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Is My Memory Or Motherboard Bad?


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#1
superstar

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I have two 512mb pc133 sdram sticks in my computer (model info: http://www.canadacom...cid=RAM.346.407 )

I'm experiencing random freezes/reboots... But I don't know if my motherboard or ram is at fault. Or worse something else I don't know about. I've tested each ram stick on my motherboard one at a time in the first and second dimm slot. They both pass DocMemory, and Memtest86+. But this morning I tried BOTH sticks in my pc at the same time and the test shows some failures. I want to know what you guys think is wrong with my pc. I've literally spent months diagnosing this problem off and on. Mostly due to work and my long winter vacation. I'm pulling my hair out and feel as if no one can help. I've spent the last two days reading my motherboard manual and trying to configure my bios to optimal settings by googling each one (that actually took me a whole day).

I built this pc with all new parts and a few used parts:
(I know it's an old pc but it's all I could afford)

Asus Tuv4x Motherboard
Two Patriot 512mb pc133 sdram sticks
Deer 450watt generic psu
Thermaltake copper heatsink with fan
Tualatin pentium 3 1.4ghz CPU (model: sl5xl)
Maxtor IDE 20gb hard drive (test drive - lol)
80pin ribbon cable for hard drive
40pin ribbon cable for disc drives
Two LG super multi disc drives
Two case fans
Soundblaster pci audio card
USB 5 port pci card
Raid controller pci card
All in wonder x800xt video card
Nic Ethernet pci card



Thanks

Edited by superstar, 30 March 2010 - 06:31 PM.

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#2
Digerati

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Many sticks test fine individually, but don't play well together. If you got errors, your RAM is going. That assumes your PSU is cranking out stable voltages.
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#3
superstar

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Well than that's funny because they're both identical sticks of sdram and were purchased new at the very same retail store I posted the link to in my first post. Like I said they both test fine indvidually in slot 1 & 2, but not together. Please note that my motherboard has 4 dimm slots.

This psu is indeed old... I used to use it in another pc for a couple of years but never had any problems with it other than rare occassions where it'll hum loudly for a few minutes at boot. I think that's because of the fan... It's a generic psu though. But that NEVER caused problems in the former pc.

Edited by superstar, 30 March 2010 - 07:16 PM.

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#4
Digerati

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Are you overclocking? If you are, don't - at least until resolved.

I regularly check RAM with MemTest86+ and Windows Memory Diagnostic, and Windows 7 has a decent memory tester built in too. But no tester is perfect 100% of the time. If they report that RAM is bad, I generally trust the RAM is bad. But I have had memory modules (sticks) pass every test, work great alone, but still not work with other sticks.

Well than that's funny...

I know. Long ago and far away in my earlier radio maintenance days, we used to call stuff like that "FM" - not for frequency modulation or FM radio, but for a certain type of magic! :) That's what makes it frustrating - and not funny! I have also had RAM run fine in one machine, but not another. At any rate RAM problems suggests the sticks can not handle the voltages, or it could suggest problems with motherboard voltages, or again, the PSU. For me, I always start troubleshooting from the wall - Is it plugged in? Turned on? Are the supplied voltages good?

All electronic components (capacitors, resistors, ICs, transformers, diodes, etc.) age and get weaker over time. This is especially true for components in power supplies, because they get hot (see the last line in my sig). On top of that, it is most likely your new computer puts a greater demand on your PSU than the old computer did.

So before you start questioning your motherboard, you need to make sure you are feeding your motherboard good (clean, stable, and enough) power. Below is my canned text on testing PSUs, followed by my canned text on sizing and picking a new PSU.
***
To properly and conclusively test a power supply unit (PSU), it must be tested under various realistic "loads" then analyzed for excessive [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ripple_(electrical)""]ripple[/url] and other anomalies. This is done by a qualified technician using an oscilloscope or power analyzer - sophisticated (and expensive) electronic test equipment requiring special training to operate, and a basic knowledge of electronics theory to understand the results. Therefore, conclusively testing a power supply is done in properly equipped electronic repair facilities.

Fortunately, there are other options that are almost as good. I keep a FrozenCPU Ultimate PSU Tester in my tool bag when I am "in the field" and don't have a good spare power supply to swap in. While not a certain test, they are better than nothing. The advantage of this model is that it has an LCD readout of the voltage. With an actual voltage readout, you have a better chance of detecting a "failing" PSU, or one barely within specified ATX Form Factor Standard tolerances. Lesser models use LEDs to indicate the voltage is just within some "range". These are less informative, considerably cheaper, but still useful for detecting PSUs that have already "failed". Newegg has several testers to choose from. All these testers contain a "dummy load" to fool the PSU into thinking it is connected to a motherboard, and therefore allows the PSU to power on, if able, without being attached to a motherboard - great for testing fans, but again, it is not a true load or suitable for conclusive testing.

As mentioned, swapping in a known good supply is a tried and trued method of troubleshooting used for years, even by pros. Remove the "suspect" part and replace with a "known good" part and see if the problem goes away.

I do not recommend using a multimeter to test power supplies. To do it properly, that is, under a realistic load, the voltages on all the pins must be measured while the PSU is attached to the motherboard and the computer powered on. This requires poking (with some considerable force) two hard and sharp, highly conductive meter probes into the main power connector, deep in the heart of the computer. One tiny slip can destroy the motherboard, and everything plugged into it. It is not worth the risk considering most multimeters, like plug-in testers, do not measure, or reveal any unwanted and potentially disruptive AC components to the DC voltages.

Note the required voltage tolerance ranges:

Posted Image


And remember, anything that plugs into the wall can kill. Do not open the power supply's case unless you are a qualified electronics technician. There are NO user serviceable parts inside a power supply.

***

Use the eXtreme PSU Calculator Lite to determine your power supply unit (PSU) requirements. Plug in all the hardware you think you might have in 2 or 3 years (extra drives, bigger or 2nd video card, more RAM, etc.). Be sure to read and heed the notes at the bottom of the page. I recommend setting Capacitor Aging to 30%, and if you participate in distributive computing projects (e.g. BOINC or Folding@Home) or extreme 3D animated gaming, I recommend setting both TDP and system load to 100%. These steps ensure the supply has adequate head room for stress free (and perhaps quieter) operation, and future hardware demands. Research your video card and pay particular attention to the power supply requirements for your card listed on your video card maker's website. If not listed, check a comparable card (same graphics engine and RAM) from a different maker. The key specifications, in order of importance are:
  • Current (amperage or amps) on the +12V rail,
  • Efficiency,
  • Total wattage.
Then look for power supply brands listed under the "Good" column of PC Mechanic's PSU Reference List. Ensure the supplied amperage on the +12V rails of your chosen PSU meets the requirements of your video card. Don't try to save a few dollars by getting a cheap supply. And don't count on supplies that come included with a case. They are often underrated, budget or poor quality models "tossed in" to make the case sale. Digital electronics, including CPUs, RAM, and today's advanced graphics cards, need clean, stable power. A good, well chosen supply will provide years of service and upgrade wiggle room. I strongly recommend you pick a supply with an efficiency rating equal to, or greater than 80%. Look for the 80 Plus - EnergyStar Compliant label. And don't forget to budget for a good UPS with AVR (automatic voltage regulation), as surge and spike protectors are inadequate.
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#5
superstar

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I just removed the two 512mb pc133 sdram sticks, and replaced them with two spare sticks that were known to be working years ago. They are much smaller in size (one being 128mb, and the other being 64mb). But the funny thing is they both pass for hours in memtest86+ on the same mobo. I obviously won't be using these two sticks because they're too small and I'm just using them to test everything out.

But than what does that mean? How in the world could those two 512mb pc133 sdram sticks be bad when I purchased them new? They're Patriot brand and like I said pass tests fine when used individually on both dimm slots 1, and 2. This is odd... Do you have any suggestions? Oh and by the way thanks for the informative information on your previous post that was an extremely good read!
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#6
Digerati

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How in the world could those two 512mb pc133 sdram sticks be bad when I purchased them new?

If they did work fine at one time, and now don't, them they were damaged some how. This can happen by physical abuse, but I doubt you hit them with a hammer. Or electrical abuse caused by overclocking, an unstable PSU, adding or removing from the motherboard without first unplugging the power supply, or perhaps by ESD - a static discharge from your fingers.
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#7
superstar

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When I test both of the brand new 512MB Patriot PC133 SDRAM sticks together, the Memtest86+ tests fail. Failure times vary... Sometimes as soon as I run the test. Though at other times it shows failures after a few test passes. It's weird because I still test each module separately for a few hours, and the test always passes.


Some say they usually test ram sticks for a FULL 24hrs as any lesser period, however long, may overlook faults. I can't lie I tested one of the new sticks for about 8 hours, and the other new stick for maybe 2 hours or so. I'm enjoying my long weekend so I'll take that advice and run a 24 hour test. But I'm going to cheat since I don't want to wait 4 days to test both my two old, and two new ram problematic sticks. What I figure I'll do is test both of my two old ram sticks [which are known as working for years]. Since they didn't give me any errors in Memtest86+, even after an 8 hour run early this week. When on the other hand the two new sdram sticks are known to give errors. That way if I run the two old sticks for 24 hours without fails, I'll know they certainly don't have a problem, and one/or both of my new ones do. That should save me time... Sound like a good idea? If not let me know of a better method to test them all while saving time, and eliminating the possibility of a bad dimm slot on the motherboard as well.

Edited by superstar, 02 April 2010 - 02:01 PM.

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#8
Digerati

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Some say they usually test ram sticks for a FULL 24hrs

Well, my canned text on testing RAM says to let it run for several passes, or even overnight.

if I run the two old sticks for 24 hours without fails, I'll know they certainly don't have a problem, and one/or both of my new ones do. That should save me time... Sound like a good idea?

It sounds like a plan but these tests are not conclusive, unfortunately. You may still have no errors, but then not work well in Windows. If your sticks test fine individually, but don't run together (which happens) then my advice is to stay away from casinos - luck is not with you.
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#9
happyrock

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it appears you and Digerati covered all the bases but
what does your mobo manual say about compatible ram....what does the bios see the ram speed set at...
since they each pass the memory testing by themselves...try running the system with just 1 stick of 512 for a day or two and see if you have issues
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#10
superstar

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Well, my canned text on testing RAM says to let it run for several passes, or even overnight.


Right now I have the old "known to be working" pair of ram testing inside my machine until they reach 24 hours so I can see the results. I'll bet you anything they'll pass every repeated test with the Memtest86+ boot disc I'm using! I hope there's just a problem with the new pair of ram. I've already tested the pc with both pairs of new ram installed in the past, & they always failed testing together so I won't be trying that procedure again. It's obvious they just don't work with each other even though they're identical sticks of ram made by the same specifications/model/brand. But I never tested them individually for your recommended timing of 24 hours [since I'm impatient and only tried 2-4 hour testing]. So that leaves the possibility that one of the two are bad, or even both.

Conclusions:

- Testing with both new sticks result in repeated failures, so testing each individually for 24 hours should yield "true" results
- A possible motherboard/psu problem if the old "known to be working" pair doesn't pass 24 hour testing


Questions:
I'd like you to look at the picture of my motherboard below. As you can see it has 4 dimm slots.

1. How do you think I should go about testing the two new ram sticks individually? Which slots should they be in? [ie: First, second, third, or fourth slot]

2. Should I try an individual ram stick out on a different dimm slot, if it turns out that the same ram stick failed on a previous 24 hour dimm slot test? [eg: ruling out a bad dimm slot]

Posted Image

what does your mobo manual say about compatible ram


This is the exact ram I purchased:
[Click the link to read the specs in case I overlooked something that could be causing the issue]
http://www.canadacom...cid=RAM.346.407

Below are the two pages for ram compatibility/installation on my motherboard. I'll try to take screen shots of my bios "ram" section since I don't know to much about that.

Posted Image

Posted Image
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#11
superstar

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I know a lot about computers but still haven't studied up on northbridges, southbridges, and what they do. So I figured I'd just take a snap shot of my mobo's manual for you to confirm.

Posted Image



As you can see in the picture below the two old ram sticks passed a 24 hour test. With over 50 passes and no failures I'd have to say that the test had to have yielded "true" results. I guess we can rule out a bad dimm slot! Mind you the first ram stick was 128MB, and the second was 64MB. Really old stuff. LOL

Posted Image



Note that the pair of old ram sticks are single sided, and the new pair are double sided. I don't think it would play any role in my problem because my mobo manual states that I can use either or.

Very, very interesting theories. I have also toyed with the thought that adding a second stick may cause the errors, random crashes, and reboots due to my power supply trying to hard to pump enough juice. I put it off because I thought if that were true why would my pc work sometimes for an entire day, or two, and than bam have the problems all of a sudden? It would have to supply enough power for it to work right away no? That's just me being foolish though I don't know enough to play with these theories, let alone calculate if my psu isn't supplying enough juice when two ram modules are inserted. Though it is the only generic pretty much no name component in my pc. The only reason I really have this psu is for building or fixing computers for myself and friends. It's not meant to stay in my pc... I will be buying a 500Watt 80plus certified Antec Earthwatts psu for this pc if I know the computer works without a hitch. I'm not spending the money if I can't get this pc to work. Nevertheless here's a picture of my psu label.

Posted Image



The molex strand coming from the psu is connected to my hdd, which is also connected to my vga card, and front Thermaltake Thunderblade 120mm LED case fan. I heard from someone else that having these three components connected to each other is bad. That they should be on their own strands coming directly from the psu. I don't know if this could be causing any issues, and highly doubt it. But your guess is better than mine.

Here's the specs for my vga card in case you want to reference power usage:

http://ati.amd.com/p...00xt/specs.html

& also the specs for my front case fan:

http://www.canadacom...amp;cid=FAN.505

You pretty much know the juice an old ide hdd uses so I won't supply that info. The hdd inside the computer is also for test purposes. It's a 20 gigger... & will also be replaced with two Western Digital 500GB Caviar Blue Earth ide hard drives. Once again only "IF" I can get this pc working so I don't waste the money. The picture you saw of the insides of my pc is old. I didn't even have the front case fan installed back than. Here's what it looks like NOW.

Posted Image

By the way I am now testing just one 512mb module from the new pair of ram [which has been known to fail together]. It's inserted into dimm slot 1 as per your instructions. I will let you know how the test fairs after 24 hours! No more being impatient this time I'm letting it run for a full day not a few hours. After that I'll remove the current stick, and insert the other new stick by itself in dimm slot 1 for another 24 hour test. Thank you very much for your concern and constant help. Your making the world a better place in a small way.

I just wanted to add that the reason why I say your helping the world in a small way is because the computer your helping me get up and running is built off the back of used parts. People would ask why I'm toying around with old computers and parts like I am. My explanation is simple...

I like to recycle computers because of the old saying recycle, reduce, reuse. We take so much from this planet and give nothing back in return. Computers that are "FULLY WORKING" end up in land fills. What with a little bit of elbow grease they can be put to good use. Take for example the computer I'm currently using to write you. This is my main pc, my first build ever, fully working and all. It's got a similar processor I'm using in my second problem build your helping me with. It's a Pentium 3 tualatin processor, two 256MB sticks of ram, on a Vectra VL400 HP motherboard with other nice components. I got the computer for $20 flat when they were being tossed out of a companies building. That's all the money I had on me at the time. If I could have paid for more on the spot I would have. This is what I did to it:

BEFORE:

Posted Image

Posted Image

& this is the beast AFTER:

Posted Image

I did that build with pride, and the pc does everything I need it to do without a hitch. I don't notice any slow speeds at all. Video editing, web use, extracting, defrags, etc. Everything runs FINE! Now on the other hand the pc your helping me get up and running in this thread will be used by my sister who will need it to educate herself. I will also use it when I have delicate processes taking place on this pc. Such as disc burns, or hdd image backups. So yes thanks and I'm just letting you know because you never really know who your helping out there and what they're planing to do with the computers your give them answers to.

Edited by superstar, 03 April 2010 - 10:48 PM.

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#12
Digerati

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How do you think I should go about testing the two new ram sticks individually? Which slots should they be in? [ie: First, second, third, or fourth slot]

Follow the instructions in the motherboard manual for using one stick.

BTW - most RAM is guaranteed for life. You might send a note to the RAM maker and see what they say.
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#13
happyrock

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possible conflicts

your mobo video card slot supports AGP 4X and 2X...
your video card is 8X and requires a 8X slot with AGP 8X (0.8V) or 4X (1.5V) slot
according to the system requirements for the All-in-Wonder® X800 XT

The molex strand coming from the psu is connected to my hdd, which is also connected to my vga card, and front Thermaltake Thunderblade 120mm LED case fan. I heard from someone else that having these three components connected to each other is bad.

could be drawing to much power on that line...try a molex Y adapter and connect the hard drive and a optical drive together leaving the video card and the case fan on 1 line by themselves

Edited by happyrock, 04 April 2010 - 07:21 AM.

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#14
superstar

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possible conflicts

your mobo video card slot supports AGP 4X and 2X...
your video card is 8X and requires a 8X slot with AGP 8X (0.8V) or 4X (1.5V) slot
according to the system requirements for the All-in-Wonder® X800 XT


My motherboard has a 4x 1.5v agp slot as seen here:

http://www.pcpartsco.../asustuv4x.html

A friend told me to try and understand what the northbridge and southbridge do. Which is supposedly important in that sometimes freezes can be attributed to one of those areas. ie for ram freezes (northbridge), it could well be that the heat generated by the NB is too high and you get ram freezes. Usually, the importance of cooling the NB comes about from o/c, hence some users place large HSF on the NB. & to also look into the VIA 4-1 chipset drivers being used.

I can see the whole driver issue relating to system freezes for some users. But how could it relate to my issue when we're seeing ram errors in Memtest86+ where no OS is being used? I could be wrong if Memtest86+ loads a virtual chipset driver on the ram so it can run. I don't know enough about computers to know if it does, but I'm assuming that's a possibility since I see drivers load for other boot discs. I'm sorry but I won't be able to check my driver version since my hdd has been formatted with no OS on it. I would have to check that when I get a chance to install XP. By the way my pc random reboots/crashes/freezes had happened when I had Windows Pro, Home SP2, & even Home SP3 installed. As per cooling... I'm not overclocking so I wouldn't need to have any. & this is an old board so I can't see it getting hot enough to cause issues. Than again I'm not experienced enough to be 100% positive. But from what I've learned on this site they say old boards are normally cool.

Some say they would guess that the Via chipset requirements for my Intel board would be the same as their AMD boards [ie you need to download and install the Via 4-1 chipset driver]. Most say they use v4.42 (older equipment running XP). The newer versions will allow for the AGP Gart to be either Via or XP's if using SP2 or higher. Though no one seems to sure about the AGP requirements on the 4-1 if you have XP SP2 or higher.... The KT7A (Appollo Pro 133A chipset) that my friend built was giving him lots of problems (lock ups) and he eventually solved the prob by stumbling on the them Via Hardware forum (now know as Sudhian forums)

But doesn't XP install the right drivers automatically when you first install the OS off disc? :confused

Well I've finally reached the 24 hour mark with one of the new Patriot 512mb sdram modules. & the test shows that it's fine! I took the module out and installed the second new Patriot 512mb sdram module into dimm slot 1. I don't know why but I have a feeling it'll pass as well after 24 hours. If it does we'll really need to get our heads cracking. Here's a picture of the test results.

Posted Image

I don't know about you [correct me if I'm wrong], but if the second module passes a 24 hour test on it's own. I'd have to guess it would be an issue with the power supply not being able to provide enough power for the two new 512mb ram sticks. Which is kind of funny though because the two old sticks of ram I tested before passed perfectly in Memtest86+ without errors. Than again I don't know enough about computers to know if older sticks like the ones I used [128mb & 68mb] use less power than newer sticks with more mb.

:)

I took the liberty of uploading a video of my bios settings. I set my bios to default when I first built this pc, than tweaked each setting to my own liking after researching each BIOS option with google. I felt as if these were the optimal settings to choose. Mind you my weakest area of expertise is a computer BIOS but I still went ahead and tweaked it this way. Hence why I had to research each option! Feel free to take a look.

http://www.youtube.c.../UqcHPJPnSWI

& hey you were right about the way I connected a lot of hardware to one molex strand coming out of my power supply. I opened the case when I swapped the ram for the next test and took this pic.

Posted Image

I never knew it was bad to connect everything in this manner. I currently have the one molex strand coming from the psu connected to my 20gb hdd, vga, 120mm exhaust case fan, and 120mm intake case fan with red leds. I kind of hooked it all up this way since the generic psu only has two main molex strands. The other main strand is connected to my two optical drives only! This also makes me believe the whole ram error/pc crashing/reboots issue is caused by the psu.

What I thought I'd do is if the next Memtest86+ test passes on the second new 512mb module I'll unplug the exhaust case fan, and intake case fan. Than try to test both new 512mb sdram modules installed at the same time [on dimm slots 1 and 2]. I mean we know they always fail with errors together but how about testing with less hardware drawing power from the psu? What do you think? This sounds like a good idea to me...

I've also thought of running the pc with the wiring left as is and just a single stick of the new 512mb ram installed. That way I can install xp, check the via 4-1 driver version you asked for, and than also see if the computer ever reboots with just one stick installed. I gather it wouldn't since if the stick passed a 24 hour Memtest86+ test. I've never tried running the pc with just one of the new sticks installed to see if I ever got any crashing/reboot issues with my XP OS.

What do you think mate? :)

Edited by superstar, 04 April 2010 - 03:28 PM.

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#15
happyrock

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I've never tried running the pc with just one of the new sticks installed to see if I ever got any crashing/reboot issues with my XP OS.

I asked you to try that a few days back

But how could it relate to my issue when we're seeing ram errors in Memtest86+ where no OS is being used?

Memtest only tests RAM...nothing else

I set my bios to default when I first built this pc, than tweaked each setting to my own liking after researching each BIOS option with google. I felt as if these were the optimal settings to choose. Mind you my weakest area of expertise is a computer BIOS but I still went ahead and tweaked it this way.

my money is on this is the source of your problems...your tweaking...
your movie sucked by the way...dawdled on unimportant things and shot by the critical things ...
go back into the bios and set it to safe settings or default...set the ram speed to auto...
its F5 and then F10 to save your settings...
also take a pic of the video card section in the bios...all the settings and post them

Edited by happyrock, 04 April 2010 - 04:36 PM.

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