Unpredictable System freeze

Posted on 2009-05-08
Last Modified: 2012-05-06
I know it's like looking for a needle in a haystack, but somehow I need to cure my system from freezing frequently and at unpredictable moments. I have eliminated several possibilities but am now moving into the area of  maybe having to consider replacing hardware, and would appreciate some advice before I go further.  

My System comprises:
   Gigabyte GA-M57SLI-54 motherboard
   AMD 4600 Athlon 64
   2 gbs of ddr memory
   GeForce 8600GT graphics card
   4 SATA drives
   Windows XP Home Edition (SP3)

My problem consists of the screen and all activity (as far as I can tell) permanently freezing up, the only remedy being to reboot, after which everything is fine again.  It can happen when I am in the middle of working, or when the computer is standing idle (with maybe some programmes running in the background).   It is getting progressively worse - and I have noticed that it tends to happen mostly in the morning (I have my computer on most of the day) but the evenings are relatively safe. Can it be something to do with the system "warming up"?

My tried solutions so far have included: reinstalling Windows from scratch, defragging the system drive, replacing the system hard drive, taking out and replacing the memory sticks and reinstalling the Graphics driver.  None of these helping, it makes me wonder if it could be the processor itself or maybe the Motherboard.

Any thoughts please.
Question by:JohnDobson46

Accepted Solution

qdog69 earned 250 total points
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Sounds like a heating problem, when it happens check if your CPU fan is running...if it is the try applying some thermal grease between the CPU and heatsink (you can get is a radio shack)
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Expert Comment

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I would have thought overheating, too, but with outages happening in the morning but less frequently in the evening, I would rule that out, as it is the opposite of expected behavior.

Have you checked for what may be running in the morning by opening up task manager?  The tasks may have finished by evening and thus affect the system less.  Generally, scanners and anti-virus programs are scheduled early and are done by the afternoon.

If it were the processor or motherboard, there should be no bias as to when it happens, but I wouldn't rule out a bad motherboard or power supply, as they can cause erratic behavior at any time.

Author Comment

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The overheating suggestion is interesting.  I have a Triton 77 cooler and I do remember having some difficulty fitting it. I will try replacing it and seek out some thermal grease.  

It may be that the morning/evening thing is a red herring and has more to do with my usage - in the evening I tend to be just running movies and DVDs and not working with multiple applications.  On the other hand the area around the computer is giving off quite a lot of heat by then and the CPU fan is going quite strongly. I'll check it out.

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Random failures are always bigger headaches than consistent failures.   You have eliminated the software side and have done a reasonably good job to rule out HD and RAM. Do you have more than one HDs?  Sometimes when a storage (non-OS) HD fails, it will freeze the system for a few seconds to a few minutes, but the system will recover on its own.

Here is what I would do to isolate the problem:

1. take a look at the even manager, check any yellow and red codes, and google the error codes. However most likely if any they will just point to hardware.

2. run some stress test with Prime95  (google it since there are plenty of guides for pc builders). Monitor temperature with speedfan or your mobo's proprietary application for his purpose.   If the frequency of failure doesn't correspond to load, I'd say it is the mobo; otherwise it is between the CPU and power supply.  It is better to do this with just one stick of RAM and minimum hardware attachment such as USB printers, Ipods, etc.

3. check if you can see any signs of bad capacitors on the motherboard (google bad caps).

I personally wrestled with the same symptom a few years ago and it turned out to be a bad mobo.

Author Comment

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I'll probably ruin everything by posting this comment - but so far so good!

All I've done so far is to follow the first suggestion above and replace the cpu cooler with a fresh coat of thermal grease.  I think when I originally fitted the cooler I fiddled about with it so much that I suspect most of the original grease got scraped off.  This time it all went smoothly.

It's been 24 hours roughly since I put the system back together, and although there was one freeze up almost immediately after my first boot up, after that everything has been as smooth as a baby's bottom!  And I have been putting it through it's paces running quite a few programmes this afternoon.

I'll leave it a few more days before confirming the problem solved - but I'm quietly confident.  

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3 days now and not a problem.   So I'm fixed.  It was the heat sink.  Thanks for all the advice. Excellent job - I would never have thought of it!

Author Closing Comment

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A simple job solved my problem. Thanks.

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