Numerous Hardware Issues (and perhaps some software issues, too)

Numerous Hardware Issues (and perhaps some software issues, too)

Post by Daav » Mon, 15 Sep 2008 03:37:43

'll start at the end.

Last night I left my PC on. I was downloading the installation file for
Ultimate Boot CD for Windows. The download apparently had completed. And
then at some later time, the PC seemed to freeze. Since I had woken up
in the wee hours of the morning, I went to the PC (at about 4:15 AM) and
I noticed that the screen was frozen: not only could I not move the
cursor with my mouse, but the time display in the system tray was frozen
at 3:40 AM.

I assume something significant happened at 3:40 AM.

Everything *looked* okay. The lights and fans were working. The little
light next to where the LAN cable plugs in showed activity. Nothing was
hot. I noted the temperatures in Abit's uGuru utility, and they were

I decided to run the Windows Memory Diagnostic (just the Standard
tests). In the first pass, there were failures. I think this is
significant. (The significance will become more apparent when I discuss
the history below.) But I'm not sure if this points to memory errors or
possibly something else (e.g., something wrong with the motherboard).

FWIW, there was nothing significant in the Event Viewer.

I also ran the SeaTools hard drive diagnostic, which was negative.

Just for yucks, I disconnected the printer and external hard drive (both
USB devices). I rebooted and ran WMD again. After nearly 2 1/2 hours and
three passes in Extended mode, there were no errors!

So far, here are my ideas as to what is causing this issue:

1. Since this behavior has *not* happened with either USB device plugged
in (not yet, anyway), there might be an anomaly associated with one of
them (probably the external hard drive) that is responsible. I somehow
doubt this is the case, but I figured I'd throw it out there, anyway.

2. My wife's personal care attendant was moving stuff around the other
day, and I believe the PC (which is on the floor) was moved slightly
while it was running. Whatever happened as a result might be the cause
as these hardware problems occurred after this incident.

3. BIOS settings are not quite right or there is something wrong with
the CMOS chip or perhaps motherboard battery (which I haven't replaced
just yet). Here are the specs of my PC:

- Abit IX38 Quad GT motherboard

- Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 CPU

- Crucial Ballistix PC8500 DDR2 RAM (2 x 1GB)

- 250 GB Seagate ES.2 SATA2 hard drive (this is the one that has Windows
XP, SP2)

- 500 GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA2 hard drive (for storage)

- Lite-On 20x DL DVD +/- RW drive

- A-922 case

- 600 watt Tiger power supply

- MSI 512MB HD3870 OC PCI-E graphics card

Regarding this last item, when I originally built the system this past
April, the connection going into the card was not 100%. I still haven't
gotten a newer monitor; I am using my old Samsung CRT monitor which
requires an adapter. Once the connection was more solid, all was well
(for over 4 months). Just to be on the safe side, I checked this
connection again. I also checked that the card was seated properly.

Here are some of the BIOS settings:

Frequency: 3230 MHz
CPU Operating Speed: User Define
Multiplier Factor: 9.5
Estimated New CPU clock: 3230 MHz

This last item is in gray and has an X next to it. It seems as if this
is overclocked. If so, I wonder how this happened as I never defined
these settings. Might this be the issue?

Other gray lines with Xs:

Target CPU core voltage: 1.2250 V
DDR2 Voltage: Auto

Numerous Hardware Issues (and perhaps some software issues, too)

Post by Paul » Mon, 15 Sep 2008 16:48:04

aave wrote:

This stuff is rated 2.2V. What voltage are you using ?

Voltage and speed go hand in hand. The RAM can run at PC2-8500 or it
can be run slower. At slower speeds, less voltage would be needed to
make it stable. You need a way to determine what voltage is being
used, even if it means setting "DDR2 Voltage: Manual" and just
trying different voltages. Depending on the conditions, you don't
need the entire 2.2V. For DDR2, 1.8V is nominal (DDR3 is 1.5V for
comparison). So the memory can be run between 1.8V and 2.2V, as
specified by the manufacturer. Select a voltage and then test.
Only use as much voltage as is needed to make the RAM stable.
Excess voltage *could* shorten the life (and it could be
worse if you have four sticks and there isn't much air movement
near them).

For testing, I use -

1) Memtest86+. I only run a pass or two. The test isn't good enough as
an acceptance test. It is intended to detect RAM that is so
decrepit that it would corrupt Windows. It is good for detecting
"stuck at" faults in a memory, but is less useful as a stress test.
Possibly some of the optional tests would give better coverage,
but who can wait that long :-)

2) I boot a Linux LiveCD such as Knoppix or Ubuntu. Then, download
a copy of Prime95 from . I run the Torture Test, and
run it for up to four hours. The program will stop on the first
error it finds. No errors are acceptable. Prime95 cannot test
the area where the OS is loaded, so doesn't stress all memory.
On the other hand, Memtest86+ tests more of the memory, even
"lifting" the Memtest86+ executable out of the way. The places
Memtest86+ cannot test, are the BIOS E820 reserved locations.
Perhaps that is 1MB or less of memory. What Memtest86+ lacks
in one department, it makes up for in another (total memory tested).

So my main test, is Prime95. You can also run Prime95 in Windows,
but my assumption here, is you're tired of corrupting Windows.
The nice thing about the Linux LiveCDs, is they don't install
any software on disk, so no Windows disks get trashed while
using it. The Linux utilities and desktop, execute from the CD.

For Prime95 in Windows, assuming you somehow get booted and running
again, I like this version. This runs a thread per core, so
in your case, you should see two threads running. This'll warm
up the CPU a bit. If this is throwing errors, with your one
good stick of RAM, then it is time to bump up the voltage.
You don't want to try too radical a change to your BIOS
settings, because Windows could get corrupted on the next
boot. I really prefer Linux, if it looks like my hardware
is in bad health.

Another reason for RAM trouble, is a mismatch between RAM
timings and RAM clock speed. When amateur overclockers play
with a machine, then can unintentionally increase RAM clock
speed. When you do that, the BIOS may require manual correction
of the timing numbers (slacken CAS, Trcd, and so on). The BIOS
doesn't correct every sin the user commits. It is amazing what
some people get away with, when the RAM should be throwing a
fit because of the abuse :-)

Another good tool is CPUZ, because it gives a snapshot of
what the BIOS has done to you. For example, my motherboard
lies about RAM timing, and CPUZ helped me detect the prob

Numerous Hardware Issues (and perhaps some software issues, too)

Post by John B. Sm » Wed, 17 Sep 2008 03:57:57

To stray just a little off-subject: After reading your testing method
using a Linux boot CD I downloaded Ubuntu AND Knoppix iso. I burned a
CD with each. When I boot with them they come up with errors. Ubuntu
says the CD can't be verified (no, it didn't say that, can't remember
their wording, but that was the meaning). I burned it onto a DVD, same
thing. Knoppix says 'can't find a knoppix file system'. The Ubuntu
(desktop-i386) download passed a hash check that they suggest that
you do so it was good that far. Do I have a bad burner or am I doing
something else stupid?

Numerous Hardware Issues (and perhaps some software issues, too)

Post by Sjouke Bur » Wed, 17 Sep 2008 04:13:20

My knoppix cd worked first time, recognizing soundcard, ethernet card,
,cd and network.
No tweaks needed.

Numerous Hardware Issues (and perhaps some software issues, too)

Post by Daav » Wed, 17 Sep 2008 04:53:03

Paul" < XXXX@XXXXX.COM > wrote in message
news:gaif7t$qst$ XXXX@XXXXX.COM ...

Good question.

Buried in the middle of my *extremely* long post was this tidbit that
you may have seen:

DDR2 Voltage: Auto

After I sent my post, I later noted that the reading was 1.97 volts.

I really think you're onto something, Paul. Although 1.97V is right in
the middle of the range, if the memory is rated for 2.2V, it might not
be getting enough whenever there is USB activity. It might be an odd
combination of the external hard drive and the mouse.

I am definitely going to run Prime95. But before I do, I want to finish
my troubleshooting regimen. So far, it appears that the RAM stick that
had been in Slot 3 and moved to Slot 1 (thus, running only one stick of
RAM) combined with five Extended Mode passes in Windows Memory
Diagnostic with all the USB connections intact did not result in any
errors. Since I imaged my hard drive again, I took the chance of running
Windows. There were no freezes or crashes.

I took out that stick of RAM and replaced it with the other one I had
previously thought was bad. Same result (no errors, no crashes or

Next I would like to go back to my original setup of the two RAM sticks.
I plan on testing first with the external hard drive unplugged. I'm
curious to see what happens. And since I'm pretty sure that plugging it
in again will result in the same problems I had earlier had, I will
first bump up the voltage to 2.1. If still no joy, then another bump to

I might just wind up running Prime95 for Windows since I have a current
image of my C: drive. But I might want to use the Linux version. One
problem, though: a few days ago I was playing with the Knoppix live CD.
I was able to configure the network card so that I could browse the Web.
But now I can't seem to do it! Most recently, after I configured Eth0, I
was able to ping a Web site, but I couldn't browse. I wish I could
remember what I did right the other time! I subscribe to DSL and I have
a static IP address. I have a DSL modem that is connected directly to my
Ethernet card. I put in the values my ISP gave me for IP Address, Subnet
Mask, Gateway, and Primary DNS (oddly, I didn't see a place for
Secondary DNS). Although I had never heard of the term Broadcast
Address, I later learned it's just the first three numbers of my static
IP address with 255 as the last number. What am I doing wrong?

Yes, I like this tool, too.

One final tidbit that may be of interest. I noticed another post in
another group that seems like it might be relevant:



Numerous Hardware Issues (and perhaps some software issues, too)

Post by Daav » Wed, 17 Sep 2008 14:25:45

At least I'm not the only one experiencing this. I just came across this

I have confirmed that my particular problem exists only when my USB
External Drive is plugged in. I tried plugging it in to various USB (1.0
and 2.0) sockets just for kicks. The bottom line is the PC runs (and
tests) fine if the drive is unplugged. And the problems return if:

1. the USB drive is plugged in
2. the PC is running for several hours

And the above holds true for either stick or RAM or both sticks

Most recently when I rebooted, there was no video. I disconnected the
drive, and now all is fine. I will bump up voltage to RAM to 2.1V.

I am open to suggestions on other BIOS settings. CPU-Z showed four
columns under the SPD tab. My current values seem closest to EPP #1. If
this is the case, it seems I should use 2.2V, but I'm going to baby-step
to 2.1V first and see what happens.

Numerous Hardware Issues (and perhaps some software issues, too)

Post by Paul » Wed, 17 Sep 2008 16:25:22

The distros are in ISO9660 format. You need a program that
handles ISO9660 images, and transfers them to the CD. I used
Nero for the job. In addition, you need a burner that can
handle a 700MB burn. The first time I tried to prepare my
Linux CD, I discovered to my horror that the burner I was
using, couldn't actually do a burn that big. I had to buy
a new burner to handle the 700MB file.

When I burn with Nero, there is a scanning function for
verifying the media afterwards. I used that function to
"dial in" my spindle of media. I discovered, that the
burn would only be good at 4X, and as long as I don't
try to burn faster than that, the discs are perfect.

My Knoppix CD does work with Windows. If the CD is inserted,
there is an autorun file on the CD, that causes a browser to
open and a Knoppix web page to appear. If I explore the CD,
I can see a "boot" and a "knoppix" folder, and in the latter
folder, there is a 700MB file visible. I expect that is
the compressed file system that Knoppix eventually
mounts. (The 700MB file is read when needed at runtime,
and is compressed. So the OS decompresses the necessary pieces
of it, to launch applications and the like.)

For Knoppix, you should study the "cheat codes" web page,
as it has a number of interesting options. These are
useful if you're getting as far as the "boot prompt".
If you aren't even getting that far, then you'd probably
want to try the CD in some other computer first.
For example "knoppix testcd" at boot time, checks the
CD contents for you.

Knoppix even includes a copy of memtest, and at the boot
prompt you can type "memtest" and thus the Knoppix CD
doubles as your memtest boot media.


Numerous Hardware Issues (and perhaps some software issues, too)

Post by Daav » Mon, 29 Sep 2008 00:54:42

aul wrote:

The above dead link used to reference my RAM:

Crucial Ballistix PC8500 DDR2 RAM (2 x 1GB)


(Item#:N82E16820148069) Note that the page says:
"Deactivated Item!"

Okay, I believe I now know what has been going on. Apparently my RAM
doesn't play well with my motherboard (Abit IX38 Quad GT)! When I was
selecting components for my new PC build several months ago, apparently
the Newegg configuration tool didn't get the memo that this RAM module
is not compatible with the Intel X38 chipset. The problems I have been
experiencing (blue screens while running Windows or even my BART PE CD
and RAM errors while running Windows Memory Diagnostic -- but no errors
at all while running Memtest86+ or Prime95!) were intermittent and
tended to occur when the PC was on for an extended period of time
(normally I power it down at nighttime) *and* when my USB external hard
drive was plugged in.

I intend to exchange the two modules for a more compatible pair. Any
suggestions? If anyone has the same mobo I have, I would love to get
your input.

In another post I indicated that the BIOS setting for Voltage Control
(and thus DDR2 voltage) was Auto (detect). When using the BIOS utility,
I noted that the level was 1.97V, which was right in the middle of the
1.8 to 2.2V range. When I tried 2.1, the problem just worsened, so I
never even tried the "rated" 2.2V. (However, the JEDEC #3 figure is

Anywho, I was thinking of trying one final thing before exchanging the
RAM: using manual settings. Currently, the value for DRAM Timing
Selectable is "By SPD." Although TCL, TRCD, and TRP are both 5, there is
a discrepancy with TRAS! The SPD (JEDEC #3) value is 18, but the spec
sheet says 15! Is it worth playing around with these values? I somehow
doubt it, but if someone has been successful, I'm all ears. Here is what
I currently have in my BIOS:

CPU OPERATING SPEED................ 3,000 (333)
EXTERNAL CLOCK..................... 340 MHz
MULTIPLIER FACTOR.................. 9.0
# ESTIMATED NEW CPU CLOCK.......... 3060 MHz
DRAM SPEED (CPU : RAM)....... Default (DDR2-816)
PCI EXPRESS CLOCK.................. 100 MHz


CPU CORE VOLTAGE................... 1.2250 V
DDR2 VOLTAGE....................... Auto
CPU VTT 1.2V VOLTAGE............... 1.10 V (why isn't his 1.2 V?)
MCH 1.25V VOLTAGE.................. 1.25 V
ICH 1.05V VOLTAGE.................. 1.05 V
ICHIO 1.5V VOLTAGE................. 1.50 V
DDR2 REFERENCE VOLTAGE............. Default
CPU GTLREF 0&2..................... 67%
CPU GTLREF 1&3..................... 67%


CAS LATENCY TIME (TCL)............. Auto
RAS# TO CAS# DELAY (TRCD).......... Auto
RAS# PRECHARGE (TRP)............... Auto
PRECHARGE DELAY (TRAS)............. Auto
ACT TO ACT TIME (TRRD)............. Auto
READ TO PRECHARGE (TRTP)........... Auto
COMMAND RATE....................... Auto
PEG FORCE X1....................... Disabled
INIT DISPLAY FIRST................. PCI slot


THERMAL CONTROL.................... Enabled
LIMIT CPUID MAXVAL................. Disabled
C1E FUNCTION...................

Numerous Hardware Issues (and perhaps some software issues, too)

Post by Daav » Mon, 29 Sep 2008 01:28:28

Good grief! Now, I just learned that my mobo (ABIT IX38 Quad GT) has
become a deactivated item too!

Do I know how to pick 'em or what?

Numerous Hardware Issues (and perhaps some software issues, too)

Post by Paul » Mon, 29 Sep 2008 04:38:12

Abit will stop making motherboards at the end of the year.
They're moving to other consumer items, presumably ones
with more profit margin, than trying to beat the likes
of Asus or Gigabyte. Over in the Abit newsgroup, they're saying
their good-byes.

"By 2009, Abit will no longer sell motherboards and may focus
on CE field. Warranties will still be handled by Abit for
another 3 years or so."

The reviews for the Ballistix on Newegg look pretty bad.
A good reason to discontinue the product, if every
customer has to do RMAs.

Memtest86+ has some optional tests, and one of them is a
refresh test. The memory is loaded with a pattern,
and left for a while, and then read out. That tests to
see if the DRAM capacitors hold their value properly,
with the refresh timer constant the user has selected.
Normally, memory holds data much longer than needed
(i.e. the default refresh setting causes refresh to
occur, way before any cells have discharged). And that
is why the test is not a standard one. You can try that
one if you like. But based on the Newegg customer reviews
for the memory, my guess would be the memory will croak
some time soon.

I think the Newegg reviews have some merit, at detecting
products to avoid, and are as good a recommendation as any.
The last memory I bought, I looked at the alternatives, and
checked for failures in the Newegg reviews before buying.


Numerous Hardware Issues (and perhaps some software issues, too)

Post by Daav » Wed, 01 Oct 2008 23:27:25

I assume you are referring to Test 9, the bit fade test. I ran it for
over four hours. There were no errors, FWIW.

I will be checking the reviews for sure. But I would also like feedback
from those who have experience with any of the following:

The following from newegg:

CORSAIR Dominator 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500)
Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model TWIN2X2048-8500C5D - Retail

Patriot Viper 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual
Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model PVS22G8500ELK - Retail

OCZ Platinum 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual
Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model OCZ2N10662GK - Retail

GeIL EVO ONE 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual
Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model GE22GB1066C5DC - Retail

WINTEC AMPX 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual
Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model 3AXT8500C5-2048K - Retail

Kingston HyperX 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500)
Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model KHX8500D2K2/2GR - Retail

G.SKILL 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Desktop Memory Model
F2-8500CL5S-1GBPK - Retail

Also, the following from mwave:

KINGSTON hyper x KHX8500D2K2/2G 2gb kit (1gb x 2) match pair pc28500
1066mhz cl5 5-5-5-15 240-pin ddr2 dimm w/heat spreader
SKU: BA23788Mfg. Part No: KHX8500D2K2/2G

PATRIOT PDC22G8500ELK 2gb kit (1gb x 2) pc2-8500 1066mhz 5-5-5-15
240-pin ddr2 dimm w/heat spreader
SKU: BA24262Mfg. Part No: PDC22G8500ELK

OCZ OCZ2N1066SR2GK 2gb kit (1gb x 2) pc2-8500 1066mhz 5-5-5-15 nvidia
sli certified 240-pin ddr2 dimm w/heat spreader
SKU: BA23596Mfg. Part No: OCZ2N1066SR2GK

OCZ OCZ2RPR10662GK 2gb kit (1gb x 2) pc2-8500 1066mhz 5-5-5-15 240-pin
ddr2 dimm w/reaper hpc heatsink
SKU: BA23737Mfg. Part No: OCZ2RPR10662GK

CRUCIAL ballistix BL2KIT12864AA106A 2gb kit (1gb x 2) match pair pc28500
1066mhz 5-5-5-15 240-pin ddr2 dimm w/heat spreader
SKU: BA25285Mfg. Part No: BL2KIT12864AA106A

CRUCIAL ballistix tracer BL2KIT12864AL106A 2gb kit (1gb x 2) match pair
pc28500 1066mhz 5-5-5-15 240-pin ddr2 dimm w/heat spreader
SKU: BA25504Mfg. Part No: BL2KIT12864AL106A

CORSAIR TWIN2X2048-8500C5D 2gb kit (1gb x 2) pc28500 1066mhz matched
pair 5-5-5-15 240-pin ddr2 dimm
SKU: BA23695Mfg. Part No: TWIN2X2048-8500C5D

Thanks in advance again for all the helpful suggestions. :-)

Numerous Hardware Issues (and perhaps some software issues, too)

Post by Daav » Wed, 01 Oct 2008 23:31:43

Chances are I'll exchange the RAM *very* soon. However, I do want to
exhaust the other possibilities, namely BIOS settings.

So far, I have manually set the RAM timings to 5-5-5-15 and the RAM
voltage to 2.2V.

The BSODs often have this as an underlying thread: "Disable BIOS memory
options such as caching or shadowing." Is this a red herring, or is
there something to it? If there's something to it, how is this done? I'm
pretty sure that pressing F7 during bootup accomplishes this, but is
there a way to make it permanent? In my BIOS's Power Management Setup,
the first item is ACPI Suspend Type. The normal value is S3
(Suspend-To-RAM). The other choice is S1 (Power On-Suspend). Is that it?
Or am I barking up the wrong tree? Also, if I don't change the setting,
I get the option of enabling (this is the default) or disabling "Resume
by USB from S3." The only reason I bring this up is these problems
(BSODs and memory test errors) only occur if my external USB hard drive
is plugged in.

Numerous Hardware Issues (and perhaps some software issues, too)

Post by Paul » Thu, 02 Oct 2008 08:02:01

aave wrote:

There are a number of shadowing/caching schemes, that involve copying things
from a slow resource, into a fixed RAM area. Some of them are mentioned here.
I believe it is even possible, for a motherboard to copy the entire contents
of the BIOS EEPROM into RAM, for faster execution of BIOS code. I doubt I
could do a decent job of explaining all of the features available to do
stuff like that. This page has some skeleton explanations (at one time,
the explanations included some technical content, but not all of that
technical content was correct.)

ACPI Suspend Type, in the BIOS, is information passed in an ACPI table
to the OS at boot time. It tells the OS that the hardware supports S3.
When you put the computer to sleep, the current session is stored in RAM,
and when the fans stop spinning, there is still the +5VSB power rail
operating in the computer. The +5VSB powers the RAM refresh circuit, and
also delivers power to the RAM slots. It is by that means, that the session
is not lost. Unlike hibernation (S4), the RAM contents continue to be valid until
the next time the computer is awakened. In hibernation, the RAM contents are
dumped to disk, and restored from disk when the computer next awakes. The
difference is the speed of recovery, but the difference is also in terms
of the security of the session information. If the AC power goes off while
you're in S3, then the current session would be lost.

Neither of those features seems particularly associated with USB.

How can hardware affect the RAM ? Say a device uses DMA, and the DMA
pointer value is bad, and points to a chunk of RAM not allocated for
that purpose. Then all manner of havoc could result. Other than that,
the USB driver itself could be stored in an area of RAM that is corrupted.

In terms of low level issues, I've heard of a few, but don't know the details.

1) A while back, memtest used to be affected on some boards, by the
setting of "USB legacy support". The memtest would report errors, until
that setting was changed.

2) Some motherboards have had a BIOS design problem, where there is a memory
map overlap between some USB related resources, and 4GB memory configurations.
The BIOS puts up an error message about "USB overcurrent", and presumably
some info that looks like an overcurrent indication, is being read from the
wrong location. Since your memory config of 2x1GB is not an excessive one,
I doubt a resource planning problem is at the root of the problem. The
USB overcurrent thing, was on systems with 4GB of RAM (older motherboards,
not recent ones).

In the case of the first one, I don't know right off hand, how the two
things could affect one another. Maybe if you could trace down what the
issue was there, you may discover how the two are related.

Your issue could have something to do with how the BIOS has set up the
resources for the motherboard. But I doubt I could figure it out, even
if I was sitting in front of the machine. I don't see any info on the
Uabit site (such as BIOS release notes), to show that they know about
any such issue.