I've had my rig running at its current condition for well over three years with the exact same hardware, no real issues. I decided I wanted to give linux a try and gave gentoo a whirl. For the most part I had success except for some really bizzare and intermittent errors that seemed beyond my nix savy. I chocked this up to being a linux noob, and eventual my frustrations compounded and I gave up to go back to windows. Windows xp pro seemed to work relatively well for a period of time, until I noticed it would occasionally crash and flash me a blue error screen long enough for me to see an error code but not long enough to copy it. I've had ram die on some previous rigs, and suspected this was the case as it appeared to be similar symptoms. So I ran my rig through memtest86, and it threw about a billion errors up by the 5th test. So I then tested each stick of ram separately, and surprisingly each individual stick passed all the tests not just once, but 9 times (thorough to say the least) with no errors. So I popped all three sticks back in, ran memtest86 again, and it passed all the tests once before I stopped the test. I booted up as per normal, thinking this was rather bizarre, and unsurprisingly windows crashed flashing me the blue error screen within two hours. I rebooted the machine and noticed that windows crashed almost immediately after logging on. I found that the computer would do this several times in a row, but if I let it be for maybe two or three hours, then I would be able to work in windows for a couple of hours before it crashed. I thought this might be a heating issue so I tore the side off my case to get a bit better airflow, and dusted the insides out, but with no real results. Windows would work for about two hours, crash, then continously crash unless I let it be. Just to verify that it wasn't a heating issue I loaded up aida32, watched my cpu and chipset temps while putting my computer under an extreme load. my cpu hit about 53c and chipset about 39c at full load before it crashed. I ruled out temp, as those aren't unreasonable temps. I did this a few more times and noticed that my system seemed to be crashing regularily when the ram reached about 20% free, which is cool because now I can consistently create conditions to make my system crash. Before it just appeared intermittent. I gave memtest86 another try with all sticks of ram in and it past the first set of tests, but started throwing out errors near test 6 in the second set. To be ultra safe I ran all my spyware and antivirus programs, all coming up clean as one would expect.
That gets us up to date with my troubleshooting so far. I have a few theories. I'm guessing it is a mobo issue, specifically one of the slots for ram. I tested each individual stick of ram in the same slot, the middle one. Since each stick passed 9 sets of tests in the center slot, I don't think it is the ram, I don't think it is the cpu as the cache is tested too. It will take a while to test each individual slot as I want to be relatively thorough with each slot, but was looking for any advice or any free diagnostic tools and programs you'd recommend to help me trouble shoot this issue. If you think I'm heading in the wrong direction let me know, so I can get this system stable again and try linux again as I suspect my linux issues may actually have been hardware issues coinciding with my os change.
here are the important and relevant system specs:
AMD athalon 1.1ghz t-bird core
Asus a7v motherboard
Running XP Pro, updated as of last tuesday
Thanks in advance for any suggestions or diagonstic tools you can offer.