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Unexplained, intermittent crashes

By tothd
Nov 21, 2008
  1. Ever since I bought my PC in May 2008, I was encountering some very strange crashes. After every first startup of the day, in about 10-30 minutes, the computer completely crashes. Screen freezes, no mouse movement, and also the last notes of sound are repeated in the speakers like an endless noise. After hitting reset the PC reboots and it is working perfectly as long as I want even when playing 3D games or watching movies. Every day when I sit down to my computer after work and start it up again, the same thing happens. I noticed that playing games makes the crash come sooner than just browsing the internet or something, so I got used to playing a DeathMatch in Unreal Tournament 2007 just to let it have its freeze and then start doing whatever I want without having to worry about the crash.

    Some more remarks about my problem:
    - the crash occurred even when not playing or watching movies, like during browsing, but as I said, video-intensive activities made it come sooner
    - I am currently using Windows XP Pro, but this happened also under Vista
    - after the freeze and resetting, I noticed some strange behavior during the startup: sometimes the whole computer pauses for 2-3 seconds after going off and before actually turning on again; other times the windows loading screen (when the progress bar is moving) is very odd: it pauses and its colors are dimmer, after 10-20 seconds it boots up normally
    - recently (and only recently) sometimes the crash happened either after several hours of using the computer (without gaming) or did not happen at all - this is the worst part of it all, since now I cannot "make" it crash and always have to worry about it

    What I did so far was running a memory test which did not produce any errors, and I also tried to remove 1GB of the memory, but the same thing happened. I also looked at the event logs but could not find any clues, I might have missed something though.

    Does anyone have any ideas why this strange crash could occur?

    Any help would be much appreciated, and sorry for my English :)
     
  2. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,425   +77

    Number one suspect is shorting within the power supply. In your position, I would immediately replace the power supply with a more capable and better quality one. It is not an expensive nor difficult thing to do. Just make sure the new one is of the right specification and size and gives all the neccessary type of power connections.

    Next suspects would be overheating video card memory, overheating CPU, motherboard fault. If you have an IT friend at work or know anyone who could loan a video card, you could also test that by replacement. CPU and motherboard are more tricky, but you can install temperature monitoring software and watch the motherboard and CPU temps with one eye whilst trying the stress the PC.
     
  3. tothd

    tothd TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thank you, gbhall .

    Interesting what you say about the power supply because I specifically paid more to have this "CORSAIR VX450W" PSU which was supposed to be better quality. Can it be that the 450W is not enough? (By the way, should not that produce recurring crashes, not only one during each session?)

    Anyway, I will try out your suggestions to get to the bottom of this.

    Thanks again!
     
  4. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,425   +77

    Well, true a corsair PSU is supposed to be good quality, but the truth is the best are still built in China, Taiwan etc from components of unknown quality. 450 watts is either not a lot, or enough, all depending on what is has to power.....most people would say for a desktop, it is at the 'not enough' end. Your specs do not say how many CD/DVD drives, nor what is hanging off USB ports, which also have to supply power.

    As to a one gliche after 30 minutes, that can be caused by a poor capacitor or rectifier which suffers an internal flashover, the flashover itself then partially repairs the damage by burning off oxidisation, which reforms when cool. The ultimate end of course is complete failure or a smell of burning.

    BTW what country are you from, because your english is excellent - a good deal more so than 90% of native english speakers.
     
  5. tothd

    tothd TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I am Hungarian, and thanks for the compliment :)

    Also thank you for your explanation. I will first try the temperature monitoring software, after that I might purchase a stronger PSU. (I have one DVD drive plus USB keyboard and mouse by the way.)
     
  6. tothd

    tothd TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Hello, just an update:

    I have downloaded SpeedFan, started it and kept it visible on my desktop until the crash came. At this time I was playing some online poker, maybe a browser was running, and I also started Football Manager 2009 in windowed mode (because this was the only game I knew I could start windowed :) ). I know FM2009's 3D match is not such a heavy load on the system but still better than nothing. That should not even matter because the crash came when I was not playing a match, and happened about 20-30 minutes after startup.

    The SpeedFan window was there, frozen on the screen. The GPU was at 51C and the CPU was at 40-something. Non of the other temperatures provided by SpeedFan were above 50C. As far as I know, but correct me if I am wrong, these can be considered normal values. SpeedFan showed a little flame icon next to the GPU temperature, though.

    So does this point to some PSU fault rather than overheating? Could you recommend a PSU that would be suitable for my system?
     
  7. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,714   +397

    I don't think its a heat issue, those temperatures are fine. Speedfan will put a flame up sometimes even if its acceptable temperatures so just pay attention to the numbers rather than the icons, and also if you see a temperature that is very abnormal just ignore it, Speedfan is also known to give you crazy values that don't mean anything.

    It sounds like a hardware issue of some sort to me too, but you might want to take a look at your Event Viewer and see if anything odd is happening before the crashes, it 'could' be something as simple as needing a driver update.
     
  8. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,425   +77

    Here is a link to a review of your PSU. http://www.hexus.net/content/item.php?item=9491 on the specifications page there is a further link to similar PSU's also reviewed. I would think a 470W would be ample for you, unless you plan to have a high-power graphics card, second optical drive etc. Notice that your 450 W should be enough but would not support much more than you have already.

    Before you splash out on a new power supply, though, you should first make sure all your peripherals are sound, and ALL your drivers, including the motherboard drivers, are at the latest level. To give you an example, years ago, I had a user PC with very similar symptoms - sudden freezes, power off required to restart, at a rate of once every few days. The way I solved this was trial replacement of everything. It turned out to be the CD drive, unbelievably, which was never actually used !

    So the logic is, start by disconnecting everything disconnectible, and run 1 day. If possible, test replace the graphics and PSU also.
     
  9. tothd

    tothd TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thank you both for your replys. I will update my drivers and try disconnecting what I can. I will then post my results.

    Thanks again!
     
  10. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,425   +77

    some help with your observations

    computer is more stressed, more power is being drawn from the PSU. A weak PSU will fail more often at this point, but it could be graphic card or CPU also.

    Highly diagnostic of a hardware problem, not a software problem or infection

    This is normal. After a hard stop, the bios is called on to re-enumerate the hardware.

    Pauses occur during Windows enumeration and activation of hardware drivers. The colours are dimmer because the video driver at that point is a generic VGA. When the actual driver for the actual hardware starts, video becomes normal. You also might have a driver or management feature for the monitor, although this is really pointless.

    because of a hard stop, all of Windows is halted, there are no processes running, including event logging.
     
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