Desktop Self-Built PC Random Crashes

Okay i have tried to resist coming and asking for help but its now got to the stage that the PC is sending me crazy. Im willing to do anything to fix it from these random crashes.

The PC will randomly just stop doing everything (most times leaving the loading light stuck on). Not responding to anything, not even the power off button, however some times if i leave the PC for say 5minutes, it will jump back alive - move the mouse, play 2seconds of sound.. then whack, back to locked frozen dead.

Iv recently formatted with a retail XP pro disk - still random crashes, the machine is in a cold room and has little signs of overheating (apart from the hard drives) but the machine has crashed only 5mins ago from this post, after being on for no longer than 5mins - everything still cool.

The hardware spec is kidna high for the size off the case (stinky shuttle).

2x 300gig MAXTOR DiamondMax 10 SATA Raid 0,
ATI xt850 PE PCI-E Dual Slot (huge fan),
OCZ PC 3200 512mb Dual CH 3-5-2-6 (Enhanced Latency) - two sticks (1GB Ram),
AMD 3800+ Venice (if i remember right) 2.41 Ghz,
Coolmaster CPU Thermal Compound,
LG Multi DVD-RW/CD-RW,
No floppy drive (for added air space),
350w Shuttle PSU,
Dual monitors - Viewsonic 17" 5ms,
Logitech Wireless MX 1000,
Creative Stereo speakers...

Thats about it i guess, im listing everything i can think of as im wondering perhaps it could be the PSU dying from power consumtion (not sure how PSU will work with power managment etc) because the 3D card eats alot OR like i said heat could be an issue.

The thermal paste was my main worry, so i replaced it with Coolmaster paste only a few weeks ago, didnt fix it. Iv googled my RAM type and checked with compatablity with my setup and AMD 64 - seems to be fine, downloaded memtest (2 programs on boot) and tested RAM, no errors returned.

The only part that gets noticibly hot (from touch test with case lid off) is the hard drives, and there at the top of the case seperate from the rest of the hardware, above the DVD drive.

If anyone has a clue or needs more information please reply, the PC is sending me crazy and for the amount of money i paid for it all, its providing a terrible experiance (kinda wish i stayed with the packard bell intel 4 family PC, ha).

Thanks for the help in advance - Wo33eR

P.S Computer is mainly used for programming, gaming and artwork - Java, Bit torrent (bitcomet), Teamspeak, MSN, Norton, Photoshop and Office are the main programs used daily on the machine (im picking at straws here lol).
wo33erAsked:
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maramomCommented:
psu VERY good possibility:
try this calculator
http://www.jscustompcs.com/power_supply/
Journey systems Power Supply Calculator
wo33erAuthor Commented:
Also before the last format (last week), before connecting to the PC i installed the following drivers

ATI Catalyst Control Center - Version 1.2.2195.38647,
.Net Runtime - Version 1.1.4322.573,
nForce Raid Drivers,
Shuttle motherboard drivers from CD (sound, network card, usb),
Printer drivers (lol)

Also installed Norton Security 2006 before putting internet in (dedicated cable connection).
wo33erAuthor Commented:
"Your reccomended minimum power supply is 319 watts!."

And that was by using the ATI x800 (66watts!?), so that would put me overly over - concidering im also using two monitors.
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wo33erAuthor Commented:
A good point that was making me think it was the hard drives is when i log into the system after a crash (or heat), the system first loads up RAID check at the start, and reports if the RAID is healthy or not - after a crash it simply wont load it - after 5minutes giving an error on RAID find.

After waiting a good 10minutes, it will boot fine. Also the windows loadup often wont load on the first boot but continually goes through the loading bootup bar (windows XP pro) - i press restart, works instantly.

Perhaps that is just from the system being a bit messed up from the sudden crash, but the hard drives ?.
maramomCommented:
if the power is not sufficient, it may be struggling to read the hard drives...
did you check the capacitors on the board? Are they bulging or discharging?
www.badcaps.com 
it's an easy thing to rule out before you start spending money on fixes.
maramomCommented:
also, check all connections..ide cables, sata, reseat ram, cards, etc,..
check the mounting and cooling of your hard drives..they may be overheating or shorting out

if all clear...my first bet, as previously stated, is psu
maramomCommented:
I would recommend adding a cooling fan for the hard drives, which increases your power use, which leads to upgrading your power supply.
wo33erAuthor Commented:
very good suggestion !, i checked the caps and theres no signs of any problems at all, they all look perfect - the machine is new, only about 3-4months old. Not sure how long cap problems would take to show.

Is there any tests to check power usage currently on the PC ?, like a monitor program.
maramomCommented:
I don't know of one that monitors power usage.

a note about the calculator..it does have a margin of error as much as 50w

also..the more i think about it, it seems that your hd's are overheating
<<After waiting a good 10minutes, it will boot fine
<<The only part that gets noticibly hot (from touch test with case lid off) is the hard drives

again, it could be solved w/psu...less work on hd..fans are also a good idea
wo33erAuthor Commented:
That would make sense and it was my #1 guess but like i said, the crashes could happen a few minutes after booting the PC - from leaving it off for 24hours, it seems strange that if it was overheating, they could overheat within 3minutes.
maramomCommented:
I had a similar problem with an old pc (200w psu) with 2 hdd piggybacked.  I removed the master from it's mount and let it run..fixed the problem.  It was either overheating or being shorted out. It's worth trying the hd's outside the mount to see if they are the problem
wo33erAuthor Commented:
I was on the PC for a constant good 4hours at least last night running a heap of applications doing work and the such, i turned the PC off, went to bed. I turned the PC on about 20minutes ago:

It crashed within 3minutes at the desktop,
I rebooted - It crashed at the XP load screen,
I rebooted - It got to desktop, and instantly crashed,
I rebooted - It crashed at the bios boot area,
I rebooted - It crashed at the XP load screen,
I rebooted - Im now here, 2minutes in, and no crashes.

The HDD's run in raid 0 and rely on each other to work so im unsure of how i can actually run them seperate and i dont have any spare HDD's.
maramomCommented:
were the drives hot?  can you remount one of them lower in the case?
I would spring for a heftier power supply, whether it's the cause or not, because you need it for all of your power consumption anyway.  Also add a fan to the case close to the hard drives.
maramomCommented:
btw - the intermittentness of the crashes does point to the power supply, rather than overheating, but cooling off the hard drives is important...you may be getting a domino effect from your inadequete power supply.  If you can't solve your problem with psu and a fan, you may want to consider a larger case.
NouareiiCommented:
It seems to me that one of you HDs has failed and thus the pc is crashing. The PSU, even if it's not huge, should work "well" with that configuration.
If you can, try running a Live Linux CD ( you can use Ubuntu - www.ubuntu.com - ). If it works well, then it's almost surely the HDs/RAID configuration.

Try doing this to discard options:
* Open the case and put a big fan sending air into the case, specially the HDs.
* Run the Live Linux CD and use it for a couple of hours. Take into account that you should set it on the first boot (as I see, it's when the problem arises).
* Activate SMART and take a look at the RAID configuration in the BIOS. See if it there's anything wrong.
* Run Windows in Safe Mode. See if it has any problems there.
* Download and Run Speedfan ( www.almico.com/speedfan.php ). Check the Hard Drive Tab (SMART) for problems with the HDs.
wo33erAuthor Commented:
Im back!,

My PC crashed like usual, and when i rebooted it crashed on the XP loading screen and somehow managed to corrupt the boot, so after having a bit of trouble obtaining a windows disk and formatting so that windows can recognise my SATA as being 300gig instead of 127gig im back.. with a little change.

Iv moved the harddrives at the top of the case (as shown in the image below).

(http://www.amdzone.com/pics/computers/shuttle/sn25p/harddrivesinstalled.jpg) - not actually my PC but my case style.

The harddrive above the PSU has two fans cooling it, which is nice and keeps it cool, but i noticed the drive with windows on it was on the drive that is at the other side, with 0% cooling, the DVD-RW blocking it below, the other HD blocking it the other side.. cornerered in nothing but hot air (not nice).

So i installed windows on the fan drive, and now iv got the other drive for nothing but data storage (nothing too hard ?). Iv also dropped RAID0 and gone with good ol default (IDE style) setup.

My windows drive is cool-as-ice, its perfect. But the other drive is BOILING, even though its doing nothing its still extremly hot. Iv set the fans to medium speed as they were too loud and too fast beforehand - the fans are fast now.

Im wondering if i should set the fans to keeping the PC under a specific temperature, the temps included in bios : 60*c, 70*c and 80*c.

Also as a side note i found some settings under bios about power managment : i have set this from "default" to settings that resemble keeping the usage to a mimimum (not sure if this is related to the PSU usage done) - but its not crashed once since i did this, which is fantastic (about 1hour and counting now).

Before i changed these settings, with the HDD's in there new places, i was having crashes every 10-15minutes.. Annoying.

------

Im contemplating on buying a new case and new mobo, more fans, and having the PSU issue and Heat issue gone

OR

Selling the parts individually on Ebay and then buying a powerfull Laptop, like a Voodoo Laptop (needed for gaming as i am a games programmer).

Thanks - Wo33eR
wo33erAuthor Commented:
P.S How worried should i be about this Hard Drive settings on fire / melting / killing me in my house as i sleep.

Its very hot to the touch, holding my hand on it for several seconds burns.. but its the only piece that is this hot. Maybe i should change the fan bios settings up a little ?.
maramomCommented:
I don't think it will start a fire, but it's probably cooking up your system.

try..changing molex connectors from psu(if using any splits, remove), swap ide connections
if same....remove it..get the data off..either it's failing, or PSU's cooking it

BTW-good idea to sell components---usually yields more $$ on ebay than a system
maramomCommented:
also BTW - LOL
wo33erAuthor Commented:
Well i would have said the new moxel connector worked a treat as it started off cool.. but once again after 10minutes its too hot to touch with the hand. Now its 2.15 and i have:

1 Word document, 3 Folders, 4 MSN conversations, BlueJ java programming interface, a debugger and a few code pads open, not to mention programs running in the background like torrent downloads - all run from / onto the first WINDOWS hard drive... which is nice and cold. Im confused to say the least.

What are the actual changes of a nakered HDD when bought new only 2months ago, and what are my options from here on.

Im going to sleep now leaving the PC on to download, lets hope my greatest fears of waking up to a room on fire do not come to pass, if i am not back to recieve additional help, fear the worst, and dial 999.

Thanks again - Wo33eR
maramomCommented:
hey, Wo33eR, I hope you're still there! :)

if the drive is heating up, it make not be grounded properly. try taking it out of it's case, (still connected) as before suggested, all screws removed, lay it on cardboard (no metal touching) and run it, see if there's a difference it heat.
maramomCommented:
Wo33eR...what's happening?..should I send someone out for rescue?
wo33erAuthor Commented:
Im alive, but barely.

The computer got whiped again, lol, so after doing another windows install im back and still getting random crashes. I need to fix this problem obviously and iv ran the computer without the Hard Drive thats overheating in.. and it still crashes, iv taken out a stick of RAM and the hard drive.. still crashing.

What can i take out to check if its the PSU failing, my monitors need the guggling graphics card which is a pain, as removing that would save me a huge amount.

Im tempted to take out the graphics card, replace it with a shitty PCI-E one (or if theres a good one that dosnt guggle power thatd be great), sticking in a cheap CPU and RAM, then giving it to my parents, and get money from them for a laptop. But im just worried that a laptop isnt going to cut it when i need to run games so demandingly.

Iv noticed on pretty much every crash that happens, i cannot boot straight away, it just locks on the screen over and over again. Leaving the PC off for 5mins then booting fixs this.. so that points clearly to heat, but nothing is hot to the touch apart from the HDD iv taken out (and i cant touch the CPU as its surrounded by 3 huge fans :P).
maramomCommented:
>>>Iv noticed on pretty much every crash that happens, i cannot boot straight away, it just locks on the screen over and over again. Leaving the PC off for 5mins then booting fixs this.. so that points clearly to heat

it can also point to faulty psu or failing board (bad capacitors)
if the psu is faulty rather than inadequate, it won't matter what you take off..the load on the psu may have damaged it. and a faulty psu can also damage the board and it's components.

i'm too lazy to reread everything on this thread (lol)...have you done diagnostics? www.ultimatebootcd.com is a great library of resources for diagnosing hardware problems (but not psu)

as far as the laptop, i think you're right about not cutting it for your gaming..

i really believe you should think about at least borrowing an adequete psu to see if it makes a difference.

wo33erAuthor Commented:
Great news so far, my PC hasnt crashed for 24hours of being constantly on and active
wo33erAuthor Commented:
Didnt mean to post that last one :P, pressed tab by accident :D. Okay well the PC has not crashed for over 24hours and i think the solution may be that i have taken out the secondary "Hot" Hard Drive.

I noticed when it crashed and would not boot, if i took out the secondary hard drive... itd boot fine.. Put it back in, wont boot again, i tried this several times and it made me go hmm, like this, "hmmmmmmm"., after several minutes of hmmm's i decided to take out the drive for good and get everything on 1 hard drive for now... No crashes.

A miracle you ask ?, perhaps. or perhaps the hard drive simply was faulty :P.

Lets hope to god that this is the end of the tedious crashes and my PC can go back to being a PC. Ill leave this topic open for a few days just to make sure.
maramomCommented:
I'm really glad to hear you're up and running, wo33er, let's hope it continues! Thanks for the update!

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wo33erAuthor Commented:
Thanks Maramom :), you have been an amazing amount of help constantly trying to find a solution, even though the problem was a strange hard drive, the crashes are now completly gone and the remaining hard drive is cold as ice.

Thanks again :), Enjoy your many points
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