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Need help with Dell Dimension E521 Locking Up

All -

I have a client whose warranty is about to expire (3 weeks left).  THis machine has never worked quite right.  Because this couple doesn't use the machine that often, there has not been a sense of urgency that I find with other users.  Furthermore, because this PC locks up, they are that much more reluctant to use the PC when they are home.  Check this link out for a very similar issue (almost exactly, actually):

http://www.experts-exchange.com/Hardware/Components/Motherboards/Q_22631653.html

I have replaced the motherboard through Dell but no other hardware componants have been replaced.  I am receiving nvataraid and nvatabus errors in the event viewer upon startup.  other than that, everything looks normal/fine.  I have read online where others have had issues with this same problem but I have yet to find a definitive solution.  I suspect driver incompatibility but am hoping that somebody has had experience with these events and hopefully has a solution to help me remedy these.  I don't suspect hardware failure and I have reloaded the OS with all Dell drivers and even newer drivers for the Nvidia componants from their site -- no luck.  any help is greatly appreciated.

This is obviously a known issue to many but Dell....  Check this out as well...

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v688/mrchaos101/broke.jpg
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chrisdodds
Asked:
chrisdodds
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1 Solution
 
warrenbucklesCommented:
Hello Chris:
Sounds very frustrating.
As a wild guess, there may be a conflict between video memory and program memory.
An updated BIOS would be nice, but the Dell site lists only one version: 1.1.11, 9/4/2007, so I assume there has not been an update released.
I see the Dell Dimension E521 came with either onboard video or one of two add-on cards, one of which is a 'turbo-cache' unit.
If the system is using on-board video or the 'turbo-cache' board, you might try reducing the amount of memory devoted to video to the minimum possible (16Mb?).
Another option would be to try a different video card, one that uses only card-based memory.
It also looks like the machine might have come with Vista installed.  If this is true, is the 'Aero' interface enabled?  You could try disabling it (Personalization - Apperance Setting - Color Schemes - Vista Basic), but that probably won't help.

wb
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chrisdoddsAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the input.  I'm actually on the machine now.  sorry i failed to mention that it's pre-loaded with MS Windows XP Media Center Edition.  It is using a single onboard video adapter and I I looked through the BIOS and saw the video adapter settings.  It is set to 64Mb by default.  I did not change those settings, but I thought about it and may do so soon.  I just disabled the "NVIDIA Display Driver Service" from starting automatically and set it to start manually.  I don't know if preventing this service from starting automatically will make much difference, but I'm hoping I can at least remedy the "Service Control Manager" errors from popping up in my System Events log.  I'll find out soon enough.  The error exactly as it appears is as follows, and hopefully this little bit of information will help:

Source: Service Control Manager
Category: None
Event ID: 7026

Description:
The following boot-start or system-start driver(s) failed to load:
nvatabus
nvraid

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chrisdoddsAuthor Commented:
P.S. -
The RAID is disabled in the system BIOS and there is a single SATA HDD in the PC.  
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warrenbucklesCommented:
Hello Chris:
Regarding the SCM/Event 7026, you might want to look here:
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc756390.aspx
The above applies to Server 2008 but the basic procedure is the same in XP - identify the service and find out why it doesn't start or disable it.
From the name 'nvraid' it is probably an Nvidia RAID set support program that got loaded somehow - it's not needed since you aren't using RAID, so setting it to 'disabled' or uninstalling it (if possible) using the Control Panel/Add/Remove Programs (if you can identify it in the list of installed programs) would be the right thing to do.
However, I'm not sure that's the root cause of your problems - from the Dell site comments on the system it looks like it has a lot of fans, and the 6150 video chipset is pretty solid.  However, I built about a dozen systems in '06-07 with OEM boards that included 6150 video chipsets and, to date,  two have come back with video problems that I cannot solve - they work with replacement PCIe video, but flake out using the onboard chips.  I had to R&R the 6150 motherboards with newer models and eat the cost.  I have one running here in my shop with a replacement video card - no problems, but I wouldn't give it to a customer (my kids, sure...).
In fact, the screen image at
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v688/mrchaos101/broke.jpg
looks just like one of the failed systems - it would sift to a similar (unreadable) display when the driver loaded.
Both system would work if I used the F8 - VGA mode start up, but VGA resolution isn't what people are paying for.
You might want to try running the system in Safe - VGA mode and see if the problem crops up - if it doesn't I would put my money on a hardware problem.  As I said before, you might be able to get by with a replacement PCIe video card, but I wouldn't be surprised if the system has other hardware-related problems down the line.
Sorry to be so pessimistic,
wb
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chrisdoddsAuthor Commented:
Thanks so much.  You give a lot of great insight regarding the prospect of a faulty video card.  The display adaptor is integrated onto the motherboard (as you know).  What's troubling is that the motherboard was replaced and within days of replacement the machine was continuing to "lock up".  ALthough it's certainly possible, I just have a hard time believing that the replacement motherboard was sent out with a faulty video adaptor.  

I spent quite a long time (again) on the phone with Dell technical support this evening and I finally reinstalled from the DVD media instead of the ghosted image on the hidden partition.  From there I installed ONLY those drivers I needed to make sure there were no unknown devices in Device Manager.  Upon doing this I received a call back from a Dell support technician who stated that perhaps the ghosted image on the utility partition contained a driver or software of some type incompatible with the hardware in my machine.  (As it turns out, I had already sort of come to this conclusion.)  So, at this point the machine has once again been loaded with a fresh install -- but from the DVD installation media and using only those drivers necessary to make all devices known in device manager.  This is so far a pretty "no - frills" Windows load.  I have asked my client to have his two children to play on this machine for as many hours as possible over the next week in hopes of replicating the lock-ups.  If they are unable to do so, I will consider the problem resolved by way of reload from the DVD media and the cause of said issue found somewhere in the heart of the ghost image provided with the PC.  Very frustrating and I can't imagine that there are not more people who have reported this or similar issues to Dell, but nobody had a clue....I'll keep you posted with what happens.  

Thanks again for your time.
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warrenbucklesCommented:
It will be interesting to see if your fix works - my problems with 6150-equipped machines have always started with video driver loads, so loading a sanitized driver set may well be a fix.
Since the machines work for a while, I'm wondering if there might be an interaction between the drivers and Windows updates.  This would only be the case if Windows Update is turned on and updates are being installed.
There may be a way to test this: Since Windows XP/SP3 is a roll-up of all previous updates (with a few 'enhanced user experience' features thrown in), loading it  <should> bring the problem back.
On the other hand, there may be a sub-set of updates that cause the problem while SP3 will come up cleanly.
Regardless, if the problem shows up again it might be useful to roll back Windows updates and see if it goes away.
Have fun,
wb
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