Does Not Compute
August 22, 2009 1:13 PM   Subscribe

Please help me diagnose this PC issue. Long story inside.

I cannot pin down exactly what's wrong with my PC. Here's what I've gone through so far:

The PCI-eX16 slot on my motherboard died. On-board video worked, but my current and previous video cards had no video output. I replaced the motherboard and also the case because my old case was getting pretty busted.

After I got the PC running again, there would be graphic corruption and freezing when running The Sims 3. I noticed an occasional loud click followed by a few seconds of silence when accessing one of my hard drives. Crap. I hastily backed up everything on there that wasn't already, removed the drive from the system, and reinstalled Windows on my other drive.

Since then I'm getting intermittent freezing. No blue screens or restarts, the system just hard locks. Sometimes, but not every time, when this happens, there won't be any video output after restarting. When this happens, un- and re-plugging the power cord restores the video output. No graphic corruption this time. Here are the most common situations where it has locked up:
Playing The Sims 3(other games may produce the same result, I haven't tried)
Burning an audio cd
Reading some video dvds, does not seem title specific - the same DVD may be read one time and freeze the next

Otherwise, I've left the machine up and running for days at a time with no problem, unless I try to do the above actions. Reading data DVDs or audio/data CDs, and burning data DVDs or data CDs works fine.

I ran memtest86+ overnight(about 6.5 hours) on Thursday, which completed 10 full tests and returned no errors. Last night I ran prime95 for about 2 hours, ran The Sims 3 for about 30 - 45 minutes using a save with a large family and a lot going on, rebooted using the Ultimate Boot CD and ran the CPU stress test for about 3 hours before deciding to launch prime95 again and go to bed. This morning when I got up, I turned the monitor back on and the machine had frozen about 15 minutes after I went to bed. I had a temp monitoring program running that showed the CPU temp at 52C when it froze. I also kept an eye on it when running The Sims 3 earlier in the evening and it never exceeded 55C, which is warm but not extreme. The GPU never exceeded 65C, which is well under the 100+C max temp the manufacturer has on the specs.

ASUS M3N72-D motherboard
AMD Athlon 64X2 5000+
2 gig Corsair XMS pc6400 RAM
160 IDE Samsun HDD
640 eSATA external storage
IDE TSSCorp DVD burner
eVGA NVidia GeForce 9600GSO 512MB
450W PSU
Viewsonic 19" widescreen LCD
nothing is overclocked

Any suggestions are welcome.
posted by owtytrof to Technology (7 answers total)
I would try swapping out the power supply. Since there are issues with so many different components, that is where I would start.
posted by Climber at 1:22 PM on August 22, 2009

Look through the Event Log for suspicious errors; disable fan speed control (Q-Fan) in the BIOS, Disable Cool 'N Quiet, ensure that BIOS is the most recent version. Reapply thermal grease to the CPU, reseat it's heatsink, clean any dust out..
posted by unmake at 1:47 PM on August 22, 2009

I agree with Climber. I've done similar troubleshooting wild-goose chases, when it turned out the PSU was being fickle. After spending more than I ever thought I would on a new power supply, the problems were gone forever.

I'd recommend you get something efficient
(if nothing else, this is a good glimpse into how diverse the PSU field is).
Anecdotally, Antec and Coolermaster PSUs have both served me very well to date.
posted by Busithoth at 1:48 PM on August 22, 2009

Nthing power supply. The symptoms point to that. 450W is probably sufficient for your specs, but Newegg has a nice calculator for determining what you need. Go with a name brand like Busithoth recommends. A cheaper, poorly built PSU will often dip below its power rating and cause the lockups you're experiencing.
posted by dosterm at 2:45 PM on August 22, 2009

Give diskcheckup a quick run and see if there's any major SMART errors reported on your drive.
posted by Nelson at 2:47 PM on August 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the suggestions. Diskcheckup didn't show any errors being thrown, so I decided to go ahead and replace the PSU. The calculator dosterm linked to recommended a minimum of 380 watts, so to be safe I picked up a Cooler Master eXtreme Power Plus 500W and will see how things go over the next few days.
posted by owtytrof at 3:28 PM on August 23, 2009

So it turns out it was the video card. I took it out and haven't had a problem since. RMA, here I come.
posted by owtytrof at 8:59 AM on August 27, 2009

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