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P4 3.0 Ghz, 512 mb RAM, Win XPP COMPUTER SHUTS OFF SPARATICALLY, with no error messages

Posted on 2006-10-28
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Last Modified: 2007-11-27
As said partially in the title, here are the specs from this computer. It is a home-built computer, which has been working perfectly for two years.

Pentium 4
Gigabyte P4 Titan Motherboard (model: GA-8VM800M)
512 mb RAM
Windows XP Pro
(1) 120 GB Ultra ATA HDD
ATX Power Supply (350 watts?) <-- not sure yet <--

The problems all started when the computer would not even power on. After extensive testing and tinkering, we determined (2 computer guys) that the motherboard was bad. So we replaced (for the above mentioned). Then the computer would power on. All kinds of error messages were coming up and it would bluescreen or simply lock up. In order to rule out viruses, we reformatted the hard drive and reinstalled Windows, ran the updates, reinstalled anti-virus, etc. When we began to reinstall the programs the computer began acting even more erratic...it would power off with NO error messages; just like it was unplugged. Note, that we are able to monitor when the computer shuts down the CPU usuage spikes way up.

I'm not farmiliar with this problem and I know there could be many possibilities. Any common problems like this? Also, what is the best place to start.

I know that this may not be enough information for a complete analysis, but if any of you have had similar prolems, please let me know.

If you need more information, please let me know specifically and I will find out ASAP. I really appreciate all of your suggestions!! :-D
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Question by:lanehart
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by:garycase
ID: 17827656
Does it POST okay if you disconnect EVERYTHING (hard drive, optical drive(s), floppy drive) except the keyboard, mouse, and video card?   What video card?   ... my initial "suspect" would be the power supply;  but more detailed information would clearly be useful here.
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by:Mark
ID: 17827666
When you get strange anomalies like this I would begin with the Power supply. It can cause all kinds of weird problems. 350watts would be pretty skimpy for this setup, I would suggest 450 at least.
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by:Mark
ID: 17827668
Hey Gary, I was typing as you posted. Sorry.
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by:garycase
ID: 17827705
No problem ... doesn't hurt to have two of us noting that the most likely problem is the power supply :-)
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by:lanehart
ID: 17827718
The graphics card is MSI Multimedia Zeon 3D 128 MB (model: G71-SVPA050)

Okay, we actually just got an error message! We wrote it all down and it is below:

----
Technical Information ***STOP 0x0000008e(0xc000001d,0xf614c03b,0xf897bd50,0x00000000)***hff_v124.sys
Address f14t03c03b base at f612f000, date stamp 3b13c8d4

Beginning dump of physical memory

Physical memory dump complete
----
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by:lanehart
ID: 17827726
I'm glad that we have two opinions on this that say the same thing. Now that we have this error message, does that help anything? That makes it sound like RAM, doesn't it?

Yes, I do believe that the PS is only 350 watts. I didn't build this thing.

By the way there is only (1) optical drive, a DVD burner. There is an onboard LAN, PCI modem and onboard sound card.

Yes, it will POST with the others removed.

Sorry that I couldn't provide more information before.
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by:garycase
ID: 17827733
->  Does it run okay in Safe Mode ?

->  In Normal Mode, are there any "yellows" in Device Manager ??  ... if so, what?

->  Can you provide more details on the Graphics card?  I don't see it listed on MSI's site.   Do you know what graphics chipset?   It might be useful to run Everest Home (http://www.majorgeeks.com/download4181.html)  and see what it shows.

->  What's the make/model of the power supply?   ... and do you have a "beefier" unit you can try ??
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by:garycase
ID: 17827735
... crossed posts there ==> the fact it POSTS just fine with things removed tends to support the power supply as the culprit here.   Since it's a fairly small unit anyway, I would replace it with a high quality (I'm a big Seasonic fan) power supply ==> this would be an excellent choice:  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16817151024
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by:bgbeer
ID: 17827845
when I researched the issue 3 things kept poppig up.

1. video card
2. power supply
3. ram

the video and power supply have already been talked about.

I would fined a cheap vid card that you know works and pull the vid card out and boot with the cheap card to verify if it's the vid card.

pull the power supply and replace it with a better one since it's a very small one.

also check the ram speed and latency to see if they match.
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by:lanehart
ID: 17827853
Tell me more about checking the RAM speed and latency. Any special programs?

Thanks for your help tonight everyone. I plan on working on this tomorrow, so I will post more results or questions then. Thanks!
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by:bgbeer
ID: 17827904
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAM_latency
SDRAM latency refers to the delays incurred when a computer tries to access data in SDRAM. SDRAM latency is often measured in front side bus clock cycles. Due to the fact that a modern CPU is much faster than SDRAM, when accessing memory the CPU has to wait for the memory access to complete before it can make further progress. SDRAM latency is a significant bottleneck for system performance.


read this post and it will tell you everything you need to know.
click on the oics of the ram to see what to look for.
http://www.hothardware.com/viewarticle.aspx?articleid=545&cid=5
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by:garycase
garycase earned 250 total points
ID: 17827910
Testing the RAM is a good idea => the best free testing program is MemTest86+ from http://www.memtest.org/

Unless you have intentionally change the settings in the BIOS, the RAM speed and latency (and all other timing parameters) are set by the SPD (serial presence detect) information on the RAM module ... so they will be correct for the module(s) you have installed [if you have more than one module and they have different SPD settings, the system will use the most conservative settings].   IF you have changed them;  or if you want to try more conservative settings, you simply change them in the BIOS memory timing area (set it to NOT use the SPD settings and then you can change them).   The most commonly modified setting is CAS Latency --> you could add one clock to that to see if it helps.   HOWEVER ... if the memory passes an extended test (at least an hour -- preferably longer)  with MemTest86+, it is very unlikely this is a memory problem.

Another good test (this is a VERY good stress test) is Prime95:  http://mersenne.org/gimps/p95v2414.exe
Install this and start it ... the first thing it does is a CPU stress test.     This will stress your CPU at near 100% for an extended time ==> if it passes this test the CPU is definitely good;  if it starts okay, but the system dies while running it then I'd say the problem is almost certainly one of two things:  (a) power supply; or (b) overheating.    I've already noted that the power supply is a strong possibility ... I didn't suggest overheating before because you had just built the system, so I didn't think it likely you'd have any "dust blankets" in the case that might cause it to overheat (a common cause);  but it's also possible you either didn't correctly apply the thermal compound or don't have adequate air circulation.   What kind of thermal compound did you use? ... are you sure it's applied correctly?  ... and are you measuring the CPU temps ??  [Motherboard Monitor (http://mbm.livewiredev.com/), Speedfan (http://www.almico.com/speedfan.php), etc. are good programs to do this with]


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by:bgbeer
ID: 17827925
garycase, no offense, but you have'nt a clue what you're talking about when it comes to ram latency.

the latency is set by the manufacurer, not by changing settings.

read the links!!!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAM_latency
SDRAM is notionally organized into a grid like pattern, with "rows", and "columns". The data stored in SDRAM comes in blocks, defined by the coordinates of the row and column of the specific information. SDRAM access has four main measurements (quantified in FSB clock cycles) important in defining the SDRAM latency in a given computer:

(the 't' prefixes are for 'time')

tCAS
The number of clock cycles needed to access a certain column of Data in SDRAM. CAS Latency, or simply CAS, is known as Column Address Strobe Latency, sometimes referred to as tCL.
tRCD
The number of Clock cycles needed between RAS and CAS. It is the time required between the computer defining the row and column of the given memory block and the actual read or write to that location. Stands for Row address to Column address Delay.
tRP
The number of clock cycles needed to terminate access to an open row of memory, and open access to the next row. Stands for Row precharge time.
tRAS
The minimum number of clock cycles needed to access a certain row of data in RAM between the data request and the precharge command. Known as Active to Precharge Delay.
The steps for the memory controller to access data in SDRAM:

Defines which row the requested data is in (RAS)
Gives the RAM time to access requested row (RCD)
Defines the column of requested data (CAS)
Waits for the RAM to send requested data to the CPU
Precharges the row to recycle it for subsequent use (RP)

[edit] Measurements
As with almost all latency issues, the lower, the better. When picking out SDRAM to buy, these four measurements are only important in high performance computers. RAM speeds are given by the four numbers above, in the format "tCAS-tRCD-tRP-tRAS". So, for example, latency values given as 2.5-3-3-5 would indicate tCAS=2.5, tRCD=3, tRP=3, tRAS=5. (Note that .5 values of latency (such as 2.5) are only possible in Double data rate RAM, where two parts of each clock cycle are used)

Most computer users don't need to worry about SDRAM latency, because the computer can handle the auto-adjustment to RAM timing based on the Serial Presence Detect (SPD) ROM inside the RAM packaging that defines the four timing values, decided by the RAM manufacturer. Although the SDRAM latency timing can be adjusted manually, using lower latency settings than the module's rating (overclocking) may cause a computer to crash or fail to boot.

the sites also tell you how to check the latency.
YOU CANNOT CHANGE THE RAM LATENCY IN BIOS OR ANY OTHER AREA, IT IS PREDETERMINED BY THE MANUFACTURER.

your job is to make sure that when you buy ram the latency matches.
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by:garycase
ID: 17828001
bgbeer ==> well, speaking of not having a clue ...

"...YOU CANNOT CHANGE THE RAM LATENCY IN BIOS OR ANY OTHER AREA, IT IS PREDETERMINED BY THE MANUFACTURER ..."  ==>    BOTH of your statements [#1 - "You cannot change the RAM latency in BIOS" and #2 - "It is predetermined by the manufactuer"] are WRONG.    You can ONLY change the latency in the BIOS;  and the manufacturer doesn't "predetermine" anything --> the SPD simply provides the recommended settings (and, as I'll note in a minute, not always even those) which the SYSTEM must set.


MOST (but not all) motherboards absolutely allow you to set the timing parameters for your memory.   These are ABSOLUTELY set by the BIOS ... normally to whatever the RAM manufacturer has "recommended" via the values placed in the SPD (serial presence detect) ROM on the memory module ... but you CAN (and many people do) change them.   In fact, most of the high performance RAM modules use conservative SPD settings (so the memory will work in almost any system) but are guaranteed to work with more aggressive settings ... so users can adjust them if they're using high performance motherboards.

If you READ the link you provided (and quoted) above [since you suggested it, I'll emphasize it:  READ YOUR OWN LINK !!]  ... one of the closing paragraphs notes that "... Most computer users don't need to worry about SDRAM latency, because the COMPUTER can handle ... the timing based on the SPD ..."  (emphasis added)   It also notes "... Although the SDRAM latency timing CAN BE ADJUSTED MANUALLY ... "
(emphasis added)    ==>  How do you think it "can be adjusted manually" if not in the BIOS ???

The ONLY thing the RAM manufacturer does regarding latency is set the recommended settings in the SPD chip on the memory module ==> that does NOT set, or even pre-determine, the latency.

... as for this SPECIFIC motherboard ... not only does this motherboard provide for manually selecting whether or not to use the SPD info in setting the memory parameters;  but it also comes with an "Easy Tune" application which allows making adjustments from within Windows ... and also has a special feature to automatically change them for certain types of memory ("Memory Intelligent Booster 2").

On motherboards that allow manual setting of memory parameters, you first choose whether or not to set the parameters via SPD; and, if you choose not to, then you can set:  (a) CAS Latency;  (b)  RAS to CAS Delay; (c) RAS Precharge time; and (d)  RAS Active time.    Obviously setting these parameters wrong can cause the memory to quit working ... in some cases requiring a CMOS reset [but many boards these days have some form of "crashfree" protection that automatically reset to default parameters if the POST can't execute correctly (these features are very well liked by overclockers ... who often tend to set either the memory or the CPU parameters to rather extreme values)].


lanehart => notwithstanding this little side discussion (I felt compelled to correct bgbeer's obvious misunderstanding about memory timing) ... it is very unlikely you have a memory timing issue.   Just run MemTest86+ for a while ... and if the memory tests okay, don't bother to make any adjustments.   Your BIOS is almost certainly set to use the "by SPD" settings ... so it's setting the timings at their recommended settings anyway.
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by:bgbeer
ID: 17828038
garycase, I owe you an apology!!!

I learned something new today.
yes, you can set the latency manually.

but when you do this there are some very real risks.
one of the risks being you can burn the ram and mobo doing it if you don't know what you're doing.

here's another link I found that backed your response.
http://www.abxzone.com/abx_reviews/al2/article_p2.html

I'm going to keep researching this because it has the potential to save me money.;)

thanks a bunch.


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by:lanehart
ID: 17829865
Gary,
I ran the Prime95 Stress Test. It said:

FALAL ERROR: Rounding was 0.5, expected less than 0.4
Hardware failure detected, consult stress.txt file.

Does that indicate anything specific? I didn't see the Stress.TXT.
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by:lanehart
ID: 17829878
You guys were asking yesterday about the video card...it's an Nvidia GEForce FX 5200. Also there is an onboard video card on the VIAP4800 MB which is a "VIA/S3G UniChrome Pro IGP 64 MB.
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by:lanehart
ID: 17829888
I thought that there might be a conflict between the two cards so I removed the GEFORCE graphics card and plugged the monitor onto the above mentioned onboard card. It still shuts off randomly.
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by:garycase
ID: 17830162
Unfortunately the fact that Prime95 fails only confirms there's a problem ... it doesn't show exactly where the problem is.   Did you run MemTest86+ for a while??   If not, I would do that next.

If MemTest86+ does not indicate any memory errors; then the failure of Prime95 is not likely due to memory problems.   That leaves the CPU, the motherboard, or power supply as the possible problems.   You've already replaced the motherboard, so that's most likely not a problem.   That leaves the power supply or the CPU.   As I've noted already, the easiest to replace ... and a good idea anyway (since yours is fairly marginal for the system) ... is the power supply.   So I'd do that first (with a high quality supply).   Then re-run Prime95.   If it still fails ... then your CPU has a problem.   Note that Prime95 runs the CPU at very high utilization (~100%), so the power draw for the system is at its highest level ... thus you can easily stress a marginal power supply (and cause "glitches" that seem to be CPU problems).
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by:lanehart
ID: 17830352
MemTest86+ has been running for about an hour now. There are 49 errors so far.
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by:lanehart
ID: 17830388
Now at 70 error count. Is this an indication that the RAM is definitely bad?
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by:lanehart
ID: 17830905
Now on pass #17 with 122 errors. I'm guessing that it keeps detecting the same errors. I will shut it down now.
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bgbeer earned 250 total points
ID: 17831414
yes, your ram is bad.
replace the ram and you'll be off and running again.
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by:garycase
ID: 17831772
Certainly a good indication of bad RAM.   It IS possible for a bad CPU to give false indications of memory errors ... but since the test continued to run it's pretty likely the memory is bad.   I'd replace the memory and rerun MemTest86+ ... and if it's okay then rerun Prime95.   If both pass then your system is fine (and it's not the power supply).   If you still have problems ... then I'd get a beefier power supply :-)
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by:lanehart
ID: 17832675
Thanks guys, I will get some new RAM and and post back with results in a couple of days. Thanks!
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by:lanehart
ID: 17871333
Excellent news! The Brown Man delivered the RAM today and got it all installed. I stressed the CPU to 100% and ran the MemTest86+ and the computer is happily staying on. It wouldn't stress that much before without shutting off, so I'm almost certain that RAM was our issue. I have still recommened an upgrade of the PSU in order to prevent future problems. I am leaving it running to make sure that we have a fix but it looks very promising. Thanks for all of your help everyone! After I make sure that this will stay on for an extended period, I will award points.
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by:garycase
ID: 17872109
Good !!  Always nice to see a system "purring away" :-)
I presume it passes Prime95 now with no problem --> right ??

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by:lanehart
ID: 17872831
Gary- It does pass Prime95 without any problem. I ran the test 3 times and it never locked up on me. I open the CPU monitor and moved some windows arond the the background while it was running to stress it out to 100% for awhile...still no problems! Thanks again.
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by:bgbeer
ID: 17873170
glad you got it fixed.
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