[Kinda solved?] This is silly now. WinXP "serious error".

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[Kinda solved?] This is silly now. WinXP "serious error".

Postby poxic » Thu Jul 28, 2011 7:01 am UTC

I'm running a commercially custom-built WinXP PC that's about two years old, designed to be an entry-level gaming machine (back then, anyway). A few months ago I started getting an occasional (~1x per month) random reboot followed by the approximate message "Windows has recovered from a serious error. Please see this incomprehensible explanation, or for more details see this even less helpful pile of characters". And that error keeps happening, even after fixes and checks that should have turned something up.

Some details, including specs:

WinXP Home SP3 (I just learned that I named my computer Weezle two years ago)
Intel Core2 Duo E8400 @ 3GHz
2GB RAM of some sort
ATI Radeon something video card, just updated the driver a few days ago
Creative SoundBlaster something sound card, haven't updated the driver since purchase, I think
C: is 500GB, same age as the computer, Western Digital (I think)
D: is CD/DVD drive, LG brand
G: is 120GB hard drive from my previous computer, also WD, 7-9 years old, mostly old file storage, non-booting but does have some active game files

These random reboots didn't seem to have any long-term effects. Virus scans turn up a couple of tracking cookies but nothing else (AVG Free, last update/scan a couple of days ago).

Possibly unrelated, but I'd feel like I was committing a sin of omission if I left it out: Once I added a patch (1.3) and some downloadable content (Exiled Prince and bonus armour things) to my Dragon Age 2 game, the reboots started ramping up until they reached two or more every evening. The accelerated reboots didn't complain about recovering from serious errors, though.They just rebooted the system without telling me why. So I uninstalled and reinstalled the damn game at least twice, removing the possibly-problematic patch but not the DLC (because I paid for that, yo).

And then I had a shitty crash on Monday night that required professional intervention. The computer complained of corrupted system files, but I couldn't get the thing to boot from the Windows install CD. Turns out that's because the boot sequence was C: first, instead of CD-ROM first. Oh well, it got repaired and the box is home now.

And tonight, the first night back home for my errant PC, we get another "serious error" message. The hell? Virus scans are normal. Checkdisk found nothing, as far as I can tell. There is some defragging to be done, but less than 1/3 of C: is currently used. I'll run defrag overnight just in case.

I don't want to find out one day that this was some deeply shitty error that I could have prevented with a few simple steps. (Now that I'm worried, I think I'll back up my tax files onto the G: drive). So ... help? Help. ... HEEEELLLPPP!


Edit much later: kinda found a solution, though it's really a workaround. Gargh.
Last edited by poxic on Mon Aug 29, 2011 2:43 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Right, this is silly now. WinXP "serious error".

Postby phlip » Thu Jul 28, 2011 7:17 am UTC

The "serious error" message usually means your computer's been blue-screening, and that usually means failing hardware of some sort. That or a faulty driver, but you said your drivers are all either up-to-date or haven't changed since before the errors started.

Things to try:
* Right click My Computer -> Properties. Advanced tab. Click "Settings" under "Startup and Recovery". Under "System failure" untick "Automatically restart". This means next time it blue-screens you'll have a chance to copy down the details... it won't be that useful directly, but it'll be something you can plug into Google.
* Get memtest86+, run it overnight. See if it reports any errors.
* If your motherboard has built-in video, try using that instead of your graphics card (and unplug the graphics card)... see if that is any more stable.
* If you have any programs that can report things like CPU temperature and such, run those, make sure everything isn't too hot.

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enum ಠ_ಠ {°□°╰=1, °Д°╰, ಠ益ಠ╰};
void ┻━┻︵​╰(ಠ_ಠ ⚠) {exit((int)⚠);}
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Re: Right, this is silly now. WinXP "serious error".

Postby Carnildo » Thu Jul 28, 2011 9:30 am UTC

phlip wrote:Things to try:
* Right click My Computer -> Properties. Advanced tab. Click "Settings" under "Startup and Recovery". Under "System failure" untick "Automatically restart". This means next time it blue-screens you'll have a chance to copy down the details... it won't be that useful directly, but it'll be something you can plug into Google.
* Get memtest86+, run it overnight. See if it reports any errors.
* If your motherboard has built-in video, try using that instead of your graphics card (and unplug the graphics card)... see if that is any more stable.
* If you have any programs that can report things like CPU temperature and such, run those, make sure everything isn't too hot.


Additionally, run Prime95 in CPU torture-test mode to see if you get CPU errors.

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Re: Right, this is silly now. WinXP "serious error".

Postby Evengeduld » Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:03 am UTC

During the 2 years you had the computer did you ever remove the dust it collected?
Because I used to have the same problem and it was caused by dust overheating
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Re: Right, this is silly now. WinXP "serious error".

Postby Tractor » Thu Jul 28, 2011 8:42 pm UTC

phlip wrote:The "serious error" message usually means your computer's been blue-screening, and that usually means failing hardware of some sort. That or a faulty driver, but you said your drivers are all either up-to-date or haven't changed since before the errors started.


That's assuming the up-to-date driver doesn't take issue with WinXP, although usually it will note that on install. I had a system that used to randomly blue-screen, and I eventually traced it to a USB expansion PCI card I'd put in.
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Re: Right, this is silly now. WinXP "serious error".

Postby poxic » Fri Jul 29, 2011 3:16 am UTC

This memtest86+ is to be written to a CD, then reboot with CD in drive? Do I use the binary or the iso version? I suppose I could burn both to a CD and let the system decide. I'll do something like that tonight.

Dust doesn't appear to be an issue. I cleaned off most of it from the vents when I took it in for service. Looking inside the case now, there's just enough to write my name in, and no buildup around the CPU or on the fan. (The machine sits in a poor-woman's clean room -- no fabric surfaces, doors on all shelving, HEPA air cleaner running 24/7. I has dust allergy argh.)

The CPU temp was around 46C when I rebooted to check bios. Apparently there are alarms that will do something if temperature reaches a given level or if the fan stops running. I enabled those and picked the lowest available (60C) as the alarm-ringing level. I've heard that some Intels get twitchy around 40C, but that might have been a discussion of quad cores.

Forgot to turn off autoreboot last night, so I did just now. After it rebooted again just now.

I updated the video driver a couple of days ago, but that was the first time since I bought the beast. The errors appeared long before the driver update.

I looked up Prime95. It sounds like a terrible thing to do to my poor little (well, big and costly) box. I will save this for a last resort.

It wouldn't surprise me if there were video card issues. I kind of like ATI Radeons, but I fried a couple in my previous machine. (My fault, but still.) The motherboard is Gigabyte S-series, doesn't appear to have onboard video. (Does have spectacularly shitty onboard audio.) If everything else checks out and the soon-to-be-provided :evil: bluescreen code Googles up as "video card crappage", that might be it.
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Re: Right, this is silly now. WinXP "serious error".

Postby phlip » Fri Jul 29, 2011 3:55 am UTC

poxic wrote:This memtest86+ is to be written to a CD, then reboot with CD in drive? Do I use the binary or the iso version? I suppose I could burn both to a CD and let the system decide. I'll do something like that tonight.

Burn the ISO to the CD. Make sure you burn it as an image... there should be a "burn image" option somewhere in your burning program. Don't just burn the CD containing the ISO as a file. Then yeah, just reboot with the disk in the drive (if it doesn't work, make sure you're set up to boot to CDs).

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enum ಠ_ಠ {°□°╰=1, °Д°╰, ಠ益ಠ╰};
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Re: Right, this is silly now. WinXP "serious error".

Postby poxic » Fri Jul 29, 2011 4:21 am UTC

'K, I don't find anything conveniently called "burn image" in my available stuff, so I downloaded imgburn. After some flailing, this appears to have worked.

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Re: Right, this is silly now. WinXP "serious error".

Postby poxic » Sat Jul 30, 2011 6:01 am UTC

Double post for update. First, let me get this out of the way:

GGGRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGHHHHHHH

'K, done now.

I did not succeed with either copy of the memtest disc thing. Just a normal hard drive start in both cases, despite boot-time confirmation that the CD was being checked for bootable files. I probably did something(s) wrong.

I did succeed at getting an actual bluescreen! Just like the good old days. The most interesting bit was "ati3duag.dll". I stuck that in Google and found this page.

This got me all excited, except that none of the suggestions (that didn't require complete deletion of all drivers/format/reinstall etc) worked.

I'm starting to think that I want to take this box back to its birthplace and (spend another chunk of gold and) get them to replace the video card and all of its drivers/registry entries/software/anything with something that isn't ATI. *Every single complaint* about this problem has been with ATI hardware. The suggested solutions sound ridiculously extreme, especially if one must try all of the variations in order to figure out which will solve the problem.

Dammit, Jim, I'm a casual-ish gamer, not a hardcore hardware geek. (Also, I think I would rather burn some moderate amount of cash than what remains of my nervous system.)
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Re: Right, this is silly now. WinXP "serious error".

Postby Carnildo » Sat Jul 30, 2011 11:00 pm UTC

poxic wrote:I'm starting to think that I want to take this box back to its birthplace and (spend another chunk of gold and) get them to replace the video card and all of its drivers/registry entries/software/anything with something that isn't ATI. *Every single complaint* about this problem has been with ATI hardware. The suggested solutions sound ridiculously extreme, especially if one must try all of the variations in order to figure out which will solve the problem.

Not surprising that every complaint about bluescreens referencing "ati3duag.dll" is on ATI hardware: that file is part of the ATI video drivers. It's like looking for bluescreens mentioning "nv4_disp.dll" and discovering every one of them involves an Nvidia graphics card.

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Re: Right, this is silly now. WinXP "serious error".

Postby poxic » Sat Jul 30, 2011 11:56 pm UTC

Yeah, I realised that after posting it. >.>

In the meantime, never minimising DA2 is helping a lot. When I want to stop playing for a bit, I quit the program and restart it later. Down to only one reboot per evening this way. Argh.
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Re: Right, this is silly now. WinXP "serious error".

Postby cphite » Tue Aug 02, 2011 5:41 pm UTC

Chances are pretty good that you either have bad drivers, or a bad video card. If it's drivers, you may need to remove them completely - not just update - because updating doesn't necessarily replace every file.

If it's a bad card, you may just have to face up to buying a new one. Cards go bad. They heat up and cool down over and over again and eventually that causes damage.

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Re: Right, this is silly now. WinXP "serious error".

Postby poxic » Wed Aug 03, 2011 12:31 am UTC

I haven't had a crash for a couple of days... mostly because I haven't run Dragon Age 2 for a couple of days, I think.

Option one: DA2 install was borked by the downloadable content. Doesn't explain the small number of restarts when DA2 wasn't running.

Option two: video card or its drivers are becoming borked, only revealed when driven hard.

Harumph. I'll probably wait until after I'm back from next week's vacation before I give enough of a twiddle to start messing with things again.


Edit to add, after vacation and so forth: Found a workaround, I guess. I've set DA2 to run with low-quality graphics and turned off anything else that looked complicated (like perspective correction or whatever it's called). I also shut down the game when I want a break, rather than minimising it. Also, sit and wait for a few moments after stopping the game rather than charging straight at the browser.

This seems to prevent the reboots. I'm not terribly happy about what this means for installing future games, though.
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Re: [Kinda solved?] This is silly now. WinXP "serious error"

Postby poxic » Sat Sep 08, 2012 4:49 am UTC

Kind of unnecessary update: I've stopped playing games more demanding than Solitaire because of reboots every 5 minutes or so. The box is going into the shop next week for a reformat/reinstall *and* a shiny (well, slightly glinty) new video card that should be able to manage Skyrim at a minimum level.

(The main obstacle is WinXP which can't use more than 2 gigs of RAM. I'm unwilling to move to 7 yet, since I have a lot of pre-XP games. When I am forced to get a new box -- when this one's mobo melts or something -- I'll look into a dual boot XP/7 so I don't lose my Heroes of Might and Magic. :| )
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Re: [Kinda solved?] This is silly now. WinXP "serious error"

Postby Jorpho » Tue Sep 11, 2012 4:07 am UTC

poxic wrote:The main obstacle is WinXP which can't use more than 2 gigs of RAM.
The precise details are much disputed, but I'm pretty sure the number is actually around 3.

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Re: [Kinda solved?] This is silly now. WinXP "serious error"

Postby poxic » Tue Sep 11, 2012 4:12 am UTC

The limit apparently includes any kind of RAM, so 2 gigs of system RAM plus yer gig of video RAM will pretty much cover it. If the system actually can't address all three gigs, then the video memory takes priority over general system memory.

Or maybe the guy who's been building my box is drinking the industry Koolaid. That happens.
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Re: [Kinda solved?] This is silly now. WinXP "serious error"

Postby EvanED » Tue Sep 11, 2012 5:18 am UTC

If you can find a copy, you can try the 64-bit edition of XP. It works better than people say, at least in my experience, though finding drivers isn't necessarily a cakewalk.

Or a virtual machine/dosbox (to play your older games under Win7).


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