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Bad video card, or bad motherboard? Need help diagnosing


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#1
bl4derunr

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Hi there --

In the past few weeks, I've seen rapidly degrading performance on my machine, where actions such as opening up a browser/program, selecting menu options, or other basic operations will freeze the machine.

I started off in the Malware forum, where SpySentinel was very helpful -- he found some malware present and removed it. However, the freezing and graphic glitches got worse and worse, and it became apparent that I was dealing primarily with a hardware problem instead.

I ran MemTest86+ on my system and it didn't find anything.

I downloaded CPU Stability Test 6.0 and ran a standard test that lasted 5 hours and 10 minutes, with 10 threads:

QuickSort: 2495.11
Whetstone: 442.48
Fibonacci: 1358.49
Prime Test: 3957.43
Cache Test: 667.18
Peripheral Test: 418.30

One data point: the system will work in safe mode, with occasional slight flickering. With all drivers on, however, it's only a matter of time, sometimes even seconds, before the system will either freeze or the graphic performance on the monitor will finally crash the system.

Another data point: reseating the video card made the problem a lot worse.

Primarily, I want to know if the system can be saved with a new video card (I think a fried video card is the most likely thing that's happened) or whether the system is truly screwed because the motherboard is fried. (Or who knows -- whether it's something else entirely. Bad/corrupted driver?)

My system specs:
Vista SP 2
Dell Dimension DIMC521
AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 5000+ 2.6 GHz
4.00 GB RAM
Video: Radeon X1300/X1550 Series

Thanks very much for all your help so far...

Edited by bl4derunr, 11 June 2011 - 06:36 AM.

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#2
phillpower2

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Hi bl4derunr & thank you to SpySentinel for both assisting and then pointing you towards the Hardware forum.
Common causes of this issue (other than malware) include Ram, Power and heat problems.
You have said;

I ran MemTest86+ on my system and it didn't find anything.

How many passes of memtest did you allow to complete? 5-6 passes are required to be considered anywhere near acceptable.
For checking both heat or power causes please download and run Speedfan from http://www.almico.com/sfdownload.php post a screenshot of the results so that your temps and voltages can be checked, and finally can I ask when was the last time that your computer was cleaned out of heat trapping dust bunnies?
Heat is the bane of not only computers but all things electrical :)
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#3
bl4derunr

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I'll download Speedfan first and post the results soon.
If I remember correctly, I'd run 3 passes of MemTest. After posting the Speedfan results, I'll run 6 passes.
And -- shamefully -- I can remember using compressed air in the case about twice in the 4 years I've had the machine. Serves me right, I guess -- so no, I can't remember the last time. How often should the case be aired out?
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#4
phillpower2

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How often should the case be aired out?

It is dependent on the enviroment and the frequency of use the PC has, dusty, smokey and pet inhabited areas will also require cleaning more often than say a clean office, 1-2 months would be good for at least checking if it needs cleaning.
We will look out for your Speedfan and then memtest results.
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#5
bl4derunr

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For Speedfan, would you like the simple results from the Readings tab, or do you want the Charts tab? If so, how long do you want the graph to run? I'm also assuming that I can't run Speedfan while in safe mode.

Edited by bl4derunr, 11 June 2011 - 12:36 PM.

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#6
phillpower2

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See the attached .jpeg for the type of required screenshot.
For more realistic readings Speedfan is best run both in normal use and after running anything that is demanding on system resources, gaming or 3D intense graphics for example.

Edited by phillpower2, 11 June 2011 - 12:59 PM.

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#7
bl4derunr

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The machine, unfortunately, crashes pretty regularly if I try to run Speedfan with everything loaded. However, I did grab a screenshot (attached), but I'm not sure it will supply the information you need. I also scrolled up a bit in the result text and saved it to a text file before the inevitable crashing:

Win9x:NO 64Bit:NO GiveIO:YES SpeedFan:YES
I/O properly initialized
Linked ISA BUS at $0290
Linked nVidia MCP51 SMBUS at $1C00
Linked nVidia MCP51 SMBUS at $1C40
No active display found!
Scanning ISA BUS at $0290...
SuperIO Chip=SCH5514
Scanning nForce2 SMBus at $1C00...
Scanning nForce2 SMBus at $1C40...
Found ST3500630AS on AdvSMART
End of detection
Loaded 0 events

I also managed to hastily transcribe one of the BSODs:

atikmdag.sys - address 8F0168FE base at 8e006000, datestamp 4b7899a0

On to MemTest86+...

Attached Thumbnails

  • screenshot1.jpg

Edited by bl4derunr, 11 June 2011 - 07:07 PM.

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#8
bl4derunr

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Wow, this is now very depressing. Although I was able to run about 3 passes of MemTest before, now I can't run any -- it won't recognize the thumb drive I saved MemTest to as a bootable disk, even when I set all the USB ports on the machine as the only bootable drives in the BIOS. I'll try again in the morning.
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#9
phillpower2

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Ok then, time to remove the Ram and test each stick individually in slot 1 first, this is time consuming I know but it may be the only way we can resolve the issue, below is my canned text on safely cleaning out the inside of your PC case which it makes sense to do whilst testing the Ram;

If the computer needs cleaning out, first remove the power cord from the wall and open up the case, take anti static precautions before touching anything inside, you can do this by touching a bare metal part of the case, remove the video card, blow out the slot and re-seat the card securely, do the same with the memory sticks, clean all internal fans, if you use canned compressed air do not let any fan spin freely this can damage them, use something like a clean lollipop stick to hold the fan.
Make sure all internal connections are secure and that there are no loose components, write down the psu details (make and model) re-assemble the computer, boot up and see how it goes.
Memtest guide (if needed) provided by member rev_olie available @ http://www.geekstogo...sing-memtest86/
I also noted when looking at the Dell Dimension DIMC521 spec sheet that it in addition to your Radeon card there is also an onboard video chip, see below;
Video
Type
nVidia integrated video (DirectX 9.0c Shader Model 3.0 Graphics Processing Unit) or PCI Express x16 graphics card
If none of the above resolves the issue try removing the Radeon card and then using the onboard video chip, you may need to enable the onboard video chip in the BIOS so let us know if you require any assistance with this.
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#10
bl4derunr

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Finally, some good news: I took out the video card and connected the monitor through analog onboard video -- and no flickering whatsoever, either on boot or with all drivers loaded. However, the BIOS is slow to load. I'm hoping a slow BIOS can be caused by bad memory sticks rather than a bad motherboard; I'll start playing around with DIMMs tomorrow, if I can't get Memtest to boot from a USB stick.
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#11
phillpower2

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Before running memtest can you run Speedfan again and post the results with your next reply.

the BIOS is slow to load. I'm hoping a slow BIOS can be caused by bad memory sticks rather than a bad motherboard;

Do you mean that the computer is slow to complete POST (power on self test)?
POST is when the main hardware is tested for issues MB, CPU and a memory count etc, the BIOS stores items such as the time and date, the boot sequence and various other settings.
If you feel that there may be an issue with the BIOS settings you can restore the factory default settings by removing the silver CR2032 battery on the MB for a few moments and then replace it, upon first boot you will need to go into the BIOS and reset the time and date, save the new settings (F10) and then Y to accept the new settings.
The update is a bit more promising and it suggests that the add on video card may be the culprit, the reason removing the card was suggested was it may have bad memory, is not getting enough power or indeed has power issues itself, updated Speedfan readings may provide clues on this.
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#12
bl4derunr

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Speedfan is running comfortably now, but is still not generating any of the options as in your screenshot; it still looks like the screenshot I supplied earlier, although the core temp has gone down significantly to 27C, HD0 is steady at 44C and the GPU is measured at 0C for some strange reason.

Is there something I need to do to configure Speedfan properly? Do I just need to let it run for quite some time? Or is it that the program isn't entirely compatible with Dell machines? (See 4.44 Beta 4 News section here.)
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#13
phillpower2

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Speedfan will only report findings if the MB or the system itself has active sensors.
Couple of other programs for you http://www.cpuid.com.../hwmonitor.html and http://www.piriform.com/speccy a guide for using Speedfan http://forum-en.msi....?topic=109858.0
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#14
bl4derunr

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Screenshot attached...

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#15
bl4derunr

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Speccy URL: http://speccy.pirifo...l7nQA1qY4YIl48D
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