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Random Lock-ups/Freeze-ups; is it the Power Supply?

By Astro
Dec 26, 2004
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  1. Random Lock-ups/Freeze-ups; It's NOT the Power Supply...

    My system stats: P4 2.6Ghz, Abit IS7 mobo, 1 gig dual channel Mushkin DDR400 RAM, 16x dvd-rom, 8x dvd-rw, 120 gig ultra 100ata 7200 rpm Western Digital Hard drive, 200 gig Seagate ultra 100ata 7200 rpm hard drive, Raidmax 420 watt power supply, 5 internal 80mm case fans, 3.5 inch floppy, 10/100 nic, hauppauge wintv card, ATI Radeon 9600XT 128mb video card, 17 inch NEC crt monitor, canon 3000f scanner, canon s600 printer.

    My problem: For months, I have had system freeze/lock-up problems. Suddenly the mouse just won't move, keyboard has no affect, and I have to reboot to get the system to work again. Then sometimes, I'll turn on the computer and it will say "no hard drives found" or "no cd drives found" or something like that. I'll then reboot yet again and then it'll be ok for a while. Sometimes this occurs after only a few seconds of being on - other times the system can run fine for weeks.

    I built this in December 2003. In March this year I started having problems with the hard drives powering on and off while the computer was on. I stupidly thought the IDE channel on my previous Albatron mobo was shot; spent $170 on an Abit mobo with an extended warranty only to discover the problem reoccurring about 3 weeks later. Then I thought it was the hard drive (the Western Digital - I just bought the Seagate a month ago) going bad, so I RMA'd it for warranty service after they told me the symptom was caused by either the power supply or the hard drive itself. 2 weeks after getting the replacement hard drive installed, problem reoccurs.

    I've also hooked the monitor and tower on completely separate electrical outlets to make sure it wasn't my house's wiring. Nope, problem occurred 1 hour ago again. I am at my wits end here people. This is the 4th computer I've built; the previous 3 have been perfect. Please tell me what in the world could be causing these random lock-ups.

    I think it is the power supply. I have Abit software that monitors the 12V, 3.3V, and +5V lines and they never show anything other than just slight .1 difference up or down, but then again, once the problem starts, the whole system freezes, so I guess the Abit program would never show any problem given the situation.

    Tell me, is it the power supply? Sorry for the extremely long post, but folks, I'm going crazy here trying to diagnose this!! :confused: If it is the power supply, do I need more watts than 420? I've seen a 480 watt Thermaltake with something called "active PFC" that while it is expensive, looks good.
  2. Stickin_It_2_Em

    Stickin_It_2_Em Newcomer, in training

    I doubt its a hardware issue. I had the same thing happen to my last computer before shot it (litterally w/ a 12 gauge). Are the hard drives new, or used? Maybe try ghosting everything over to a temp hard drive, and see if everything is fine. Also check to see how hot your CPU is running. If its too hot it can cause your computer to do that as well.
  3. Astro

    Astro Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 41

    The Western Digital 120gb was new last December. It's since been replaced by RMA warranty, and the new replacement (same size) sent from WD (under their warranty replacement program) came here in July. The new Seagate 200gb hard drive has only been in there since last month. This problem has gone on through all 3 hard drives, and even with the Seagate disconnected and not powered, the same freezing still occurs. I've even taken this to a computer shop and they could not figure it out.

    I forgot to also mention PS/2 keyboard and USB intellimouse earlier, sorry.
  4. nein

    nein Banned Posts: 226

    Go ahead and get yourself a new power supply. The RaidMax PS has fictional sustain 420W rating, it is only good for ~300W of sustained output power rating.

    For your configuration, you need real 350W sustain power rating rather than peak power rating.
  5. Astro

    Astro Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 41

    nein, and anyone else, what are your impressions of Thermaltake power supplies?

    Newegg.com has a 480 watt one with an active PFC that looks good. It looks like thermaltake 480 watt ps's (both active and non-active pfc's) have tons of good reviews on the site. Does anyone care to share any experiences or other good brands?
  6. RealBlackStuff

    RealBlackStuff Newcomer, in training Posts: 8,165

    Antec, Enermax are other good alternatives
    Go for one of the 120mm fan PSUs, if you want quiet.
  7. Astro

    Astro Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 41

    Can anyone else confirm what Nein wrote about Raidmax PSU's? The system freeze issue has not been as frequent the past couple of days, so I want to be sure that this is indeed the problem before I drop US$80 on a new Thermaltake 480 watt PSU.

    By the way Nein I appreciate the insight...if this is indeed correct then that explains everything!
  8. RealBlackStuff

    RealBlackStuff Newcomer, in training Posts: 8,165

    The sustained power is one of those data, that some companies don't publish.
    That's why you should get a PSU from a respectable company with a name to lose.

    Look for ATX 2.03 spec compatibility, SATA cables, ATX12V cable, 20-pin and/or 24-pin
    mobo-connector, aux. 6-pin cable (not always needed) and length of cables.
    If they are sleeved, even better.
  9. olefarte

    olefarte TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 1,427

    Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the 12v rail on the power supply, is the important one in this situation, and after doing a lot of searching, the only thing I found conslusive, is this page, with a picture of the label. It shows only 13.0A on the 12v rail. That's not much for a 420 watt power supply is it? Could this be the problem? The Raidmax site doesn't show any specs for the 420, but the 470 shows 15.0a. I've got an Antec 350 watt, with 21.0A on the 12v rail.

    As said above, maybe a new power supply is in order?
  10. RealBlackStuff

    RealBlackStuff Newcomer, in training Posts: 8,165

    My PSU even has two 12V rails (but then it is really meant for a server).
    QTechnology, Model# ENS-0240QT, ATX Ultra-Quiet PSU 400W (AMD Approved), EPS12V (=compliant for server specs)
    +3.3V=30A, +5V=25A (together max. 200W)
    +12V1=15A, +12V2=16A (together max. 216W)
    -5V optional=1A, -12V=1A, +5Vsb=2A
  11. Astro

    Astro Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 41

    Now THAT is something I did not know. See I can build a computer and all that, but I don't know much at all about power supplies, current, electricity, etc. Yes, my psu has 13.0A for the 12v rail. And yes, with my Abit monitoring program, the 12V rail is the one line that is rarely flat on the 12 (all others are constantly flat on their appropriate lines - when I say flat, I mean it shows a graph picture and it's flat on the correct line). The 12V line is "jumpy" sometimes.

    I'm looking at a Thermaltake W0010 480 watt psu with Active PFC ( http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?description=17-153-009&depa=0 ). It has 18.0A on the 12V rail. Sounds like a lot more than 13! Plus the max output is 550 watt, not 480, so they sound good.

    Thanks for all your help everyone..you have certainly given me an education about power supplies.
    :giddy:
     
  12. nein

    nein Banned Posts: 226

    There isn't anything wrong with your 12V for your hardware config.

    Active PFC is mostly a useless feature for nearly everyone except for some rare situations such as THIS ONE. Where its function which is the same as that of a power conditioner, helping to get the most out of rather deficient power sources. But it simply can't be replacement for a good source of power origin. Same reason why at times even a power conditioner is still not sufficient.
  13. Astro

    Astro Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 41

    Well folks I got the Thermaltake 480 with Active PFC in today and it's running fine so far. The 12V rail (rated at 18.0A) is steady as a rock - it NEVER moves off of 12.00!! I can't believe that. The 5V rail sometimes gets up to 5.1 but never more.

    One more observation - the Thermaltake 480 is over twice as heavy as the Raidmax 420 (it had 12V rail rated at 13.0A). They say that the heavier the power supply, the better the quality. So far, so good.
  14. nein

    nein Banned Posts: 226

    Of course the heavier the better, most of the weight came from just the chopper transformer and the toroids for outputs of maximum current - AKA - 3.3V and 5V, 12V toroids are smaller and less critical; the others are even less so.

    The bill of material costs for the above parts alone usually exceed half the the cost of the power-supply itself. Look below, click on the pic for linked pertinent review...

    [​IMG]

    The chopper transformer is in the center, there're 2 huge monster toroids... one each for 3.3V and 5V, 99.999% chance that The huge visible toroid in the pic is for 3.3V.

    Most people can say "it looks like a good power supply with good specs", they lacked the actual skills to know why its good.
  15. Astro

    Astro Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 41

    It's NOT the power supply. About 30 minutes ago I was listening to music and all of a sudden, a loud steady beep came from the speakers and the whole entire system was frozen (I assume that's why the beep occurred - no sound was being fed to the speakers, hence the noise).

    So I've now replaced the motherboard, hard drives, video card, surge protector strip, and power supply, and the random system lockups (freezing) still occurs. I am absolutely shaken by this whole issue and don't know what to do any more. I have wasted almost US$300 on trying to solve this issue and I feel that perhaps in hindsight I should have just used that money as part of the price of a new Dell machine.

    The only thing I can think of now is an IRQ conflict with the sound blaster audigy 2 card. A lot of times I am listening to music when this occurs (but definitely not always, because sometimes it can't even get through the whole boot process without freezing up). So I noticed the Audigy 2 card is using IRQ 21, and my USB 2.0 four-port add-in PCI card, well at least part of the card is using IRQ 21. I found this out using Device Manager.

    Could an IRQ conflict cause the freezing/locking up? I am at my wits end and about ready to just sell this machine for parts and buy a Dell...please help me!
  16. nein

    nein Banned Posts: 226


    Do you >>really want<< advice for this "Random Lock-ups/Freeze-ups" problem? And actually would follow up on it?
  17. Astro

    Astro Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 41

    Yes just please tell me. I appreciate your help.
  18. nein

    nein Banned Posts: 226

    Install Win2K, WinXPe, or etc... in new partitions or drives, use them to eliminate and definitively identify hardware/software isolation problem. Personally I recommend Win2K.

    Though for your current hardware/software configuration, I suggest you turning off HT. HT can cause varying jitter of IRQ response latency resulting lock-ups in real-time applications.

    HT is best for non real-time processing such as VIDEO ENCODING in single big huge chunks, or the opposite extreme of processing very small data fragments.
  19. pemdawg

    pemdawg Newcomer, in training

    I'm having this same problem. Has anyone found anything more out about this? I built my PC last march for ~$1100, and its been acting upjust like yours since november.
  20. RealBlackStuff

    RealBlackStuff Newcomer, in training Posts: 8,165

    To be sure, remove the Audigy altogether, uninstall the drivers, then run the PC for a day or 2.
    If all is well, then move the Audigy-card to another slot, further away from the AGP-slot.
    Install the latest drivers.
    If yours has the breakout-box, try and move it to another position.
  21. pemdawg

    pemdawg Newcomer, in training

    What if I don't have an Audigy? I've got onboard audio on my ASUS A7N8X-E Deluxe. Its the Nforce Soundstorm. Wats odd is that I too never had problems, up until just a few months ago.If anyone wants it, I can post my used IRQs. I'm getting a power suply change too, just to be safe.
  22. Astro

    Astro Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 41

    Well I have discovered that it's not a conflict with the IRQ of the Audigy 2 on my system. XP assigned both the card & an add-on USB 2.0 expansion pci card on IRQ 21; I disabled the card in Device Manager so only the Audigy 2 was on IRQ 21 but just now it froze up again...so it lasted 6 days between freeze-ups. This wasn't 6 days of constantly being on - just regular on/off during the day whenever I needed to use the computer (never on for more than a few hours at a time).

    I have not yet disabled HyperThreading on the P4 chip in the BIOS yet as Nein recommended...probably will give it a shot soon as doing so won't cost me a dime.

    To pemdawg: Don't waste your money on a new power supply. You and I have exactly the same symptoms. I am not saying the same thing is causing our problem, but dropping down US$70 on a new power supply and then it turning out NOT to be the problem hurts.

    You know when you take your car in the shop they can plug in that little computer and the thing says what the problem is. I wish they had something similar for computers, because just guessing and throwing my hard earned money down the drain is depressing.


    Pemdawg please list your system stats. Maybe we can find something in common that both of our systems have. I'm curious as to what your graphics card is and also what brand of memory you are using.
  23. nein

    nein Banned Posts: 226

    Try this simple test Astro -> Disable your sound card completely, remove it, and run your system without sound.

    If the problem disapear, it's an IRQ latency response (typical terminology - PCI latency) problem in real-time applications.
  24. pemdawg

    pemdawg Newcomer, in training

    Why would the sound card cause this now, and not right away when I built my computer then? That just doesnt make sense to me. My stats are as follows:

    ASUS A7N8X-E Deluxe mobo
    AthlonXP-M 2500+ OC'ed to 2.2GHz
    1GB PMI ram (their high end offering)
    ATi Radeon 9500 Pro
    ASUS TV FM tuner card
    160GB Western Digital HDD on IDE0
    160GB Western Digital on SATA1
    Nu DDW-082 DVD burner on IDE1:0
    old Sony CD-RW on IDE1:1

    Windows WP Pro w/SP1 and all critial and security updates.

    I was actually kinda wondering if any of MS's security patches might be at fault.

    The only thing I discovered so far is tha when running Knoppix, my system didn't seem to freeze (I may not have tested long enough).However it di have trouble loading and using sound card drivers.Now I don't know if that means my soundsystem is bad or what.

    I just don't get why my pc worked flawlessly for 8 months, andthen started acting like this.
  25. Astro

    Astro Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 41

    Grrrrr...

    Yeah mine froze again earlier this afternoon. I built it in December 2003 and the problems started in March 2004. Can't understand why it took 3 months for the problems to start.

    Nein, I have now disabled hyperthreading in my BIOS. I know you suggested doing that like a week ago but it was running fine for several days, so I waited until it "crapped out" again. We'll see how long it lasts this time.

    Nein I am vaguely familiar with PCI latency...in my last computer before this one, I installed a tv card (not in this problem computer, but was in my old one) and when I turned the tv application on, it froze the computer every time. It turns out it was a common bug and Hauppauge's web site said to change the PCI latency time in the BIOS settings. Wonder if it could be something similar here. My timer is set to 32. However, the errors occur at random and never with any specific program or hardware access (to my knowledge).

    Removing the sound card is next if the disabling HT doesn't work.
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