Computer shuts itself off at random intervals

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Computer shuts itself off at random intervals
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Sarteck
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May 4, 2011 - 12:51 am
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A friend asked me to look at his daughters computer, because she was having some problems with it.

There was a lot of software issues with it when I got it, so I asked the friend if it would be okay to just wipe the computer clean (format and re-install Windows XP), which he said was fine with him and his daughter.

Attempting to format it using the Microsoft XP Professional install disc, I ran into a major problem. The monitor just blanked out, about halfway through the format. The keyboard was also obviously frozen--the NumLock was stuck on, and I could not toggle it, the Caps Lock, or the Scroll Lock.

I tried the process again a few times, with the same result.

I then tried formatting to NTFS using a GPartEd CD I had. On the first try, it froze, but the monitor did not "blank out" as it had done. On the second try, it seemed to have worked. So, I go back to try and install Windows XP Pro again without formatting, and it acts up again in the same manner, this time while copying over files.

Having this happen to me many times over the course of a few days, I somehow have the luck enough to get it running long enough to install XP. After doing so, I download some software for monitoring voltages (I had a hunch it was the crappy Chiefmax 450W PSU that was causing the problems, after googling the symptoms for a while). It reports somewhat low voltages on the 5V and 3.3V rails, and extremely low voltages for the 12V rails. (Googling more said that monitoring software often reports low 12V voltages, so I still wasn't sure it was the PSU.) The temperatures seemed normal (can't remember what exactly they were at the present, but they weren't high).

The computer, after the install, could stay on anywhere from a single minute to two or three hours before it would crap out--again, the monitor blanks out and the keyboard freezes. Racking my brain and googling the symptoms over and over, I was pretty sure the problem lies with the PSU.

I told my friend, "I'm fairly sure it's your PSU, because it really is a POS PSU." He tells me that the guy who built his computer is back in town, so he'll take it over there for him to install a new PSU. (I was going to offer to order and install a nice Corsair PSU, but it would have set my friend back $75 plus whatever I Jew outta him for screwing with his computer, and he's a cheap mofo.)

Anyways, a few days go buy and now he's brought the computer back to me, so that I can finish the software end of things. I took a peek inside and the new power supply is another "no name" POS, a "VIOTEK 550W." I am again running into the same problem with the monitor blanking out and keyboard freezing.

I have been running Memtest86+ on it for the past 30 minutes or so. It just got through its second pass and reports no errors with the memory. (It also is not freezing and locking up.) The drive does format okay (when it completes the format process without freezing). I'm assuming therefore that the HDD and the memory are both okay. I really have no idea how to go about testing the processor to see if it's "bad," but I've always assumed that a "bad" processor would mean a completely dead computer.

I'm having my brother bring over his multimeter tomorrow in order to directly test this new PSU's voltages, to see if it's delivering as much power as it should be...

Anyways. It's obviously a hardware problem, since the computer started fritzing up before I even got Windows on it. X3 Question is, how should I proceed in narrowing things down, from here?

MOBO:
ECS 755-A2 Socket754 ATX Motherboard HT 1600

GPU:
GeForce MX 440 8x AGP

CPU:
AMD Sempron 1600Mhz

RAM:
200MHz DDR400 512MB (one stick)

PSU:
VIOTEK... No model #? (Can't even find a website for these guys.) 500W, 28A to the 12V rails (supposedly), 22A to 3.3V, 1A to -12V, 28A to 5V.

I've removed and reseated the memory and the GPU, as well as the IDE cables to/from the Mobo and the hard drive (and the Mobo and the DVD Drive), hoping that would be a quick fix. XD

Anyways, Memtest is now ending it's 2nd pass, been running for 56 minutes, no errors, no freezing. Advice, anyone?

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David Hartsock
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May 4, 2011 - 8:53 am
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Welcome to the forum!

...because she was having some problems with it.[/quote:2lyrzgtj]
What problems were they having with it?

The computer, after the install, could stay on anywhere from a single minute to two or three hours before it would crap out--again, the monitor blanks out and the keyboard freezes. Racking my brain and googling the symptoms over and over, I was pretty sure the problem lies with the PSU.[/quote:2lyrzgtj]
It's possible.

Anyways, a few days go buy and now he's brought the computer back to me, so that I can finish the software end of things. I took a peek inside and the new power supply is another "no name" POS, a "VIOTEK 550W." I am again running into the same problem with the monitor blanking out and keyboard freezing.[/quote:2lyrzgtj]

I have been running Memtest86+ on it for the past 30 minutes or so. It just got through its second pass and reports no errors with the memory. (It also is not freezing and locking up.) The drive does format okay (when it completes the format process without freezing).[/quote:2lyrzgtj]
If it were memory I'd think it would blue screen with XP running.

I'm assuming therefore that the HDD and the memory are both okay.[/quote:2lyrzgtj]
My best guess would be the HD. I'd run chkdsk /r /f on the drive.

I really have no idea how to go about testing the processor to see if it's "bad," but I've always assumed that a "bad" processor would mean a completely dead computer.[/quote:2lyrzgtj]
Yes.

I've removed and reseated the memory and the GPU, as well as the IDE cables to/from the Mobo and the hard drive (and the Mobo and the DVD Drive), hoping that would be a quick fix.[/quote:2lyrzgtj]
Does the MoBo have onboard video? If so you can remove the GPU to make trouble shooting easier.

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Sarteck
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May 4, 2011 - 11:52 am
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[quote:15kgfhe8]What problems were they having with it?[/quote:15kgfhe8]They didn't really say, at first, but after I discussed with them the problems I was having with it (before I asked if I could just format the thing), they told me it kept turning off on them. (I assume they meant the monitor was going black and the keyboard was freezing up, like I was experiencing.)

[quote:15kgfhe8]If it were memory I'd think it would blue screen with XP running.[/quote:15kgfhe8]I've actually never encountered bad memory (or at least that I've identified), so I wouldn't know.

[quote:15kgfhe8]My best guess would be the HD. I'd run chkdsk /r /f on the drive.[/quote:15kgfhe8]I'll try that today and give the results.

[quote:15kgfhe8]Does the MoBo have onboard video? If so you can remove the GPU to make trouble shooting easier.[/quote:15kgfhe8]Unfortunately, no. DX I was hoping to do the same thing.

In other news, I tried installing Kubuntu 11.04 last night on it after MemTest86+ ran about two hours, and this time actually got an error! The video did "blank out" on the monitor like when trying to install Windows, but after it crashed, the console came up in the background. There was a "Machine Check Exception 4, bank 4: b200000000070f0f" that I am still trying to understand through Google.

I'll run that chkdsk today from the recovery console, if I can, and post the results later. Will also try to find out more about this MCE.

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Sarteck
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May 4, 2011 - 3:45 pm
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I feel like an idiot, now.

Going through the BIOS options, I noticed that the RAM was set to 800MHz. The RAM itself is 200MHz RAM. I set it from 800 to 400 (just to see if that would do anything--I planned on lowering it to 200 later on if it worked out).

Windows XP Pro is installed, and I'm going through the update process right now. I've not experienced any of the freezing issues I was experiencing before, so I'm assuming that fixed it.

I don't know how or why it was set to 800 MHz in the first place. My friend's daughter is not the type of person to try messing around in BIOS (they're the type of people that would call me up to ask me what to do when they get a message saying "Press any key" to find out which key is the "any key"), and I am sure that I would have remembered setting there myself. I'm ASSUMING the friend of theirs that installed the new power supply would not do something like that for no reason, too.

Anyways, if I don't post in this thread again, you can be sure that fixed it.

What I don't get is, if that was indeed the problem, why is it that Memtest86+ wouldn't pick it up? It went through 4 or 5 passes before I stopped it, each pass showing no errors. I would assume that Memtest86+ would use the values in BIOS (the 800MHz) when running its tests.... Anyone got an answer for that?

Well, thanks for putting up with my stupidity. X3

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Jim Hillier
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May 4, 2011 - 5:39 pm
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[quote:2kldsoje]What I don't get is, if that was indeed the problem, why is it that Memtest86+ wouldn't pick it up? [/quote:2kldsoje]
Agree. If my understanding is correct; if the timing set in BIOS does not match RAM, Memtest should throw up persistent errors caused by the mismatch. Checking the setting in BIOS is one of the first recommendations after errors are reported by Memtest, to eliminate that as possible cause........weird!!!!

[quote:2kldsoje]thanks for putting up with my stupidity[/quote:2kldsoje]
Stupidity??? No, I don't think so. You sound particularly bright to me. Errors and mismatches in BIOS are very often not the first port of call when a machine is misbehaving. Had one myself recently, similar symptoms involving the PC randomly shutting down. Spent hours on the bl**dy thing checking all the usual suspects. Finally went through BIOS settings as a last resort thing. Turned out USB mouse and keyboard support was 'Disabled' in BIOS. So simple yet was the last thing I would have expected.

Then again, maybe we are a pair of dummies!!! LOL

Cheers (and welcome)......Jim

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Sarteck
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May 5, 2011 - 11:27 am
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Thanks, Oz. Heh. If there's one thing I've figured out from decades of working with computers, it's that there's so much I [b:1sjqawr2]don't[/b:1sjqawr2] know, so of course I'm a dummy. XD I just take comfort in that I'm not the only dummy out there.

As for the Memtest86+, I still can't figure it out... I let it run for quite a while (about two hours, in which time it made 4 or 5 passes) and there wasn't a single error. I am pretty certain that it WAS indeed the BIOS setting, though--at 800MHz, it seems that maybe it was trying to pump info too fast into the RAM (just guessing here; I don't really KNOW, but it seems logical), and at 400MHz (and later 200MHz) it seemed as stable as Windows can be. They've been using it over there for a day now without having to call me. (I do have to go back and install correct sound drivers on it, though--Windows Update seems to think it has a different sound card than it actually has, heh. I'll check on it again to make sure everything is going smoothly.)

So, my advice to anyone that encounters a similar freezing problem out there, check the speed your RAM can handle, and make sure that the BIOS setting (if there is one) matches it, before you try to explore possible hardware problems. You might save a lot of time and headache.

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David Hartsock
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May 5, 2011 - 12:03 pm
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(I do have to go back and install correct sound drivers on it, though--Windows Update seems to think it has a different sound card than it actually has, heh. I'll check on it again to make sure everything is going smoothly.)[/quote:30ewbwka]
Walk them through downloading/installing (you don't even have to install it) a program called TeamViewer. They run the program, give you their access code/password and you won't even have to go over to their house!

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