How to Check Hardware for problems (PC Freezing)

Hi, this is a floow up question from this one: Question 1: Computer Freezing

Is there a software, system app, or a way in which i can check the hardware components of my PC to determine if any of them are the cause of the "freezing problem" ?
unrinoceronteAsked:
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David Paris VicenteSystems and Comunications  Administrator Commented:
You could use a Benchmark tool.
This one o many: Benchmark Tool

Regards
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Post the exact specifications of your system ...

I know it's a Dell Inspiron 531

...  but how much memory?
...  what video card? (or cards if more than one)
...  what OS (You indicated Vista ... but 32-bit or 64-bit, and which version?)
...  any other add-in cards?
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Thomas Zucker-ScharffSolution GuideCommented:
Also do you have a diagnostics partite on it? Most dells come with a small diagnostics partition that you can boot to from the boot menu.  From the diagnostics partition you can run all the hardware diagnostics.  Although a slow system is usually a sign of a software problem.  Some software specifically in vista, takes memory but does not reallocate it to the system when you close the program. The only way to solve this is a reboot.  BTW, outlook does this on almost all systems.  Using something like CCleaner or Glary Utilities will generally help this problem.
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web_trackerComputer Service TechnicianCommented:
Press F12 to boot to the diagnostics partition and run a full diagnostics, you can also run symptom tests that are related to the issues you are having (first you have to go through the Preboot System assessment (PSA) tests before you can go through the extended tests). If you deleted the diagnostics partition when you either reimaged your system or reinstalled your operating system in the past and deleted the partitions, then you will be out of luck and will only be able to run the PSA tests. If you have a hardware issue you need to determine which piece of hardware is causing the system to crash.
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unrinoceronteAuthor Commented:
Thanks all, i will look onto all your suggestion with more detail tomorrow since is getting very late here.

In the meantime i am going to write here my SPECS as solicited by Garycase, but i have to CLARIFY, or correct, that i have a Dual Boot system with VISTA and XP, but i almost only use XP all the time... Also i only use my 3D and CAD software in this computer, i almost dont use Word, or Excel, and definetely i dont use Outlook at all...

SPECS:
Dell Inspiron 531
- Dual Boot Windows Vista and XP Pro SP3 32 bit (I only use XP in this PC, and i made this Dual boot many years ago, almost since the beginning because i dont like Vista, but i kept it just in case)
- AMD Athlon 64 x2 Dual Core Processor 5600+
- 4 Gigs Ram
- Bios 1.0.12
- Video Card: Geforce 8600 GT
- Add in cards? i dont think i have.. Perhaps a Wireless card (which i dont use at all)
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David Johnson, CD, MVPOwnerCommented:
Please don't keep opening new related questions. As what happens is that the experts have to jump around to see what has been tried and what hasn't.  You have 1 Problem with many possibilities of what the problem might be.
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
This is the most current NVidia driver for that card with XP:
http://www.nvidia.com/object/winxp-320.49-whql-driver.html

You should install that to see if it helps ... as I noted in one of your related questions, video drivers are a frequent cause of unexplained freezes.

Memory problems are another, so if you haven't already done so, you should boot to MemTest86+ and let it run for a few hours to see if it identifies any memory problems.
http://www.memtest.org/
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nobusCommented:
how often does it freeze?
the test you can use depends on the frequencey of the Freezing -  i mean, if the freezing occurs once per week, you should test at least for 2 weeks... (= not practical)
--------------
for testing devices  - i suggest the UBCD :
Hardware diagnostic CD    UBCD
 i suggest the UBCD  to run some diags first - to be sure about the basics
go to the download page, scroll down to the mirror section, and  click on a mirror to start the download
Download the UBCD and make the cd   <<==on a WORKING PC, and boot the problem PC from it
Here 2 links, one to the general site, and a direct link to the download

since the downloaded file is an ISO file, you need to use an ISO burning tool
if you don't have that software, install cdburnerXP : http://cdburnerxp.se/

If you want also the Ram tested - run memtest86+ at least 1 full pass,  - you should have NO errors!
 
For disk Diagnostics run the disk diag for your disk brand (eg seagate diag for seagate drive)  from the HDD section -  long or advanced diag !  (runs at least for30 minutes)

http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/                        ultimate boot cd
http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/download.html             download page

------------
you can also use BurninTest (start with the trial) :  http://www.passmark.com/download/index.htm
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Thomas Zucker-ScharffSolution GuideCommented:
There are several other options in XP. You can use Tunexp to speed up the system.

Also for a boot device i highly recommend making a SARDU created device.  See my article http://www.experts-exchange.com/Storage/Misc/A_3038-Boot-Disks-UBCD-UBCD4Win-and-SARDU.html. This will have everything you will ever need on it.
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unrinoceronteAuthor Commented:
Ok, Masqueraid and ve3ofa's, i understand your point about the multiple question, from now on i will do as you say and just stay with ONE question, which will be the first one.

I am going keep posting only on the first, and when this is figured out, i will come back to this questions and close them with the useful comments.


Tzucker and Nobus: thanks for the recommendations on UBCD, etc, i will read that carefully and try it out, and i will post my results in the First question.

Garycase: Thanks for the driver.  I will sort all this solutions from EE in a logical order so i will try them out and see what solves the problem.  About Memtest, i already tried it and showed everything was OK. Altough i think i will run it again for a longer time, perhaps a couple of hours.

Webtracker: Since last night i am running the DELL Tests that you recommended. I went to F12. It first run the short test, and now i am running the Long tests. So far the SYSTEM LOCKUP TESTS Passed with everything OK. Right now it is doing the TEST FOR HARDDRIVE ERRORS...
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Don ThomsonCommented:
You mentioned you have 4 gig of ram. if you don't tell windows to configure it as 3.5 (max allowed for xp) and don't adjust the pagefile size properly, the os may be trying to access memory that really isnt there
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nobusCommented:
how often does it freeze?
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unrinoceronteAuthor Commented:
Hi, well i wanted to just keep responding on my first question but i am still running some tests (DELL complete and long tests), so i will answer to you two quickly here.

DTHconsulting: I have had 4 gigs of ram for more than 2 years, and it has worked fine. I might have touched the pagefile size... but that was long ago, many months ago... I will give it a try and put it to automatic... or recommended...

NOBUS: It freezes VERY Often, many times a week. The difficult part is to get it to NOT freeze... What i mean is i have to restart the computer sometimes like 3 or 4 times (all of which it freezes in the first 2 to 10 minutes after login into windows), and if by "luck" in one of those attempts, the computer doesnt freezes in that first 10 minutes, then it will work NORMALLY without freezing (even for a couple of days straight). If somehow i have to turn it off or it freezes but after wirking normally for a couple of days, then i have to start again and do several reboots until i get it to work again....
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web_trackerComputer Service TechnicianCommented:
It sounds like it may be over heating, hense it is taking several attempts to get it running again once it starts freezing. Have you used a can of air to clean out the dust bunnies inside the case?
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nobusCommented:
ok - since the time it freezes is not "fixed", i would be tended to exclude overheating; if you want you can monitor the temps with speedfan : http://www.almico.com/speedfan.php

now - you hav to decide what way to choose for diagnosing : hard or soft
Soft : i would run msconfig, and disable all startup programs
you can also select services tab, and click "hide MS services" - then click disable all

if it still happens; you can run sfc, or a repair install
http://www.updatexp.com/scannow-sfc.html                        SFC use in XP
http://www.michaelstevenstech.com/XPrepairinstall.htm            Repair install  XP

or install XP on another disk for testing
= = = =
hard : run a disk diag from the UBCD mentioned above
or run HDDRegenerator TRIAL on the drive : http://www.dposoft.net/hdd.html      

you can also run Burnintest :   http://www.passmark.com/download/index.htm


may i ask what you DID up to now?
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unrinoceronteAuthor Commented:
So, i have to say that before i tried all this last suggestions, i opened that computer,  i dusted it, and i decided to turn the computer and look and listen to it with the lid off...

Bad news was that i noticed a TICKING NOISE on one of the drives, the 2ND one.... Good news is that I REMOVED this 2nd drive from the computer and all the FREEZING and BOOTING problem dissapeared, and now the PC is behaving normally.

Back to the bad news, i attached this 2nd HDD to my External Thermaltake BLACX Docking Station, and it didnt recognized it... It also kept doing the Ticking sound....

So, anyways...I will give a try to all this tools and suggestions that you all have posted, and i know they will be handy in some other time. For now, the inmediate problem seems to have dissapeared...

Now i have to deal with the Dead Drive, which i had no Backup... I hope i can recover some of the files it had... They are not super important, but nevertheless, i would like to recover some... i will do this in another question, and i will close this one with your helpful comments.
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web_trackerComputer Service TechnicianCommented:
I am glad you finally cleaned out the dust. Normally when the drive is clicking like that the drive is some times not recoverable. Especially since windows can not even find the drive. You may use a utility such as hdd regenerator, or spinrite to see if they can repair the drive enough to recover the drive. But sometimes the more you try to use the drive the more damage you may do to the drive making even data recovery impossible. If the heads are damaged they can scratch the platters and the more you use the drive the more damage to the platters will occur. When this happens even a data recovery place would not be able to recover the data. It does not take much to damage the heads and therefore end up scratching the platters. If the data is really important I would send the drive to a data recovery place to see if they can recover the data for you. I have destroyed a customer's drive with their old copy of their wedding pictures, because I was trying to retreive the data by using every method under the sun to recover the data, I ended up scratching the platters so badly that when they finally decided to send the drive to a data recovery place they said the data on the drive was not recoverable because the discs were badly scratched. We all learned the lesson the hard way.
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BillDLCommented:
For info of other experts, the follow-on question about data recovery from the failed drive is here:
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Networking/Network_Management/Disaster_Recovery/Q_28228008.html
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nobusCommented:
software won't help on a ticking drive.
the ticking noise comes from the fact that the sector info can't beread, so the HDA moves on till the head stop -) causing the bump sound; then it retries the operation
if you need the data, use a recovery service :
http://www.lowcostrecovery.com/index.html                        data recovery Company
http://www.gillware.com/                                 "           "                   "
http://www.drivesavers.com/services/estimates.html                     "           "                   "
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unrinoceronteAuthor Commented:
Thanks Guys, i think you are giving me good advice on not to mess anymore with this DRIVE.

In another Question i was suggested to change the Circuit board of the drive... But do you think that will solve the problem on a TICKING drive? My guess is not, but again, i dont know anything about this....

I dont live in USA, i live in Costa Rica, but i guess if i dont find a Recovery Service here, i could send the DRIVE to the US to one of those companies... I will have to ask for an Estimate of the cost and see if it is worth it... Well mainly the PHOTOS are the ones i would like to recover, but we will see..

THANKS all for your help.
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Don ThomsonCommented:
We have had about a 50 % success rate with ticking drives and inaccessible drives by putting the drive in a sealed zip lock bag and putting it on the lowest deepest part of your freezer.

Leave it for at least 24 hours  - Then try to access it. If the problem is a thermal problem (typically a cold solder joint) you can often get the drive to read and get it off to another drive.

We have been successful on this on all types of IDE and Sata Drives up to 2 tb

Doesn't work every time but often enough to make it worth trying
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unrinoceronteAuthor Commented:
DTHConsulting: The Freezer method works with a HDD with a TICKING/CLICKING SOUND? You mention that it will if it is a thermal problem/cold solder joint...
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
If you try this, be VERY careful => be sure the drive is VERY well sealed in a plastic bag, as ANY moisture getting into the mechanism will make things worse.

When you remove the drive from the freezer, attach it immediately to an external USB dock and try to access it.    If successful, copy your photos IMMEDIATELY ... as it is very likely it will only work for a fairly short time.
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unrinoceronteAuthor Commented:
Thanks everybody, as i mentioned that problem is solved, it was the 2nd HDD.

The first recommendations from NOBUS and WEB_TRACKER where very usefull as per the original question, but all the assisted solutions i consider very useful too, specially on what to do with the dead HDD.

As a note, i want to say that, i can not be sure, but i "GUESS" that since i did such a prolonged test (more than 15 hours) with the DELL DIAGNOSTICS, it was the final hit to my HDD... because months ago i had ONLY the freezing problem, but just the last few days i did something or somehting happened that made the Drive worst...I think it was a problem with a file  i was working on with REVIT, it used too much RAM MEMORY and the program crashed, but the most ABNORMAL behavior happened, which was that the program closed but the Revit.exe kept for more than 2 minutes active under the PROCESS TAB on Task Manager, and with a very Weird behavior... like Erratic, using resources and CPUS in an erratic way... like BLINKING or something like that... at least i remember something like that...

And well, AS i said, if the HDD was already in a bad shape, i runned the DELL Diagnostics for the first time, and everything came out OK, it was the short test tough... Then i runned a longer tests which took some hours, and everythini came out OK Too.. .but then i tried some SPECIFIC LONG TESTS, and i left it all night on, and in the morning it was dead....

Anyays,... Thanks too all the experts, and if you have a closing comment regarding what i just mentioned, please do post it. I will like to know.
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nobusCommented:
tx for feedback
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BillDLCommented:
Hi unrinoceronte

You invited comments about your last comment, so I thought I would just post some informational details.

You may or may not know that Windows by default assigns some of your hard drive as "Virtual Memory".  The space is reserved on the hard drive courtesy of a hidden file "C:\pagefile.sys".  The idea is that where the data currently being handled by your system memory (the "RAM" sticks) exceeds the capacity of the memory, it then begins using the "virtual memory" on your hard drive.  The size of pagefile.sys is dictated by the setting found under System Properties (Right-Click My Computer > Properties) > Advanced tab > Performance section > Settings button > Advanced tab of Performance options > "Virtual Memory" section.  The default is for Windows to increase and decrease the size of the virtual memory as needed, but some people set this to a figure that is something like 1.5 times the capacity of their RAM.  Some versions of Windows have traditionally been pretty bad and handling memory, using virtual memory even though there is still space in RAM, and some people limit the virtual memory to try and force Windows to only use the faster system memory unless forced to use the hard drive.

The speed that data flow is handled by virtual memory is slower than the physical memory sticks can handle it, but it's better than the computer grinding to a halt.  There is also the possibility that corrupt areas of the filing system (the formatting on the hard drive that allows data to be stored in clusters), or physical damage to the surface, could affect the area currently assigned to virtual memory.  In that event you could well start seeing random memory errors even though your RAM sticks are in good shape.

I don't know how deeply the Dell Diagnostics runs, not how intensive it is but, if your drive was already beginning to suffer from physical problems, then it is perfectly conceivable that such vigorous activity could easily just push it over the edge, like going for a long journey in a car that already has noisy and worn wheel bearings and is showing signs of coolant water in the engine oil.

Bill
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