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Timeless Enigma 2009-07-19 05:15

PC freezing during/after startup
So, I've got a problem, and it's really just manifested itself in the last few months, I've had the computer since November with no real problems.

The basics are I can no longer consistently boot my PC successfully.

Key symptoms:
- PC freezes during boot up screen (during POST)
- if PC gets past POST, sometimes it will freeze during the Windows XP loading screen, or some time shortly after boot up... or... long after a boot (hours later or days later)
- HDD access light (I assume that's what it is) stops blinking whenever this freeze occurs
- sometimes PC doesn't even beep once after powering on (and no video is displayed on monitor)

Basically my only solution has been to just not shutdown my computer, but then my landlady complains about me using too much power. Hibernation or Standby doesn't help, I always have to boot from scratch.

When this problem first started, it used to just be the rare freeze during a normal PC session (usually accompanied by a kind of blurred video signal), and then I'd just reboot and everything would be fine. Then sometimes, out of the blue I would stop receiving a video signal. At first I thought this was a video card/cable problem.

What I have tried
- First assuming it was a video problem (my PC has onboard video) I bought an external GPU, no improvement all.
- Someone recommended I up the PSU, because I was using a stock computer (it was originally 350 W) and I had 3 more HDDs and 2 PCI devices added.
- I replaced my PSU with a 500 W PSU but no real improvements

I guess what's left now are RAM, CPU, or motherboard but I'd like to hear some advice as I can't really spend money to replace these things just yet.

Saleh 2009-07-19 05:53

Can you post your system specifications, Please?

Timeless Enigma 2009-07-19 06:06

CPU: Dual CPU Pentium E2200 @ 2.20 GHz
Mainboard: NVIDIA GF7050V-M7 Ver 6.1

PCI LAN adapter
PCI PATA adapter

1 eSATA HDD (external HDD docking bay)

OS is Windows XP SP3

I haven't changed anything such as overclocking or memory timings.

CPU temps are never about 50 C from what I remember.

Not really much to say, just a cheap PC I bought from London Drugs (big mistake) to replace my 6 year old PC that just went kaput one day. I needed a PC fast and also one that came with XP installed instead of Vista.

Saleh 2009-07-19 06:43

If it isn't much of a problem then can you please disconnect hard drives other than the one you are using to boot and do a test run. Either motherboard or power supply could have the problem for Symptom 4.

sa547 2009-07-19 10:12

Another thing: have you used Memtest86 to check over the system memory? Often I catch memory errors with this when others got stumped.

Timeless Enigma 2009-07-19 13:25

I have unplugged all HDDs except my boot drive before to see if it would help and there were no improvements.

I haven't tried memtest86 yet, but I will look into it.

Rockman-X 2009-07-20 18:51

PSU and RAM would be my first suspects. More often than not, whenever those symptoms you described occur on boot, it's one of them. A failing HD usually makes POST take longer than usual, but not freeze it.

Timeless Enigma 2009-07-20 22:21

Alright, I'll be testing my RAM shortly, and I've located some affordable RAM in case the test comes up with something.

Thanks for the help, hopefully this saga will end.

EDIT: So... I ran the latest version of memtest86, and all of the tests I tried froze within minutes of running. The first time it made my screen go into 3 colours...
And all of the other times I would get something like "Unexpected error"

I tried testing the memory with all three options (single CPU, multiple CPU, older version of memtest).

Does that tell me it's a memory problem or a mobo/CPU problem?

Saleh 2009-07-21 02:20

A few more test and saga will end :). Are you getting same results on running tests using 1 RAM at a time?

sa547 2009-07-21 03:05

Try testing one RAM module at a time to narrow down which one takes down your system; also try to get them tested on another mobo, just in case.

Worst case scenario, I think, is a lemon mobo.

Timeless Enigma 2009-07-21 05:50

I tested them one by one and, they both froze in a couple of seconds.

This result is fairly worrisome because I don't think it's very likely to get two bad RAM sticks. I don't have the ability to test the ram on another board.

I've already ordered new RAM, so if that doesn't fix the problem, at least I have some spare RAM, and now I can narrow it down to the motherboard or CPU.

Saleh 2009-07-21 09:45

Since Memtest86 uses CD for booting, it eliminates slight chance of Hard disk or Windows corruption being cause of symtom 2. Usually when you run memtest86 if RAM is at fault, it will give error rather than random freeze. Just to play safe you can try running Windows Memory Diagnostic tool.There is a possibility that cpu could be causing freeze (slight one) but since I won't be recommending CPU stability test and you haven't reported random resets or BSOD errors, usual symptoms of failing CPU, I will say culprit is motherboard's MCH. Though my guess could be wrong so wait for more suggestions or contact a computer repair/diagnostic person before spending money.

Timeless Enigma 2009-07-21 14:34

The memory test would sometimes freeze (with no reason given), and other times it would say "unexpected error" before halting.

But I'm picking up the new RAM today, so we'll see if this computer still keeps giving me problems.

My only worry is when I install a new motherboard I'll have to do a repair install on my OS right? Can I repair an OEM XP installation with a retail XP disc?

Timeless Enigma 2009-07-31 14:53

In the end it was a failed motherboard... After the replacement everything seems back to normal.

Thanks everyone for your suggestions and advice.

Timeless Enigma 2009-09-30 22:55

Hm... I've gone through 2 other motherboards since my first motherboard replacement. Everytime I've brought the PC to the shop for a repair they say it was a motherboard failure, they never talk about the PSU or the CPU.

I just downloaded the CPUID Hardware Monitor and this is what I'm seeing:

Input Voltage to my UPS: 114 V

CPU VCore: 1.17 V Min / 1.28 V Max
VIN1: 1.87 V Min / 1.89 V Max
+3.3V: 3.22 V Min / 3.22 V Max
+5V: 4.87 V Min / 4.89 V Max
+12V: 12.10 V Min / 12.16 V Max
-12V: -5.57 V Min / -5.50 V Max
-5V: -4.93 V Min / -4.93 V Max
+5V VCCH: 4.76 V Min / 4.78 V Max
VBAT 3.06 V Min / 3.06 V Max

Are these values within acceptable limits? I noticed that my -12V isn't even anywhere close to -12 V, is this bad?

I don't know what keeps causing all my hardware problems, at first I thought I was getting dirty power from my outlet but now I'm not too sure. I have an APC UPS that still seems to be working and I've ordered a new one to handle more load.

Just to be clear, every time I've taken my PC in to be serviced it's because when I attempt to boot the PC, there is no video, no POST. Most of the time the HDD activity light stays lit (or never turns on). I have tried booting without the any HDDs connected, still no POST, I've tried booting without RAM in the slots, no beeping at all. I know my PC Speaker works because when I did boot properly I had a single beep, and when I had no RAM I would get one long beep.

Can anyone offer any insight? Am I just getting shitty motherboards? Maybe I have a ground fault of some sort?

jpwong 2009-10-01 02:48

What's you PSU wattage?

I'm guessing you've got a Certified Data PC since that's the LD brand and they were offering XP still quite late into Vista's cycle. What's your model? I don't think CD uses underpowered PSUs like HP likes too, but you never know.

Timeless Enigma 2009-10-01 03:58

PSU's wattage is 350 W, my known good spare (at least I think it is) is rated at 500 W.

The Certified Data model is E2200 Pentium DC

Whenever the motherboard fails I swap in the other PSU with no results.

jpwong 2009-10-01 08:35

Well, I'm not sure, 350w is probably a bit on the low side depending on your exact hardware configuration.

The main thing is, if you're testing your better PSU after the board breaks down, it's really too late, the board would have already suffered whatever problems happen due to undervoltage (I assume bad things can happen if you continuously get too little power similar if it's always surging). Maybe someone else can has some more knowledge about possible damage that can happen in that sort of situation?

Jinto 2009-10-01 12:48

I guess the RAMs get too little power. Possibly something on your mainboard is defect. Unfortunately it is hard to get an replacement mainboard to test against your current one. The -12V real voltage is pretty weird - I am not aware that this current is generally needed on mainboards - but it might be an indicator for something that draws a lot of power, so that the -12V current of the PSU collapses. If you have a voltage meter, you could try to figure out if the PSU generates the -12V correctly when it is not attached to the mainboard.

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