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Crashes and freezes


Fred-K

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I recently upgraded my system to replace the original AMD 3500+ processor with an AMD X2 4800. I didn't upgrade the BIOS (if it ain't broke ... and I was advised not unless there were problems) and seemed to have no problems with it. I didn't upgrade the processor driver but windows recognises it correctly and has used its own driver.

 

I then purchased additional memory (around 2 - 3 weeks after installing the new processor), TWINX2048-3200C2PT (the original was 2 x 512 Mb Corsair VS512MB400). Since then there have been a rash of two main types of problems

 

1) Getting a blue screen (using XP Home SP2) showing `Machine_check_Exception' with a number of hex values. After the latest crash, Windows error reporting said it was an MCE with values of STOP: 0x0000009C (0x00000004, 0x00000000, 0xb2000000, 0x00020151).

 

2) The system just freezing when running (i.e. mouse and keyboard locked out which doesn't unfreeze after around 5 mins.). This has happened both when running Windows and also once or twice when running Knoppix from the CD/DVD, so there is some hardware issue. There are also a number of times when the system has rebooted when I've not been there so I can't say what happened.

 

 

The memory passes the POST every time.

 

I've tested the hard drive with HD tune and it shows no problems.

 

I'm running Speedfan and there's no indication of overheating of any elements it checks.

 

Motherboard is an Abit AN8 Ultra. Nothing is overclocked.

 

The two 512 Mb modules are in A0 and A1, the Twinx are in A2 and A3.

 

The memory timings (from Sisoft Sandra, and confirmed by Evergreen Home) are 2.5 3 3 8 for the 512 MB modules and 3.0 3 3 8 for the Twinx 1GB ones. All settings are auto in the BIOS.

 

I bought the TwinX memory as this was what was suggested by the memory configurator as being right for this board.

 

Is this likely to be a memory problem (specifically with the TWINX as there were no problems with the old memory)?

 

Are these timings right for the sets of memory? If not, what should they be? If they are, o.k. what else might be causing the problem?

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From the Bios revision history for that board in combination with that cpu upgrade, it looks like the board should be running with at least version 19:

 

http://www.abit-usa.com/products/mb/bios_revision.php?categories=1&model=278

 

The latest Bios version (version 20) and Flash Utility for that board may be found here:

 

http://www.abit-usa.com/products/mb/bios.php?categories=1&model=278

 

As far as Bios updates are concerned "if it ain't broke ... and I was advised not unless there were problems" is true most of the time. The exception to the rule is if there is a major hardware upgrade (a 3500 to a 4800+X2 is major) or if there is a compatibility problem (see liner notes in Bios revision history for Bios version 18, note number 3) that is fixed by a newer Bios version.

 

ps: testing the RAM with Memtest86+ without updating the bios first in this case would probably be a waste of time in my opinion.

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Thanks for that. I did run Memtest today: I ran it for 3hrs 48 minutes, it was on Pass 2 Test 7 and hadn't reported any errors.

 

I've got to admit I have a horror of updating the BIOS when there's a tendency to crash and/or freeze (or any time else for that matter). That's one of the reasons I was given for leaving well enough alone: if there's a crash or power failure part way through, it's new motherboard time, which'd be a real pain given the trouble it took to get the 4800.

 

Presumably the safest thing to do would be to remove the new memory and just flash the BIOS with the old memory fitted?

 

Sisoft Sandra reports that it's actually a Phoenix BIOS dated 21/7/05 v6.0PG (?) which looks like that makes it v17.

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O.K. thanks for that. I'd need to keep two modules as it's a dual channel memory motherboard. I was thinking that I'd remove the two new modules and keep the two old ones in order to flash the BIOS, as they have given no problems in over a year. If everything goes o.k., then replace the Twinx modules and see if there are any further problems.

 

Can you advise whether the two separate types of memory are compatible and what their timings and voltages should be please? I think the BIOS showed that the DRAM voltage was currently 2.6?

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Sorry about that. Forgot to mention you should be using the stable sticks during the fash proceedure. Fortunately, RamGuy provided a quick response to you query. Flashing a bios is only a bit nerve-wracking the first time you do one. Even if you have a power failure right in the middle of the flash, all that means is you'll need to follow the procedure for clearing the CMOS detailed in the motheboard maual in order to clear the bad flash. You won't need to buy a new board either as the board comes equiped with a "permanent" hard-wired default BIOS in a ROM chip that will allow you to boot off the "Load setup defauts" option in the bios. In other words, there's actually two BIOS's on the board: the hard-wired one stored in a "permanent" ROM chip on the board and another one that's upgradeable stored in the CMOS. The end-user flashing utility you'll use to upgrade the BIOS can't touch the hard-wired one. At the site for your board, mentioned in the link above, I saw a side link with detailed instructions on how to flash that board which would be worth reading ahead of time. As an FYI, it's usually best to go with the version numbering of the BIOS provided by the motherboard manufacturer's site and get the latest version. SiSoft Sandra is reporting the actual Phoenix BIOS version number irrespective of board manufacturer (as they write BIOS's for many board manufactures just as Award and AMI do) A BIOS manufacturer's numbering method seldom matches the version numbering method of the motherboard manfacturer, so a Phoenix BIOS version 6.00 might be designated version 13 on the motherboard manufacturer's site. The BIOS version dates usually don't correlate well either between the BIOS manufacturer and the motherboard manufacture. In addition, a dual-channel capable motherboard will run with one stick in single-channel mode just fine but a single-channel capable motherboard can't run in dual-channel mode. 2.6Volts is a bit low for the DDR RAM voltage. RamGuy usually recommends 2.75volts (nothing over 2.9volts-voids warantee). You should also be aware that mixing sets of ram is a hit or miss proposition with a dual channel setup. Memory controllers can be very picky about seeing matching IC's (Integrated Circuit chips) between the various sticks. Sometimes they'll run together, sometimes they'll run together at a reduced speed, sometimes they won't run together at all.
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Thanks for that, very instructive indeed. I have updated the BIOS on my previous machine. I still find it's still heart in trousers stuff though. Thanks for the info on the safety of BIOS flashing. BTW the tech support people at Abit in Taiwan said there wasn't a need to update the BIOS, even though I told them what processor I'd upgrade from and to. And the tech support people at my PC supplier told me about the (wrong) dire consequences of a problem update.

 

Would you also suggest an update of the chipset and processor drivers (not all at the same time) or is it just a matter of, if the BIOS update improves things, leave well enough alone?

 

Do you know where I can get technical data on the VS512MB400 modules? I can't see anything obvious on the Corsair main site. It'd be useful to know whether the voltages and other specs for the two sets of memory are the same. Presumably there's no problem in the two sets of memory having different timings and the Twinx modules operating at timings different from the published ones?

 

Apologies for all the questions. I was under the impression that memory was something you stuck in a PC and it just worked. I suppose I just got lucky up till now.

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In brief, if the folks at Abit say you don't need a BIOS update, then you probably don't as they have access to the BIOS version numbering translation table and we as end-users don't. As to timings and voltage with the mismatched pairs, first I'd try just going to RamGuy's suggested 2.75volts from the 2.6volts and seeing if that fixes it. If not, I'd then go to 3 from 2.5 (so 3-3-3-8) on the timings at RamGuy's suggested voltage of 2.75volts. If that doesn't do it, then I'd consider dropping the speed to 333Mhz (166clock) from 400 (200clock) after checking the sticks individually with Memtest86+ version 1.70 from memtest.org in the correct motherboard manual dictated slot when using a single stick, just to be sure there isn't a problem with one of the sticks, necessitating a possible RMA. If you don't find any errors with Memtest86+, then you'll have to decide if you want to run at 333Mhz (if it will indeed run at that speed) or give up on the idea of getting the missmatched pairs to run with any stability. As to updating the chipset drivers, it's worth a shot but since Abit doesn't think your BIOS version is that old the chipset drivers probably aren't that old either. I'd do it with just the known good sticks just to clear the possibility of any chipset driver corruption causing the issues. The only other thing I'd definitely get is the AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 Dual Core Processor Driver for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 Version (x86 and x64 exe) 1.3.2.16 from AMD, available here (2nd from bottom):

 

http://www.amd.com/us-en/Processors/TechnicalResources/0,,30_182_871_13118,00.html

 

There's also a Microsoft driver that addresses problems with certain games and AMD's Cool & Quiet function with dual core cpu's. Most people I know just disable Cool & Quiet in the Bios instead. There are no published timings I'm aware of on the VS-line of ddr ram modules, most find they run at 3-3-3-8. It looks like yours were doing a bit better than that. If you absolutely must get the two sets to run together and they won't so far, you could also try relaxing the latencies to 4-4-4-12. That's probably enough for now. Good Luck.

 

ps: Before the advent of Dual-Channel, RAM worked or it didn't; now it's a whole new Ball Game.

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