[Compy Hardware Filter] Where's the easy button?
October 5, 2006 10:17 AM   Subscribe

PC hardware/xp masters, lend me your keystrokes. I have a Dell Demension 9100, or I should say- I am working on a Dell Demension 9100. The computer was working fine until one day when it BSOD'd with an error concerning the /sysroot/system32/SOFTWARE or something of the like. I tried everything I could to get into the recovery console, but no dice, BSOD'd everytime even loading the windows cd. (Should have been my first warning I think...) So I boot into knoppix (it's a 64 bit, so I had to buy an enclosure because I don't have a SATA on my old 500 mhz gx1) mount the drive and copy over all the files to another external disk. I move that onto another one of the org's computers and the Foundation is back in business. See more for the fun part.

This is the computer for a Foundation that supports a club I'm involved with. Not important, only that it's not mine, and for some important people- at least in my circle. I'm the IT guy because I am the only one who knows even a little about computers, I should mention- I'm a finance major, but currently working a co-op in a marketing management position (meaning I do this for fun on the side- and this isn't fun).

The fun part.

Even after formatting the disk to NTFS and putting it back in the machine, XP still BSODs when I try to run the restore cd. The error references an address (which sorry I can't provide because I'm at my job on my lunch break) and then goes on after some more text to list PCI.sys. I've tried unplugging everything but the graphics card because I don't have another one to try. I'd update the BIOS but it doesn't have a floppy drive.

Is this the best thing for me to try? find a floppy drive and flash the bios? Anyone know what version it should be? UBCD can't help me because it's 64bit...

So my question is... what next? How do I get this system back up and running?

I can work in any environment and currently have 2 macs and the afore mentioned old pc sitting on my desk running all varieties of OS's if that helps...
posted by eleongonzales to Technology (14 answers total)
Response by poster: And I should apologize for the lengthy preview and question, but this is the place for answers and I didn't want to leave important/useless details out.
posted by eleongonzales at 10:22 AM on October 5, 2006

About 95% of the time with Windows XP, persistent BSOD's are memory related. I'd examine the memory modules carefully, to see that it/they are plugged in properly, and if you have more than 1, I might then remove 1 at a time, to see if removing either of them stops the BSOD.
posted by paulsc at 10:36 AM on October 5, 2006

Run memtest from your knoppix cd. It's run from the boot menu when you first boot up.
posted by SpecialK at 10:39 AM on October 5, 2006

is your memory seated properly?

have you tested it with memtest86? ... (you'll need a floppy for that)

does your motherboard have onboard video?

will it boot a knoppix cd? (or other live linux distribution)

is your power supply ok?

are your bios settings correct?

all questions that you should deal with before you go and flash the motherboard bios
posted by pyramid termite at 10:41 AM on October 5, 2006

oh, it does boot with knoppix ... sorry about that
posted by pyramid termite at 10:41 AM on October 5, 2006

perhaps this may help

posted by pyramid termite at 10:47 AM on October 5, 2006

Response by poster: @ pyramid

Ran memtest from UBCD (Ultimate Boot CD) it failed, but I wasn't sure if it was because if the UBCD or not.

No onboard video.

No knoppix.

I'm downloading 64bit Ubuntu as we speak on another computer.

So if it's memory, what's another way to test it? Besides memtest, or does that mean it's bad and there is nothing I can do?
posted by eleongonzales at 10:48 AM on October 5, 2006

Response by poster: @ termite the pci.sys would be a great help if i could load XP on to the HD. It's BSODing with the cd even. Could it be something to do with a raid driver? Although, with no floppy I guess i'd have to have the drivers on a cd or something???
posted by eleongonzales at 11:04 AM on October 5, 2006

"... So if it's memory, what's another way to test it? ..."

As I mentioned upthread, reseat it, and if you have more than one module, remove them one at a time to see if you can localize the problem to one module.
posted by paulsc at 11:07 AM on October 5, 2006

Why all the focus on 64 or 32-bitness? Unless there's more than about three gigs of RAM, just use 32-bit stuff for testing.

Most likely, you have either bad memory or a bad motherboard. If you have some spare modules you can test with (borrow from another PC after the user goes home), that should narrow it down. If the memory is bad, just replace it. It's cheap. Fifty or a hundred bucks and you're back in business.

The fact that Linux runs and XP fails makes me think that it's 99% likely to be a memory issue. If I remember correctly, they use their memory in opposite directions; one is top-down, the other is bottom-up. Between the BSODs and the fact that Linux runs, I'd bet that you have failures in the area Windows tries to load itself into.

Oh, just in case, do check that all your fans are running. Sometimes BSODs can happen from heat issues. I don't think that's your problem here, but it's a good idea to always check them anyway.
posted by Malor at 11:10 AM on October 5, 2006

paulsc, many machines require memory to be installed in pairs. He may be able to swap them, but it's entirely possible he can't run with just one module.
posted by Malor at 11:12 AM on October 5, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips, I'll check the memory tonight and post back.

I thought that the processor being 64 bit was making a difference, I've never worked with one. I've been using primarily macs for the past 2 years and have only used pcs for some linux and after hours work.

Should knoppix work on this system?
posted by eleongonzales at 12:29 PM on October 5, 2006

"paulsc, many machines require memory to be installed in pairs. ..."
posted by Malor at 2:12 PM EST on October 5

The Dell 9100 and most other "dual channel" class machines based on modern Intel chipsets (in this case the 945P) need memory modules installed in pairs, in banked memory sockets, to operate in the faster dual channel mode, but they will boot and operate just fine, albeit at slower memory timings, if memory is only present in single sockets.
posted by paulsc at 3:27 PM on October 5, 2006

Response by poster: Just as a follow up, incase anyone comes here looking for answers...

The Dimension 9100 has RAID/SATA drivers that need to be installed when loading Windows. The interesting part is, even if you get the drivers on a floppy, F6 and hit install- they will either come back as corrupted or windows will revert to the default drivers when loading.

Odd right? Turns out Dell didn't get them signed by Microsoft and they don't play nice together. Solution came in the form of NLITE and slipstreaming the correct drivers in. Email me if you have the same problem... I can help.
posted by eleongonzales at 12:32 PM on October 17, 2006

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