Computer shuts down while gaming

Custom BUilt
November 29, 2008 at 15:17:50
Specs: Windows XP, AMD Athlon 3800+/2Gigs of

Specs First:

Motherboard: Biostar NF4ST-A9 V1.0 MB
Processor: AMD Athlon G4 Processor 3800+
RAM: 2 Gigabytes of Corsair US1GB400C3
Video Card: Nvida GeForce 7950 GX2
Hard Drive(s): Barracuda 7200.7 80 Gigabytes… There’s also a 2nd hard drive that I cannot read the label on. Its an older one, and its pretty small, I’d say 15 to 20 GB. I’m not sure there’s even anything on it anymore.
Power Supply: Athena power ATX 420w P4-120V switching power supply

The problem: The computer shuts off somewhat randomly when I’m playing World of Warcraft. I haven’t noted this problem any other time while running the computer. It can be left on for extended periods of time and you can surf the internet etc without it turning off. It seems somewhat random when it shuts off as well. Sometimes it shuts off 30 minutes into me playing (and will then shut off every 15-30 minutes thereafter if I try to play again that night). Sometimes it runs all night with no issues, stretching across several days. In the most recent week it seems the former has been the case every night – quite frustrating... additionally, the past two nights the computer has frozen up while playing, causing me to turn off manually, then it will reset every 15 to 30 minutes thereafter. This only happened the past two days.

Things to note:
1. The computer has been brought to a shop several times since I built it. There have been several hardware issues. The first was a faulty motherboard. The second time was a faulty hard drive (some problem with it “arcing” I believe the guy explained to me). The third time was a power supply. Past experiences lead me to believe the problem I’m experiencing now is a hardware issue.
2. I’ve run all the antivirus software and ad aware software that I have and have found no issues, threats or viruses, so I’m led to the conclusion I highlighted in #1.
3. Since the last time I had problems with it, the side panel has been off and there has been a desk fan blowing into the computer. This mitigated a lot of issues for me, but it isn’t working any longer it seems. Additionally, the video card still gets very, very hot to the touch while the fan is blowing on it. If I put my hand onto it for more than 2 seconds it starts to really burn it.
4. Today I took some pressured air to the inside of it and attempted to clean out all of the fans and the entire computer as well as I could. It is also of note that I have not tried to run my game since doing this task.
5. I included the power supply in specs because I noted that it is a 420 watt power supply only today. My current hypothesis is that the power supply is not producing enough power to run my computer, but I wanted some more professional opinions (and suggestions) on what to buy before I went out and took this route.

I think that’s about the gist of what’s going on. If there are any additional specs/questions/comments that I need to make or post so everyone can assist me better please let me know and I’ll give it a try. Additionally, I will post again tonight if I find that the computer ran all night without resetting (again its making it only about 30 minutes before resetting recently).

I apologize for the long post, but I wanted to put all the info I could up front so someone can assist if they have the time. I appreciate any help anyone has to offer, and eagerly await replies. Thanks a bunch in advance!

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November 29, 2008 at 18:14:29

I doubt it's a memory issue but it wouldn't hurt to test the RAM with memtest86 just to be sure. Other than that, the cause of the random restarts is probably either an overheating CPU or a weak power supply. You mentioned that you have the side panel off & a room fan blowing into the case but you don't give us any temp readings?

I'm guessing that THIS is your PSU? It's a cheapie that gets bad reviews. The PSU is not the place to be cutting corners.

"If my answers frighten you then you should cease asking scary questions" - Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) in Pulp Fiction

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November 29, 2008 at 20:08:29

First, I would agree with jam on the overheating potential. Note that in most cases it actually does more harm then good to remove any of the casing and blow a fan into your tower as these are usually designed to cool while enclosed. Check your CMOS settings for an option that causes a shutdown at a given temp. Also, I know that this will sound a bit strange but it happened to me on a custom build: if you have a borderline PSU that is plugged into the same household circuit as say your refrigerator for example (when the compressor kicks in), will cause a spike that will lead to a rebooting power surge. Last, double check the back of your PSU that it is switched to 115 rather than 230. Oh, one last thought: in Windows under the My Computer/properties page click the advanced tab and then click the startup and recovery settings button. Under system failure uncheck automatically restart. This will cause an exception error report and memory dump rather than a reboot but it will tell you if it's software/driver related or not.

John W. Borelli
IT Specialist

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November 30, 2008 at 07:54:30

Okay here's an update... first off, thank both of you kindly for your help.

I downloaded SpeedFan last night and began to track the various heats in my computer. The significant ones appeared to be the heat of my video card and the heat of my processor. I found that the video card would idle at about 50 or so degrees, and so would the processor. When I started up my game, the heat of the video card began to steadily rise, reaching around 70 degrees after about 2-5 minutes. The processor speed would steadily rise from 50 degrees at idle to between 100 and 110 degrees when it would reset... now I don't know much about heat in computers, but I know 100 to 110 degrees on the processor seems like a red flag to me.

I also noticed that the fan which is directly over the processor (Heat sink?) is acting somewhat strange... it appears as though it will run like its supposed to for 5 or 10 spins, then the motor will shut off for a second, then start back up again.

Memtest will not complete on my system - it resets on me (just like it does during gaming) right around the end of the 4th or beginning of the 5th test... does this suggest a RAM Problem?

Jam - I had no idea such a crappy power supply was put into my system. The last time I took the computer in, the person that I was working with in the past was on vacation and someone else fixed my computer. The power supply was the problem at that time and he must have put the one in that is in there now... I only just noticed it was not a great Power Supply yesterday.

Based on what I'm telling you, should I go out and buy a new power supply today? (suggestions on a good one if you can) A new heat sink? I already decided that I'm going to buy some new fans as my old ones appear to have crapped out... all in all my system sounds like a mess... thanks again in advance everyone.

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Related Solutions

November 30, 2008 at 10:04:44

I agree the psu is not so good lol (antec is my baseline). The amd will be stable up to low 70's. Most amds will shut down above 80. Check out zalman for a a cpu cooler. Also the psu seems a little weak for the 7950 x2 I would be looking at 550 to 600 with that gpu. G/l

on the road again!!

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November 30, 2008 at 11:54:10

Your GPU temp is fine but your CPU temp is WAY too should idle in the 30's & max out below 60C. Double check your temp readings in the BIOS to make sure they agree with Speedfan...if they do, remove the HSF, thoroughly clean it, remove all traces of the old thermal material, then apply a small dab of fresh paste in the center of the CPU. Follow these instructions:

"If my answers frighten you then you should cease asking scary questions" - Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) in Pulp Fiction

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November 30, 2008 at 19:20:34

Thanks so much for the help everyone. A small update and additional question before I retire for the evening.

I finally got Memtest to run, and ran it individually on both of my sticks (in the same slot) and both of them together. No errors were found so I suppose that can likely be ruled out.

None of the bigger stores in my town had any fans, heat sinks, or pastes, and all of the smaller stores were closed on Sunday. I'll stop by a store tomorrow and pick up some thermal paste (any suggestions on which kind to pick up?) and apply it tomorrow evening. Thanks for the article explaining how to do it jam.

I'm unfamiliar and uneasy with bios. I know better than to make any changes, and am reading as much about it as I can through various sites, but I'm a little confused on how to use it to monitor temps... can I only access it to check temps when the computer is booting up? Or is there some way for me to access it from the command prompt in windows so I can actively monitor temps while I'm doing different applications (and thus see different temperatures dependant on what I'm doing). Sorry for the lack of knowledge, and thanks again for your patience everyone.

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November 30, 2008 at 22:17:04

Without a windows bios utility you can't access it in windows. Try hitting delete while its booting (keep tapping it) until it says loading setup. Once it loads look for something like pchealth status. Don't worry if you accidently change something because most newer bios's will ask if you want to save changes when exiting "just say no!" Lol g/l

on the road again!!

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December 1, 2008 at 08:55:00

So am I correct in assuming that I can only effectively measure the Idle Temperature of my CPU in Bios?

Secondly, any suggestions on what kind of Thermal Paste or Power Supply to purchase? I'd hate to buy a 550 or 600 watt power supply that turned out to be a bad brand. Since I'm not sure what brands different stores will have until I get there, it'd be beneficial to know some good brands when I went into the store already knowing what kinds have decent reviews. I noticed someone mentioned Antec, so I will look for those, but other viable options would be nice if someone has the time.

Thanks again everyone, I feel like I'm learning a ton with this experience!

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December 1, 2008 at 10:04:58

Artic silver is what I usually use.

on the road again!!

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December 1, 2008 at 10:11:50

The bios is usually the most accurate. You'll find antec at most retailers ie best buy,circuitcity or fryes. Mmmmmm fryes good! Lol.

on the road again!!

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December 1, 2008 at 15:59:52

Okay, my small town didn't have a lot of options immediately, so I bought what I had available to me and will make a trip to the closest Best Buy this weekend if I have to get something better but I wanted to ask before I put anything into my computer...

I bought a Thermaltake 600w power supply and some generic radio shack brand Thermal Paste... opinions? Should I keep this stuff in it box or will I be safe to apply it to my computer?

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December 1, 2008 at 19:31:29

R/s paste is ok. Thermaltake is very good!

on the road again!!

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