Is it the drive, the motherboard or the driver at fault here?

Hardware:
ASRock P4VT8+ Motherboard
  VIA chipset and VIA SATA onboard
Seagate SATA hard drive
512 Mb RAM
etc.

Situation:
Customer bought machine from local white box clone shop in Oct 04.  Apparently ran fine since then, but they did have to have Windows reloaded after a virus.

The other day Windows became unbootable after user shut down.  Was asked about other users logged in, etc. but shut down anyway.

 I came in and reinstalled Windows XP over existing install using SATA driver I manually created from drivers CD, SATA driver viaraid.sys 5.1.2600.220.  Windows would almost boot all the way now.  When I got near the log on screen a dialog box would pop saying "Windows - System Error" in the title and the message was "Unknown Hard Error" with an OK prompt.  If I was patient I could click through the multiple messages and almost get to a desktop.

Next, I booted Windows Ultimate Boot CD (BartPE) using the same driver.  Got "Delayed Write Failed" messages when launching the file manager app.  

Removed the drive and it's cable and ran it in my Dell 8400.  Copied the entire contents of the drive to my Dell drive.  No trouble.

Put the drive back in their PC.  Downloaded the latest driver from ASRock website - viamraid.sys 5.1.2600.300 and used it with Windows Ultimate Boot CD.  Started a robocopy to a network share.  It was flying along for about 20 minutes then BOOM -- DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL ... STOP 0x000000D1 ....  viamraid.sys ...

I called the shop who sold the machine.  They didn't have anything to offer regarding where the problem might lie, was hoping they'd say something like "oh yeah, you need to get driver X, we've seen that before with that board".  I think the customer is fed up with them anyway, probably why they called me, so I'm not keen on taking it to the shop yet.

So, where do I go next?  I might get it to work if I do a clean install of XP with the latest drivers.  But, I'm not sure I trust it.  It might run fine for a few weeks before it gets corrupted again.  At this point I think it's a faulty motherboard or driver.  Maybe the drive, but less likely.

What do you think?
RickStrobelAsked:
Who is Participating?
I wear a lot of hats...

"The solutions and answers provided on Experts Exchange have been extremely helpful to me over the last few years. I wear a lot of hats - Developer, Database Administrator, Help Desk, etc., so I know a lot of things but not a lot about one thing. Experts Exchange gives me answers from people who do know a lot about one thing, in a easy to use platform." -Todd S.

CallandorCommented:
"DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL" are typical of bad RAM or a bad driver.  Since this was reinstalled, I suspect the RAM, since it is a very common cause of OS installation failures and the drivers are coming from the CD fresh.  You should swap the RAM for ones that you know work, or try the diagnostic program at www.memtest86.org.
achcheeCommented:
CallandorCommented:
achchee,

How does updating the BIOS fix a problem that doesn't exist in the hardware?  He said, "Customer bought machine from local white box clone shop in Oct 04.  Apparently ran fine since then, but they did have to have Windows reloaded after a virus."  Flashing a BIOS is not without risk, and can end up with a dead motherboard if done improperly or if it is interrupted.
Your Guide to Achieving IT Business Success

The IT Service Excellence Tool Kit has best practices to keep your clients happy and business booming. Inside, you’ll find everything you need to increase client satisfaction and retention, become more competitive, and increase your overall success.

devinepenguinCommented:
I agree with Callandor. It sounds like the RAM. I never thought that RAM would go bad until I faught with a machine for hours trying to load the OS. Bad memory will corrupt the data enough to make things fail. As suggested, try another stick of memory and see if you can load the OS without errors.
rindiCommented:
Same here, follow Cal's instructions, except the link actually is http://memtest86.com.
willcompCommented:
RAM gets my vote as well.  It's a fairly common occurrence building new systems.  Either faulty memory, memory that cannot run at spec, or bad motherboard memory controller (in which case it's the motherboard, but such problems usually appear right away).

One trick to try.  Reduce memory bus speed in BIOS (e.g. 166 MHz instead of 200 MHz).  Sometimes backing off memory speed helps.
CallandorCommented:
I messed up in my link - it's http://www.memtest.org/ - the program seems to have been improved on since the version rindi gave.
RickStrobelAuthor Commented:
I left memtest running on the machine about 5 hours ago, I'll have to check it when I get back.  My memtest copy is about two years old.  I've never found any flaws using it.  Maybe I'll have to update it.

Maybe I'll put an plain ole IDE drive in there and try to robocopy a bunch of stuff while booted with BartPE.  If that fails too that eliminates the SATA hardware driver issues.  Then we're down to memory / motherboard / CPU / (powersupply?)

Also, the machine has 1 Gb, not 512.  I could take a stick out, switcheroo, etc too.
RickStrobelAuthor Commented:
Memtest-86 v3.0 has been running for 11 hours 10 minutes with zero errors.
gonzal13RetiredCommented:
Did you look at the three websites?
RickStrobelAuthor Commented:
Yeah, I looked at them:

1) There is no firewall installed.  Recall that I'm running from a Windows Ultimate Boot CD (BartPE) for most tests.  This is similar to having a clean install of Windows.
2) If it's bad memory, Memtest-86 v3.0 hasn't found it after 12 hours now.
3) Don't have a Mylex RAID controller.  This situation is similar - a SATA / RAID controller.  The solution is to contact mfg for an update.  I'm using the latest driver available that I'm aware of.
RickStrobelAuthor Commented:
Hooked up a standard IDE drive and disconnected SATA drive.  Booted Windows Ultimate Boot CD and copied about 1.0 Gb to a network share, TWICE.  No errors.
jimilicaCommented:
I will try an ideea here although it might seems like nothing trough other that came since you first asked
Try with another hard disk and see if it makes the same problems.
I'm so small comparing with other guys in here but...
CallandorCommented:
Did you try reinstalling the VIA chipset driver?  It may have gotten corrupted.
fadixpCommented:
as i know SATA drives are making some problems these days .
you have to think of IDE drives.
i beleive you better think of checking bios settings may be its changed the sata settings to RAID , change it back to normal before trying normal IDE and see if it works.
RickStrobelAuthor Commented:
My final solution involved installing an Adaptec SATA controller in a PCI slot and using it.  System was solid as a rock with that controller and everything else unchanged.
RickStrobelAuthor Commented:
Sorry that I haven't followed up or awarded points.  In my final post I noted my solution.  My recollection is that no one steered me in this direction.  So, I'm not sure if it's appropriate to award any points here.  If I did I don't know who they'd go to.
moduloCommented:
PAQed with points refunded (500)

modulo
Community Support Moderator

Experts Exchange Solution brought to you by

Your issues matter to us.

Facing a tech roadblock? Get the help and guidance you need from experienced professionals who care. Ask your question anytime, anywhere, with no hassle.

Start your 7-day free trial
It's more than this solution.Get answers and train to solve all your tech problems - anytime, anywhere.Try it for free Edge Out The Competitionfor your dream job with proven skills and certifications.Get started today Stand Outas the employee with proven skills.Start learning today for free Move Your Career Forwardwith certification training in the latest technologies.Start your trial today
Hardware

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.