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Tuesday, January 22, 2008 

Sporadic updates.

Updates are likely to be sporadic until I can work out/fix whatever it is that's wrong with this hopeless machine loosely known as a computer. I've battled with it suddenly deciding to crash for no apparent reason for the best part of six months, with there being no explanation in the events log, no blue screen (the only real clue being that the screen resolution drops and then locks while going black), and having run both memory tests and most recently SpinRite on the hard drive, nothing apparently wrong with either of them. The reboots over the last couple of days have increased from around once a day to every half an hour, and so I finally formatted to see if the problem was something conflicting within Windows itself. After spending the best part of today getting back up and running, the problem is if anything worse than before.

Going by a process of elimination, the next step is to replace the RAM, then the hard drive, then to throw the whole fucking thing out the window, all with money I don't have. Wish me something approaching luck.

Update: Well, fingers crossed, and uptime currently is only just crossed the 2 hour mark, but a change of RAM seems to have ended the previous almost guaranteed crashes from working with Firefox with a load of tabs open whilst also using foobar.

Update 2: Two crashes later (although I'm uncertain about the second one) and it seems it wasn't the RAM. I've unplugged everything, plugged it back in, cleaned out the dust the best I can, swapped over the IDE cables in case they're somehow responsible, have left the case off to see if it was overheating but I didn't think it was to begin with, and am now somewhat stumped, although it does seem to be running better for the moment. Short of taking it somewhere and being charged through the nose at least. If it continues crashing I might just be tempted to try ubuntu after all.

Update 3: I'm amazed, but the swapping of the IDE cables seems to have worked. No crashes this evening at all. It's just incredibly aggravating that it was something seemingly so simple all along.

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I'd suggest graphics card being next on the list, as a corrupt graphics card has the symptom of random restarts. If you have any "blockiness" on your screen as it hangs then it is almost certainly the case.

But good luck with it, would be a shame to have you down too long.

I've got a integrated graphics card, which uses the ram for its own memory, which makes me even more suspicious that it's something to do with the latter.

Switch to Linux, or get a Mac.

Back up your files on external media and install Linux Ubuntu. Discover the beautiful world without Microsoft.

Depending on how long ago you bought the machine, you might be having a bulging capacitors issue. They're fairly easy to spot and unfortunately very common - I've had two machines fall to this. Check your voltages and temperatures using something like speedfan too, and if the temps are much above 60C you might want to try replacing your CPU fan.

(If it does turn out to be bulging caps, I'd ebay a vintage board from the end of your current one's socket/RAM era, unless you have DDR2 and a CPU that'll go in a currently available socket type to make buying new possible. You can generally get these in very good condition if you time things correctly.)

If that isn't it, try an ubuntu/fedora type Linux live CD and stress it just to make sure it isn't an odd Windows driver issue. I've seen some surprising ones, especially with integrated graphics-type boards. And if your memory passes memtest86+ fine, it's almost certainly not the RAM.

Thanks for all the suggestions, although buying a Mac when I don't have any money isn't especially helpful. I have considered Linux, but even with Ubuntu I get the feeling I'd be in straight at the deep end.

Ross: I don't think it's capacitors, from a quick look. If as mentioned in the post things carry on stablely, it appears it was the RAM, even though it passed all the memory tests I threw at it. Strange.

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