The agony of owning a PC

I have already written a longer, more eloquent version of this post, but my explorer crashed in the middle of it, forcing me to start from the beginning. Here’s the abbreviated version of my troubles…

  • dual-boot system would not allow me to replace the C: hard drive with a new hard drive without having to reinstall XP

  • could not replace my motherboard without having to reinstall XP

  • decide to buy a new hard drive and install a new XP on that

  • spend several hours installing XP, downloading the 36 patches for it, and reinstalling all my essential programs

  • spend two hours trying to figure out why my system won’t boot to my new hard drive. Reason: the BIOS boot sequence looks at HDD-0 first, not HDD-1, because engineers assume everyone thinks like they do

The result of the 10 hours and $150 new HDD (maxtor diamondmax 120GB ATA/133)? An incredibly unstable system that can no longer do things it could before…

  • Internet Explorer is a house of cards. As a matter of fact, it “crashes” (pop-up telling me it is no longer responding and asking me if I want to send a report to Microsoft) 7 times out of 10

  • It crashed while I was typing the first version of this post

  • I triend reinstalling Enclave, which installed and worked fine on my old hard drives. I now get this:

>>CRC error: The file C:\Games\Enclave\Sbz1\Videos\STL05_01.bik doesn’t match the file in the setup’s .cab file. The medium from which you are running the setup may be corrupted; contact your software vendor.<<

  • I get the same error when I reinstall Planetside, which installed and worked fine on my old hard drives. The discs are prefectly fine, having been used only once to install the game.

  • If I choose to ignore and finish the install, both games are unplayable, crashing to the desktop at the interface, or just a few seconds after the game begins

  • latest drivers on sound, video, mouse, keyboard

  • system will sometimes reboot at the slightest command. It rebooted in the middle in reinstalling Enclave. It rebooted one time when I clicked on a hot link here on Qt3

  • god, i hate the fucking PC

Get me a time machine and I’ll convince IBM to purchase the Amiga rights back in late 1983.

I shall return from the past to a veritable computing utopia, where man multitasked a decade earlier and consoles never had a chance.

You have got serious problems. Run memtest86. How much heat are you getting?

FWIW, its possible to switch motheboards with 2000/XP. I’ve done it before. The trick is to go and change all the Intel/VIA/whatever motherboard drivers back to “standard” before switching. Google for more.

Yeah, I swapped out my mobo just a couple of months ago and didn’t have to reinstall XP (although I had to re-register it). In fact, I had pretty much zero software problems with the switch. Your computer has some other serious issue.

Wow. Good to know. Thanks for the tip.

It’s even easier than that. Just boot from the CD, go through the usual process of setup, but instead of formatting the drive, perform a recovery install. Everything’s handled automagically, and you still retain all your system settings.

This also has the side benefit of clearing up system instability in many cases, though probably not Jim’s setup.

Hi, Jim:

It would help (assuming your system can stay stable long enough to tell us) to know the system configuration:

  • CPU
  • Motherboard brand and model (and chipset, if you know it)
  • Memory (qty, type, brand?)
  • video, audio, other expansion card details
  • case, power supply

Hasn’t anyone else noticed most of these problems are due to XP not the PC specifically?

Microsoft has released a groovy memory diagnostic tool here.

You run the program and it either makes a boot floppy or an .iso you can burn to make a boot CD. Just boot with said CD and it runs a DOS program that does all kinds of test patterns on all your RAM. It’s good stuff. It ain’t pretty, but it’s handy.

Or just do a “repair” install. Keeps all your apps updates the proper motherboard drivers automatically. Google for that as well.

– Xaroc

Edit: Didn’t read far enough down to see Lloyd beat me to this advice.

I don’t buy that. Jim has lots of problem. He opened the case and put new things in, and something on the inside of the case is making thinks crash. Badly seated ram, heat, loose cables, whatever, because as the last poll that was done showed, 75% of the people on this board use XP, and I think it works just fine for most everyone on this board.

Something is broken with Jim’s computer. We just need to find out what.

Well, I am starting to calm down a little, especially considering the helpful replies I have recieved so far.

One little update: Just installed Galaxies. It seemed to install just fine. When I launched and went to Sony Station and started updating, it stopped in the middle of the update and said some crucial files were missing and that I had to reinstall Galaxies. Fun.

Anywho, since it may be a hardware problem and not an XP thing, I fired up SiSoft’s Sandra, and did a basic report. So let me go ahead, unzip, and bend over so everyone can see…

< Processor(s) >
Processor(s): AMD Athlon™ XP 2000+ @ 1.67GHz
Performance Rating: PR2217 (estimated)
L2 On-board Cache: 256kB ECC synchronous write-back

< Mainboard and BIOS >
Bus(es): ISA AGP PCI USB FireWire(1394)
MP Support: No
MP APIC: No
System BIOS: Award Software International, Inc. 6.00 PG
System Chipset: VIA Technologies Inc VT8366 Apollo KT266 CPU to PCI
Bridge
Installed Memory: 768MB (50% true allocated load)

< Video System >
Monitor/Panel: Plug and Play Monitor
Adapter: NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4600

< Entire System >
Manufacturer: VIA Technologies, Inc.
Model: VT8366-8233
Unique ID: FFFFFFFF-FFFFFFFF-FFFFFFFF-FFFFFFFF

< System Mainboard >
MP Support: No
Model: VT8366-8233

< Extended Mainboard Data >
Manufacturer: Soyo
Model: K7VXA-2BA2
Serial Number: 12/18/2001-VT8366-8233-6A6LVS29C-00

< System Memory Controller >
Location: Mainboard
Error Correction Capability: None
Number of Memory Slots: 3
Maximum Installable Memory: 768MB
Bank0/1 - A0: DIMM 512MB
Bank2/3 - A1: DIMM 512MB
Bank4/5 - A2: DIMM 512MB

< System Chipset >
Model: VIA Technologies Inc VT8366 Apollo KT266 CPU to PCI
Bridge
Bus(es): ISA AGP PCI USB FireWire(1394)
Front Side Bus Speed: 2x 128MHz (256MHz data rate)

< Environment Monitor(s) >
Model: SiS 950 internal
Mainboard Specific Support: No
Configured Mainboard: VT8366-8233
Level 4/5 Support: No

< Temperature Sensor(s) >
Board Temperature: 59.0°C / 138.2°F
CPU Temperature: 42.0°C / 107.6°F
Power / Aux Temperature: 49.0°C / 120.2°F

< Cooling Device(s) >
CPU Fan Speed: 7031rpm

< Voltage Sensor(s) >
CPU Core Voltage: 1.76V
Aux Voltage: 2.48V
+3.3V Voltage: 3.34V
+5V Voltage: 4.97V
+12V Voltage: 11.67V
-12V Voltage: -9.98V
-5V Voltage: -4.14V
+5V Standby Voltage: 4.97V
< AGP Bus >
Version: 2.00
Current Data Transfer Rate: 4x
Side Band Enabled: Yes
Fast-Writes Enabled: No

< PCI Bus(es) >
Version: 2.10
No Buses: 1

< LPC/ISA Bus(es) >
Model: VIA Technologies Inc VT8233 PCI to ISA Bridge

< USB Bus(es) >
Model: VIA Technologies Inc VT83C572,VT82C586/A/B,VT82C596B,
VT82C686A USB Controller
Version: 1.10
UHCI Interface: Yes
Channels: 2
Bus Speed: 48MHz
Legacy Emulation Enabled: No

< System BIOS >
Manufacturer: Award Software International, Inc.
Version: 6.00 PG
Date: 12/18/2001
Plug & Play Version: 1.00
SMBIOS/DMI Version: 2.20
(EE)PROM Size: 256kB (2Mbit)

-12V Voltage: -9.98V

This is bad.

I’ll second that. Jim may have a power supply problem.

The other thing that stands out is the temperature, though I don’t know how accurate the sensors are. But an idle CPU temp of 42 with a 7000RPM fan isn’t good news. That temperature would likely spike up when you started running anything useful.

First thing to do is to get some canned air and clean out all the dust in the cooling fans (including the graphics card cooler).

Definitely get a new power supply. Also, if you can afford it, consider a new motherboard, preferably an Nforce2 board. All the ones I’ve used have been remarkably stable.

Ok. I can definitely do this. I love my Alienware case, and my HP DVD-RW is first-rate, and so is my GF4 Ti 4600. So a new powersupply, mobo, and chip are all within my budget.

What would you guys suggest for each?

Also, do you think this would explain the odd inability to install Planetside or Enclave? I’ve never seen that .cab error before.

I’ll head over to New Egg right now to start checking prices. Thanks for the advice, guys.

Errors when expanding compressed files (eg, .CAB errors) may just be a dirty CD – did you clean it? Also, it may be a memory issue…

At any rate, there are a number of good Nforce2 board. If you already have a good sound card, one of the cheapest ones out there (that’s also good) is the new Shuttle AN35N. This board uses the “dumb” version of Nforce2 audio. If you like the idea of going with the onboard Nforce audio that’s fully hardware accelerated, I like the Abit NF7-S (version 2.0).

Power supplies: Antec Truepower 380 should suffice.

I have an Asus A7N8X, and I’ve been very happy with it. It’s a damn good board for the price. You probably won’t go far wrong with any nForce2 board, though.

I’ve also found that you can never have too much juice. I’d recommend at least a 400 watt power supply (or more, if you can afford it), and avoid cheap generic ones. Truth in labelling is a real problem in power supplies; many are incapable of producing the maximum load that the manufacturer claims, or of producing a steady output at all voltages. Do some research before your buy, and stick with a reputable brand. I use an Antec True480; the Antec Truepower 380 that Lloyd mentioned is also a good choice. I believe it actually is capable of much higher loads than that–in the 470W range, or thereabouts. Not all power supplies are labelled so conservatively, though.

I run a 300W power supply with no problems. Its not the amount of juice really – its the overall quality of the power supply. Unless you have a ridiculous amount of drives, I’m going to have to say that 400W+ power supplies are utterly useless and all you people are wasting your money in pursuit of bigger numbers.

It appears that your power supply, Jim, has problems on the -12V line, and this could cause all sorts of bizarre behavior to happen. You say you put another hard drive in the system, right? If your BIOS has voltage readouts, you might want to see if unplugging your new drive puts the -12V line back to where it supposed to be.

I would start with a new power supply.

I bought a 300W Fortron from Newegg. Its quiet. Yay. $30 too.

I use an Nforce 1 board with the onboard audio, and it works great too.

Also, I believe you have what? a triple boot system at this point? And this is on your priamry rig?

Do yourself a favor and wipe your new drive and install a fresh OS there, by itself. Before you do this, remove the other drive from the system (so you can get fresh boot files on the new drive).

When it’s installed, slap the other drive back in (as slave or on a seperate controller, whatever). This way you can migrate data over as you have the time, inclination.

After you’ve got all your stuff moved over to the new drive, wipe this drive, and install any other OS you want (each in its own partition). What additinoal OSs are you using, btw?

Now everything is neat and tidy–go and sin no more!

Actually it’s whether the power supply has enough juice on each of its rails to support the components in your case.

There was a good article not too long ago posted somewhere about just this. It basically involves going through your parts, reading what they require as far as voltage, adding up the voltage requirements from various rails (adding in adequate amounts of head room), then shopping for a power supply that fit your current and future needs. Just saying go for 300W kind of defeats the purpose. Hell, he may already have a 300W supply with a weak 12 v rail, for all we know.

Edit: Ah, here is the article I was thinking of:

http://firingsquad.gamers.com/print_article.asp?current_section=Guides&fs_article_id=1162