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PC program crashes when doing certain things.

Posted on 2003-11-12
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-04-25

I recently assembled a brand new PC.

Pentium 4 2.6C with hyperthreading
Intel 865GBF Motherboard
Kingston twin Hyper-X 512mb dual channel DDR Ram(blue)
80GB Seagate SATA 7200rpm 8mb buffer HDD
CD-ROM drive
Liteon CD Writer

I've installed windows XP Professional and ran window update to update EVERYTHING to the latest updates until there any NO MORE updated to download at all.

The problem i'm facing is that sometime when programs are being run, it performs an illegal operation and terminates. The problem happens with a few software like Need For Speed Underground, Ulead photo impact, Olympus camedia software, GameHouse Collapse,

The problem happens at random intervals. The program would perform an illegal operation and terminate. Sometimes it just kicks out of the program straight away.

It doesn't happen when I run basic stuff like web browsing, ICQ, MS Word, writing CD's etc.etc.

How and where should I start diagnosing this problem?

Also I've set the RAM Timings to the manufacturer's specification already. The same problem happened when I used the auto-detect setting as well.

How likely is this problem caused by power irregularities? Because when I was using this PC at home I didn't have a single problem at all. It was only after I delivered it to my friend that he started experiencing problems like these. He did install a few more software but I doubt it's because of any of that.

The other thing is, I accidently dropped the Pentium 4 processor and it hit the casing. As a result, one of the legs has been bent and we had to straighten it back before reinstalling it onto the motherboard. I doubt this would have any effect at all, but maybe some of you experts have some experience to tell me something?

Question by:happyguy82
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LVL 32

Expert Comment

ID: 9730432
You most likely have a hardware issue of some sort.  Check these things, in this order:

1) CPU, motherboard, and case COOLING.  Be sure your heatsink is properly attached to the CPU and that the CPU is running at BELOW its rated temp.  In general if the CPU is above about 50C when the system is relatively idle, you have a potential problem.  The CPU should never get hotter than 75C.

2) Try swapping out your RAM.  In my experience this is the #1 problem causing system instability.

3) Check your video card, its cooling (if any), and its drivers.

4) Check for resource conflicts.  If you suspect a problem here, remove any offending devices and see if the problem clears up.
LVL 15

Expert Comment

by:Rob Stone
ID: 9730637
What power PSU are you using?

Probably want a 400W+ for that system.

Expert Comment

ID: 9730933
does this happen in safe mode?

try running SFC in start/run just incase.

hope the below helps you:

What causes things like fatal exception errors and invalid page faults?

When a program like Microsoft Word or Excel "crashes," it means that something has gone seriously wrong during the program's execution. The operating system often recognizes that there is a serious problem and kills off the offending application in a clean way. When it does this, the operating system will say something cryptic like "fatal exception error" (and often display a large collection of hexadecimal numbers that are totally useless to you, the user, but might be of some use to the original programmer). The other way for a program to crash is for it to take the operating system down with it, meaning that you have to reboot.
Even though there is nothing you can do with the cryptic error messages, it might be nice to at least know what they mean! So let's go through the three most common:
 Fatal exception error - An application program like Microsoft Word is made up of many layers and components. There is the core operating system, an operating system services layer, perhaps an encapsulation layer on top of the system services, hundreds of software libraries, internal function/class libraries and DLLs, and finally the main application layer. Most modern operating systems and languages (like C++, Java, etc.) support programming concepts known as exceptions and exception handling. Exceptions allow different layers to communicate problems to each other. For example, say that a program needs some memory, so it asks the operating system to reserve a block of memory. If the operating system is unable to honor the memory request (because the requested block is too big, or the system is low on memory, or whatever), it will "throw a memory exception" up to the layer that made the request. Various layers may continue to throw the exception upward. Somewhere along the line, one of the layers needs to "catch the exception" and deal with the problem. The program needs to say, "Wow -- the system is out of memory. I need to tell the user about this with a nice dialog box." If the program fails to catch the exception (because for some reason the programmer never wrote the code to handle that particular exception), the exception makes it all the way to the top of all the layers, and the operating system recognizes it as an "unhandled exception." The operating system then shuts down the program. Well-designed software handles all exceptions.
 Invalid page fault - A program uses memory (RAM) to store data. For example, when you load a document into Microsoft Word, large parts of the file you are editing take up space in RAM. As the program needs memory, it requests blocks of memory of specific sizes from the operating system. The program remembers the location of each block it allocates using a "pointer." If the program tries to write data to a location beyond the end of a memory block, or if the program gets confused and tries to access a non-existent block of memory using an invalid pointer, the operating system can see that happening and generates a "page fault" or a "segmentation fault." The operating system shuts down the program because the program obviously does not know what it is doing.
 Illegal operation - A microprocessor has a finite number of instructions it understands, and each instruction is represented by a number known as an "opcode." The opcode 43 might mean "add," the opcode 52 might mean "multiply," etc. If the microprocessor is executing a program and comes to an opcode that it does not recognize or that it cannot execute because of the current state it is in, then the microprocessor stops to complain. The operating system handles this complaint by shutting down the offending program. Illegal opcodes normally come from software jumping to a location in memory that does not contain valid program information.
All of these problems are caused by human error on the part of a programmer. The programmer is not diligent enough to catch an exception, or allows the program to access invalid memory. Sometimes, the root cause is incompetence or inexperience, but in many cases it is the complexity of today's programs. There are hundreds of exceptions and often millions of blocks of memory that a program manages in an intricate, layered environment. One false move and the application crashes -- software is very brittle. Testing finds many errors, but usually it does not find them all.

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Author Comment

ID: 9730942

Yeah I suspect some hardware problem because the crash occurs at random intervals.
As a reply to your comments:

1) I seriously doubt cooling is a problem because Intel motherboards come with their own temperature monitoring software and it does not produce and warning of some sort. I think your threshold of 50 for CPU is a little high because even with Intel's standard heatsink and fan it is still slightly higher than 50. I'm not sure whether the system was relatively idle at the time I checked it or not.

2) RAM shouldn't be a problem. I am using Kingston Hyper-X which comes with lifetime warranty. The problems happened even when the ram timings were set to auto detect.

3) using on board graphics card. Anyway crashes happens when using non 3d accelerated software.

4) How do I check for this? I don't think there are conflicts because device manager is clean.

Stoner 79: It's 450watt. Actually PSU wattage isn't so important. What's important is how evenly your PSU distributes power to the 3v, 5v and 12v rails.

Anyone else with some suggestions please??

LVL 32

Expert Comment

ID: 9733846
You said:

>>RAM shouldn't be a problem

This is the kind of thinking that will keep you struggling with this forever.  Please do not assume that just because you have a specific brand of memory that it cannot be bad.  In fact, this is still my #1 issue and I think it is your problem too.

Try swapping out your RAM to VERIFY that it's not the problem.  If you assume it's not the problem then you might as well just resign yourself to living with this annoying issue.

Author Comment

ID: 9734198

Ok thanks. The problem is that it would be difficult for me to find a replacement RAM to swap in to test. Actually I've worked in a retail shop before which deals with selling computers. I agree with you RAM can be the culprit.
Anyway, do you know how Kingston treats their warranty? Do they do alot of testing on the module to certify that it's faulty before giving a replacement? If they do this, will they be able to detect such problems?

LVL 32

Accepted Solution

jhance earned 2000 total points
ID: 9734575
It's my opinion that when the bottom dropped out of RAM prices quality and testing went the same way.  It seems to me that RAM is not tested at all like it had been in the past.  Bad RAM, particularly brand-new RAM from major manufacturers is bad.  This is not a hard failure as would be found with POST or MEMTEST86.  This is a different type of failure, of the pattern or access sensitivity type.  It shows up when running a true 32-bit OS like NT, 2000, XP, or Linux.  It rarely shows up running Win9x or DOS.

I have seen so many of these issue myself that it's clearly not a coincidence and I've lost track of how many EE questions I've answered like this...

Please don't discount RAM as a factor here.
LVL 12

Expert Comment

ID: 9735129
>Also I've set the RAM Timings to the manufacturer's specification already. The same >problem happened when I used the auto-detect setting as well.
go into bios setup and manually select slowest timing for the memory.

Expert Comment

ID: 9736334
Have u check for the update on the mainboard Driver or BIOS update??
Try to look for patch for the mainboard.
Look for update on the display card also.
Are u running any virtual drive??
Maybe the software that are causing it.

Expert Comment

ID: 9737328
There is two things that are similar when your computer programs crash.
1.  You are using a lot of memory.  Games and photo programs.  
2.  Graphics are being used although they are not all 3D.

that would make me think as Jhance has that is would be a memory problem.  And just b/c it is kingston does not mean it is bad.  I have sent two modules back this past summer, both of them new.  One of the modules is did the same thing yours is doing.  When I was using a lot of RAM things would act funny.  I changed out the RAM and things were normal.

As far as I know they do not test them and if it is not bad send it back to you.  They probably do test them and if they are not bad put them back into the market,  that would be my guess.  Probably as OEM.  
LVL 16

Expert Comment

by:Kyle Schroeder
ID: 9745360
Try running with just one of the DIMMs installed, if it still crashes, swap it out for the other.  Its fairly unlikely that both of them are faulty unless you damaged them via ESD when building the system...this will obviously disable the dual-channel function of your RAM, but its a good test.


Author Comment

ID: 9822834
Hey guys, I've sent the RAM for warranty claim but they are taking abit of time. Anyway the shop has lent me a 256MB DDR 400 Kingston module for use in the meantime. The thing is, this module isn't the hyper-X one and it's timing is only 3-3-3 but the PC has never crashed so far.

Expert Comment

ID: 10386524
No comment has been added lately, so it's time to clean up this TA.
I will leave a recommendation in the Cleanup topic area that this question is:

accept jhance's comment as answer

Please leave any comments here within the next four days.


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