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Can't restore WinXP after failed mem upgrade


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#1
BrooklineTom

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I attempted a memory upgrade with x4 instead of x8 sticks. When I powered up the sys, it complained with lots of short beeps. I uninstalled the new sticks, replaced them with the old ones, and restarted.

All looked fine until ... the BIOS could not boot from the hard drive. The BIOS runs fine, all the options look fine. The disk is recognized, the (original) memory is recognized, I see no indications of problems. I ran the WD "Data Lifeguard" utilities from CD and looked around. The partitions seem fine, no apparent problems. I attempted to update the MBR from the WD CD (the HD is made by WD) it completed with no problem. I restarted and -- no joy.

I then attempted a full destructive restore from the original restore CD set. The restore loads and operates just fine. It seems to have no problem reading and writing the disk. At the conclusion of the restore, when I attempt to reboot from the disk -- no joy.

Instead booting to WinXP, it complains "Error loading OS".

Did the incompatible memory fry something? If so, why would everything except booting work so well? Is this a software/OS problem? Along the way, I tried swapping in a different HD and running the restore to it, with exactly the same behavior.

I hope somebody here has some ideas.

The computer is an old (2001) PowerSpec 8420 running WinXP/Home. 32-bit Pentium, 1+G CPU. EIDE parallel ATA drives. Hard drive is 60G ATA, 512MB memory. EVERYTHING in this box is vanilla (even though old). The system has been reliable. The video card failed and I had to replace it years ago, is that the problem?

I do have a compatible memory upgrade (to 2G) coming, and I do have a much larger (500G) HD that I'd like to install. I don't mind replacing the MB if that's the problem -- I just want to have some confidence about what the problem is before I start "fixing" it.
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#2
Digerati

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The video card failed and I had to replace it years ago, is that the problem?

Did these boot problems start years ago too?

I would return the original RAM and boot directly into the BIOS setup menu. Ensure all RAM and drives are properly recognized, then Save and Exit to lock in those settings, and then boot normally and see what happens.
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#3
BrooklineTom

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No, no boot problems until yesterday. I've already replaced the original RAM, booted into the BIOS, and walked through all its screens. Everything looks fine.

The video card simply died, like they so often do. I pulled the old one, installed a new one, and all has been fine since. The system has been *very* reliable (it's been exercised by my three teenagers for years).
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#4
Digerati

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booted into the BIOS, and walked through all its screens.

Note I said above, "...then Save and Exit to lock in those settings". Changing RAM changes the checksum values the system expects to find when booting. So when making hardware changes, boot into the BIOS, then Save and Exit, so the next boot sees the correct values.

Did you unplug the computer from the wall before changing out RAM? Did you take care to ensure no static from your fingers did not destroy any ESD sensitive devices?
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#5
BrooklineTom

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Yes, to all of the above. I'm professional sw developer with a BSEE. I don't mean to sound defensive, it's just that that stuff is second nature to me. The memory incompatibility happened because the website of the memory supplier didn't state the memory organization, and the material it did state was enough to persuade the tech guys at MicroCenter (PowerSpec is a MicroCenter house-brand) and me that it was compatible. Sadly, it wasn't.

If there is a hw problem, I suspect it's *far* more likely to result from the incompatible memory than from ESD. It might make sense to swap the slots of the current (old) RAM sticks, and I suppose it might be worth trying things with just one stick -- although I don't have a jumper stick for the extra mem slot, and that sometimes causes its own problems.

The point though, is that the BIOS correctly reports the memory size.

If it was a hw problem (such as components fried from ESD), isn't it unlikely that everything *except* the boot would work? The disks read and write, the BIOS contains all the right information, the fan speeds and temps are all correctly reported, the disk activity light flashes as expected -- I see absolutely no indication of hw issues, other than the complaint when trying to load the OS. All those diagnostic tools require the system to be healthy enough to read and write from CD, open and shut the CD drawers, turn the video on and off, recognize and handle the USB ports for the mouse, handle keyboard input, read, write, and seek the HD -- the whole shebang.
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#6
Digerati

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I don't mean to sound defensive, it's just that that stuff is second nature to me.

Bad habits become second nature too, and don't really mean anything - and definitely cannot be assumed, regardless your credentials. I have a whole alphabet behind my name too - yours only says you know how to code, and understand Ohm's Law. A EE does not mean you know how to troubleshoot a PC, or even how to find a left handed screwdriver. For example, your question wondering if a graphics cards replaced "years ago" caused yesterday's problem is not something I would expect a EE with computer experience to ask. So I have to ask - with no offense meant - questions that may seem obvious. I guess I could start with, "is it plugged in?" At least most people make sure of that. But sadly, many forget to unplug - a bad thing.

BTW, did you know the pattern of the beeps is a code? How many beeps? 2 longs and a short? 4 shorts? Constant longs?

although I don't have a jumper stick for the extra mem slot

Huh? Jumper stick? You don't use jumper sticks with RAM. Are you thinking of old RDRAM motherboards where Continuity Rambus In line Memory Modules (CRIMM) - aka dummy modules - were needed for empty slots? Not needed with standard memory. How much RAM are trying to install? The only information I can find on the PowerSpec 8420 says it only supports 2 memory slots.

The point though, is that the BIOS correctly reports the memory size.

And my point, as mentioned twice now, is that unless you tell the BIOS to Save and Exit, upon the next boot, if the new memory when found again (even if correctly identified) does not match the last Saved value - the checksums will not match.

If it was a hw problem (such as components fried from ESD), isn't it unlikely that everything *except* the boot would work?

There's no way to know that unless you knew which device was destroyed. And since most ESD damage occurs without the user even being aware there was a discharge, without a fully equipped test bench, mockups, and schematics, there is no way of figuring it out either - unless it was a RAM module or the CPU that was destroyed, then you can swap them out.

If there is a hw problem, I suspect it's *far* more likely to result from the incompatible memory than from ESD.

That would not explain why you still have problems after putting the old RAM back in - unless that RAM was the wrong type, and not just incompatible.
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#7
BrooklineTom

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Which part of

Yes, to all of the above.


do you not understand?

Yes, I put the old RAM back in. Yes, I unplugged the machine before touching anything. Yes, I held onto a grounded radiator before touching anything. Yes, I booted into the BIOS and performed a "Save and exit".

For example, your question wondering if a graphics cards replaced "years ago" caused yesterday's problem is not something I would expect a EE with computer experience to ask.


It doesn't sound as though *you* have much experience with manufacturer-supplied software utilities that expect the hardware to be *exactly* the same as shipped -- including *exactly the same* video card.

Are you thinking of old RDRAM motherboards where Continuity Rambus In line Memory Modules (CRIMM) - aka dummy modules - were needed for empty slots?


I am thinking of motherboards like this, which require a "RIMM Continuity Module (C-RIMM) [Part #5000376] " to fill a missing slot. The system we're discussing here is two years older then this Gateway machine that *does* require a "continuity module" (AKA "jumper stick").

How much RAM are trying to install? The only information I can find on the PowerSpec 8420 says it only supports 2 memory slots.


I am trying to install 2 1-G sticks, 1 in each slot, for a total of 2G -- as I've already said. Since you have the motherboard spec, with exactly as much technical information about the memory slots as me, what do YOU say about the compatibility of this "1 GB PC133 SDRAM ECC REGISTERED *100% ORIGINAL FACTORY SPEC *" component?

1. Will it work with this Powerspec 8420 motherboard or not, and,
2. If it doesn't work, will it do any *hardware damage* to any system components while failing?

You have the same information as me, you clearly know a lot more about this than me, what's your answer to my last two questions?
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#8
Digerati

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First you say,

I attempted a memory upgrade with x4 instead of x8 sticks.

Now you say,

I am trying to install 2 1-G sticks,


It doesn't sound as though *you* have much experience with manufacturer-supplied software utilities that expect the hardware to be *exactly* the same as shipped -- including *exactly the same* video card.

No, none, not at all. Because there is NO SUCH SOFTWARE. If you are going to say there is, provide a link. The ONLY exception to that I MIGHT accept is for notebook computers simply because they are so proprietary - PCs are not, if they conform to ATX standards, which virtually all Windows computers do and have done for nearly 14 years!!!

I also know every computer becomes unique the first time it powers up and the user starts to customize it. Computer makers know that too - so it does NOT expect it to be the same 1 year later. That would be absurd. People update computers. Makers know that after a year, it is quite possible drives, RAM, BIOS, and all kinds of software, drivers, and OS changes and updates have occurred. You boasted about your credentials, not me. The only thing we can go on is what you tell us - and so far you misused terminology and expect others to follow and copped an attitude with volunteers just trying to help you! You cite a reference to a Gateway computer that CLEARLY states it supports MEMRIMM 512MB PC1066 modules. Why? The PowerSpec 8420, as your link CLEARLY shows, supports PC-133 SDRAM. Therefore, not only would it never need CRIMMs, they would most likely damage the board as you used a hammer jamming the 184pin modules in the 168pin SDRAM slots!

According to your motherboard link, it supports two slots. You said you plan on installing 2 X 1Gb - so where were you planning on sticking the CRIMMS? Slots 3 and 4?

1 GB PC133 SDRAM ECC REGISTERED *100% ORIGINAL FACTORY SPEC

1. Will it work with this Powerspec 8420 motherboard or not, and,
2. If it doesn't work, will it do any *hardware damage* to any system components while failing?

You have the same information as me, you clearly know a lot more about this than me, what's your answer to my last two questions?

According to your motherboard link that is the right stuff. Will it do damage? In theory, and if the memory modules are not physically damaged, no. It would just not work, or would keep crashing the system (which could result in a corrupt hard drive, and lost data, however).

You ask what part of the above I don't understand? It's you. We are just volunteers donating our spare time helping others. We are not mind readers. We don't know your skill sets or experience. These are also not private conversations - so we write so all reading, now and in the future, can follow. Please keep that in mind next time you seek out free help.
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#9
BrooklineTom

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Bill, let's try and reboot our conversation. I'm not trying to be offensive to you, and I appreciate that you (and everyone else here) volunteer whatever help you offer. Let's try and stay specific, and let's try to avoid antagonizing each other.

In my original thread-starter, I wrote:

I attempted a memory upgrade with x4 instead of x8 sticks. When I powered up the sys, it complained with lots of short beeps. I uninstalled the new sticks, replaced them with the old ones, and restarted.


Let me be more specific. I took out the two 256M factory-original sticks, and replaced them with the 2 1-G sticks I linked to below. The attempted upgrade didn't work, and so I removed the two 1G sticks and reinstalled the originals. I'll say more about this in a moment.

What I meant, in asking about whether a "Continuity Module" (which I called a "jumper stick", apparently incorrectly) is needed, is that I contemplated attempting a boot with just one original 256M stick installed (in hopes of ruling out a potentially damaged stick or socket), leaving one DIMM slot open. I did a similar memory upgrade on a (newer) Gateway a few months ago, and I remembered needed a continuity module for that machine. I don't know very much about the various memory configurations (that's why I'm here!), and so I didn't know whether or not I would damage the system by running with an open slot. I apologize if my terminology or tone offended you, I meant no offense. It seems clear enough that the Powerspec is fine with open slots.

Therefore, not only would it never need CRIMMs, they would most likely damage the board as you used a hammer jamming the 184pin modules in the 168pin SDRAM slots!


I contemplated running with 1 256M original stick, and wondered if I needed something to fill the empty slot. No hammers. Even I would not attempt to force a 184pin module into a 168 pin slot.

According to your motherboard link, it supports two slots. You said you plan on installing 2 X 1Gb - so where were you planning on sticking the CRIMMS? Slots 3 and 4?


I not only planned, I did remove the two original sticks, and replaced them with the 2 1-G sticks I linked to. So the specific answer to your question is that I inserted the 1-G sticks into slots 1 and 2 of the motherboard.

Earlier, you asked:

BTW, did you know the pattern of the beeps is a code? How many beeps? 2 longs and a short? 4 shorts? Constant longs?


Yes, I do know this. When I powered the system up with the upgrade installed, the system emitted a constant stream of rapidly repeating short beeps -- "dit dit dit dit dit ..." until powered down (which I did as quickly as possible).

You wrote:

According to your motherboard link that is the right stuff. Will it do damage? In theory, and if the memory modules are not physically damaged, no. It would just not work, or would keep crashing the system (which could result in a corrupt hard drive, and lost data, however).


Fortunately, you seem to have made the same mistake I made, and come to the same conclusion (corrupted hard drive and lost data).

As it turns out, the memory on these particular 1-G sticks is organized as 64M x 4 (after the failure, I called the supplier, their tech support agent looked at the motherboard spec, and explained the problem. They're shipping compatible sticks next week). The motherboard requires memory organized as 64M x 8. That's why it didn't work. Sadly, the memory organization is not specified in the upgrade memory spec sheet that we both looked at; I guessed (as did you, apparently) and guessed wrong. Oh well.

I also share your opinion that it probably did not do any hardware damage (thankfully). The physical modules were not damaged. It appears that they corrupted the hard drive.

I hope we're still on the same page with all this. While we've been corresponding, I booted and ran a memory diagnostic with both of the original sticks installed, for a total of 512MB of RAM. All seems well, which is a good sign.

So I think we've eliminated hw issues as a source of the problem that remains.

I've run the restore CDs multiple times, in both "destructive" and "non-destructive" modes, and the system won't boot from the hard drive. As I wrote below, I've tried loading the MBR from the WD Data Lifeguard utility, both before and after running the restore, and the system still won't boot. I've also tried swapping out the factory-original 60MB WD hard drive with a new 500MB WD hard drive, and attempting the restore to it. The behavior is the same. This leads me to wonder about state information kept somewhere other than on the HD. I haven't been able to find any helpful information in the BIOS. Does the system keep state information somewhere else?

As nearly as I can tell, when the 60MB drive is installed the system has the same hardware configuration as when it was shipped (with the exception of the video card that we've already discussed), and yet restoring from the manufacturer's restore CD's doesn't work.

I'm therefore wondering what my next step towards fixing this apparent hard disk corruption issue should be.

I really do appreciate the time you've invested in this thread. I understand that you're a volunteer, and at no time did I mean to insult, attack, or denigrate you. I apologize for giving you the wrong impression about my attitude.
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#10
rshaffer61

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Just a FYI if you go Here and run the online scanner, then crucial can tell you exactly what memory is compatible with your system. All though this is late I hope it will help in the future before attempting any upgrade with memory. As long as the system you intend to upgrade is able to get in the internet then this will save time and aggravation later.
You have the older type sdram which must be run in pairs to work correctly. Here you can find everything about the system in one place and it is easier to understand then the users manual. By clicking on the blue link to the left of any item it will give you a more detailed spec sheet of that item. Let me know if there is anything I can assist you with or answer any questions if I can
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#11
Digerati

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This leads me to wonder about state information kept somewhere other than on the HD. I haven't been able to find any helpful information in the BIOS. Does the system keep state information somewhere else?

Not sure what you mean by state. If you mean the condition of the drive, then no. The only thing is basic information about the drive so the BIOS knows where to go look for the boot sector.

You say it will not boot, what happens? The beeps each time? See BIOS Central Post/Beep Codes.

It is too bad the documentation for that motherboard did not specify high density RAM - that would have saved a bunch of trouble.
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#12
BrooklineTom

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You say it will not boot, what happens? The beeps each time? See BIOS Central Post/Beep Codes.


Now, with the original memory sticks reinstalled, no beeps, the initial screens of the startup sequence are normal.

When the system would normally boot from the HD (after trying the CDs), it displays (still in console mode, white chars on a dark background):
"Error loading OS"

The system hangs at that point.

It is too bad the documentation for that motherboard did not specify high density RAM - that would have saved a bunch of trouble.


Oh yes indeed, how true. How true indeed.

Alas, I have no choice but to play the hand I've been dealt.

My next step will most likely be to install an Ubuntu desktop Linux system on the HD, just to persuade myself that the system will boot once the HD contains a proper OS. If that works, then I'll try and work out how to get WinXp back on the OS.

I really wish I understood why the restore CDs don't work.
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#13
wannabe1

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Hi Guys....mind if I but in?

It may be that the MBR was corrupted when the incorrect RAM was installed. Do you have an XP installation cd that we can use to access Recovery Console? It would be nice to get a better look at the drive before you do anything too drastic.

wannabe1
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#14
BrooklineTom

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For rshaffer61 -- thanks for your comments. Bill and I had already looked at the link you posted for the motherboard, and it does specify that the motherboard expects x8 organization.

Sadly, the only description of the memory chip I found did not specify whether the chip was x4 or x8. That was the link I posted for Bill earlier today. It wasn't until I purchased, received, and installed the memory that I realized it was incompatible. I think this was simply a screwup on the website of the memory vendor, who fail to include the memory organization in the specs they publish on the page describing the part. Their tech support knew, right away, what the problem was when I called. They're being very cooperative in replacing the sticks with compatible x8 parts.

As Bill said, if the information about the memory organization of the new sticks had been available from the vendor's website before I did the upgrade, it would have saved all of us a lot of grief.

In any case, what's done is done. The problem now is how to get a working version of WinXP reinstalled on the HD.
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#15
Digerati

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Hi Guys....mind if I but in?

All ideas welcomed.
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