Computer freezing very often - probably due to overheating

I recently got a new computer, as a gift, that was custom built. Lately it's been freezing very often. Usually after a few minutes of photoshop and/or dreamweaver use or even if I'm just doing things on the web and have a few windows open.

What I'm using:
OS: Windows XP Pro
Motherboard: Abit KV7
CPU: AMD Athlon XP 3000+ 2.19GHz
Graphics card: Nvidia Geforce fx 5200
Ram: 512Mb

It started in February when for some reason my graphics card stopped working and I had to get it replaced, which I did. Since then, whenever I put a little strain on the CPU, as mentioned above, my screen freezes and there's nothing I can do aside from pushing the reset button. Although, I still have the ability to open and close my cd/dvd drive by pushing that units button. The other day, I had a couple MS Word doc's open and I stepped away from the pc for a while. When I moved the mouse to wake it up, the login screen showed that I'm logged in but have no programs running. When I clicked on my user icon, it loaded and immediatly froze.

I have a fan on my cpu, one on my graphics card, one in the power supply, and one built into the wall of my case but am guessing they arent doing a good enough job. I checked my cpu temperature through boot-up and it was between 110-120 F. I have a little radiator fan that I have positioned behind the fan on the wall of my case (in fan mode, without heat) to help push air and it has been giving me longer time on my computer though it still freezes often. Am I correct to assume I need a better cooling system and if so, how many and what type of fans will I need? Otherwise, if its not my cooling system, whats wrong and how can I fix it?
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have you also made sure that there is thermal compound between the heatsink and processor and that it is not too thick?  

I like any of the Thermaltake Volcano series from 9-12.  not only for thier cooling power but they are fairly cheap.
If your temperatures look good and you physically touch the heatsinks and can verify that they're not hot, then it's not an overheating problem.  Other things that could cause it:
- bad video drivers
- bad RAM
- bad power supply
- bad motherboard

- Update the video drivers (you may need to try more than one, in case one version isn't stable).
- Test your memory with the diagnostic program at, and see if it fails.  Even if it passes, that doesn't mean the RAM is good; only a swap with known, good working RAM will tell you that.
- Swap the power supply with one you know works and is at least as powerful.
- When you've tried everything else and the motherboard is left, then it's probably the motherboard.
first i don't think that it is heat, but it could be.   110-120 is not hot, but that is at boot up and under no use.  Here try one of these free programs and watch the temperature and tell use what the temperature is when it freezes.  This program you can put in your system tray to see it.

usually if your system is over heating it will shut down completly not just freeze.  That is another reason that I don't think it is over heating.  

What i suspect is that you have bad or marginal RAM.  The reason for this is that maybe your RAM heats up through use an this heat causes the RAM to freeze.   Maybe to start with you can swap out your RAM with some known good RAM and see if it helps.  

As for some cooling tips.  You need to keep your computer clean.  Sweeping it out, at minumum, once a month.  You need to have some case fans.  Most case fan slots or screw holes are 80mm X 80mm.  You need to have one of these in the lower front of your case.  You also need to have one at the back upper part of your case below your power supply.  This will help move air over your processor by using the principle that hot air sinks and cool air rises.   A slot fan that you would put in a slot would also help get rid of heat.
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GrinsAuthor Commented:
Callandor, the video drivers were updated using the drivers provided on the manufacturers site. As for memtest86, a floppy drive is needed and that is something i do not have on this computer. What do you think about Windows Memory Diagnostic from - will it give me trustworthy results?

buckeyes33, SpeedFan shows:

Fan01: (around) 4700 RPM
Fan02: (around) 4700 RPM
Fan03: 0
Fan04: 0

Temp1: 127 F
Temp2: 115 F
Temp: 105 F
HDO: 90 F
Temp: 30 F

Fan 01 and 02 spped up and slow down at different rates yet seem to be for the same chip according to the program. Temp 1 and 2 also relates to that same chip. Am I supposed to have 2 reading for the same chip?
none of your temps are high.  I would suggest that you go into trouble shoot mode.  

Start with the RAM as that is the easiest.  Then go down Callandor's list of parts.
Do you have an optical drive?  If you do, you can create a bootable cd with the ISO version from the site.  I haven't tried or heard about the tester from Microsoft.

Even better is swapping in memory that you know works from another machine, because memtest86 can give false positives.  However, if memtest86 fails, you know you have bad memory.
127 does seem kind of high for being at idle.  you said it was custom built.  did one of your friends put it together or did a local shop assemble it?
GrinsAuthor Commented:
Callandor, I havent used memtest86 before but am guessing that it would tell me whether or not my memory had failed. What happens is that my computer freezes half way through the test, I attempted running the test twice so far and it froze both times. Is this a sign that my RAM could be failing the test?
I'm working on getting RAM and another power supply to swap and test my hardware.

3v1lj1m, after a few hours of not being powered on, it starts out around 111-113 and reaches 127-133 after 15-30 minutes of use. My system was not put together by a shop but by a friend who deals with hardware, software, and networking professionally.

This guy really knows his stuff. He's busy most of the time so I dont want to keep bothering him, he helped me with my video card problem a few weeks ago. I'd also like to try to fix this problem pretty much on my own (with the help of everybody here, of course). Thank you all.
If it froze during Memtest that would be an indication that your memory is bad.
buckeyes33 is right - failure of the test by freezing up is failure nonetheless.  Replace that memory.
i guess i was confusing numbers. in that case i'm with buckeyes and callandor.  it sounds like the memory may be faulty.  or when your friend bought the memory he may have bought 333mhz instead of 400 by accident.  i've seen shops that have marked memory wrong when it came in and it's not a big deal with the tiny difference in price until you have to run it at the higher speed.  see if it will run stable at a lower memory speed.
GrinsAuthor Commented:
ok, so I got the RAM replaced and I added 2 more fans to the mix, making it 8 fans (4 case [1 at the bottom front pushing air in, 1 at the back under the power supply pulling air out, 1 beneath the previos one pushing in at around 5200 RPM, and 1 on the side over the CPU], the motherboard, the graphics card, the power supply, and the CPU fan). The RAM came last night, its Kingston KVR400X64C3A/512 512MB PC3200 CL3 184-pin DIMM. Am I wrong to believe that the 400 in KVR400 means 400mhz?. I popped it in and after a few minutes of use she froze on me again... Right now, Speedfan 4.11, the program buckeyes33 suggested, still shows a flame next to the 122 F my CPU is hovering around.
I'm sorry, but I forgot to mention that aside from freezing very often, it would also restart on its own... I read that restarting might be caused by not enough juice from the power supply. I dont know what most of the numbers on the box represent but its a 350 watt P4 power supply. Does anybody think it might be an issue that Im using a P4 power supply to juice my AMD setup?
Its obvious that I'm not hardware savvy but, I have a feeling that the heatsink and/or CPU fan is at fault here. What type of heatsink do you folks recommend for the Athlon XP 3000+?
GrinsAuthor Commented:
I removed the heatsink to learn that there was too much thermal compound (resembled what AMD displays on their site under "how a CPU should not look"), a percentage of which had turned grey. I was able to remove all the visible paste from the bottom of the heatsink using dry q-tips, but I dont know if the same method will work for the CPU; I dont want leave any cotton on the unit.

What is the best way to clean the thermal paste off the CPU, is there a cleansing solution on the market?

The AMD site says not to use thermal paste at all unless you are removing the heatsink and/or CPU often. They say using thermal pads is the way to go. I didnt know about thermal pads at all, there obviously wasnt one present on my unit.

What are your thoughts on thermal pads, do they work just as good, better, or worse than paste? What are the risks of using both, the pads and the paste?

By the way, thanks for all the help. This is the most I've ever learned about hardware.
>>What is the best way to clean the thermal paste off the CPU, is there a cleansing solution on the market?
a razor blade from a hardware or hobby shop.  Then use a lint free cloth and use rubbing alcohol to clean it.  Just becareful of the pins while doing this.

>>What are your thoughts on thermal pads, do they work just as good, better, or worse than paste?
they are ok.  However, you can get better stuff for the same price or a little more.  There are several good thermal compounds out there that are rather cheap.  I use Artic Silver 5 and it works very well.  It cost $5 for a small tube, plenty for several CPU's.  

here is the cheapest place I found for AR5 and they have free shipping.

The only problem with AR5 is getting the correct thickness.  When they say thin, they mean thin.  I apply a small amount, a little larger then a pin head, in one corner and then without adding any more, spread that over the CPU core.  Since you have a larger area then just the core, you can add two pin heads.

>>What are the risks of using both, the pads and the paste?
you can't.  It will overheat and you will be right back to where you are now.

>>By the way, thanks for all the help. This is the most I've ever learned about hardware.
that is what we are here for.  :)
GrinsAuthor Commented:
I removed as much of the thermal paste as I could, but I couldn't reach every little bit. I dont want to risk using a needle or something like it, I dont want to damage the chip. But I think because there is still some paste left, the chip is still being affected by it. My computer froze again as I was using photoshop, though it lasted a lot longer than before.
Today the chip remains around 122 F, reaching up to 125 F before it froze. Two days ago, after I cleaned the chip, it hung in the high teens and did not give me any problems when I had a bunch of apps running for several hours.
I ordered a tube of AR5 as well as a thermalright sp97 heatsink from the link provided above (thank you buckeyes33!!). In the meantime I put a THIN layer of some silicone paste, which I bought from a local pc shop, on the chip.

I used a dry lint free cloth to remove what paste I could. If I wet one of these cloths with rubbing alcohol, will it dissolve the leftover paste?

I didnt use the alcohol right off the bat because I wanted to make sure it cant harm the chip.
>>will it dissolve the leftover paste?
you have to use a razor blade to clean it off,  others will agree.

>>I didnt use the alcohol right off the bat because I wanted to make sure it cant harm the chip.
rest assured, it can't.  Just don't get happy with it and get it all over the places.  Also make sure that it has dried before putting more paste on.
GrinsAuthor Commented:
I am convinced that after these past few weeks of computer hell, which peaked over this last weekend, my problems are finally over...

I get my new heatsink and thermal paste Saturday, around noon. Being that I've never put a computer together, or taken one apart for that matter, it took me a good 3 hours to take out the motherboard, install the heatsink, and put everything back together.

When I put it together and powered on, I get "Missing NTLDR, Press Ctrl Alt Del to Restart". I was told this means I'd have to reinstall my OS... I didnt have my cd and was forced to wait a few days to get it. The night before I was expecting to get my cd, I decide to google the issue and find 3 possible solutions. 2 required having the cd, the other one just said remove the battery to reset the bios/cmos. The easy solution worked!

The computer doesnt break 103 F regardless of the type/length of use; no freezing or restarting. Buckeyes, muchos gracias.
your welcome.
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