PC freezes / locks up

Posted on 2005-04-12
Last Modified: 2013-12-05
I have an older PC with the following hardware.

PII 233 on a 440LX motherboard
S3 Virge PCI Video Card
128M Ram (2 64M chips)
Realtek RTL8139 network card
80G Hitachi HD

The problem is that the computer will freeze on me randomly, to the point where even the keyboard doesn't respond (i.e. numlock, capslock lights don't toggle).  My only recourse is to reset the machine.  It seems to happen mostly when browsing the internet, but it's not only when browsing the internet.  

I've tried swapping memory, network cards, and reinstalling the OS, to no avail.  I've booted to the Austrumi linux distribution, but it freezes too.  So..  I'm guessing it's something to do with hardware, but I'm not sure what.  

A little history: the machine came to me with a 500M HD and was told to upgrade it.  I put in the 80G HD and upgraded the bios (Award 4.51PG bought from  I then installed Windows XP Pro, and from the very beginning it started freezing on me.  I'm don't know if it was doing the same thing before I got it.  

I would love to be able to have this PC working right, so any help is appreciated.

Question by:brajohns
    LVL 69

    Expert Comment

    Running WinXP on 128MB RAM is not enough, for one thing - 256MB is better, and 512MB would be even better.

    Causes for spontaneous reboots or freezes:

    overheating cpu
    overheating video card
    faulty PCI card (especially network cards)
    bad RAM
    faulty power or inadequate power supply
    faulty motherboard

    You've already tried swapping out a few things, try to eliminate the rest.  The motherboard should be left for last.

    Author Comment

    Any way to test if it's the CPU or video card overheating?  

    As an aside, for some reason XP shuts off my CPU fan.  If I leave it in BIOS config mode, or boot to linux it stays on.  Otherwise it shuts off right as it gets to the XP logon screen.  However I don't think that's the cause of the problem, since it stays running in linux and still freezes.
    LVL 69

    Expert Comment

    You can install a temperature monitoring program like Everest to track cpu temperature, if your motherboard has a temperature diode:

    The way I make sure (which works for video card overheating) is to put my hand on the heatsink - if it's too hot to hold, it's over 130F, which may be an indication of overheating.  If a burnt smell is detectable, it definitely is too hot!  Some people test this also by opening the case and blowing a fan into it - usually, that will cool it enough to keep it running.

    Author Comment

    Well, my video card doesn't have a heat sink, but I have the case taken off, so it should be fine.  I put my hand on the card and it doesn't feel hot at all.  
    LVL 69

    Expert Comment

    Ok, what's left that you haven't tried?

    Expert Comment

    Running WinXP on a PII 233?? I thought the minimum was at least 400Mhz, and I definitely agree with the RAM issue.

    Since you do not know if the system was doing it before you got it, and you said it also does this with Linux, I would say you have some sort of faulty hardware, or even possibly a power supply issue.
    I would uninstall all the un-necessary components (modem, extra serial ports, add on USB cards,etc) and see if it does it, then add them back one by one and see which it hangs on.
    I wouldn't rule out a faulty motherboard though... I've seen it drive a lot of people nutso trying to chase down a problem like this - myself included.

    Hope this helps!

    Author Comment

    Callandor -

    Based on your suggestion, I replaced the S3 video card with a Trident card I had laying around.  So far it seems to be working just fine.  I've used it for a few hours now without a lockup, whereas before it wouldn't go but 10-15 minutes at the most without freezing.  I don't think it was overheating, but maybe it was just faulty?  I will keep testing for another day before deciding it's fixed.

    mvoss -

    XP actually runs pretty well on a 233.  I have 256M ram in it now, but it's pretty decent just for a web / email machine.  

    Expert Comment

    Cool - glad to hear that you think you may have your problem solved.
    LVL 69

    Accepted Solution

    The video card was probably on the verge of dying and has a part that acts up when it's warm.
    LVL 87

    Expert Comment


    No comment has been added to this question in more than 21 days, so it is now classified as abandoned..
    I will leave the following recommendation for this question in the Cleanup topic area:
    Accept: Callandor

    Any objections should be posted here in the next 4 days. After that time, the question will be closed.

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