System unstable, need help locating the culprit...

Hi,
I have a AMD based system that's been causing me alot grief.  

The system configuration is the following:
Athlon XP 1800
Asus Nforce 2 motherboard
512 MB generic ram, a single stick
Antec true 330 W PS & Case combo
ATI Radeon 7500
WD Caviar 80GB
Pioneer DVD ROM 8x
everything else is onboard

Not too long ago it was working fine (over period of  months+), but recently when I try to turn it on, it would froze at the POST screen that display all the connected devices and etc..  I have to try to reset it couple of times and it'll eventually boot into Windows, which then detects bad sector and I had to use the system CD to fix it.  So far I know once it passed that stage, I can leave the system on for days, playing games or run applications and it won't have a problem.  I can also reboot the system once it's already up and running and it won't have any problem.  However, when I power off the system, then turn it on this entire cycle will repeat again.

Initially I thought it might be the hard disk's problem, so I swapped from WD to a Maxtor disk but same problem persist.  Both hds were tested on another older system and is healthy.  When I remove the hard disk from the unstable system, it would past the POST screen fine and ask me for a boot disk and which it should.  Once the system managed to boot into windows, sometimes the DVD ROM would stall while running CD.  All the peripherals were detected fine in the BIOS.

Any ideas what might cause this instability?  Thx.



DrealnzaAsked:
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WakeupSpecialist 1Commented:
Sounds like one of several possibilities.

1.  The motherboard may be failing.  Causing the system to take a long time to post.  (some thing to look for is to open up the case and see if there are any Buldging capacitors.  The capacitors usually look like smaller versions of AA batteries.  And usually the tops of good Capacitors are Flat on top.  If they are bad, they tend to buldge out a bit or alot....and may have corrosion on top of them)
2.  Could be that the IDE ports are going bad
3.  May be bad cables.  Try changing out the cables.
4.  Still could be a bad hard drive?  what diagnostics software have you tried?
www.westerndigital.com
would be a place to download diagnostic software for their specific drive.  

www.maxtor.com 
for their software.
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tmj883Commented:
Sounds like a corrupted device driver, do a selective start up one device at a time and it will hang at the device with the corrupted driver. Reload the driver. T
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DrealnzaAuthor Commented:
Thx for the replies.

Wakeup:

I looked through the motherboard, the capacitors appears to be fine, no bulges or abnormal colours.
I tested the hard disks, both of them passed the manufacturer's diagnostics.  I also installed them using the same cable on another older system and both of them worked fine.

tmj883:

I'm not sure the device driver might be an issue since most of the problem occur around the POST, and once the system boot into windows everything worked well pretty much.

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philby11Commented:
try testing your RAM.
http://hcidesign.com/memtest/download.html
http://www.simmtester.com/PAGE/products/doc/docinfo.asp
If you can get your hands on another RAM stick take out your old one & see if that helps.
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daleoranCommented:
I have seen similar problems and the culprit turned out to be the power supply. Not saying this is the case here but if u could get u're hands on another one, try it.
If it was working fine for months then this probably isn't relevent but give it a go anyway - sometimes when the computer is turned on the HDD hasn't come up to full speed and the POST is finished and doesn't detect the HDD. Try disabling the 'quick boot' option in the setup

Michael

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CallandorCommented:
I agree with daleoran - look at the power supply.  Your system might be having problems booting because of insufficient current at startup, and removing the hard disk eases the load - but it may still be having problems because it can't provide steady power to all components at all times.  Find or buy a replacement is my suggestion.
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DrealnzaAuthor Commented:
I tested by swapping the PS from another system and worked.  Thx.
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