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Old 06-02-2008, 11:01 AM   #1
Rio6000
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Very weird system freeze, on installed linux, live cd and windows


Hey everyone,

I'm struggling for the past week with a Dell Dimension 8300. It's been freezing on me at random times, but it always does.

It has a 2.8 GHz pentium 4 with Hyper Threading (which i've turned off)
It also came with 512 MB of RAM split in two sticks, but i've replaced them with two sticks of 512 so it now has 1 GB.
It had a nvidia geforce fx 5200 which i think i've blew up or something during one of my attempts to fix the problem so it now has an ATI 9600 Pro.
And it has a DVD rom drive and a harddrive hooked up to IDE.
i've switched the 300W PSU with another 300W PSU (have yet to try a more powerfull PSU).

As i said in the title, it doesn't matter what i run it just freezes. I couldn't get ubuntu 8.04 to install before it locked up, i did manage to install Arch linux and it can run really good until the lockup.
In X it would just freeze and it once put me back to the KDM screen before freezing. Also in command line terminal it would freeze and show me a pattern of letters with spaces between it and red and black backgrounds, some blinking. Sometimes it's diagonal and sometimes it's vertical.

The weird thing was that i also managed to install windows XP and install the MMORPG twelve sky and play it for about half an hour and the get a blue screen of death with some message i couldn't remember.

i also did some CMOS resets but with no luck.

I hope we can find a solution, it would be great to have this great computer up and running.

Cheers, rio
 
Old 06-02-2008, 11:22 AM   #2
dthacker
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Grab a live CD. (Knoppix, Ubuntu, many others). Boot up the system and run memtest for 24 hours. See what happens. The fact that it happens on both Linux and Windows leads me to suspect hardware.

Good Luck!
Dave
 
Old 06-02-2008, 12:26 PM   #3
tommyr1216
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A lot of freezes can be related to cooling problems. Does your system seem excessively hot? Does it only freeze when under load, or does it happen when sitting idle as well. You might want to make sure all your fans are operating and make sure there is no dust clogging your heatsinks and vents.
 
Old 06-02-2008, 12:45 PM   #4
doralsoral
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tommyr1216 View Post
A lot of freezes can be related to cooling problems. Does your system seem excessively hot? Does it only freeze when under load, or does it happen when sitting idle as well. You might want to make sure all your fans are operating and make sure there is no dust clogging your heatsinks and vents.
What this person said. Go into bios and check your temps. most of the time when someone asks me to look at there computer because its freezing or cutting off its a cooling problem. if all your fans work properly then you might want to buy a better heatsink and fan and also get some thermal grease.
 
Old 06-02-2008, 01:51 PM   #5
Rio6000
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It's not the cooling, i can touch the cpu heat sink no problem, it doesn't even get warm.
I cant see temperatures in the bios, it's a dell, i don't think they installed temp sensors on their older computers.
Also after about 2.5 hours memtest froze on me having done 5 cycles, leaving some weird letters over the screen.
I remember having this before, onetime after 8 hours and one time after 15 minutes.
 
Old 06-02-2008, 02:36 PM   #6
farslayer
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Definitely sounds like some sort of hardware related issue.

Power Supply, - which you said you've already replaced.. althougha cheap lowend powersupply may cause as many issues as a bad supply.

Failed Cooling Fans - You've already checked this..

Defective RAM - I recommend the Bootable memtest86+ iso from http://www.memtest.org/

Defective Motherboard.. Could the capacitors on your motherboard have failed ? With the CPU you mentioned I'm guessing that system is over 5 years old.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitor_plague ANY doming on the top of the electrolytic capacitors indicates failure and is sure to cause system lockups till eventually the system will no longer even POST.
 
Old 06-02-2008, 02:39 PM   #7
strick1226
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I'd recommend trying the original RAM in the machine again--even if it means going from your present 1 GB of RAM back to 512 MB.

If it still locks up in MemTest86 at that point it's very possibly a system board issue--you've already replaced the power supply, and the processor doesn't _appear_ to be overheating...

Good luck!
 
Old 06-02-2008, 02:56 PM   #8
SlowCoder
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rio6000 View Post
It's not the cooling, i can touch the cpu heat sink no problem, it doesn't even get warm.
I cant see temperatures in the bios, it's a dell, i don't think they installed temp sensors on their older computers.
Also after about 2.5 hours memtest froze on me having done 5 cycles, leaving some weird letters over the screen.
I remember having this before, onetime after 8 hours and one time after 15 minutes.
Everything folks have said so far, +1.

One thing that you mentioned is that the CPU heat sink doesn't even get warm. I've never met a CPU sink that didn't at least get warm. If it's actually still cool to the touch, I'd wonder if it's properly attached to the CPU?

On the other hand, a CPU that isn't cooled at all will likely shut off within seconds of power-on.

If you're low on cash, I suggest the following:
- Disconnect, and reconnect each and every cable (both ends) in your computer.
- Remove any hardware you can get away without temporarily. This will rule them out as culprits.
- Remove and reinstall all cards, RAM and CPU. Clean up and add new cooling paste to the CPU upon reinstallation.
 
Old 06-02-2008, 03:15 PM   #9
doralsoral
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Yeah if you don't think its overheating it could be the ram. try some different ram just to see if it still does it. Your new ram could also have some funky voltages that you need to mess with.
 
Old 06-02-2008, 03:18 PM   #10
farslayer
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Dell has a tendency to put HUGELY over sized CPU heat sinks in their systems.. They do rarely get warm to the touch unless the system is in a hot environment.. so I could believe the OP's statement to that effect.
 
Old 06-02-2008, 03:49 PM   #11
Rio6000
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You got me scared with the wiki entry about capacitors farslayer, so i checked it immediately. I can't seem to find any.
Also i do feel some heat coming from the base of the CPU heatsink so i think that's ok too.
I do have one symptom as it is written in the wiki, "Never starting the POST; fans spin but the system appears dead" but usually a quick power off/on fixes it.
I just did a kind of stress test. I've put in one of the original 256 MB sticks back in, let it boot, and let it render an animation in Nuke 5, my compositing package. It froze after only 10 frames, but before it definitely rendered more.
Now i booted it and it froze at: "ACPI: bus type pnp registered" I'm sure this is a random stop.
I'll try a memtest on the 256 MB next.

does anyone think a bigger psu might help? i can get my hands on a 600W by tomorrow i think.
 
Old 06-02-2008, 06:03 PM   #12
strick1226
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A 600W power supply isn't going to make any difference--I sincerely doubt your current configuration is using more than ~200W, as is.

Can you try putting the nVidia card back in, in place of the ATI? Or have you thrown it away?

As slowcoder mentioned, I would try disconnecting/removing as much as possible to see if things suddenly become more reliable. As silly as it sounds, try disconnecting the hard drive, just booting the LiveCD to run MemTest86 off the DVDROM drive. Remove any other cards you can, as well. Even try to disable the onboard sound in BIOS, if present on your model...


As flaky as things are sounding, I'm really leaning to it being a bad system board at this point. Don't imagine the machine is still under warranty... Looks like the price of a replacement system board ranges from $200-$300, depending on where you shop.



If in doubt, here's a link to a page at Dell where you can view the warranty details of any service tag:

http://support.dell.com/support/topi...04&l=en&s=hied
 
Old 06-02-2008, 08:23 PM   #13
farslayer
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Video card can cause similar issues.. I have run into the same bad cap issue on a video card before.

If the tops of all your capacitors are flat then you probably do not have that issue. When you find do find a a bad capacitor it is easily noticeable when you feel the top of it.
 
  


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