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Broken Motherboard?

Posted on 2003-03-10
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Well, alright, here's my problem right from the start, as clearly as I can lay it out:

I have an AMD Athlon 700MHz processor in an FIC motherboard. A 10/100 Ethernet card, a Montego Bay Turtle Beach Quadzilla Audio Card, Voodoo 3 3000 AGP video card, US Robotics 56K modem, 512MB of 168pin DIMM RAM, Creative Labs 52X CD-ROM, Lite-On 52X CD-RW, a 3.5" floppy and 2 HDDs.  

Here's how this started - I bought the Lite-On drive to replace an older CD-RW drive that had conked out.  I shut down the computer, disconnected the power, disconnected the IDE cables and so forth from the old CD-RW drive, set the new Lite-On to be Master on the secondary IDE, and the Creative labs ROM drive to Slave.  Blew all the dust out of the case I could, closed it up and switched it on thinking to load drivers and the burning software that came w/ the drive.  At this point I have installed nothing new in the way of software.  I am/was running Windows 98 second Edition.  The boot-up proceeded normally until it got to the Windows 98 splash screen.  At this point it froze and loaded nothing else.  I rebooted.  Again, same spot, froze.  Thought the new drive messed something up, so I put the old drive back in, and it still froze in the same place.  Tried Safe Mode.  Was able to get into Windows.  Went back and tried to load Windows by telling the computer Y/N to all drivers and so forth at boot-up.  Computer froze up when Audio drivers were loaded.  Skipped those.  Got into Windows in normal mode.  Uninstalled audio card and all software.  Rebooted.  Loaded windows.  Froze at desktop.  Physically removed audio card from motherboard.  rebooted.  froze at desktop.  Several of my friends are computer science majors, recommended moving all data from C: onto D: (larger storage HDD).  Did so and reformatted C: entirely.  Booted from A: on start-up disc, re-installed Windows.  Worked fine with only video card, keyboard, mouse, both CD drives and both HDDs connected.  Replaced Audio card thinking if it messed things up it had to be the culprit.  It did.  
I got a blue screen error when Windows tried to set up drivers when it located the new hardware.  reformatted.  Reinstalled Windows, omitted Audio card this time.  Went to reinstall modem.  Also got blue screen error.  reformatted.  this time got a blue screen during setup saying there was an exception OE error in a long string of numbers and letters involving a .VXD file.  My limited expertise is lost here.  I rebooted when this happened the last time, and it finished setting up Windows.  I got in and it allowed me to setup the Voodoo card and monitor, and I also got the Ethernet card to work (which is how I am writing this now).  I am afraid to try to set anything else up as it seems my internet connection is shaky at best and I keep getting dropped.  (this is uncommon with my ISP)  I don't relish the idea of investing all the immense time and effort of setting everything up on C: here again if it's going to be unstable.  

I'm not sure (obviously) what the problem is.  I had thought perhaps something with the motherboard, but alot of what I have heard and read seems to indicate that if the motherboard were bad I'd get a beep-code error message at boot or perhaps nothing at all?  Perhaps the slots on the board are bad?  I have 5 PCI, 1 ISA, and 1 AGP.  it has been suggested that maybe the copy of Windows I am using is corrupt somehow, or that the RAM bricks I'm using are somehow bad.  I've never encountered any kind of hardware problems with this machine in the past, it has run near flawlessly from the start, so this is disconcerting to say the least.  I can't think of anything I could have done to cause this, so I'm not sure what to look into replacing or fixing.  ANYTHING anyone can tell me at this point would be appreciated, as I've done everything I can think of to alleviate the problem.  Hopefully it won't come down to replacing the MB since I'd have to get a new processor and RAM most likely to fit the newer DDR slots, and i really would love to save some money.  But if that's what it takes, I'd like to know WHAT to replace so I am not buying new parts to replace things that still work fine.  

Thank you SO much in advance.

- Ian
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Question by:PlasticSome1
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prd00 earned 1500 total points
ID: 8108582
can you put what vxd?
I got about same problem, and it caused by loosened memory stick. If you have problem during installation, most likely it's memory, but first, try to disconnect your cd-rom and cd-rw, remove all unnecessary equipment from your computer. Let your computer run with 1 CPU, 1 memory module, display, and 1 cd-rom. Install one by one after windows installed starting from PCIs, cd-rw, then memory. I suspect it's memory, perhaps your memory shaked by your hand or some cables.
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by:kwijibo
ID: 8108705
No new Info here just confirmation of Prd00's solution.

Sounds like a loose memory stick.  I replaced some memory yesterday, afterwards the computer was freezing.  I checked the memory and pushed it into the slot (even though it seemed to be seated properly) the computer now works.
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by:Jimbo99
ID: 8108782
Ok, first thing.  I really needed more paragraph marks to make sense out of that.  Can you edit it and put paragraph marks into it for easier reading?  I'm not being sassy.  Just a request.

Second, whenever you do something just back out.  In your case you tried.  The only thing I would have done differently, at least to start, is I would have just removed the new CDROM, leaving the old one disconnected as well.

It would have been a good idea to check your cable.  Replace it or swap it with the one on the other chain.  In either case, make sure you have them both securely connected to the IDE connectors.

I would not have removed any components nor would I have formatted the system and reinstalled.  You just created far too many unaccounted for variables.  Actually, at least initially, during the debug process, I would not have.  Only when I totally gave up after exhausting all users suggestions would I have done this.

If this were a memory problem you could just start with one stick of ram.  As well, you could have simply bumped the dimms so reseating them may have solved the problem.  Additionally, there's an excellent program for testing ram memtest86.com I believe is the site.  It makes a boot disk that autoruns the program.
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by:Jimbo99
ID: 8108816
One more thing.  Don't try to create the memtest86 boot disk from within windows.  Make it from a dos boot.
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by:Kyle Schroeder
ID: 8111533
I've had no problems creating the memtest disk from Windows of any sort, but you do want to remove it pretty quick after it finishes writing (only takes ~10 seconds or so) so Windows doesn't try to "fix" it for you.

Anyway, so what is the problem now exactly?  Does the CD-ROm and CDRW work?  Is the main issue the Internet disconnection problem?  Are you on cable modem or dialup (since you said you had to install the ethernet card...).  Have you updated all your hardware drivers?
Sound: ftp://ftp.voyetra.com/pub/tbs/mtg2quad/46qua9x1.zip (be sure to read the readme.txt in the Zip file!)
Video: http://www.voodoofiles.com/3201

What FIC board are you using?

-dog*
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by:Jimbo99
ID: 8112544
Unfortunately I have created memtest86 boot disks from within windows and at least 15 times it failed, particularly under windows xp.

For that reason, in order to reduce frustration on his part I always recommend creating them in straight dos.

I test 50-100 machines with it a month and often loose the disks to other techs, so I create them frequently enough.  When working through a problem I hate the diversion of having to search for a disk and when one is not handy having to make one, then to have it refuse to make them.  Every time I make them in DOS they are created without flaw but making them within windows creates problems more times then I like.
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by:Kyle Schroeder
ID: 8114275
OK Jimbo, I see that you've done your homework at least...I just meant that personally, I've never had this problem.  I do know what you mean though, this does happen sometimes (IBM ThinkPad BIOS updates had similar problems if created in NT sometimes).

-dog*
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by:TheBeaver
ID: 8115496
1) What does the BIOS say about the new drive? I assume that you set this drive to be "auto". It pays to just set every drive to "auto" and just leave them that way. If this is still expecting the old drive settings...but then again you said that you tried the old drive.

2) Check the cables. If you put the cables in upsidedown you can cause problems, especially true with the power cable !!! That could fry the drive/power supply/etc.

3) Try running with just the good CD. Then try with just the new one. Then try together.

4) You could also get these symptoms by trying to run drives at ATA66, ATA100 with out the proper 80 conductor cable.
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by:Snowguy
ID: 8116491
Just a thought here did you install the motherboard chipset drivers? i.e. (via 4 in 1) ect...
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by:PlasticSome1
ID: 8116507
Thank you all for your assistance to this point.  

-- I downloaded the "memtest86" test from the site and made a disc in DOS.  Made absolutely certain that each RAM brick was seated properly, and tested each one individually.  The test discovered no errors.  

-- The problem at this point is that Windows freezes when attempting to load drivers for any card other than the Ethernet and Voodoo card.  I will shut down the computer, insert a "new" PCI card, boot up Windows and as it attempts to install drivers from the CD that accompanies whatever card it may be it will freeze.  OR it might make it into Windows (load desktop and so forth) but will freeze as it is finalizing the load of the desktop.

So in answer to Dogztar, I am connected to the internet thru a cable modem right now (the modem is just a back-up) As far as I can tell, both the CD-ROM and CD-RW drives work, they read fine.  I have not installed anything to use the RW drive to burn anything at this point.  I don't really have the opportunity to update the hardware drivers I don't think, as the cards refuse to install at all in order to update them afterwards...I've used this computer for the past 2.5 years though with the drivers I have and there has never been an issue :/  

In answer to TheBeaver - BIOS recognizes the new drive at start up, calls it Lite-On with the model number and it knows both CD drives are CD-ROM drives.  Each drive is set to AUTO.  The cables are in correctly, I am certain of this.  Both drives seem fine and read whatever is in them.  The only thing I am unsure of is your 4th point - I'm not certain of the meaning of the "ATA*" terms.  Could you dumb it down a bit for me? :) Thx.  

In the event that somehow it was simply loose RAM, I intend to try installing Windows again tomorrow and if there is no blue screen during set-up, I'll try installing the PCI cards again.  (Prd00 - if I get the .VXD error again, I will write it down verbatim - stupidly, I neglected to do so before this time)

Apologies for this delay in response - work is hectic and I just had to attend a wake for a friend of the family tonight.  One thing after another.  Again - very much appreciate all of the help.  

(and Jimbo99, sorry for the clunkiness of the question - will reformat it tomorrow for ease of read, exhausted right now is all - thx for patience.)
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by:PlasticSome1
ID: 8116555
Almost forgot - motherboard is "FIC SD11"  

AND - in response to Snowguy, I have not - this is something I honestly didn't consider.  I have never reformatted this machine before, and it is the first machine I have ever built myself.  Would the VIA drivers have come preloaded somehow?  I don't recall loading anything like that when the board was new, but I DO have a CD for the board that has VIA drivers on it.  Not sure this would explain why the computer froze BEFORE reformatting, but if it's something I should do NOW to eliminate the problem, maybe someone could tell me at what point I should attempt the install of these drivers during the setup process?  Thx again, all.
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by:Snowguy
ID: 8116576
PlasticSome1 make shure you install the chipset drivers before any other driver including the video.
I am guessing it is a via chipset. Since you don't include the motherboard model#
http://www.viaarena.com/?PageID=2
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by:Snowguy
ID: 8116606
Well you posted the model # while I was typing my last post. You will have problems if you dont install the via drivers. As far as the problem of freezing in the first place I am gessing that when you put in the new drive you left the old drives burrning software on the pc and it was looking for the old drive.
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by:Snowguy
ID: 8116623
Use the updated drivers from the link I posted above if you can.
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by:Jimbo99
ID: 8116931
dogztar,

Yep, done the homework.  Always best to be safe rather then sorry.  :)
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by:Kyle Schroeder
ID: 8119862
WAIT!  Do not install the VIA 4in1 drivers!  Your board was one of the first AMD Athlon boards released and it has an AMD chipset, not VIA!  There are some updated drivers from AMD for Win98, I'll find them in a minute.

I'm not sure the VIA driver set will even install with no VIA hardware on the board, but if it does, you'll really have problems!

-dog*
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by:Snowguy
ID: 8120040
Good call dog it has an amd and via chipset this link will tell you what mother board drivers to install.
http://www.fica.com/site/html/services/faq_detail.asp?c_id=240000181
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by:Kyle Schroeder
ID: 8123469
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by:Jimbo99
ID: 8124674
That board used the AMD 751 North Bridge chipset and the VIA VT82C686A Super South Bridge chipset.
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by:PlasticSome1
ID: 8124717
Alright y'all....here's what happened.

- I reformatted C: like I said I was going to - to get a nice clean start.  

- I installed Windows 98SE with the Lite-On CD drive, the C: drive (obviously), the A: drive, one 128MB brick of RAM (very thoroughly checked to make sure inserted properly), and the Voodoo card to control the monitor.  

- Installation (miraculously) went fine.  No errors, and Windows loaded up perfectly.  No blue screens, no .VXD error.

- I took the CD that came with my motherboard and placed it in the CD drive.  NOTE: (I checked over the board and read the specs as closely as I could in the manual - the board has an AMD 751 North Bridge and a VIA 686A South Bridge)  Therefore when the CD auto-ran, I chose to load the AMD and VIA drivers it suggested.  This was the first thing I did beyond installing Windows and allowing Windows to assign default VGA drivers to run the monitor.  

- Everything seemed stable, so I was happy - thought it was problem solved...so I installed the Ethernet card.  Still - everything seemed stable.  Setup the internet connection and so forth.  

- Decided to set up the Voodoo drivers so I could see better.  Did so and that worked fine.  

- Threw in the CD that came with my monitor to install the software that came with it.  It did so, and then wanted to know if I wanted to calibrate to color.  I said I'd do it later and told it to exit setup.  

- It gave me a pop up that said I should wait to close the windows, so I said OK, waited a few seconds and tried again.  They closed no problem.  I went to Start and restarted the computer.  Here the problems started again.

- The computer went through the memory check and so forth on boot.  Loaded up the Windows mouse pointer with the hourglass as it should right before the desktop appears, and then it restarted again, on its own.  I thought, "OK, maybe it's supposed to, it has to set something else up".  It did the same thing 3 more times like it was caught in a loop.  

- It finally loaded the desktop and I got an error message that reads like this:

"The drive or network connection that the shortcut 'restart_vs.lnk' refers to is unavailable.  Make sure that the disc is properly inserted or the network resource is available, and try again."

(the monitor is a ViewSonic E220) I assume this is the "VS" in the missing shortcut.  The "disc", I can only assume is C:?

- I checked the Start-Up folder in the Start menu and the above-mentioned shortcut was in it, so I removed it from Start-Up and restarted, at that point all was well.  So...

- Next major thing was the Audio card.  Shut down, disconnected things, put the card in the PCI slot.  Started up again.  Got past the network password prompt in Windows, and then it said it had found new hardware and was looking for drivers, etc.  So I popped the CD that came with the Audio card into the CD drive and told it to look there.  It found the drivers.  I said to install them, and it went through and installed some 5 or 6 sets of drivers for all the different components of the card (i.e. the joystick port, etc).  It told me I needed to restart for the changes to take effect.

- I restarted, it loaded the hourglass pointer and then stayed there for awhile.  It wasn't frozen, as I still had mouse support, but the HDD was spinning.  So I left it be, thinking it had alot to install and setup.  After a minute or 2 of spinning, I got a blue screen.  The error message read like this:

"DISK WRITE ERROR
Unable to write to disk in drive C:
Data or files may be lost.
Press any key to continue"

- I pressed Enter.  Nothing happened.  CTRL-ALT-DEL, nothing.  Frozen.

- So I hard-restarted.  It did the memory check, and then when checking to see what was on the IDE cables, it found no HDD.  Primary, master and slave, not found.  Secondary, master found (CD-drive) and no slave.  There should't be a slave on either, but there REALLY should be an IDE HDD on the Primary cable.  It then looked for boot record as it should, found nothing on A: nothing on the IDE.  Then said:

"BOOT FAILURE INSERT BOOT DISKETTE IN DRIVE A:"

- Totally frustrated at this point, I restarted again with the same result.  I then put my boot disk in A: and restarted.  I told it to load CD support, it did so, and then gave me along message about being unable to detect a valid FAT or FAT32 system on C: and suggested that I either create a partition w/ FDISK, or that a virus might be causing it (unlikely as I have had no opportunity to contract said virus).  

- I popped out the diskette, and hit the power button since it will usually shut the comp off when pressed while in the DOS prompt.  It restarted it, so I let it go, this time somehow it found the C: drive and started up Windows w/ no problems.  

I have NO idea what is going on anymore, every time it seems to be working, something else seems to go wrong.  Every component of my system cannot possibly be destroyed somehow, just by installing a new CD-RW drive, can it?!  I know I have some more IDE cables someplace, so I am looking for them, perhaps I have a bad cable connection between the board and the HDD?  I don't know what else to think.  I just can't believe that everything is ruined beyond any hope of stability....should I be looking to buy a new board, processor and RAM?  I've no idea.  Thank you all for your continued support. :(

- PlasticSome1
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by:PlasticSome1
ID: 8124803
Jacked up the point value of the question a bit, I know you guys are working hard on this - thought I'd try to make it worth your while...thx.  - Plastic
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by:Jimbo99
ID: 8124922
I don't profess to know what's up with your system.  I would suggest only a couple straightforward things.  Others may attempt to analyze this further, but I don't think anything other then a straight forward series of steps will resolve this.

1)  Download and lowlevel the drive and perform the scantest

2)  Scandisk the drive and test the surface.

3)  Replace the cables.

4)  Try the drive in another machine to see if it is the southbridge that's troubling you.

I've seen plenty of drives that format ok and suddenly they just fail.  I've also seen alot of via chipsets go.  I've seen mobo's fail as I was diagnosing them.  I've also, just my personal opinion (no need for anyone to judge me), disliked VIA based boards.

That's an old board by today's standards.  Think about upgrading.  There are some nice athlon XP boards cheap and the AMD processors are quite inexpensive.

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by:Jimbo99
ID: 8124931
Sorry, you can skip #2 if you do #1.  :)
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by:Kyle Schroeder
ID: 8144611
sounds like your HD is taking a vacation...do you have (or you can download) the diagnostic software (though, you need to get the BIOS to see the drive first).  Verify that your cables are secure (and swap them out, preferably with ATA100 80wire cables if available; they're cheap).  Autodetect the harddrive in BIOS (F1 or DEL at poweron).  Once BIOS detects it again, then use the manufacturer program diskette to test/wipe the drive as Jimbo99 suggested.

If its still a no-go...I agree with Jimbo to start looking at upgrading all around.  Yes, you'll need a new motherboard, processor, and RAM, but your drives and case should be OK still.  You can easily pick up a motherboard + AthlonXP 2100+ and 256MB DDR for < $400 (probably a lot less than that!).

I upgraded from my Athlon 700 this past summer to a 1800+, and there is a world of difference!

-dog*
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by:prd00
ID: 8148870
Okay... I got the same computer with P2B-F here with same problem, exactly same problem, and my solution was to replace the board. But, before that expensive action, try do this.. replace your power cable that connected to IDE, check if your Power connector in IDE is loose. I got one with loose connector, and sometimes it stop and start again a couple times, and causing those blue screen. Usually the vxd is about ide drivers. I needed to soldered the connector back to HDD board to fix it. Usually it happened to old HDD.
Next, IDE connector, just replace it and check the result
Next, disable ANY cache you found on mainboard. All of them, L2, Video, bios, all of them.
Next, disable video snooping if any.
next, 16MB hole enable.

If you still can't recognize those HDD, try with other HDD. If still refused, then... well.. upgrade your board.
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