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Discussion Starter #1
I built my first PC in March and am now experiencing some serious problems.

Antec case w/ 300watt PS
ASUS A7S333 Motherboard
AMD 2000XP Processor + Heat Sync
512 MB PC2700 Kingmax RAM
80 GB Maxtor HD
RADEON 64 MB DDR Video
Windows XP Pro

After building the PC I had issues for the first two weeks or so, where the system would freeze and upon reboot I would get a BIOS warning that my processor speed was set wrong. The problem seemed to go away on its' own, so I figured things were just getting broken in.

Everything was going fine, and I was enjoying having a PC that could run Jedi Outcast with the res up and all the bells and whistles on, when the [email protected]!% hit the fan. About a month ago my system started locking up a few minutes after my Aquarium screen saver came on, and only then. The freeze would require a hard reboot on the machine itself, and that would put me into BIOS. Exiting BIOS generally resulted in the system shutting down, and I'd have to repeat the process a couple of times over a few minutes before I could get back to windows.

After testing it with a couple of games, finding that I could play with normal performance for about five minutes or so before the system locked up completely, and not seeing the problem anywhere that didn't use video acceleration, I was going to chalk it up to a bad graphics card. However about a week ago my system froze while typing a word document, and now it freezes occasionally for no apparent reason at all. Also, now when I shut down the tower after a freeze, it will not start for a minute or so when I push the power button. It sounds like its' going to go for a second and then dies.

At this point I have no idea what the problem is, but my many trips to the BIOS screen have me leaning toward the Motherboard.

Sorry this was so long winded, but I'm hoping a thorough history will yield some good results. I would greatly appreciate any ideas any of you might have.
 

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Your power supply is too small for what you're running.
I've seen this exact same thing happen on a couple systems I've had. When the power supply is being overworked for power, CPU clock speeds will drop, which explains your incorrect processor speed. If you run a real time clock checker in Windows, you'll probably see this first-hand. Install a 400W or higher power supply, and I'm almost certain that your system will run perfectly. (Of course, that will depend on if the power shortages haven't damaged any components.)
 

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You know, it's not necessarily always hardware. You could have an overheat problem, but you could also have O/S trouble. Or even a virus. Another thought... your DirectX version?

For the O/S, have you run Windows Update lately, and installed all the critical updates? In your case I'd recommend you also browse the XP-specific updates (the next category after critical), I seem to recall there were some that dealt with game freezes etc.. They were not classified critical because not everybody does games.

-clintfan
 

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I've spent some time reading guides for the newer Athlons and this motherboard. Depending on the rest of the installed components, the system might get close to needing 300W, but most likely not exceeding it.
Athlon Specs
A7S333 Specs
The Athlon one has an excellent scientific formula to determine minimum PSU wattages to use by adding up all system devices.
Another possibility with the PSU theory is a tempermental unit, but Antecs are high quality, so I'll table that theory for now.

Something I noticed while reading the Asus specs was the CPU Overheating Protection, which automatically shuts down the computer if the temperature exceeds the set criteria. I don't know what temperature your system is set up to lock down at, but it would explain why after an event you can't boot up for a while. After things cool down for a bit, it boots back up for you. I don't know where to check to see what temperature it shuts down at.

Have you got the Asus PC Probe installed? This could check to rule out overheating, power issues, and fan problems. Install it, but don't set it to boot automatically with the computer. Turn it on manually. Keep an eye on it, and wait for the system to go nuts again. See if you notice any odd changes before or during the problem. This program is on your Asus Cd that came with the motherboard.

You can also grab the latest drivers for your motherboard here in case you simply need updated drivers to fix some bugs:
Asus A7S333 Updates

Hopefully we've given you a few avenues to explore, and I hope one of us has provided the ultimate solution so you can get back to Jedi Outcast. I love that game a lot, and am in an online squadron that plays it:
Sabre Squadron Fighter Wing
 

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Check Temps

Go into your bios on startup and check your hardware monitor, there you will find your temps and voltage settings. Check to see if these are all within specs. Average temps on AMD CPUs should be around 42-45 C with stock air cooling and up to 55 C under load. You can also use the Asus probe software that comes with your motherboard and monitor temps from within Windows and adjust any settings that would cause your system to shut down when it reaches a certain threshhold temp. I really dont think it is your power supply unless it has gone bad, 300 watts should handle your hardware load. If the temps are high, increase cooling (add more fans) or reseat the heatsink/fan. That is usually the case with random reboots.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Thank you for all of the great information.

I do keep pretty current with my Windows Updates, and unfortunately the fix was not that simple.

M_M I think you’re on to something with the overheating protection, though I don't know for sure. Using the Monitor in my BIOS along with the probe you recommended I found that the CPU temp was around 50 C normally, and after it froze it would be around 55 C. According to the probe, the danger temp level is 58-87 C. Though the warning monitor is 79 C by default, I'm wondering if the motherboard was shutting things down at 58 C. If you happen to know, what is the optimum temp and the dangerous temp for a CPU. Also, do you recommend raising the shut off temp, and how I might go about doing that.

The Probe brought up some other questions. It rates my CPU fan as performing at 4500 rpm, which is good. However, it does not see my Power Supply Fan at all (it is plugged into the board and is blowing warm air out the back), and rates my Case fan as running at 1800 rpms, which it flags with a warning. I'm not too concerned because my Case temp is 30 C, which compared to the 60 C danger that ASUS lists seems pretty good. I'm wondering what you think about these issues, and if there is a way to manually increase fan speeds.

On another note, I seem to have fixed the freezing problem, but I'm not happy with the way I did it. In my BIOS I have the option to select either 1800 mhz or 1350 mhz for my CPU speed. I've always kept it at 1800 because the Athalon XP 2200 is billed as a 1.8 ghz processor. I went in and dropped it to 1350mhz and have not seen any problems since. My regular temp is now 45 C and after playing the new Halo demo for twenty minutes it was only up to 51 C. I also left my Aquarium screensaver (a sure way to cause a lock-up) on all night and the system didn't freeze. Please let me know if you have any ideas how to get my processor speed back up without the lock-ups.

Lastly, I have avoided updating my BIOS only because I didn't bother to put a floppy drive in my system. Do you know if it's possible to use a CD/DVD Writer instead? Perhaps using DLA formatting. I've never updated before and the process seems somewhat intimidating.

***Thanks Bushido, I didn't get your post until after I submitted this message***
 

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Using the Monitor in my BIOS along with the probe you recommended I found that the CPU temp was around 50 C normally, and after it froze it would be around 55 C. According to the probe, the danger temp level is 58-87 C.
50C? Isn't 122F a bit high for a normal, idle temp? Fyi I would not be surprised if, like P4, the shutdown temps are approximate, and not settable by the user.

I'd CAREFULLY ease the heatsink off and reapply the thermal compound between the CPU and the sink, maybe there's not enough, or there's too much. Or the compound's no good, try something like Arctic Silver instead. Anyway don't force it. If they're glued together, you may have a chore getting them apart, I've heard something about 30 minutes in a freezer: definitely not a task for the timid.


I went in and dropped it to 1350mhz and have not seen any problems since. My regular temp is now 45 C
Naturally. Now that your CPU's slowed down by 25%, of course it will run cooler. 1.3GHz may be respectable, but it's a sad fix for what appears to be a lack of sufficient direct CPU cooling. That said, I actually have no idea what temp my own CPU runs at! Maybe you could benefit from a better-quality heatsink.

I didn't bother to put a floppy drive in my system. Do you know if it's possible to use a CD/DVD Writer instead? Perhaps using DLA formatting.
No, BIOS is not smart enough to use DLA (Driver Letter Access), that's a Windows thing. Newer P4 Asus mobos can auto-recover off a CD, so I should think you should be able to burn a CD and use that. Your mobo doesn't appear to have an auto-recover mode, you have to run AFLASH.

AFLASH runs under DOS, so you would need to make it a bootable DOS CD, and I'm not sure how to do that. Download the BIOS update file AS331006.ZIP and the AFLASH.EXE tool. UNZIP the BIOS file. Burn AFLASH.EXE and the unzipped BIOS file "AS331006.AWD" onto the CD, along with all the necessary DOS O/S files, including any needed for CD support. Read your mobo manual section 4.1 and the web BIOS instructions at least three times, and go from there.

Only trouble is, without a floppy you won't be able to save- the- current- BIOS step as described. But perhaps you could save to a file on your C: drive root folder. I'd make the CD, then try this save first.

Hope this helps,

-clintfan
 

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Which Antec PSU do you have? I've got a TruePower that has a lead coming from it which attaches to the pwr fan connection on my mobo. This is to regulate some of the case fans, though. I don't think fans in PSU's are actually monitored.

What is your cooling situation? Please list all of the fans in your system. (For example, I have one on the GPU, one on the CPU, two in the PSU, two rear case fans, one side case fan which blows on the AGP card, and two front case fans which blows on the hard drives.) Make sure your cables inside are under control and not blocking airflow. If there are spaces where you can add optional fans, I highly recommend installing fans there. Additionally, check into the Antec Cyclone Blower, which is quite good at adding cooling:
Antec Cooling Products
It sounds as though cooling is what you need.
:winking:

My CPU runs at 45C at the hot end. Right now it's 38C since I have the window open and have a clip-on fan running in my room. Guess a cheap fix for your problem is to get one of those box fans from Wal-Mart for $20, open your case, and set the fan against the opening. (I'm half-joking here.)
 

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I don't think fans in PSU's are actually monitored.
That depends on the supply. It will do it if:

1. the supply provides a monitoring connector (only 2 wires: ground and rotation), [or lets the mobo drive its fans via a connector (do any DO this?)], and
2. the mobo provides a power supply fan header, and
3. the BIOS supports the reporting of supply fan speed (if 2. then probably 3. also).

My Antec True480 supplies just such a connector, which plugs onto the P4C800-E Deluxe PWR_FAN header which is just behind the CPU.

-clintfan
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks again for all the good ideas.

My power supply is an Antec 300W SmartPower that came installed in the case. My graphics card has its' own fan built in and I have an 80mm intake fan in the front (bottom) and an 80mm exhaust in the back (top). My heatsync is a generic brand, however it looks alot like the "Reference" model at the Antec Cooling Products link above. The fan component looks the same but the fins and housing are all copper. I used "PC Toys" Silver thermal compound to install it. I guess I'll have to reinstall the heatsync. Is there a good method for removing the old compound, and also for using the right amount when I put it back in. As I mentioned at the begining of this thread, this was my first PC build, and to be honest the thing I found most difficult was the instalation of the heatsync and thermal compound. If anyone has some good methods for this process I would really appreciate it.
 

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My first suggestion is study the instructions at the Arctic Silver site I gave earlier. For you there would be some extra cleaning first. I agree heatsink installation was the hardest part of my build too, since I'd never done such a critical install before. Took me 2-1/2 hours, and two tries.

My second suggestion is that if you think the heatsink is an issue, and you are going to go to all this trouble, you might want to invest in something like a Zalman CNPS7000A-Cu heatsink (important: note the "A") instead of the generic one you have now. It claims to support your socket 462. Hard for me to tell what you've got, I can't see it plus I'm no heatsink expert.

Hope this helps,

-clintfan
 
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