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Bizarre Crashing And Freezing


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#1 JPFlash

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Posted 02 June 2006 - 03:11 AM

Since last night my computer has been abruptly freezing and crashing at random times. Beforehand, I had not installed anything significant and no changes were made to hardware or software. Initially, when the computer would freeze, the screen would pixelate and artifact. I had initially thought it was a graphics card problem...

I have an Asus 9800XT graphics card with the latest ATI drivers. I installed extra software to display the temperature of the CPU, motherboard, and graphics card, (along with voltages and such.) No overheating was present anywhere, and all voltages are nominal. I replaced the graphics card with an old 64mb Nvidia Ti3(something). No more pixellation or artifacting, but instead the screen will go blank for a second or two and will return to normal, there shortly after, the computer usually freezes or crashes.

Thereafter, I began running AdAware and Spybot S&D to see if it was software, nothing was found. I am trying to run TrendMicro's House Call virus scanner but have had no luck. I cannot keep the computer from freezing before the hour and a half virus scan completes. I have been leaning towards hardware, rather than software because I get the same symptoms even in safe mode.

Normally, when my computer shuts down, it makes a clicking noise from either the motherboard, or one of the three hard drive's magnetic heads returning to its home position. When my computer crashes, it makes the same noise, like it is trying to shut down. Strangely enough, the hard drive usage light on the front of my case becomes solid after a crash. Possibly a hard drive issue...?

Just a few minutes ago, it sounded as if my computer got quieter, my computer lights (cold cathodes) seemed to dim a little bit. Then as I looked into the computer window, I heard that click noise again and the fans seemed to speed back up and the lights returned to normal.

I have been removing pieces from my computer, one at a time trying to diagnose the problem. All that is left is my primary hard drive, old Nvidia graphics card, motherboard, and RAM. The only thing it can be is either software or hardware on the hard drive, the ram, or the motherboard.

I have a HijackThis log ready to go if needed.

Please help! Thanks, Jean-Pierre.

Edited by JPFlash, 02 June 2006 - 03:18 AM.


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#2 Enthusiast

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Posted 02 June 2006 - 06:24 AM

Obtain hard drive test tools from support at the manufacturer of the hard drive and run it.

#3 Albert Frankenstein

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Posted 02 June 2006 - 06:57 AM

  • Fujitsu "FJDT" DOWNLOAD Works with fujitsu models only.
  • Hitachi / IBM - DFT "Drive Fitness Test" DOWNLOAD Works with all manufacturers.
  • Maxtor "Powermax" DOWNLOAD Works with all manufacturers.
  • Samsung "hutil" DOWNLOAD Compatability unknown.
  • Seagate "Seatools" DOWNLOAD Works with Seagate drives only.
  • Toshiba - N/A There are no tools available for Toshiba, but you may be able to use IBM or Maxtor's.
  • Western Digital "Data Lifeguard" DOWNLOAD Works with WD drives only.


ALBERT FRANKENSTEIN
I'M SO SMART IT'S SCARY!


Currently home chillin' with the fam and my two dogs!


#4 JPFlash

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Posted 02 June 2006 - 08:54 PM

Ok, well I ran the diagnosis on my primary hard drive and everything was perfect. I also reinstalled Firefox too because I was suspicious that it may have been the cause of some problems. After the third crash or so, my firefox settings got really messed up and I noticed that my computer was freezing more often when on Firefox. My thought was that the abrupt crash may have corrupted some Firefox files.

I'm going to try testing my video card more thoroughly because the pixelation went away when I switched it. So I have now rounded it down to software, ram, motherboard, and POSSIBLY the video card/AGP slot,

If anyone has anymore ideas, please let me know!

Thanks,
Jean-Pierre

#5 Enthusiast

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Posted 02 June 2006 - 09:33 PM

You cannot do the online scans using Firefox.
You must use IE as they require Active X, which Firefox does not support.

Does this new video card draw from system resources. If so, make sure the apature is set correctly in the bios.

I suggest that you do post a current HJT log in our HJT forum. If there is malware they will find it and help you in deleting it.

Does the anomaly occur in safe mode. Please test that and let us know as if it does not it will help us in diagnosing the problem.

#6 JPFlash

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Posted 02 June 2006 - 10:51 PM

The TrendMicro scan that I was using allowed the ability to use a Java kernel instead of ActiveX. I have used this virus scanner many times in the past with firefox, and the site even exclusively lists Firefox as a compatible browser.

As far as safe mode, I was getting the problem earlier (with the freeze, pixelation, and artifacting.) I have made some changes and will have to get back to you on the current situation.

I ran Memtest to test the reliability of my RAM, and everything was fine. I know now that is not a RAM problem.

One bizarre thing occured though, while booting up my computer, the Windows splash screen with the loading bar froze. Upon rebooting (not turning off and turning on), my computer would not boot and gave me an error telling me that something was missing and ctrl+alt+del would restart. I know this screen is a result of the computer trying to boot off of one of my other drives that does not have XP on it. When I rebooted and checked the BIOS, only my IDE drive showed up. I have two SATA drives connected and working that did not show up in the BIOS. I then turned off the computer and rebooted and the drives showed up again. Very strange... This would lead me to believe that there is something wrong with the motherboard.

If there is something wrong with the motherboard, would it affect the BIOS and drive readout like that? Is it likely that the CMOS battery is dying? (I forget how to diagnose that.) My BIOS has been working fine for over two years, I would not be too sure that updating it would help me any as I've never added any new hardware in the past two years either. I have noticed though, my computer still makes that click noise at random times and my computer lights and fans dim for a second. Some programs running will hang for just a second or two, the lights will return to normal and everything will be fine. Is it possible the power supply is going?

As for my graphics card, my 9800XT is as old as the computer and has been in it ever since it was built. I always keep the drivers fresh too. My only thoughts about the video card is that it may be dying or something... Since it isn't new, I wouldn't tend to think that anything has changed in software or hardware that would cause it to malfunction. Even to the point of pixelating and artifacting ASUS motherboard boot splash (not freezing there though). But who knows?

The graphics card has 256MB of RAM and in the BIOS the apature is set to 64MB. I am not sure if that was correct because I never got a straight answer from anyone as to what that was. But it has been that way the whole time.

I checked my HijackThis log at their website and only one thing was listed as being dangerous. It was a missing URL hook or something. It has been fixed for a few hours but random freezes have still been occuring. I reognize many of the items listed on the log as being safe programs that I installed myself, such as the ATI Remote Wonder, Creative sound drivers and the like. If you are still interested, I can post it if you like.

I am going to go check if it crashes with at all in safe mode again. One thing to note, earlier on when I would load up safe mode, the process would seem to either hang or freeze when loading agp440.sys or something like that.

Edited by JPFlash, 02 June 2006 - 10:55 PM.


#7 Enthusiast

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Posted 02 June 2006 - 11:03 PM

If you even remotely think the cmos battery may be failing, especially if it is more than two years old, replace it.

The hdds should not have dissapeared and returned.

The battery is cheap enough and you can get one almost anywhere - Walmart - Walgreens, etc.

I would research support at the manufacturer of the graphics card and the one for your mb to see about the graphics apature. I am not sure it should be sharing system ram at all.

Being that you have a separate video card, make sure your onboard graphics adapter is disabled too.

Agp440.sys sounds like a video driver. I am assuming that because of the AGP designation. Have you looked in the device manager to see if there is a problem anywhere in the graphics devices?

#8 JPFlash

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Posted 02 June 2006 - 11:16 PM

I have been using an older AGP card in my computer since late last night. It is the Nvidia Geforce Ti3 something. Just a few minutes ago I got the same crash I had with the ASUS 9800XT in. I am skeptical to believe, now that I have had the same problem with two different cards, that it is a problem in the cards themselves. I will go ahead and research the apature size, but I don't believe that will change much since I have had it the same for two years at 64MB. I will also go and get a new CMOS battery as soon as possible. Additionally my motherboard does not have onboard graphics.

No problems listed in the Device Manager for the graphics or anything else for that matter.

Just to help, here is a hardware list (I built it myself):

ASUS P4C800-E Deluxe Motherboard
ASUS ATi Radeon 9800XT 256MB Graphics
Intel Pentium 4 3.2Ghz
Kingston DDR400 512MB Ram x2
Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS Platinum Pro
ARTEC 16X DVD Drive
Western Digital WD1600JD 160GB SATA drive x2
Plextor PlexWriter PREMIUM
Samsung Black Floppy Drive
ATI TV Wonder Pro Remote Edition

Any way to diagnose the motherboard or power supply?

Edited by JPFlash, 03 June 2006 - 01:14 AM.


#9 JPFlash

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Posted 03 June 2006 - 01:17 AM

Update: The computer freezes during safe mode at random. The latest freeze blanked the screen and when the picture came back, the computer had frozen. There was no pixellation or artifacting this time, though. This occured under safe mode with networking.

#10 Enthusiast

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Posted 03 June 2006 - 02:15 AM

Look and see how much virtual memory you have (page file)

Right-click on my Computer on your desktop and select properties.
Click the Advanced Tab, click the Settings button under Performance
Under performance options, click Advanced,
Put the page file on the drive that does not have the boot partition.

The max number should be at least 1 and a half times the amount of ram.

Look towards the bottom for recommended sizes.

Click the Change button under Virtual Memory to change how much memory your page file handes if you need to.

#11 JPFlash

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Posted 03 June 2006 - 03:20 AM

I actually have a 4.5GB partition set on another drive (not primary) with exactly 1.5 times the amount of RAM set as the paging file size. I read somewhere it can be more efficient to have the paging file on another drive so that your access speed on the primary drive is increased.

#12 Enthusiast

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Posted 03 June 2006 - 03:42 AM

Yes - that's true, and it eliminates some of the scattering of data on your C drive making it easier to defrag and requiring it less often.
It is also slightly faster when it is set up that way.

The 1 and a half is just a rule of thumb though. If you use Ram intensive aps or combos of aps you can set the upper limit higher.

#13 JPFlash

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Posted 03 June 2006 - 04:37 AM

Ok, my computer had a serious episode a few minutes ago. It froze while I was browsing on Firefox, I then restarted the computer and it went haywire. I have mentioned the clicking, the dim lights, and the quieter fans before. Earlier on, they would just do it for about two seconds. When my computer restarted, there was the click and everything stayed low. It seemed like everything was running off of a lower voltage. On top of that, my SATA drives would not show again. Instead only my old IDE drive was up, since it is not my boot drive, the computer brought me to the error screen. I then restarted it and checked the BIOS, sure enough, no SATA drives. After a hard boot, the drives returned but I had a heck of a time getting Windows to load.

Every couple of seconds after I got the Windows loading screen, the computer would click and get quieter. This was more noticable to me because I have my computer on the floor next to me on its side with the side panel off. After the click, I could tell everything was running lower because my cold cathode lights began to slightly flicker and dim for a long time. Windows would not boot though, it would just continue to load. While it was stuck at the loading screen, I could hear a hard drive speed up, click, then slow down. It would do this over and over until I reset the machine. This persisted for about fifteen minutes. I would get really close to getting windows running then it would reset itself, even. When I finally got to the logon screen, I got a few file corruption messages and then it froze before I could hit the start menu. When I rebooted again, the CHKDSK utility fixed the corrupted files. I believe the files were log files that have to do with system restore, they were most likely corrupted due to the constant restarting while Windows was booting. Now I am on again, for goodness knows how long.

What could cause my computer to cease recognizing my SATA drives? If even my primary boot SATA drive was the culprit, it would not (well, at least SHOULD not) prevent the computer from recognizing the other SATA drive. What would cause the weird clicking behavior, hard drive spinning, and the flickering lights? (By the way, these are my hard drives making the noises because I do not have any CDs in my CD-ROM drives and even if I did, the CD-ROM drives sound completely different.) My final guesses are most likely the motherboard, secondly (a possibility, perhaps?) the power supply.

On the most unlikeliest of scenarios, could it be possible that there is a short in the switch or wiring of the actual case power buttons that can reset or induce hard drive shutdown?

If anyone is interested, I was able to capture some video and sound of the weird boot behavior on my digital camera. All I need is a place to upload them to.

Please, if anyone has any speculations as to what may be the cause or has any more ideas on how to test or diagnose my system, please let me know!

A big thanks to Enthusiast for all of your help so far!

Thanks,
Jean-Pierre

Edited by JPFlash, 03 June 2006 - 05:05 AM.


#14 Enthusiast

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Posted 03 June 2006 - 08:38 AM

What you described may be a symptom of a power supply going intermittantly or maybe a bad capacitor on the motherboard.

Do you have access to a power supply you could borrow to test this?

#15 ThorXP

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Posted 03 June 2006 - 09:21 AM

With the dimming of things he mentioned in an earlier post I was thinking this could be a problem that the computer might think it is trying to shut down. I have clicked to shut down and not going thru the whole thing I just let the computer sit at the little box and everything dims and if you hit cancel everything goes bright again. This is just a thought but you might want to check shut down problems.




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