, it is a constant struggle to cope with my ADHD + Hypomania/Bipolar Disorder.

The slow growth of my web dev projects is eclipsed by my patience, understanding and desire to learn AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE as I slowly progress.

X_____jamjammo_____
« Last Edit: September 14, 2009, 03:42:19 PM by jammo »

Carol Haynes

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2009, 04:02:00 PM »
Anything in the system logs that give a clue? Start > Run (or ALT + R) and type eventvwr.msc - look in Wndows applications and system logs for any relevant errors or warnings.

A few things to try for a hardware issue (but get a full image backup first as you may kill XP activation by radical hardware changes):

1) Run a good memory tester (Memtest86+ from a boot CD is pretty good) as the symptoms you describe could easily be a memory problem. Let the memory test run for at least a few hours (preferably over night)
2) Try running with only one stick of memory - if you still have a problem try the other stick, try different slots - if Memtest+ didn't flag errors it probably isn't a memory issue but the can be problems with 2 sticks causing issues and Memtest+ isn't 100% perfect because there are small pockets of memory it can't test.
3) Check temperatures are reasonable (after a crash look in the BIOS) - you could try Speedfan which will report temperatures while windows is running
4) Still not found the issue try unplugging all unnecessary hardware from the motherboard: remove 1 memory stick, DVD burner, graphics card if there are onboard graphics that you can use temporarily. Basically remove everything that you can remove and still have a bootable system. Then try running a system stress test (you could use something like SiSoft Sanrda see http://download.cnet...2086_4-10556571.html) and see if the system still falls over. Again swap and move memory sticks. Once you have a stable system add devices back one at a time and test again.

If you are still having an issue it might be your windows installation. Since you have a full backup of your system wipe your hard disc and install an absolutely minimum version of Windows with minimal hardware and basic drivers wherever possible and stress test again and then add components one at a time and let windows install the drivers it wants where possible. If you get all your hardware back in and can't stress it to fall over and temperatures are OK it was probably your installation that had problems. Then you need to decide whether to struggle to troubleshoot random error problems or just start with a clean installation and extract your data from your backup.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2009, 04:04:23 PM by Carol Haynes »

Jammo the OrganizedFellow

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2009, 04:12:05 PM »
Thank you Carol.
You've been most helpful.

That's a pretty thorough set of steps, so I'll get back to you in a day or two, and report what I've found.

My wife says she was using it yesterday, when the dog (running round, playing with a ball) banged his head against the tower. The PC froze instantly.
She says that's when it first froze on her. Usually it's on ME. On her, once or twice. My bad luck!?

I notice it's more likely to happen when running Firefox. It's currently consuming 174,000K in the task manager right now.
As an aspiring web developer/designer, it is a constant struggle to cope with my ADHD + Hypomania/Bipolar Disorder.

The slow growth of my web dev projects is eclipsed by my patience, understanding and desire to learn AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE as I slowly progress.

X_____jamjammo_____

Carol Haynes

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2009, 05:12:14 PM »
If it freezes when jogged it sounds like a component needs to be reseated. Remove and replace memory sticks and PCI/PCIe cards (graphics etc.) if you have your air duster handy give the slots a quick blow before putting the components back in. Remove plugs from the motherboard and components and reseat those two.

I wouldn't remove the CPU except as an absolute last resort - and make sure you have alcohol to clean surfaces and a tube of thermal paste to replace the CPU. If you aren't sure about this don't touch the CPU.

Stoic Joker

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2009, 05:57:54 PM »
Might not hurt to clean said components (just their contacts) with a pencil eraser when reseating them.

Jammo the OrganizedFellow

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2009, 07:27:18 PM »
Might not hurt to clean said components (just their contacts) with a pencil eraser when reseating them.
Never heard of that, but will add to my: ToDos
As an aspiring web developer/designer, it is a constant struggle to cope with my ADHD + Hypomania/Bipolar Disorder.

The slow growth of my web dev projects is eclipsed by my patience, understanding and desire to learn AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE as I slowly progress.

X_____jamjammo_____

mouser

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2009, 07:33:35 PM »
it definitely pays to move the memory sticks around -- as memory issues can cause that kind of behavior from what i've seen.
it could also be an overheating issue.

both are hard to diagnose, but Carol's suggestions are all good, and may help you pinpoint the specific hardware causing the problem.  these kinds of unpredictable gremlins can be the most frustrating to try to solve.

4wd

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2009, 08:26:05 PM »
Might not hurt to clean said components (just their contacts) with a pencil eraser when reseating them.
Never heard of that, but will add to my: ToDos

I wouldn't do that, some pencil erasers leave a residue which can then cause problems.

If you must clean them physically, use a clean lint free cloth and some isopropyl alcohol.  Otherwise, unplugging/plugging them in a couple of times will more than clean the contacts sufficiently.

Of course, take all necessary ESD precautions before starting all this.

Jammo the OrganizedFellow

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2009, 10:48:03 PM »
AY AY 4wd :)

I've always got a lint-free cloth nearby for my smudgy glasses  8)
As an aspiring web developer/designer, it is a constant struggle to cope with my ADHD + Hypomania/Bipolar Disorder.

The slow growth of my web dev projects is eclipsed by my patience, understanding and desire to learn AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE as I slowly progress.

X_____jamjammo_____

a_lunatic

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2009, 04:06:12 AM »
Another good system test you can try if Memtest86+ doesn't find anything is Prime95 torture test here is a little guide http://www.playtool....prime95/prime95.html

Stoic Joker

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2009, 07:20:58 AM »
Might not hurt to clean said components (just their contacts) with a pencil eraser when reseating them.
Never heard of that, but will add to my: ToDos

I wouldn't do that, some pencil erasers leave a residue which can then cause problems.
What kind of pencils have you been using? Alcohol isn't going to do anything to the oxidation layer that coats the contacts after time. Sure reseating the memory a-few-times will scratch/gouge a conductive path in the oxidation usually ... But it's not guaranteed especially if you have a less than perfect (slightly loose, etc.) memory slot.

HP has a never use erasesr cleaning policy (I work for an HP ASP) for their diagnostics - But they get $200 for a 128MB stick of RAM too. I've had a dozen or so incidents in the past year where the Tech (following instructions) "cleaned" (e.g. washed) the memory only to have the problem continue. at least 9 of those were resolved by a little TLC and a pencil eraser. The rest actually did have bad memory.

4wd

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2009, 03:49:07 PM »
What kind of pencils have you been using?

I don't use erasers at all, there isn't any point because...

Quote
Alcohol isn't going to do anything to the oxidation layer that coats the contacts after time.

...gold doesn't oxidise in air.  If the gold contacts on your RAM sticks are oxidising you have other environmental problems.

Quote
Sure reseating the memory a-few-times will scratch/gouge a conductive path in the oxidation usually ... But it's not guaranteed especially if you have a less than perfect (slightly loose, etc.) memory slot.

Then you have a problem with your memory slots which should be fixed since any cleaning of the RAM contacts will be a temporary fix.

40hz

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2009, 05:53:10 PM »
I think Carol's spot on. Causing a fault by shaking the unit is almost always because something is unseated.

A couple of other thoughts:

If reseating all the pluggable components doesn't solve the problem, there's a chance your mobo might have a crack in it somewhere. It's not too common a problem. But sometimes when a case gets smacked hard, the CPU socket, or the surrounding board traces can get damaged - especially if you have one of those monster 3rd party CPU coolers. Some of these big boys have been known to be capable of developing enough leverage to crack something if the case gets slammed hard enough. Other places micro cracks can develop are around the bases of any loaded sockets, and also in the areas where screws attach the mobo to the case.

There's some scary "jog & flex tests" you can do to verify a cracked mobo is the problem - but I wouldn't advise doing any of them  unless you really know what you're doing. On second thought, scratch that. Flex testing is a pretty dumb thing to do even if you do know what your doing. The only time I've ever done it was at the direction of a Compaq senior support engineer. And that was on an in-warranty server that the Compaq was going to replace anyway.

--------------

Question: are you overclocked? If you had a seasoned friend do your build, I'd be surprised if you weren't.

I've run into an occasional machine that was successfully overclocked when it was built, but developed stability issues over time as the components "wore in." You might need to back off on some of your performance settings if that's the case.

Good Luck  :Thmbsup:

« Last Edit: September 15, 2009, 05:55:33 PM by 40hz »

Jammo the OrganizedFellow

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2009, 06:05:53 PM »
Question: are you overclocked? If you had a seasoned friend do your build, I'd be surprised if you weren't.

I've run into an occasional machine that was successfully overclocked when it was built, but developed stability issues over time as the components "wore in." You might need to back off on some of your performance settings if that's the case.

Good Luck  :Thmbsup:
Overclocked? Nuh-uh.
At least I don't think so.

Someone else told me to download/run CPU-Z?!
Here is screenshot: http://organizedfell...009-09-15_180114.png

As posted in my original post, my CPU is: Intel Core 2 Duo E6550 Conroe 2.33GHz
So it doesn't look like it's overclocked.

I haven't gotten around to following any of the above recommendations by Carol (procrastination? been busy? can't find/make the time with my 2yr old + a new dog!?) but REALLLYYY need to get to it ASAP.
As an aspiring web developer/designer, it is a constant struggle to cope with my ADHD + Hypomania/Bipolar Disorder.

The slow growth of my web dev projects is eclipsed by my patience, understanding and desire to learn AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE as I slowly progress.

X_____jamjammo_____

Carol Haynes

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2009, 06:18:45 PM »
Haven't built an Intel box in a long time (I use AMD stuff all the time). Is that VCORE normal for Intel? It is a lot lower than AMD (usually about 1.7V)

Jammo the OrganizedFellow

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #15 on: September 15, 2009, 06:32:49 PM »
@Carol
Is this what you mean?
http://organizedfell...9-09-15_180114-2.png

If so: I did a quick search, found this:
http://processorfind...ls.aspx?sSpec=SLA9X#

It says '0.85V - 1.5V' is normal.
I'll get to swapping out the memory sticks tonight.
As an aspiring web developer/designer, it is a constant struggle to cope with my ADHD + Hypomania/Bipolar Disorder.

The slow growth of my web dev projects is eclipsed by my patience, understanding and desire to learn AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE as I slowly progress.

X_____jamjammo_____

4wd

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #16 on: September 15, 2009, 06:45:11 PM »
Haven't built an Intel box in a long time (I use AMD stuff all the time). Is that VCORE normal for Intel? It is a lot lower than AMD (usually about 1.7V)

Actually it's not that much lower, my Phenom II runs at ~1.4V and mostly at ~1.0V, (because it's bored and I don't give it enough to do apparently).

The later CPU dies, (45/65nm), run at a lower voltage generally.

Carol Haynes

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #17 on: September 16, 2009, 04:02:28 AM »
Thanks - showing my ignorance now of Intel chip voltages.

Stoic Joker

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #18 on: September 16, 2009, 08:53:42 AM »
...gold doesn't oxidise in air.  If the gold contacts on your RAM sticks are oxidising you have other environmental problems.

Quote
Sure reseating the memory a-few-times will scratch/gouge a conductive path in the oxidation usually ... But it's not guaranteed especially if you have a less than perfect (slightly loose, etc.) memory slot.

Then you have a problem with your memory slots which should be fixed since any cleaning of the RAM contacts will be a temporary fix.
Pure gold doesn't oxidize/tarnish but the stuff coating the contacts isn't pure as it would be far to soft to withstand the insertion force.

Memory slots aren't repairable - There are no serviceable parts in them. Even with the high level of skill required to replace one (which I have) without damaging the board there is still a great deal of risk (**it happens).

It really is strange that you have such a adverse reaction to a common industry standard practice which is even recommended on some memory manufacturers support forums (one would thing they'd know better).

Hint: Corsair, search for pencil, RAM GUY has been there for a really long time.

Frankly at my age I'm not the slightest bit interested in the snarky sniping pedantic nonsense and am seriously starting to lose interest in this forum.

40hz

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #19 on: September 16, 2009, 12:21:41 PM »
Frankly at my age I'm not the slightest bit interested in the snarky sniping pedantic nonsense and am seriously starting to lose interest in this forum.

Just Trying.jpg

@Stoic Joker - Hope not. I enjoy reading your posts and have benefited from them on several occasions. I think it would be a loss if you stopped participating.

(P.S. I agree with the pink eraser technique. It does work.)
« Last Edit: September 16, 2009, 12:28:44 PM by 40hz »

4wd

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Re: How should I diagnose this hardware issue?
« Reply #20 on: September 16, 2009, 11:25:01 PM »
It really is strange that you have such a adverse reaction to a common industry standard practice which is even recommended on some memory manufacturers support forums (one would thing they'd know better).

I don't have an adverse reaction - I just pointed out that some pencil erasers can leave a residue and it's something I wouldn't do - so I gave a couple of  alternatives.

TBH, these days I use the most simple form of cleaner you can get...a clean sheet of A4 printer paper.  I use it for contacts because it's abrasive enough to remove most contaminants without being so abrasive that it causes undue contact wear, (eg. I also use it for cleaning the heads on my video recorders).

Regarding the gold contacts, yes I realise they are not pure gold but I can also say that any problems I've had regarding gold contacts have been purely the fault of the connectors they were incorporated into, eg. manufacturing flaws creating insufficient contact tension or damage to the connector/contact.  Of course, YMMV.

But, all that aside, I'm sorry if it looked like I was trying to demean or nullify your suggestions in any way - I too have found your posts informative.

Addendum: I just thought I'd add this so you can see where I'm coming from: Removing Tarnish from PCB Pads, Holes, Contacts, and Connectors
Please bear in mind that it's referring specifically to the end point of soldering the cleaned area - running your stick of RAM, etc under a tap to remove the microscopic detritus left by using the eraser probably isn't a good idea, (IMHO, neither is blowing it unless you're using a clean, dry air supply).

So, yes the eraser is quick, easy, millions of techs all over the planet use it - I just said I wouldn't use it because of the crap some leave behind.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2009, 12:21:22 AM by 4wd »