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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello forum members,

My main rig has been having a gradual progression of problems that started, let's say, several months ago. It began with blue screen errors (with codes related to memory I believe; it's been a while) and system restarts, which were intermittent. It then progressed to my monitor going blank (and into power save mode), and my mouse and keyboard being unable to wake it; this happened more frequently than the blue screens. About a week or two ago, the symptoms more rapidly developed. The monitor would go blank, sometimes immediately when booting into windows. The computer would restart. Sometimes it would freeze. Now, most of the time I turn on the computer, it freezes/restarts/blanks out within 5 minutes of turning it on. Interestingly, much of the time when the monitor blanks out now, I hear a single clicking noise. It sounds the same as when I press my reset button (but I don't think the sound is coming from the same place as the sound from my reset button).

I'll list below what I suspected and tried.

1) Software: I tried many things in this realm, among them adjusting power saving modes to "always on". I stopped suspecting software when the symptoms emerged in the context of a linux live session, attempting to install windows 7 beta, splash screen, bios, etc.

2) Video card/monitors: I reseated it several times, I took it apart to clean it and apply arctic silver to the gpu. Temp doesn't rise above 42C. I stopped suspecting the video card when the freezing and other symptoms began. I never suspected the monitors because there are two of them and they blank out simultaneously.

3) Memory: I reseated, and ran memtest. No errors in memtest, but it freezes along with the rest, so it couldn't run to completion.

4) Motherboard/physical damage: I looked around for damaged/leaking caps: nothing.

5) Power supply: I was really convinced of this one. That was until I tested the wall, power cord, and psu with a multimeter. Everything was within 5% tolerange. Wall = 120.7; 3.3v rail = 3.33; 5v rail = 5.04; 12v rail(s) = 11.87 to 11.89. Notably, though, I couldn't test the rails under load, because the computer would crash before I could load it.

6) Overheating: I cleaned out all the dust. Temps are all within line. Was overclocking (nothing too extreme, not much in terms of voltage increases), problem persists at original clock values.

System specs:
os: xp sp3
CPU: pentium d 930 w/zalman 9500
mobo: asus 975x p5wd2-e
memory: 2gb (2x1) corsair ddr2 6400
case: antec p180
psu: antec 550w truepower 2.0
hdd: 2 raptors raid 0; 2 750gb wd raid 1 (using mobo raid)
fans: 4 120mm case fans
optical: plextor px 716a
floppy: floppy + multicard reader attached to internal usb port


What are folks' thoughts about this? I'm stumped.

Thanks for reading,
Jim
 

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Looks like you've done a thorough job of testing. I think you were correct in suspecting the PSU even though it tests good on the bench. Do you have another PSU to try?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi Tyree,

Thanks for your response. Unfortunately, I don't have another PSU to try. I'm reticent to buy a new one without a clearer understanding of what is wrong.

What are your hypotheses as to what is wrong with the PSU, given the symptoms (which are broadly consistent with PSU failure) and the normal multimeter readings (which aren't consistent with PSU failure)?

I considered the PSU may be underpowered. However, the Extreme power supply calculator (http://extreme.outervision.com/PSUEngine) suggests that my system requires a maximum wattage between 380w and 450w; and my PSU is 550w. The 450w value was rather conservative too, with values such as capacitor aging and load set high.

I also considered that perhaps the PSU was OK at baseline, but voltages would be out of line under load. However, the PC is crashing when it is not under load (I was testing with the multimeter immediately before during and after it crashed).

Are there any other things I could try to further troubleshoot the problem without replacing the psu?

Thanks,
Jim
 

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-download Memtest86+ V2.11 [Pre-Compiled package for Floppy (DOS - Win) version] and make a boot floppy.
-disconnect all hdd and cd drives and 2nd monitor.
-boot to floppy and let memtest run for a few hours, if no errors/crash occur then ram okay, psu suspect.

-try a linux liveCD (puppy linux) with hdd still disconnected. run some games/apps, if okay then unlikely there is a hardware conflict, psu likely suspect.
 

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Hello Stu computer,

I think disconnecting components and conducting further tests is a great idea! I will try what you have suggested. It may take a bit, but I'll report my findings when I am through. In the meantime, if other folks have other thoughts/suggestions, they would be very welcome!

Thanks,
Jim

OK, so I ran Memtest86+ from floppy and disconnected all hdd and cd drives as well as the second monitor. Memtest ran for 4 hours without errors then "froze". I put "froze" in quotes because the red arrow was still blinking but the clock had stopped and the test was not progressing.

Then, I booted into a livecd of puppy linux with hdds still disconnected. I opened up a web browser and loaded some streaming video which (surprisingly) taxed my cpu. It ran fine for over 5 hours; I left it running overnight for further testing. When I woke up the pc appeared to be running but the monitor was blank and moving the mouse/keyboard didn't wake it. I manually powered it down.

I thought to myself, perhaps memtest "froze" because of a setting in my bios; I've read of this happening when legacy usb or raid is turned on in the bios. Memtest has frozen on this pc with legacy usb turned on and off; haven't tried messing with the raid setting. I also thought to myself, maybe the computer went to sleep (which Im not sure is even possible in a puppy linux live session), and couldn't wake because of a property of my mouse/keyboard (they are a usb microsoft wireless combo).

More recently, though, I thought to myself, these are not very parsimonious explanations. It is true that during these tests, memtest and puppy linux ran for longer before crashing than most other times I've turned on the pc recently. However, it is also true that I have been sporadically (well once really) able to run two instances of prime95 (for dual core proc) for several hours without it crashing; so it's ability to run unusually long could have been a fluke.

Without further guidance, I would turn legacy usb and raid off in the bios and revert to ps/2 keyboard/mouse and rerun the tests you suggested. But, I'm hoping someone has a better idea than this because it sounds like a longshot to me.

Thanks,
Jim

...and when I got home to test my brilliant usb keyboard/mouse theory, the computer wouldn't turn on. The power is clearly on when I press the power button; the fans are spinning, the leds are blazing, but nothing's happening on the monitor. I also rechecked all of the voltages with the multimeter and they're all still in line...
 

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the antec psu is undersized for your pc and is failing (re: symptoms and test results)

a CORSAIR CMPSU-650TX will be the best solution.

an average duty load of 275~300W would have been okay for the antec, but the pc likely runs about 320~330W overtaxing it and causing faster wear/failure, as in unreliable and dirty power.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
That's very interesting, I was under the impression that given the results from the psu calculator, my psu was OK for my system (and had some additional headroom)!

"an average duty load of 275~300W would have been okay for the antec, but the pc likely runs about 320~330W"

How did you come up with those numbers, in particular the load that's OK for the antec psu? I'd really like to avoid making this same mistake again in the future; not only for this computer, but I am planning an i7 build in the near future!

Thanks for staying with this thread,
Jim
 

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Jim,

Just a suggestion, if you are planning on an i7 build in the near future, visualize what you want as a video card in THAT system and then purchase a power supply NOW that will meet those future needs so you don't have to do again when you do your i7 build. Any of our techs can assist you to make sure you have enough power if they know what you are planning for video needs in your next rig.

Just thought I would pass that along as a suggestion in case a Corsair 650 (a great power supply that meets your immediate needs) will not meet the needs for your next build.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Hi Tumbleweed36,

Thanks, I certainly will check in. I'm not sure what graphics card I will be using when I do the i7 build. Nothing too fancy though, I mostly beef up my computer for statistical modeling programs (that unlike matlab, can't leverage the graphics card).

I'd love to be able to figure this stuff out on my own too though. How does one determine if a psu will be sufficient for their system? If the psu calculator provides inaccurate information, how can one determine what average duty load a given psu can handle? Also, how can one determine what the average duty load of their pc is?

Thanks,
Jim
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
What does the 30% account for? I have been adding 30% for capacitor aging within the psu calculators. Is this the same adjustment you are referring to?

With reasonable values of capacitor aging (20%) and tdp, etc. included in the estimate, the psu requirement was 380w. If I add 30% to this value, I get 494w, which should still be within the capabilities of my 550w psu. Am I using the calculator incorrectly?

My current video card is a HIS ati x1600xt.

Thanks,
Jim
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks! I'd really like to RMA my unit for a replacement. I'm within the 3 year warranty but I don't have a receipt. I've read Antec is not too flexible on that point.

When I use that calculator you mentioned, do I add the 30 percent for innefficiency to the result of this calculator as well or does this calculator account for inefficiency automatically?
 

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Sorry for any misunderstanding, usually a detailed breakdown isn't expected (or particularily wanted for that matter).

Yes, a modern 550 watt psu is satisfactory for your current cpu/pc configuration.
The Antec TPII 550 is old technology, it was designed to bridge the pentium 3/pentium 4 market (dual use) and was quite satisfactory for that era.

From the Antec data sheet.
Code:
Model: TP II 550/ TC II 550
FEATURES 
Maximum Power 	550 Watts 
Efficiency 	> 70% 

OUTPUT		+3.3V 	+5V 	+12V1 	+12V2	+5V SB 	-12V
[B]Max. Load	32.0A* 	40A* 	19A* 	19A[/B] 	2.0A 	1.0A 
Min. Load	0.5A 	0.5A	0.4A 	0.4A 	0A 	0A 
Load Reg.	±3% 	±3% 	±3% 	±3% 	±5% 	±5% 
Ripple V(p-p)	50mV 	50mV 	120mV 	120mV 	50mV 	120mV 
[B]* +5V, +3.3V, +12V1, 12V2 maximum output 530 Watts max[/B].
Really good amps for a pentium 3 psu--back in the day. Add a few connectors and it can hande first generation pentium 4's too.

Your current psu...
Intel® Pentium® D processors with a thermal design power rating of 95W require 13A nominal with 16.5A peak for 10ms on the 12 volt rail of the power supply
Intel® Pentium® D processors with a thermal design power rating of 130W require 16A nominal with 19A peak for 10ms on the 12 volt rail of the power supply.
http://www.intel.com/support/processors/pentiumd/sb/CS-020921.htm
The first pentium 4's typically were about half as demanding compared to a pentium D.


A peak source of 19A and pentium D wants a big chunk of it, there isn't much left over to distribute to drives, video, ram, fans, and chipset. There is also no comfortable extra capacity available for load changes, (ie: cpu ramping from 10 to 100% to load an application), more likely devices are temporarily starved--and thus likely to freeze/fail.

Anyway, nowadays first rule of thumb is any psu with an efficiency rating less than 80% is substandard and don't bother considering it.


The reason the Corsair 650 is recommended as the best solution, besides high quality and good price, is due to your pc's components have been somewhat 'prematurely aged' due to stress by an underpowered supply. The replacement psu has been deliberately oversized and will operate at even higher efficiency, cooler, lower operating cost, and also have the extra capacity to easily handle the load changes presented by your pc--until it's retired sometime in the distant future, (can't beat that for peace of mind). For the few dollars difference a 550W wasn't worth mentioning as a cheaper but adaquate alternative.

You can use that newegg link and click the compare button for alternative brands/watts. Your money, your decision.

Dai has provided a link for a psu calculator, there isn't much text on that webpage but it's packed with info on how to get the best results. Personally, my favorite is footnote 4 about how to set selections so a psu lasts longer than a year.

Tumbleweed36 and his team put a lot of effort into keeping that power supply sticky up to date by accessing top notch sources and consultants to keep the data meaningful. Take advantage of them when you decide to move onto your next build.

Have a pleasant week.
 

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Thank you stu for your detailed response!

Turns out that all of us (including myself) were off. A friend of mine allowed me to try his video card in my computer. It ran fine. Not convinced, I took my video card and installed it into his computer. All of the symptoms I was complaining about above (freezing, crashing, etc) occurred on his otherwise fully functional pc. I'm glad I held off on buying a new psu; I need a new video card!
 

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that way of testing is ok providing

your friends computer had enough power for your card

your friends card has the same or higher power requirements than your card
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Those are fair points, so I checked into them.

My friends card (Quaddro fx 5500) has significantly higher power requirements than my card (ati x1600xt). And, my friends computer has enough power for his card, which means he has more than enough power for my card.

Looks like I'm in the market for a new graphics card.

Thanks everyone for your time,
Jim
 
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