Weird, indistinct issues...thoughts?

August 3, 2011 at 19:53:23
Specs: Windows 7, Phenom X4 2.8ghz
Hi everyone. I'm posting to ask for hypotheses regarding a frustrating problem my computer has had now for over a year. The answer has eluded me thus far, but it's quite frustrating. And now, I want to sell my tower to get a laptop, since I'm becoming more mobile. Any advice or support is greatly appreciated...I've put off solving this for far too long.

Here's the problem:
When I startup my computer, I'll quickly start to get weird, indistinct issues once in Windows. Sometimes it's a BSOD, sometimes it's bizarre application behavior, like pages not opening correctly in Google Chrome, and sometimes it's applications mysteriously locking up/crashing.
This started happening right after I moved up to NYC last January (I'm now back in Atlanta). My apartment building there was old and the power was probably "dirty." By the way, I always had it on a UPS Surge Protector -- first one was rated at like 350W, and I later got a really nice one hoping it would help (although of course if some component of my computer was messed up, it would be too late). I also got a nice new PSU early on, thinking I needed more power for everything under the hood, and since I'd read that such issues could be a bad PSU.
Around the same time, I got a Tivo HD in my bedroom, but the first Tivo unit started freezing, then crashing and restarting itself every few minutes. Thinking it was just that unit, I got a replacement, but that one did the same. So did the next one. Now I have one down here in Atlanta that I never used in NYC, and it works perfectly fine.

What I'm thinking is that the power coming through the outlet in NYC fried some component of my system and also fried some component in every TiVo I tried on that outlet (I had no means to try another outlet...long story). If this is true, what I'd like to know is, which component is likely to have been messed up? HDD? Mobo? Multiple things? Is there a way to figure this out?

Oh, and here's a crucial piece that makes no sense: What I've learned is that before turning on my computer each morning, if I unplug the SATA power cables on the HDD and the DVD-RW end and then replug them in, replace the case, and turn on the computer, the issues do not arise, like, at all (except maybe if I were to leave on the computer long enough, but I turn it off every night). What on earth does that mean? The problem happens without fail if I don't do this, but something about this ritual (removing the case, removing and re-inserting the SATA power cables on the component end) apparently helps, and quite reliably.

ANY thoughts would be appreciated, and let me know if I've left out any crucial info. If it matters, my specs are below:

Running Win7 Ultimate x64
AMD Phenom II X4 925 @ 2.8ghz
500gb SATA II 3GB 16MB 7200RPM
another older hard drive, a western digital WD1600BB if i remember right
4GB DDR3 PC1333
2x Radeon HD 5750 in Crossfire
Corsair TX750 PSU @ 750W

Thanks in advance, you guys rock.


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August 3, 2011 at 20:23:44
Have you tried other sata power connectors from the power supply ?

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August 3, 2011 at 20:40:17
Ah, I beg your pardon -- what I meant was that I remove and reinsert the SATA data cables, not the power cables....I've thought about replacing them, but I'd be surprised if that were the issue, given that the TiVo essentially experienced its own brand of a hardware issue. It seems more likely that the PSU should be replaced...what do you think? BTW I'll try in the morning to replace the SATA data cables, although my instinct tells me it won't do much?

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August 3, 2011 at 21:39:32
The TiVo issues were due to bad hard drives. I had one fresh out of the box that did the same thing. The tech had me run diagnostics and it showed as a bad drive.

The issue with your computer locking up etc. Sounds like bad RAM.

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Related Solutions

August 3, 2011 at 21:43:42
THX I heard about those bad hard drives, but I don't think they were my issue. We ran tons of diagnostics and the hard drives were apparently fine. It happened not with one or two units but with three. Shortly after I sent back the third, I got a forth, and then just left it in its box for months until just now, since I'm back in Atlanta. And it works like a charm. So that doesn't seem consistent with the idea that it was just an HD issue in the tivo. Also, I feel you on the RAM hypothesis, but I've tried using one stick at a time, and it's happened no matter which single stick I'm using. Unless all my sticks could have been fried? What do you think? I'm really hoping I just need a new PSU...

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August 3, 2011 at 21:52:06
You're probably right that it won't help, but in addition to replacing the data cables, you might try a different port on the motherboard.

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August 3, 2011 at 21:55:14
Sure, I'll try it. What's the reasoning there? Can individual SATA ports on the mobo be fried whil others remain intact?

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August 4, 2011 at 07:36:25
Frope, try Memtest 86

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August 4, 2011 at 08:03:40
I feel sorry for the poor sap who buys this PC from you (haha, j/k). Weird about the SATA data cables. Just because a cable LOOKS ok, doesn’t mean that it is. Also, rare but can happen, the data & electrical connectors on the actual HDDs could have some sort of stress/trauma crack in their electrical connections. Your issues do sound like hardware issues, but, don't rule out Malware. Make sure your system is clean. I'd run 2-3 anti-malware tools, MalwareBytes, Emsisoft Anti-malware, SpyBot S&D, Anti-Root Kits like GMER, Radix, RootKit Revealer etc.

When systems freeze, I think of three things: 1. Diagnostics, 2. Diagnostics, 3. Diagnostics. There's no way to tell what's going on w/o making sure all your system settings are correct in BIOS and OS, correct & updated drivers installed, as well as making sure your system is clean of malware etc.

Check Windows Event Viewer for errors that may indicate what the problem is.

You can have the BSOD dump file analyzed with WinDBG (Windows Debugger).

RE: Diagnostics, if it were me I'd test everything on the bench:

- HDDs: You could test your HDD with the free manufacturers hard drive utility available from the hard drive manufacturers website to make bootable floppies or CDs to thoroughly test your hard drive surface area, mechanics and electronics:
- Seagate/Maxtor (Maxtor acquired by Seagate): Seatools.
- Western Digital: DataLifeguard.
- Fujitsu: Fujitsu Drive Test (FJDT).
- Hitachi/IBM: Hitachi Drive Fitness (HDFT).
- Samsung: (HUTIL).
- Toshiba (Fujitsu, Samsung or Hitachi utilities may work).

- Optical ROMS.
- RAM – try Memtest, Windows Memory Diagnostic ,
- PSU (replace with another PSU, no good way to test PSUs on load).
- Video.
- Are there any firmware updates for HDDs, Optical drives, Video cards etc.
- Make sure motherboard is correctly mounted in the case.
- Check motherboard for any bulging capacitors:
- Make sure the RAM modules and Add-In cards are fully seated in their slots, and that the slots themselves look clean and undamaged, as well as the electrical connectors on the add in modules & devices themselves.
- Look for loose or cracked data & power connection cables (I once found a loose power wire in a MOLEX connector on a flaky system).
- Look for loose, dry (ungreased) CPU/Heatsink.
- Look for noisy or hard to turn fans which indicate bad bearings.
- Is the system clear of ALL dust & debris (including hardware slots – RAM, PCI etc)?
- Does PC Freeze in Safe Mode? A system that freezes in Safe Mode is fairly rare.

The last PC that I saw freeze , and by freeze I mean it freezes while in the OS, was a P4 single Core CPU, XP system w/ an Intel board. The whole CPU/heatsink/fan assembly was a tad loose from the motherboard and wasn't fully seated down into the CPU Heat sink snap downs on the motherboard. I'm assuming it was the ahem, "technician" who looked at the PC prior to me. That tech also installed the main case cooling fan backwards.

Never ASSUME anything.

MOOOOooove! OH and you're welcome!

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August 4, 2011 at 08:10:37
Thanks a lot everyone (and esp PC Geek for the ultra-comprehensive answer). I think my next step will be to try a new PSU. I replaced the SATA cables and use diff ports, and when I booted without doing my "ritual," Chrome crashed almost immediately, as did explorer and something else. Then I did the ritual, and voila! Weird.
Anyway, I'm fairly certain it's not software -- I've reinstalled the OS and still have the issues. The computer inside is quite dustfree. I suppose it could be a loose CPU assembly, but the piece of evidence from the TiVo still makes me lean towards the dirty power in NYC having caused all this. What I want to know is, could it really JUST be the PSU? That would be GREAT if it were the case...

And btw, is the Windows/DOS utility checkdisk not enough? I guess I'm naive :P

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August 4, 2011 at 08:39:08
Answer was comprehensive because freezing systems can be VERY difficult to troubleshoot.

CHKDSK is a useful tool, but the HDD Diagnostic Tools provided by the HDD manufacturers are better in that they check ENTIRE surface area of the HDD in full scan mode (which you should always use), electronics and mechanics.

See if you can borrow a PSU for testing, or if a PC shop can test your PSU at no charge. There are some PSU testers available (I have a DELL factory PSU tester); but I'm not terribly sure how reliable they are because they test the PSU only when it's OUT of the machine and not under electrical load. But, if if fails that test, it's probably not going to even power up a PC to begin with.

MOOOOooove! OH and you're welcome!

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