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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Someone brought me a eMachine desktop to fix cuz SURPRISE it's broken lol. Their symptoms were they were using it and the display went scattered and got unresponsive. Then they tried to boot it up and said they got a black screen and "clicking." The hard drive is indeed really loud while operating but I thought they were describing the head hitting so the hard drive was toast.

So I plugged their drive in first and foremost with a SATA to USB adapter and got all their data off and ran a diskcheck. There were like 5 cleanup entries for space marked as used that wasn't and files with damages indexes or something but that's it and no damaged sectors.

So I put the hard drive back in and was changing the boot order in the BIOS and the BIOS screen itself went all scattered pixels on me and wouldn't display anything in realtime. It was like a flickering snapshot with like 100 chunks of pixels moved to the wrong location in a somewhat orderly checkboard pattern. I've seen that before and it's an onboard graphics adapter that reserves 256 MB of ram so I thought okay, bad ram.

So I ran a ram test off a bootable CD and the ram test's graphics went funky and unreadable after about 10 seconds. It was 2x2GB of PC2-6400. I stuck in 2x512 PC5300 that I had laying around and it passed the ram test and booted into windows and ran for hours. Of course, that's not enough ram so I borrowed 2x1GB PC6400 from another system as the permanent replacement for this computer and ran the ram test just in case. That new ram had tested as good in the other system and ran it for about 24 hours straight too. After several minutes of the ram test, the graphics went screwey with THOSE sticks now!

So I figured it was the memory controller or the graphics processor itself. To make sure, I threw the old 2x512 PC5300 in there and ran the ram test overnight. It made 263 successful passes over about 10 hours and the graphics were fine. I know both sets of sticks of 6400 aren't bad so what could possibly cause this effect?
 

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The problem sounds like RAM but I would try another PSU. E-Machines are infamous for PSU failure.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
aww I hit the edit time limit. Lol:

You know what, I remembered wrong and it's an Acer Aspire lol. Whatever, same crap, different name lol. I do believe they own Gateway and Emachines now lol.

Anyway, tried a brand new PSU I had sitting around and got the same results. I forgot to mention that the very first time I booted this sucker up after it was dropped off, it warned me that the CMOS settings relating to the clock were incorrect and it had indeed reset the clock.

So just in case the BIOS was messed up, I flashed it with the latest version from Acer's website and there's basically no difference other than it resetting the boot order so at least I know the BIOS flash worked.

Also, I put in a PCI-E GT210 and it's still not booting with the old memory.

Here's the situation right now:
In all combinations, they show the POST screen at least
2 x 2 GB 6400 = blinking underscore then all black screen indefinitely
1 x 2 GB 6400 in DIMM 1 = blinking underscore then the letter u with an accent mark halfway down the screen and then it locks up indefinitely
2 x 512 5300 = boots perfectly and everything works with no crashes

I just don't get it. I'm tempted to get 2x1GB 5300 and cross my fingers but I have a feeling something on the motherboard is damaged so it's like a ticking timebomb and using lower speed ram to make it work will only be a temporary fix. So I'm thinking I'd need an identical motherboard to swap out but that's such a pain and the best I can find is a $90 used on or $220 new one. I can rebuild it and reinstall windows on it with any compatible motherboard but then all their programs are toast (I did back up their documents and files and such though) but Vista might not activate. I can replace it with a similar speed (DDR2 based Pentium dual) brand new PC and give them wholesale pricing on the remaining parts in their case and 2x2GB 6400 is worth a lot!

I really hate Acer. If this doesn't sound to any of you like something really obvious that I'm missing and is fixable in another way, I think I'll go with one of those 3 options.
 
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