Athlon64 System Crashing During XP/Fedora Installation

Two days ago I put together an Athlon64 3400/MSI K8N Neo Platinum system and I can't get either XP Pro (non64) and RH Fedora 2 for 64bit to install.  XP crashes on blue screens or fatal installation errors.  Fedora goes into debug mode.  I've never built a PC before, but I have done component replacements on dekstops at home and on servers at work.

Here's the component list:

CPU:  Athlon64 3400 OEM
Motherboard:  MSI K8N Neo Platinum
RAM:  1st - Kingston Value DDR400 PC3200 512 MB, 2nd - Added a second stick later on.
HD:  WD Raptor 10k SATA 74 GB
DVD/CD:  BTC Dual Format 8x
Video:  Radeon 7000
Heat Sink:  1st - Magic One, 2nd - MGE Sub Zero 64
Case:  Discount Special
Power Supply:  1st - Cheap one from case, 2nd - Antec TruePower 430w

Sorry for the long story, but I don't know what the problem is and which info is important.  The story goes as follows:

I bought all of the components and put them together.  Tried to install RH9, but it didn't have the SATA drivers.  So I downloaded the Fedora image because it did.  Tried installing that, then the crashes started.

My first thought was the power supply since I was using the one that came in the cheap case.  Its voltages were within 5% (closer to 3%), but I had planned to upgrade it anyway, so I went and bought the TruePower one.  Didn't help.  The crashes occured about 10-15min into either installation and seemed to be different messages each time.

In Fedora the crashes occur sometimes at the beginning when identifying the monitor (old NEC, and I think it only happened in text installation mode) but mostly just before after setting the root password (after giving about 7-8 setup inputs).  In XP, they mostly occured after the first reboot when its doing things like setting up the Start Menu items.

I had been checking the temps and they were running in the 50c range with an open case, which I thought was OK, but later learned it was a little high.  I even put the sides on the case to make sure the lack of sides wasn't messing up airflow, but the temps only got worse (60c).

I went back to the store and bought a better fan/heatsink and installed it.  The sides are still off and I even put a 14" desk fan a foot away from the motherboard using a case side panel to funnel more air into the case.  Now the CPU is constantly around 43-44c, but the motherboard gets a little hotter at about 46-48c or so.

After putting the new fan on, the crashes started happening even sooner in XP.  Now they happen during the copy of the first subset of files before the first reboot.  I took it back to where I bought it to see if they could get it fixed, but they wanted $200 (fix a DIY system price) and 4 days before they could look at it which I thought was a bit steep.  So I bought a second stick of RAM from a different store and tried that.  Same results.

I've also tried setting the bios to fail-safe mode.  I even tried mucking with some of the parameters to turn off Firewire, the second SATA controller, etc.  

The error messages in XP have been like the following:

An attempt was made to write to read only memory
Couldn't read a file from the XP CD and asked me if I wanted to skip it. (I don't have the ability to test the XP CD right now, but it worked about a year ago.)

So my questions are as follows:

1.  Could these temps still indicate a temperature problem?  Its a crappy case that surely has bad air flow, but with open panels, a $40 cpu heatsink/fan, a desk fan, and temps at 45c, could heat still be making it crash?  Should I aim the fan at the back of the motherboard rather than the front?

2.  Could the motherboard have a problem causing these heat issues?  I ask because the CPU used to be hotter than the motherboard, but with the new cpu fan, the motherboard is hotter than the CPU?

3.  Any suggestions for testing the motherboard to see if its functioning properly?  Its obvious its not a major motherboard problem because I get so far in the install, but could there be some bad piece on it that is only accessed after the install gets started?

4.  Could the DVD/CD cause these problems?  It was a cheap one and I did have the error about reading the file.  It seems most of the crashes occur around the time its accessing the DVD/CD.

The biggest question I have is if it seems to be motherboard or CPU related enough to justify exchanging them.  Do they partially fail often?  I can probably start doing some more component replacements tomorrow (CD,RAM,HD) after enlisting the help of some workmates, but I can't do motherboard or CPU since my friends use Intel.

Thanks ahead of time for even bothering to read this long story.  Just trying to get this $800 machine which has turned into $1000 from turning into $1500.

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angusmcchrisAuthor Commented:
Bumping up to 500 as it now seems 250 might be a little stingy for this problem.
I would suggest swapping the RAM for ones you know work.  Bad RAM frequently produces the IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL
 or PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA error.  If you don't have extra RAM lying around, you can try, but it won't guarantee that the RAM is good if it passes; it will indicate the RAM is bad if it fails.

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angusmcchrisAuthor Commented:
Well, many thanks for that tip.  I was sure it wasn't the RAM since I had bought a second stick just for this problem.  But it wasn't a broken stick, just one that's not robust enough for that motherboard/cpu combo.  A little more information on the solution for you and anyone else:

I went to the memtest86 page, downloaded the iso image and ran the tests.  The only problem it had was with tests 5 and 8.  I then read the info on the rest of the web site and found this:

"There have been numerous reports of errors with only tests 5 and 8 on Athlon systems. Often the memory works in a different system or the vendor insists that it is good. In these cases the memory is not necessarily bad but is not able to operate reliably at Athlon speeds. Sometimes more conservative memory timings on the motherboard will correct these errors. In other cases the only option is to replace the memory with better quality, higher speed memory. Don't buy cheap memory and expect it to work with an Athlon! On occasion test 5/8 errors will occur even with name brand memory and a quality motherboard. These errors are legitimate and should be corrected."

So I went in and changed the memory bus speed to 166 from 200mhz and the test errors went away.  I'm also happy to say that XP installed without a hitch in this mode.  Now to try fedora...

Now I just have to talk my way into a return and get some more expensive stuff (and do a little more research as to which expensive stuff).  I would have never guessed Kingston would have problems, but I guess it is the Value series.

Thanks again!
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