It’s been an interesting weekend, and it’s been a geeky weekend. It started on Friday with my new PC locking up a few times, and blue screening. It had been working nicely all week, and then starts playing up all of a sudden on Friday.
So Saturday morning I get up and can’t turn it on, until I power off the PSU. Then once it got past POST it wouldn’t boot into windows. Grrrr.
Finally after trying an Ubuntu LiveCD and checking that the drives were ok etc. I tried it one last time before an O/S reinstall and hey presto! It boots again.
So I copy off my data, just to be on the safe side, and then I decide to reformat and reinstall anyway. I did the same to the mediacenter pc as well, because that got an upgrade to 64bit :)
Then I spent the rest of the day attempting to install vista or windows 7 on the new pc. Either it would fail and reboot during the installation, or would install, then crash, or install and crash during first boot, or many other combinations. Needless to say, starting to get annoyed, very annoyed.
I got the media center pc up and running again (and finally got the dual boot vista 64 and windows 7 64 bit going) and started reading up on cpu voltages, temps, base clock frequencies and multipliers, with a thought that maybe the new 975 cpu wasn’t being supplied enough volts by the motherboard as standard. Had a play with the overclocking settings, but still not booting.
Finally thought it might be some dodgy ram, so spent a couple of hours stress testing it with memtest86+, no errors.
As a last resort I took out all the components I could, just to see if I could install the o/s with bare minimum. As it happens, that wasn’t much, 1 SATA drive, and 2x2GB memory sticks, and the pcie soundcard.
Surprisingly it booted and installed ok, so I started adding bits back in one by one to see if I could find the culprit. However, I couldn’t get it to fail. So then thought maybe the ram wasn’t seated properly (or had become unseated) and started setting everything back up, then went to bed.
Sunday morning, and it’s still crashing, although not as much. I don’t really know what could be causing it, but have been reading about a few tools. I had stressed the memory yesterday and couldn’t get it to fail, so I thought I should check the CPU. So I downloaded a copy of LinX which is a CPU stress tool, along with CPU-Z and Everest (so I could monitor core temps and voltages)
I set LinX going and all 8 threads (4 cores with HyperThreading) went up to 100% cpu usage, and the core temps started going up from 40 odd degrees to about 70-75 degrees c which I thought was a little warm.
Unplug everything time, and then I gave it time to cool off before removing the cpu heatsink and fan, it’s a huge Zalman thing. I checked the thermal compound and the CPU and it all looked fine. However just to be on the safe side I cleaned both the cpu and the heatsink and re-applied more thermal compound, a lot more :)
I took the opportunity to take a few shots of the beast whilst it was out and in pieces, forgot when I was building it last week.
Connect it all back up, boot up first time, nice :) Start running the stress tests again, idle core temps around 35 degrees, and running a LinX test using all system ram the temps never got over 65 degrees C. So it looks like that was the issue.
Since then I have set the memory speed to 1800Mhz (rather than the default 1333Mhz) and it’s running nice and stable, I couldn’t even get Windows 7 to do a Windows Experience Assessment with the memory on that setting before.
Fingers crossed it seems to have sorted out all the instability issues I was having, and also my netgear router hasn’t b0rked itself since either, which it seemed to have been doing regularly since I got the new PC. I wonder if the crashes were spannering the network cards in the pc and causing some traffic that the router couldn’t handle… we’ll see anyway.
So after planning a weekend of using the PC to finish off some stuff for work, play with Visual Studio 2010 and of course a go on WoW, I end up re-installing and messing with OC settings etc. It’s Sunday evening and my pc is almost back to normal now.
The lesson learned here though is that every time I build a pc now I will be using the set of stress tools to check memory, cpu, etc. to make sure that it has been built properly.
Here’s a couple of shots of the behemoth :)
The case is massive, only just fits under the table!
There are it's innards, with a case this big there is plenty of room. You can see the Zalman CPU cooler, the red fins on the Dominator memory. Very happy with the case, it’s also ready for liquid cooling, the reservoir pipes have ready made holes in the chassis (at the top of the pic)