High-end (As of 2 Years Ago) PC Help Needed!
February 11, 2008 1:17 PM   Subscribe

For about a year now, I have been having major problems with my home built PC. In the middle of 3D games (of any kind really), it will freeze for at least 10 seconds, sometimes more. Sometimes it will give me back control, sometimes it will reboot. More recently, it will blue screen (referring to nv4_disp) if it does not give me back control. During that freeze time, the sound will continue for a few seconds and then repeat like a skipping CD for a few seconds.

I would like to replace the faulty part, but it is such a mess in there and a pain in the ass to replace some that I want to find out the best way to find out. It could be the mobo, PSU or GPU(s)

Also, just as important, do any of you know good, trustworthy forums for this type of troubleshooting? Or a local PC mod/gamer group in the Austin, TX area?

Here are the specs:
* Asus A8N32-SLI Mobo (nForce4 chipset)
* AMD 4200+ CPU
* 500W Seasonic PSU
* 2x250GB SATA 300 drives in striped RAID via mobo
* 2xXFX 7600 GT in SLI mode
* Creative Xfi sound card
* No overclocking, all stock fans on mobo and card. Case has some quieter fan replacements.
* Logitech G15 keyboard and MX518 mouse. I know this is not in the case, but in case someone knows any issues with the power draw or something.

What I have tried, all to no avail:
* Taking the cover off: temp (both CPU and GPUs) dropped by almost 10C to about 50ish, but no change in symptoms. Previously, it NEVER got above 70C, even under the heaviest of loads.
* Turning off SLI
* Laying down new OS (XP SP2. No way is Vista getting on here!)
* Religiously updating drivers. Never used beta drivers.
* Religiously updating BIOS. Using most current one off of ASUS's site
* Taking out Xfi and using onboard audio
* Removing all USB devices aside from kb and mouse.
* Changing the 3D settings down to lowest
* Running bootable CD of memtest86 test on RAM. No problems found.
* Running 3DMark06. No problems encountered.

If I were in a better financial situation (good job, but LOTS of debt), I would buy a new computer, but I would rather save money and just buy the component(s) needed to fix it.

Advice? Places to look? Best hair replacement therapy?
posted by JLobster to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: nv4_disp points to the graphics card. Can you borrow someone else's to see if it still happens?
posted by zsazsa at 1:21 PM on February 11, 2008

Response by poster: zsazsa: Not the nForce4 chipset?
posted by JLobster at 1:24 PM on February 11, 2008

Best answer: Second zsazsa. Swapping out the video card is easy and has a high probability of fixing the problem.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:25 PM on February 11, 2008

I think probably the best thing to do is replace one part at a time. This could be expensive of course, but maybe you have some friends that would loan you parts. Or a computer store with a good return policy. Or you could take it to a tech, who would do this and charge you for it. I would start with the video card. If you keep your hair trimmed short, it is very hard to pull out. Good luck.
posted by d4nj450n at 1:27 PM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, I'd bet on the 7600 (nv as in nVidia, not nForce). I have the same card and it can be touchy sometimes. When you talk about religiously updating drivers, does that include your video driver?
posted by JaredSeth at 1:28 PM on February 11, 2008

I've had exactly this before and it turned out to be the graphics card not playing nicely with the AMD/Nforce mobo. I went through all the same crap you have, including looking at the voltages being supplied to the card, etc etc etc.

There was nothing wrong... it just didn't work. As far as I can remember it had to do with the AMD AGP drivers not quite delivering spec to the video card. I swapped the Mobo for an intel based one and everything was fine.
posted by unSane at 1:32 PM on February 11, 2008

*at least as fine as it ever is on a PC /ducks
posted by unSane at 1:32 PM on February 11, 2008

I suspect the power supply. Just run down to best buy or whatever and get a nice one (Antec is a great brand), and see if the problem goes away. If it does, problem solved. If it doesn't, return the new power supply and continue troubleshooting.
posted by lohmannn at 1:44 PM on February 11, 2008

Sounds like PSU to me too.
posted by popcassady at 2:03 PM on February 11, 2008

Best answer: Dont just disable SLI, physically remove one of those cards. That's that good first step.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:23 PM on February 11, 2008

FWIW, at less than 75 watts apiece, those video cards don't draw much power.
posted by shinybeast at 2:26 PM on February 11, 2008

By updating drivers, I assume you're also updating the nForce Unified drivers as well as the nVidia display drivers? I don't see why an nVidia-based motherboard would give you problems with an nVidia GPU, really (I have an Asus A7N8X nForce-based with an nVidia geForce FX card, no issues - want to trade? Mine's stable, but a wee slower than your setup!). But yeah, try swapping out the GPU and see if that helps. Especially if you're getting comments upthread that the GPU is kind of flaky in other people's hands.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:34 PM on February 11, 2008

75W * 2 is a lot and is capable of causing goofy power supply problems. There are whole computers that don't draw that much.

As far as troubleshooting goes, does the chipset itself have a heatsink and or fan? Check it. Check for dust-clogged heatsinks and/or stalled fans in the power supply.

When you update drivers, do you completely remove them first? For some reason, display drivers need that. Remove them completely with nvidia's eraser tool. Then reboot and reinstall a known-good driver. And in the future, don't update drivers just because there's a new one out. Only update if there is a good reason to do it.
posted by gjc at 3:32 PM on February 11, 2008

Response by poster: I will give the GPU and PSU replacements a try if I can find a local store with a good return policy.

If you are talking PSU, do you mean to imply it might be broken or it might be underpowered?

As for drivers, I have updated all drivers, from keyboard to gpu to mobo chipset and even the AMD cpu. I use Driver Magician to check for me (mostly accurate) and for the nVidia stuff, I use Driver Cleaner Pro.

FWIW, if it is the GPU, should I just go with a single 8800 series or try and find cheapie 7600s?
posted by JLobster at 2:27 AM on February 12, 2008

I had a very similar problem with an AMD mobo (tho an ATI card) and solved it by turning the AGP acceleration down fro 8x to 2x. No obvious performance hit and no more crashes.
posted by waraw at 8:57 AM on February 12, 2008

Also have you tried disabling fast AGP writes (as well as waraw's suggestion)?
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:00 AM on February 12, 2008

It may be that your PSU is struggling to keep up with the demands of the computer as a whole.

Type PSU calculator into Google.
posted by popcassady at 10:22 AM on February 12, 2008

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