Troubleshooting random system crashes

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Troubleshooting random system crashes

Postby Frh » Thu Jul 09, 2009 7:25 am UTC

Hey everyone!

I built a Pc less than a year ago, and up until a month ago it was working brilliantly. However, I began getting random system hangs - these occured in two ways: firstly, the screen would go "blocky", and any sound in the back ground would repeat on a half second loop. This exclusivley happened while in a game. The second way this could occur is that the entire screen would just freeze - no evidence of a crash other than the fact the mouse was unmovable, no keys did anything and the capslock key light would not turn off or on.


1 x Sony DRU-190S 20X DVD±RW DL & DVD-RAM Serial ATA - Retail Multi Bezel & Nero
1 x Corsair 650W TX Series PSU - 120mm Fan, 80+% Efficiency, Single +12V Rail
1 x Samsung SpinPoint F1 HD103UJ 1TB Hard Drive SATAII *32MB Cache* - OEM
1 x NZXT Tempest Steel Mid Tower Case - No PSU
1 x Sapphire HD 4870 512MB GDDR5 Dual DVI HDTV Out PCI-E Graphics Card
1 x Corsair 4GB Kit (2x2GB) DDR2 800MHz/PC2-6400 XMS2 Memory Non-ECC Unbuffered CL5(5-5-5-18) DHX Technology Heat Sink Lifetime Warranty
1 x Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700 2.66GHz Socket 775 1066MHz 8MB (2x4MB(4MB per core pair)) L2 Cache OEM Processor
1 x Black Multimedia Keyboard - USB/PS2 Connection - UK Layout
1 x OCZ Vanquisher CPU Cooler For Sockets AMD 754/939/AM2, Intel LGA775
1 x Samsung Aqua SM2253LW 22" TFT Monitor 1680x1050 1000:1 300CD/M2 5ms DVI widescreen Gloss Black 3 Years Onsite Warranty
1 x ASUS P5KC AiLifestyle Series iP35 Socket 775 8 channel audio ATX Motherboard

Now, I think this is not a software problem because it occurs within both vista and windows 7 (both 64 bit). It has not occured under Ubuntu, but that might just be chance. I don't think it is anything to do with overheating - for one there is the automatic shut down which does not occur, but also I have checked temperatures, and it can occur when the graphics card is at around 67 degrees (the default idle temp of the HD4870 in my system). The CPU temperature is sub 50 degrees when these occur. I have also run memtest, which came up with no RAM errors.

I had a thought that it might be due to the graphics card - and different levels of strain causing it to crash, which would explain why Ubuntu with it's light graphics did not crash, whereas the more intensive windows did. This does not make overly much sense though, as it has been possible to play games for several hours before a crash, whereas sometimes windows will crash in minutes.

I also tried changing graphics drivers, which appeared to make a difference (the crashes became less frequent) however they did still occur and it may have simply been due to the random nature of when they occur!

Any help would be much appreciated! If it is a hardware problem, I would love to solve it before warrenty runs out!

Many thanks,


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Re: Troubleshooting random system crashes

Postby Patrice » Sun Jul 12, 2009 10:16 pm UTC

For how long have you run memtest? Does your motherboard has a build in graphic card? If yes - try to use it and see if it crashes?

What is your PSU, does it have enough power?

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Re: Troubleshooting random system crashes

Postby TheGrimReaper » Sun Jul 12, 2009 10:41 pm UTC

Ooo! I actually had a very similar problem once! It ended up being my sound card. Try disabling all of your sound-related drivers and see if that fixes it, if so, you know where the problem is.

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Re: Troubleshooting random system crashes

Postby BumpInTheNight » Tue Jul 14, 2009 1:24 am UTC

Graphics card hands down, what you're describing are classic symptoms of when the card and the driver stop talking due to one or the other no longer working, especially that bit about the rapid repeating sound while the screen locks in a strange way. It could still be the driver though, chances are you're using the same driver revision on both OSes and the core of them are the same and the issue resides within that core that's independent of the OS. Since as you say the heat doesn't seem to be that bad try a different revision of the driver (uninstall current and go grab a different one, not necessarily a more recent one, just a different one). If this happens consistently enough though I'd just first try the ol experiment of taking the side panel off the computer and seeing if the extra air intake availability is enough to make a difference, while the temp monitor is measuring parts x & y of the card, part z may be the one getting too cooked for its liking.

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Re: Troubleshooting random system crashes

Postby Atmosck » Tue Jul 14, 2009 3:55 am UTC

It's probably the graphics card. Make sure your drivers and DirectX are up-to-date. This sounds like what happened to my graphics card after my cpu waterblock leaked coolant all over the back of mine. RMA the graphics card.

What game is it happening in? When i had the spill it was happening all the time, and gradually got worse (i think the residue from the coolant caused some problematic insulation on the back of the pcb). After i replaced the graphics card everything was dandy, but i still got it in Left 4 Dead, but with a blue screen i could only sometimes see behind artifacts with the old graphics card. As with TheGrimReaper, it turned out to be my sound card not agreeing with DX10 and the game. It's not malfunctioning (well, it is), but it's not broken or anything. SB X-Fi cards apparently do that during Left 4 Dead alot and it hasn't been resolved in any driver/game updates. The sound card was damn expensive, so i'm keeping it in since every other game runs fine, and i just cross my fingers while i play left 4 dead (it usually takes an hour or two before it happens, so i can sometimes get through a decent session without the crash).

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Re: Troubleshooting random system crashes

Postby Frh » Wed Aug 26, 2009 9:39 am UTC

Ok, so an update.

It is not the graphics card - I replaced it with an older one, and the same thing happens. Crashes appear to occur when: playing EVE, Sins of a Solar Empire, running Deluge (torrent client), or randomly. They DO NOT occur when playing Team Fortress 2, Day of Defeat: Source, Counter Strike: Source, Warcraft III, Empire Total War. I have run Memtest86+ again, for 8 hours and there are no problems there.

So, to summarise: it seems to me that it can't be the graphics card or the memory. Presumably it can't be the CPU because it would be failing all the time? I have run programs and checked the usage of all four cores, they can get up to 100% ish with no crash. It doesn't occur in Ubuntu still - but now that I think about it, it may have started happening after I partitioned my new hard drive. Can't be sure about this though. Basically I'm stuck! Any help is much appreciated.


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Re: Troubleshooting random system crashes

Postby Zamfir » Wed Aug 26, 2009 11:22 am UTC

Sound card is still a possibility. Presumably that is onboard? switching drivers might work, but if that doesn't work it could still be the sound card anyway.

If you can't find anything: what would a new motherboard for your setup cost you? If it's not too much money, and you really can't fix it otherwise, a new and different motherboard probably gives you most chances of solving the problem.

EDIT: I'm not sure what happens to your onboard sound card if you plug in a discrete card. If it gets circumvented entirely, that might give you an option to test whether the sound card is to blame.

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Re: Troubleshooting random system crashes

Postby Frh » Wed Aug 26, 2009 3:25 pm UTC

Updated the drivers for the sound card - no luck. Disabled the sound card, still no luck.

I was thinking the motherboard as well - problem is it costs about £80 to replace, and would be a bit annoying if it turned out to not be the problem. Although, I still don't see why it would fail in Windows 7/Vista and not Ubuntu.


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