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Catastrophic failure. RAM tested as failed -- replacing RAM didn't revive system

I have a desktop unit based upon the Asus P4P800S-X motherboard (Intel 848P chipset) and a 2.3 GHz Pentium 4 processor (Northwood). Two 512MB Ballistix DDR DIMMs. Running Vista Business. Had a catastrophic failure two days ago while in the midst of trying to install SP1. System powers up, goes through the POST, fails the minute it starts loading the operating system, complains about a corrupted NTOSKRNL.EXE. I suspected a hardware failure.

Mem86 test (booting to the Mem86 CD) would not complete even a single round of testing -- would freeze at the start of the third test with no error message. When testing each DIMM and each slot separately, got the same result (freezing at start of the third test), except I get a single error message on one of the two DIMMs before Mem86 freezes up.

Installed two brand new 1GB DDR PC3200 modules -- got exactly the same symptoms. Mem86 still freezes at the start of the third test.

Replacement motherboard already ordered -- will use it as a back-up if the problem proves to be elsewhere.

Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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don0don

8/22/2022 - Mon
dbrunton

Motherboard.

See http://www.badcaps.net/ but that's not necessarily the cause here.

You could disconnect everything apart from the device with memtest86 in and try again.
ASKER
don0don

Please define "everything" and  "the device."

Thanks.
dbrunton

Assume the floppy disk drive has memtest in it.

Disconnect all USB devices, hard drives and CD drives.  Use only 1 memory stick.

If memtest is in the CD drive, disconnect floppy drive and leave the CD drive connected.
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ASKER
don0don

I'm running Mem86 from the CD drive. I'll give your suggestion a try.
Thanks.
ASKER
don0don

Very interesting. With just the keyboard, mouse (PS/2), monitor and the DVD/CD drive connected, I was able to run one complete pass of Mem86 on the two new memory modules. No errors or freeze-ups.

When I added the system hard drive back into the mix, I was still able to run the Mem86 tests succeccfully -- booting, of course, to the DVD/CD drive.

When I tried booting again to the system hard drive, I got a single long system beep from the motherboard -- and it eventually gave me the same error message as before, complaining that Windows was unable to boot because of a corrupted NTOSKRNL.EXE.

I'm wondering about that long system beep ...

dbrunton

If you have the UBCD http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/ (if not, then get it) use the hard disk tester on it that is appropriate for your disk.  Run that.

Long system beep?  Check here http://www.bioscentral.com/ and find your BIOS.  Beep codes are on the right hand side; scroll down.
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ASKER
don0don

According to BIOS Central, the single long beep just means all POST tests were passed successfully. That's nice. I've never gotten one of these long beeps before .. and presumably all POST tests had been passed successfully whenever I booted successfully into Windows ,,,,

The system drive (which is a Seagate) has passed the SeaTools v2.07 diagnostics Long Test. The Ultimate Boot CD has a much older verstion of the SeaTools diags (v1.01).  Is there another diagnostic test on the Ultimate Boot CD that you think I should also try?

Thanks!

dbrunton

Nope.

OK connect all the devices back together and run memtest again.  Let it do about 6 passes through the memory.

If it passes that it looks like corrupted data on the hard disk.

For a corrupted kernel try the following:

http://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch000646.htm
ASKER
don0don

I will run the further tests on the memory as you suggest; however, the link seems to apply only to versions of Windows through WinXP -- I am running Vista Business.

With regard to repairing the kernel, I tried to boot to the Vista Business upgrade DVD in order to initiate a repair, but the system would not boot to it. Have you heard of problems booting to Vista upgrade DVDs for repair purposes? And do you know of another way to extract the NTOSKRNL.EXE from the DVD?

Thanks!

Don
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dbrunton

I haven't heard of any problems booting to Vista upgrade DVDs.  It should make no difference to the Vista DVD.

It may be possible to take the DVD to another computer and extract the file there and then copy it across to the bad computer.

Now I'm unsure if its expanded on the DVD or compressed so you may have to do a search on ntokrnl.ex and see what files are returned.  That should give you the compressed file if it exists and the expanded file if it exists.
ASKER
don0don

I also find that the system is inconsistent in booting to a bootable CD in the DVD/CD drive -- sometimes it will and sometimes it won't. If I go into the CMOS settings and re-save the boot priority list, it will boot to the CD in the DVD/CD drive on the next boot. It will not under any circumstances boot to the Vista DVD (which happens to be the only bootable DVD I have at the moment.)

What do you make of these symptoms? Are they relevant to my present problems?

ASKER
don0don

Additional findings: After reconnecting all devices, Mem86 started freezing again at the start of Test 3. Through a process of elimination the two devices causing this are:

1. Logitech Marble Mouse Trackball
2. Belkin powered USB hub

These devices cause Mem86 to hang regardless of which USB port they are plugged into. The hub causes Mem86 to hang when it is connected without any devices plugged into the hub itself.

Interestingly, when these devices are disconnected, the system will boot reliably to a CD in the DVD/CD drive every time -- but not, unfortunately, to the Vista DVD.

I need a definitive answer, folks: are the problems with the two USB devices and the refusal to boot to a bootable DVD proof of motherboard component failure? Please advise ASAP.

Thanks!
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ASKER
don0don

For the record:  the two USB devices worked reliably for over a year under Vista Business, until the system meltdown three days ago.

Callandor

What was the nature of the catastrophic failure - what caused it?  If it was a power event, you could have USB devices that were damaged.  I would test them on another system to see if they are working; conclusive evidence of a motherboard failure is difficult to claim, other than replacing it.  Motherboards are very complex and troubleshooting them is a matter of process of elimination, and you have to be 100% sure of the things you eliminate.
ASKER
don0don

There was no power event. The system is plugged into a UPS and there was no power outage during the failure. The failure occurred during a reboot while in the process of installing Vista SP1.

Both USB devices work fine when connected to a different computer. (I'm using the trackball right now, in fact.)

Thanks!!
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Callandor

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ASKER
don0don

Callandor & dbrunton:

Sorry for the awkward silence. Why wife has this strange idea that there is life outside of working on computers, and occasionally insists I go along with her delusion. ;-)

Thank you both for your help. And, dbrunton: you were right about the DVD drive -- it doesn't boot to the DVD when connected to another working system, either -- it won't even read a DVD. A replacement is on its way.

Now, all of this is very strange and disappointing. I built this system in January of 2006 -- all brand new components (except for the processor, which was pulled from a working system). I've always had excellent service from Asus motherboards -- never had one fail on me before. And the DVD drive is a Plextor, and I've never had one of those fail on me either.  I expected to get a whole lot more service out of this system than 28 months.

Does either of you have a hypothesis that can account for the simultaneous failure of the motherboard and the DVD drive?

And dbrunton -- if your screen name originates from whence I think it may have, I have a little question for you:  How's the weather at Hurlstone this spring?  ;-)



ASKER
don0don

I awarded 400 points to dbrunton, who invested the most time and did most of the heavy lifting as far as assisting me with the testing and for the help identifying the DVD drive failure. 100 points to Callandor for the nudge that helped confirm isolation of the problem to the motherboard.
Callandor

If both failed simultaneously, it can be due to cascading events where the failure in one part allows excessive voltage to damage the other part.  Asus and Plextor are both quality brands and I would attribute the failure to random chance, which though rare, can happen to even the best parts.  I would not expect such events to happen consistently.
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dbrunton

>> How's the weather at Hurlstone this spring?

I wouldn't know.  Family name comes from Norfolk, England.  That ancestor immigrated to New Zealand in about late 1800s where I am at the moment.  


Probably as Callandor says one event led to the other; probably the Asus went first.  Just be careful of your power supply, sometimes a faulty one can cause the motheboard to go down if it supplies irregular power.

You can also check your motherboard for bad capacitators.  See www.badcaps.net for more information.
ASKER
don0don

dbrunton: My little question was a sly way of checking to see whether I was interacting with a fellow Sherlockian. You may have already heard that one of your other ancestors figures rather prominently in the Sherlock Holmes tale "The Musgrave Ritual" -- and his name was Richard, so I figured "dbrunton" might be "Dick Brunton", which would be an excellent screen name for a Sherlockian, actually.

I have a very good -- and electrically very stable -- Seasonic power supply. At 28 months, it's still an infant. I've seen no evidence of problems there.

I already have another Asus motherboard on the way, so I will be returning the faulty one to Asus. Let them check it for bad capacitors, I say!  ;-)

Thanks again, to both of you.