Programs fail to display. No error message.


I had a problem with XP where programs would start and run but not display their window (so I couldn't interact with them).  They were sitting in memory (viewable in task manager, etc) but never showed up on the desktop.  Eventually I tracked it down a bad piece of RAM which I had replaced.  After installing the new RAM, I tested it with memtest86+ for about two hours and showed no errors.  After using the system for a few more days, the same problem was still occurring - so I tested the RAM again and ... its reporting errors again.   It seems like there must be a problem with the motherboard, are there any other possibilities?  

BTW, the solution to this question is linked to one of the same name in the OS section, also worth 500.
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The bad ram might have damaged files or your registry setttings and this might be the cause of the problems.

Problems like this is however very common with windows. I suggest you check the event log for information on nonworking parts of your windows (start|control panel|Administrative tools|Event viewer).

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Yes, I agree, bad RAM can corrupt system files.  You can try bringing them back to their original state by doing SFC /SCANNOW, but you will have to reapply updates.
moj0pinAuthor Commented:
I understand that the RAM could have corrupted the system files, but that doesn't explain why the RAM is failing memtest?
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When you tested with memtest and it passed, that was not a guarantee that the RAM was good.  You may have had more than one bad stick of RAM.
moj0pinAuthor Commented:
Agreed Callandor, but it seems to me highly unlikely that it is just the other stick failing now.  Further details:

Originally I had two sticks (A and B).

A would report errors in under 10 minutes (tested using different slots) while B would not report errors in hours (tested using different slots).

I had A replaced although it would NOT fail in tests at the place where I bought the computer.

So now I have B and C... which I tested extensively and they passed.  Now a week later they are failing?  (I haven't done more tests on which stick is failing now)

It seems more likely to me that there is something wrong with the motherboard than one of the RAM sticks being bad.  Please correct me if you disagree.

If the motherboard had a problem, it would tend to show up more quickly and consistently than a RAM problem.  Motherboard problems are typically not intermittent and reproducible, whereas RAM problems really require a hardware tester to be sure they are ok.  The nature of how problems show up in each type of component leads me to think it is the RAM, but that's just my opinion.  Either way you look at it, it's going to cost some money to determine where the problem is.
Of course, there is always the possibility that the motherboard suffered static damage in between, but that would be hard to find out, too.
moj0pinAuthor Commented:
Ok... I appreciate the input.  Fortunately my computer is still under warranty, so I can have the work done for free.

I'll let you know as I get more details.

Are the RAM chips the same kind/speed? If your having issues like that I would replace both sticks. (you replaced one). Try the one you got as a replacement alone. See if it replicates the problem. It could be an intermittant problem and the other stick is also causing the issue.
Processor overheating can also cause this type of random behavior.  Check the heatsink and fan.
moj0pinAuthor Commented:
Riparius... thx... what should I check for?  Is there some cpu temperature I should monitor for?
moj0pinAuthor Commented:
The RAM chips are the same kind and speed, btw.
Sometimes  the BIOS has a monitoring utility built in so you can check by hitting F2 or DEL at bootup  (F10 on Compaq) and looking for a page that displays hardware temperature and fan speeds.  If not...the old finger works reasonably well....touching the processor heatsink should be warm, but not painfully hot. If it burns you it is wayyyyy too hot.   Actual operating temps should be checked on the chip Manufacturers web pages (Intel or AMD).  Also make sure the system speed has not been cranked up in BIOS, as this often shows up an hour later as a random bug. You can usually tell BIOS "use optimized settings"  and be fairly safe.  

Also, sometimes power cables get in a position to rub against the cooling fan on the heatsink (it is spinning right?) when you close the case.   Make sure all wires are well clear of the processor fan.

One oddball possibility...I have seen people get windows entirely off the screen somehow. If it shows on the task bar but you can't get to it, just hit right click it on the taskbar and select "move" and use the arrow keys to get it back on screen.  I have no idea how my users caused this, but it happened.  Once it happened, the programs had established a new default position offscreen , so they would start up invisible except to the task bar.  What happens if you hit the " switch to" button in the task list?

Bad RAM is actually pretty rare, unless it it being overclocked.  


A series of random crashes folowing no particular pattern (except run time...) is heat.

Crashes on games are usually video drivers.

Sudden blackouts (especially on e-Machines) are power supplies or connectors.

Strange behavior / crash  on web access or major slowdown is a virus or competing spyware

moj0pinAuthor Commented:
I took the whole system in to have a tech look at it (it's still under warranty).  He said he can't get the RAM to fail even in my system.   This seems completely mind boggling to me, since it was consistent at home.

I"m going to test the temperature when I get it home, but if the tech is running tests for hours without any problems, it seems unlikely that it is the system overheating.  I wonder if it could have something to do with other hardware in the area... ie the monitor...??? i'm fresh out of good theories again.

1. Do the invisible programs show up in the task bar or just the task list?
2. What happens if you click "switch to" in the task window?
3. Is there a possibility you have a new video card that has dual monitor or tv out support ?  If TV out is enabled as a second monitor, windows could be running on the 2nd screen (check display ...settings tab in control panel)  Normally dual monitor can't operate without a physical monitor, but TV out can.
moj0pinAuthor Commented:
1.  Just the task mananager + process explorer (  Nothing on the desktop or in the task bar.
2.  I'll check this when I get the system back, but I'm pretty sure I tried all the obvious methods.
3.  Again, I can check but it's unlikely.  I remember going through the display settings looking for something weird.  

Hopefully I'll get it back today and I can test some more.
Thanks for your help
Based on the PC is said to be working fine when the tech ran it at a different location...I think a magnetic field could be a possibility here, which make strange, sometimes unexplainable things happen to computers.  
Try running the computer in a different location in your home...maybe there's a bad magnetic field where you have it...such as is it near the breaker box or next to a source of wires running through the wall?

To be certain, maybe you can get or borrow a magnetic field checker and check this possibility out.  It's sometimes something that is never thought of for reasons.

moj0pinAuthor Commented:
Ok... I got it back and took it to work.  Ran the memtest all night and it came out perfect.   So... I'm guessing it has something to do with the location, I'm going to try it in a different spot in my room.  I have it near some other electronics (music gear etc...) but I can't imagine it would be that.  But I guess that is the level of extreme possibility I'm down to here.
moj0pinAuthor Commented:
Anybody know anything about testing for power inconsistencies?  I'm running through a surge protector, so that isn't an issue, but if there was a slight loss of power the surge protector wouldn't help.  

A voltmeter will tell you what the levels are.  You could also get a power supply tester, and run it while the power supply is attached to various outlets.

Power supply tester
An osciiliscope is the standard tool, but you need to know how to use one...oddball problems tend to be related to ripple (minor ac variation on top of the dc power) or dropouts.
Typically ripple should be less than 1% (of the voltage you are measuring), but pcs still work with double that.

 Unfortunately, your problem sounds just too consistant to be hardware (if the ram is ok) or environmental....ripple, dropouts, magnetic fields and radio interference (no transmitters nearby?) tend more to cause random crashes.  

I would try new video drivers, then uninstalling the affected programs (is it always the same ones? ) , clearing their registry enties and reinstalling.  If it is differing programs, I think I would do a clean reinstall of Windows.   The only sure test I can think of to avoid this would be to load up Knoppix and run that for a day to see if you have any problems

Good luck!

moj0pinAuthor Commented:
Ok... the RAM seems to be behaving itself although I still don't really have an explanation (which I hate).  I guess I'm back to the original problem.
Go through the process of elimination, remove everything and start with video card only (even try a different card if you can).  

Any single device and either the hardware itself or its driver could be responsible for causing your problem.

While your hardware components are removed, inspect all your components (motherboard too) for blown chips/burn marks to find anything faulty.
moj0pinAuthor Commented:
I haven't been able to make this screw up again.  Which (although slightly irritating) is good.  Thanks for all the help.
The askers last response stated everything is ok and thanked everybody for the help...I ask split the points to all who supplied suggestions.
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