Loyd's New Year - A Trio of Problem Systems

by Loyd Case on 1/13/2010 12:00 AM EST


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  • bhanaki - Tuesday, January 19, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the entertaining article, Lloyd. Glad to see that you are still writing. Your articles always seem to be a good balance between casual read and tech specifics. Reply
  • Mygaffer - Saturday, January 16, 2010 - link

    Why did you take out a 3Ghz Core 2 Quad and replace it with a slightly faster Core 2 Duo? I mean, I know the 45nm chips are roughly 5-20% faster per clock depending on application, but with the OS upgrade and her multiple programs and background processes she'd get better performance with the Core 2 Quad in general. Reply
  • ValiumMm - Monday, January 18, 2010 - link

    I really dont understand, why you went from just upgrading to Vista from XP, without even a fresh install of XP, or atleast Windows 7. Clearly if a computer was running fast or fine before then later on, gets slower, Obviously its a software issue. Hardware does not just get slower over time. I dont no why you went from a Quad to a Dual Core. Just for the die shrink? (2004 model V8 car, replaced with a 2010 V6 car)

    I think you just tried to throw money at it and expect results instead of using your "expertise".
  • mattclary - Friday, January 15, 2010 - link

    "I thought it would be a good idea to perform an in-place upgrade from Windows XP to Windows Vista."

    On what planet did that seem like a good idea? LOL
  • BelardA - Tuesday, January 19, 2010 - link

    Agreed... and this is from a techie?

    doing a CLEAN install OF an OS is best, always. And of the previous OS is already broken, its nothing but problems.

    Oh, and Vista is crap anyway is also problem.

    Would have been better money and time wise to backup the data, clean install Windows7. And the kid (everyones kid) can re-download whatever junk they want. Besides, there maybe junk they've downloaded that they no longer remember or car about.

    Windows7 runs pretty good on basic Core2 Duos with 1GB of RAM (2~2 still recommended).
  • apf888 - Thursday, January 14, 2010 - link

    It's funny how you ran into RAM issues with Corsair. When I was building my old P4 3GHz HT system long ago, I had bought 1 GB of Corsair TwinX and had been getting random verify errors on archiving which were traced back to the RAM. As it turned out, I wasn't alone and the reason was the spec for DDR400 was 2.6V, but the RAM required 2.7V to be stable ("sort of"). Corsair's solution? "Overvolt" the RAM voltage by 0.1V... Worked for some, but wasn't happening on my stock Intel board that had no voltage tweak function whatsoever. Ever since then, I stopped buying Corsair RAM in favor of Kingston HyperX which worked perfectly.

    In this case here, it's because RAM manufacturers cheated. Because early DDR3 yields made it impractical, they weaseled their way into selling DDR3 with out of spec ratings (which motherboard manufacturers "supported". It's just that when the i7 came out, the max voltage it's on-die memory controller would tolerate was was built around the DDR3 spec voltage. Also, some early i7 adopters looking for that extreme OC by overvolting the (correct) RAM found out that that max voltage *really* was the max the hard way, so now you have to REALLY be careful and make SURE it says it's Intel i5/i7-compatible.

    But basically, anyone who was an early-adopter of DDR3 on P35/P45, X38/X48 or anything AM3 thinking they would be able to carry it over just got screwed over...
  • justniz - Thursday, January 14, 2010 - link

    This article just underlines the whole Asus thing again.
    Ever since the 486's were new I've built my own PCs. I've always loved Asus motherboards to the point were I would usually never consider any other brand. However after having to return several different top-end Asus boards over the last 3 years or so due to stupid failures, and watching the direction their top end boards are going in, its clear that the premium pricing Asus charge no longer gets you good quality, instead its just buying stupid redundant motherboard bling. Asus top-end now just seems to target 'l33t ovaclockahs' with overpriced rubbish designed to last about 3 weeks.
    I chose a Gigabyte motherboard for my last (i7-based) build and haven't been even slightly dissapointed.
    I'm telling people to stay away from Asus motherboards now.
  • marraco - Thursday, January 14, 2010 - link

    I own an asus P6T (non deluxe).

    The 3 PCI-E connectors are better spaced, it haves more SATA connectors (and no that buggy SAS, which on a SSD world makes nonsense), and holes for LGA 1366 AND LGA 775.

    Cheaper, and better.
  • hrahn - Thursday, January 14, 2010 - link

    You should have gone for the Asrock X58 board.
    It's cheap, its cheerful, it runs a Vmware ESX server in our company while sporting 3PCIe Intel network cards just fine 24/7.
    Great board, installed it and never had to tweak a thing.
  • mindless1 - Thursday, January 14, 2010 - link

    Let's walk through the correct systematic approach to fixing PC #1.

    1) Symptom - Running Slow.

    A) Check CPU speed to confirm right MHz reading.
    B) Benchmark CPU and memory
    C) Take a loot at what's running, kill processes and see if performance improves.

    2) Vista IS overall SLOWER THAN XP!! It is no solution to anything except if that is the OS she wants to use. If so, go for it, but not in the middle of a potential hardware problem.

    People keep using silly metrics like how long a boot takes or letting Vista prefetch, ignoring the time to do that, THEN benchmarking, not looking at overall system performance because that is the opposite of the isolated testing a typical benchmark tries to focus on.

    A) If XP ran ok when installed which it obviously did or you wouldn't have deployed the system, the worst thing to do is change things that are obviously not the problem. It is not so much change-one-thing-at-a-time, it is change only what might be the problem and that's definitely not the problem.

    B) Ask if there is any important data on the system and make a backup of the OS partition (if you did not set it up as briefly described at the end of this post).

    C) Restore the prior backup from when XP ran ok.

    D) Does XP run ok now? If yes, problem solved, add back software one item at a time noting if problem returns. If no, you have isolated hardware and/or bios, it is not a software or OS problem.

    3) 2GB of ram means what? That is a LOT of memory for the described tasks, double what is needed actually. Think about it, people were doing these things back when XP systems typically had 256-512MB and were excited to have their new *fast* system. Point is, don't think in arbitrary terms of how-much-memory-can-I cram-in, think in terms of "ok, this is what needs to run, let's look at the allocations in Task Manager". Again, since it ran ok when first put together and XP installed, there is no reason to think it won't again if you simply restore the backup from the point in time when it ran ok.

    4) What the heck, swapping memory and CPU? Half the memory ahd half the performance of the original CPU should be plenty for the described tasks. Even then it should run circles around any notebook that has a regular HDD instead of SSD in it and yet system was abandoned to use notebook.

    A) Always fix what is broken before doing unassociated upgrades.

    The lesson that should have been learned is once you set up a system the first time and it runs properly, make a backup and consider that golden. Do not waste time scratching your head, scanning for malware, etc. Don't even blink before restoring the backup.

    I should add, this is in the context of having the OS configured such that the user data stores (desktop contents, My Documents, email, favorites, etc) are on a different partition than the OS partition, that the OS is configured for this before making the backup. Result is you start up already having full and immediate access to these things again instead of having wiped out important data.
  • mindless1 - Thursday, January 14, 2010 - link

    ... and the aforementioned "different partition than the OS partition" can conveniently be on a NAS or fileserver when dealing with several client systems, even in a cloud if you've the throughput to the *sky*. Reply
  • vascos - Thursday, January 14, 2010 - link

    thank´s very much for this article. as a systembuilder i am used to this like every day.hardware does all test(like-prime,linx,furmark+atitool,memtest++)but we had ram(works fine on other mb) running for 2-3weeks and then instantly crashed-swapped other ram in and fine for 3month´s and hoping longer.this is with a lot of p55 mobo´s.

  • Etern205 - Thursday, January 14, 2010 - link

    While I agree the HD4870 is a old card to some extent, but I don't see it as a old card where no one wants to buy it. The card has dropped significantly in price which lets users on a budget get a card that's worth the performance within their price range.

  • bob4432 - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    this is why i always use mature to 1gen old hardware and os w/ at least a decent service pack out if i need to upgrade the os at all. w/ the exceptions of gpus, nothing else is really equal for the return on investment when you consider in the time wasted on troubleshooting bs due to "out of the gate" brand new items - let others waste their time and $$$ and when it is time for me to buy, i will build a machine using older tech that will be faster than people buying the latest because the drivers/os/support has been had a few once overs and i will save a ton of time chasing "beta" hardware output. Reply
  • Andreos - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I found this article very interesting, also the comments. Lets have more like this! Reply
  • cesthree - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I had very similar issues with my EVGA P55 FTW E657 and DRAM.

    My OCZ3P1600LV4GK wouldn't work at the rated 7-7-7-24-2T @ 1.65V AT ALL. Tried a slew of BIOS's and settings.

    Purchased some Dominator-GT's CMG4GX3M2A2000C8, set the XMP, and was flying from the get go. 12+ hours Prime Blend AND 20+ Passes LinX stable easily.

    DRAM compatibility is strange with the P55. I have seen all manufacturers forums filled with inconsistencies. Mostly there has been trouble with 1600Mhz kits.

    I have also noticed where the kit would work on an AMD, and not on the i5 i7 part the kit was "designed" to work with.

    Hope memory manufacturers and mobo manufacturers can get together to get this solved, or prepare for an onslaught of RMA's.
  • cesthree - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Looks like you were dealing with a Xenomorph. Reply
  • nubie - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Yep, it can sneak up on you and then bite you when you forget your own rules.

    Kudos on Windows 7.

    Please don't say things like "not bleeding edge system. Core components include an Intel QX6850" and "older 512MB Radeon HD 4870". It makes me want to cry, I have an e5200 and 8600GTS (could be worse, the GTS is quite a bit faster than the 8600GT, it has 32.3 GB/s of RAM bandwidth for one.) I had to search and search to get this system put together, even using an OEM MSI board (missing 2nd PCI-e and parallel ports, etc) and RMA'ing it twice to get it to POST with a 45nm processor. Some people have no jobs you know.
  • xeopherith - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I experienced the same memory trouble you had when building a system that was for work purposes. I ended up having to trade the memory in my gaming machine with the work machine just to resolve some memory problems.

    Honestly it felt like a timing issue but I wouldn't get results in memtest only when running prime95 for long periods of time. After reading on OCZ's site it specifically said that the memory wouldn't work with anything but intel chipsets! I was building an AMD Phenom 940 when that was new with a Asus M4A78 Pro motherboard if memory serves. It didn't matter how much I underlocked, overvolt, undervolt, modified timings, ect.

    I traded the memory for some Crucial that was specifically marked compatible on the Crucial configuration utility and holy crap it worked fine.

    I have since had friends with the same problem but they certainly don't want to believe that if they pick the right frequency memory that it could be incompatible. It just goes to show you should be reading the PDFs for the motherboard and tested memory modules and or the memory manufactures tested ok modules. Both Crucial and Corsair have good documentation. I'm sure there are others but I prefer those two or OCZ.
  • Taft12 - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    First off, good article!

    You are correct when you say "the state of the art in DDR3 modules seems to be evolving rapidly". I find RAM more than anything to be impossible to keep up with and fraught with incompatibilities. I now recommend only Kingston Value RAM for any system. They advertise that it is "by spec" and I see it on EVERY QVL I've ever looked at. The 1.5V is key, every vendor bumps this up. High-end RAM will gain you a couple % points in any benchmark at best, it is absolutely not worth buying anything else IMHO for anyone other than an "enthusiast" (hate that term) and even then it is money better spent on other components.

    Thanks for bearing with my rant!
  • andrewbuchanan - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I agree, as have a few others here, that kingston value ram is the only way to go. I've been building computers for 15 years or more I would certainly rank your problems as memory first, motherboard second, power supply third, with most everything else in the unlikely category.

    I know kingston value ram isn't exciting, doesn't have amazing timing, etc etc, but nothing sucks more than an unstable computer. At the end of the day overclocking your video card and cpu are more important anyways. I've had so many problems with other brands of memory I'm honestly afraid to even try them anymore. It's not fun, at all, to spend days of memtests in the bios tweaking voltages and timings to get a stable system.

    As for motherboards, I still normally buy asus and they work out for me ok. I try to avoid latest anything anymore though, somebody else can report all the bugs and issues and fill the forumns, I'm not interested in being that person. That's true for new video card architectures, new versions of windows (except 7 which is basically vista with fixes), now android phones - you name it. Unless you really need it, you'll probably be happier to wait 6 months for the bugs to get worked out and do something fun with your weekends instead.
  • ScavengerLX - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Fun article as always. Thank Loyd Reply
  • gaiden2k7 - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    daughter's pc was a waste of hardware IMO(haha) something with a low-end ATI 4000 card can probably pull off on Torchlight (great game btw, looks like WoW, sounds like D1, plays like D2, & feels like D3) I'm in agreement with someone earlier who suggested pre-image her system or just simply replace the hdd (they are so dang cheap!)

    if it comes to hardware problem almost more often than not, it's the incompatibility of the DRAM and the MOBO, makes me wonder why, after all these years, this issue still exists, or it maybe a marketing scheme (if so then it sucks!)

    I have had several ASUS boards, they sure are lookers fancy heat sinks and all color schemes, but none of them ever 'whoa' me, the my best ASUS board was the P5Q3 with Q9300/4850 512mb/8gb. but overall Gigabyte gave me the best experience. had 2 mATX and personally using the EP45-UD3P with Q9550/4gb RAM/2x 4870 1gb CF/Windows 7 Pro, works great.

    My #1 investment rule is not to be brave with my money - given that I am no millionaire. Always research extensively and compare proven hardware before throwing bones at it. The effort usually pays back in terms of money save from spending less as well as less time spent on troubleshooting.

    my 2 cents
  • Drag0nFire - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Hi Loyd,

    I feel your pain, and have experienced problems similar to the ones you described. The issue of the computer that gradually slows over time can be just as frustrating as the computer that just won't POST.

    However, I hope I may be able to shed some light on one of your problems. I believe the memory modules you used in the second system were older DDR3 modules designed to run at 1.8V. Since Lynnfield runs memory at a maximum of 1.65V, it is no surprise to me that the memory didn't run in a stable fashion. The changes in voltage levels may help explain some of the confusion you referred to in the changing market for DDR3 memory.

  • lifeblood - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Actually, the PC that slows down over time is more frustrating. Not posting is easier as the OS and Apps are off the list of possible culprits. With a slowing computer it can be anything (although its usually bloat and malware).

    BTW, I hit Report Post rather than Reply by mistake. Moderators please ignore.
  • cyclo - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I find that RAM incompatibilities become even more pronounced when all slots are populated. One thing I could seem to trust to work though are the Kingston Value RAM series. Never had problems using these sticks on 975, P45, P55 motherboards. Reply
  • yyrkoon - Thursday, January 14, 2010 - link

    You can not always go by manufacturer of the DRAM its self. You should always research what type of CMOS chip is on a stick of RAM, and then see if it is compatible with the given motherboard. Also, RAM density can play a factor with some boards as well.

    As for specific name brands themselves. I have found ADATA to be fairly reliable. Yes, I know, the "cheap name brand" misnomer threw me off too at first, but have found their sticks to work well in most cases. I would venture to guess it has to do with packaging, and the sticks inability to be easily "zapped" by static electricity. Although, my favored all time brand is Crucial.

    In the end though, you, or we will inevitably run into a bad stick of RAM if you build enough systems. What matters here, is how well the company deals with your request for an RMA. when this happens, this is where, and why I prefer Crucial. I have not had many bad sticks from this brand, but when I did have, it was a pleasure to deal with them. Corsair on the other hand, got very defensive, and all but forced me to deal with the eTailer that I originally bought from. Newegg, and they were nearly as bad to deal with. They had no problem replacing the modules, but did not want to pay return shipping. Unacceptable . . . In the end, I got what was right( which after dealing with them the way they made things go down, I asked for a complete refund ), but they have since changed their policies on returning items. So now, I try to avoid such situations by dealing with people who understand that people who pay your bills should be treated fairly, and with respect. Which is the way I was brought up to believe how you treat people you do business with.
  • killerclick - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    1. don't use high end components for casual-gaming-and-web-surfing teenage-girl computers
    2. always do a clean install of an operating system

    I recently upgraded my girlfriend's computer TO Athlon II X2 240, 2G of DDR2 and 4670 and for general use it's as fast as anything - you can't tell the difference between that and an i7 + 5870 when you're web surfing and playing casual games, Left 4 Dead, World of Warcraft, etc. Oonce I installed everything I made a disk image so if it starts to bloat, I just save her Documents folder and roll over with the disk image.
  • AdamB5000 - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I enjoyed the read. Thanks. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Spend ungodly amounts of money for marginal performance. Why on earth anyone would spend hundreds of dollars on motherboards and memory just to have problems like these is beyond me. Isnt it much simpler to go to newegg and order the components with the most reviews and the highest ratings? I've never had any problems doing it that way. But then again I dont spend thousands on computer parts just to eek out an additional 10% performance that I'll never even notice. Anyone who has bought anything to do with DDR3 has wasted their money. Reply
  • nubie - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    +1 on:

    "Isnt it much simpler to go to newegg and order the components with the most reviews and the highest ratings? I've never had any problems doing it that way."

    -1 on " Anyone who has bought anything to do with DDR3 has wasted their money."

    Performance isn't just measured in max memory throughput, (which triple-channel DDR3 certainly wins). But also in power consumption and future speed improvements.

    I don't know what this DDR3 "waste of money" talk is. If you personally don't see a need to upgrade, then don't. Many use AM3 chips with DDR2 and have adequate performance. Many also use Core i7/i5/i3 systems and enjoy increased performance.

    You can't complain about upgrades, after all DDR2 started at 400mhz, not a real upgrade from DDR at 400mhz, but look where it ended: with performance rivaling introductory DDR3. If we don't move forward when will it improve?
  • Ratinator - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I am having the exact same problem, however I am using OCZ-1600 RAM. The difference however is I have yet to upgrade the BIOS to the latest release. I haven't had time to flash the BIOS yet and here is what I am experiencing: At 1600MHz, it doesn't recognize all the RAM properly. At 1333 it does. I also have the same problem with hangs when recovering from sleep mode. If I remember correctly the most recent BIOS updates do provide better RAM compatibility and because you updated your BIOS before putting in the OCZ RAM, you may have gotten lucky. Reply
  • Spacecomber - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Enjoyed the article. I just thought that I would mention that I find it usually worthwhile to run a memory testing program, such as MemTest, for an extended period of time when I'm faced with a crash-prone computer. Often this will pick up the memory errors contributing to this problem. (You often can narrow down your finding to a specific module by running MemTest on each one individually, as well.) Most manufacturers have warranties on their memory such that they will accept the return of the faulty memory for a replacement (and they will accept your report of the MemTest results as evidence that the module is faulty). Reply
  • chusteczka - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Memtest errors are not exclusively related only to memory issues. I have often tracked memtest errors to a faulty PSU connection to the motherboard and unstable CPU settings in the BIOS. It is best to think of memtest errors as being system errors. Reply
  • yyrkoon - Thursday, January 14, 2010 - link

    You will know when memtest will find your ram faulty. That is if you're any sort of competent with troubleshooting computer systems. Your universal statement is very much untrue. There is a reason why every competent PC repair person uses this test application. Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Ok, call me young and feeble, but I cannot stand seeing an "extreme" CPU that isn't overclocked pretty hard. And it was done not once, but twice! I'll forgive the i7 860, as it has Bloomfield over it and doesn't cost a grand.

    You could have saved yourself $500+ on your daughter's machine by getting a Q6600 and modestly overclocking it to 3.00GHz (333x9).

    And an i7 965? Really now? Do I even need to tell you how much money was wasted on that gem?

    I would love to be in a financial situation in which I could buy a product that screams "4.0GHz" over and over again, but instead leave it stock to taunt my less fortunate brethren.
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    We occasionally buy high-end CPUs and leave them stock in our lab systems, because we need something fast and don't have the time to spend tweaking an OCed system. Also, he might not have bought all those CPUs at retail. Reply
  • cjb110 - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I think the post highlights a serious issue within the industry. Wishy-Washy standards! I shouldn't have to 'hope my supplier has a decent returns policy'

    If I put DDR3-1600 into a DDR3-1600 slot it should work whatever the rest of the system. Why didn't the memory work? Was it power? timings? what? what did jedec or whoever forget to nail down in the spec, that allowed these inconsistanties?

    Its not just memory, I can't think of a single tech related standard that actually is a true standard.

    I've had my NAS drive reject a SATA disk, because the manufacture doesn't support a certain command...wtf? I wasn't sold a SATAish disk, or a SATA (apart from feature x) disk, there was nothing on the box or anywhere at the point of sale to tell a consumer this.

    Similarly most bluetooth phones, aren't. Or at least they actually only support an extremely limited part of bluetooth functionality (often just headset support). But the spec sheets says BT ADAP 2.1 or sommit equally vauge...nothing about not supporting remote sim access, file transfer or obex etc

  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I don't know about bluetooth on phones in general, but on Verizon in particular they limit what the bluetooth can do, apparently out of fear of theft of their ringtones or some other crap. Reply
  • glockjs - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    it's refreshing to read an article like this tbh. shows the reality we go through and forget when we start tinkering with hardware haha.

    i just wanna say it makes me sad inside that your teenage daughter has a rig that crushes mine to play flash games and check myspace :( and you say "older" 4870 when i proudly rock a 3870 haha.

    it seems to me that you use nothing but quality parts and still had a hardware issue with the ram. the fanboi in me jumped out when you were mentioning the brands ocz...corsair...as i thought to myself "why the f didn't he say g.skill". tbh the rigs i've built in the past years i seem to have zero issues with g.skill...just a thought.
  • loydcase - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    For what it's worth, my daughter doesn't just play flash games. While Torchlight is not a big system hog, she also plays games like NeverWinter Nights 2, Titan Quest, Sins of a Solar Empire and other RTS and RPG titles. Reply
  • glockjs - Friday, January 15, 2010 - link

    you just named a slew of games that a 9800pro could easily handle :p Reply
  • Finally - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    [quote]shows the reality we go through[/quote]

    I'd rather state it this way:
    This article shows the reality PC-incometent people have to go through, on a regular basis.

    I'd say it's pretty hard to find a non-marketing-related article on the web that recommends going for that upgrade option, especially if you have a basement full of hi-end hardware and close to limitless software supplies at hand like the author here...
  • Mugur - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link


    Just a quick comment regarding the first case: that machine needed just a clean Windows 7 installation (or even a clean Vista installation). No need to replace an "old" quad core with a "new" dual core...

    And never do an upgrade XP - Vista or XP - 7, or even Vista - 7... Just clean installations.
  • masterbm - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    The reminded me of my own experience of that. I have nforce 3 board that had suffered from various it seemed every 3 or 4 months and Then would be fine. Well last week it turned out that issue came from sata controller that was no longer function like it should. But I I did replace the core(ram,cpu,motherboard) of the machine anyway. It is time retire it. Reply
  • svrmstr - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Thanks for writing this article! I've experienced what you’re talking about with the first system.

    I have a P5Q3 Deluxe with 2 GB Corsair memory, a Q9550 and a Radeon 4870. I must say that this motherboard is extremely quirky when it comes to memory. I had to return 2 pairs of Corsair RAM before I got a set that would post - each pair that Newegg sent me was different, because they were being discontinued almost as quickly as they were released. Even after I got the system to POST with the 3rd set, I encountered lots of memory errors, but these errors weren't due to bad RAM chips, as I discovered using MemTest86+. I should mention that at the time, the RAM was on the QVL list, although that list has since gone through numerous revisions.

    I spent a solid week researching and learning everything I could about the motherboard, quad-core CPUs and overclocking. (I wasn't trying to overclock at first, but such information would help me understand exactly what had to be done.) A few articles on AnandTech that dealt with Asus motherboards, overclocking and BIOS settings definitely pointed me in the right direction. Along with a couple of lengthy guides to overclocking with quad-core CPUs from other sources, I gained enough knowledge to make the system stable.

    In the end, it involved fine-tuning the BIOS, setting just about every option manually. This meant many long hours of trial and error. As it turned out, the CPU settings required the most tweaking. Getting the right VCORE, PLL and GTL voltages, plus adding a 100ns delay really made a difference – the northbridge settings were also sensitive. It wasn’t a matter of faulty RAM, as was the symptom, rather instabilities with the system as a whole. Individually each part performed flawlessly, but put them and you create a monster time sink. Notably, when I swapped in a Core 2 Duo E8400, all the memory errors went away. That’s when I decided to really focus on the CPU settings. Honestly, this motherboard doesn’t have reliable automatic settings, especially when you’re using a Core 2 Quad. Let me add that I’ve used every BIOS revision since 1702 and they’ve all performed the same for me.

    Now I’m running at 3.4 GHz core speed, 1600 MHz FSB and 1600 MHz memory. I wanted so badly to give up in favor of building a newer, better system, but it just wasn’t in my budget. I hope that my story isn’t too long; I wanted to share what I could. Here are links to some of the articles I read:
  • nicknomo - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I've had the same experience.. I've never really ran into memory that didn't work in a machine after some degree of tweaking in the BIOS.

    I think that is an important lesson to learn, and a much better solution then constantly RMA'ing parts.

    Just by looking at the reviews in newegg, I can see that most RAM incompatability issues seems to happen with modules that require higher voltages. With the advent of O/C'ing, a lot of manufacturers make memory that will only boot .2 or .3 volts above what a normal DIMM operates at.

    Other problems usually stem from the motherboard reading the SPD of the modules and incorrectly setting the timings. Either way, bumping up the voltage on the memory and setting the timings and clock speed manually will often fix 99% of these problems..
  • yyrkoon - Thursday, January 14, 2010 - link

    I have. That is, whenever I get CRC errors, or corrupt files, the first thing I do is check the BIOS settings for the memory to make sure they're correct. When I build a system the first thing I do after the first POST is to check to make sure these settings are correct. timings, as well as voltage.

    I have however had bad sticks of memory from certain manufactures that I now try to avoid like the plague. They have good parts too, but I would rather not play a guessing game when trying to set up a new system.

    Even my own favored brand rarely seems to relay the proper information to many a motherboard, so perhaps this is where / why I picked up this habit.

  • yonzie - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    A few years ago I had a pair of MSI 945G mATX boards heading for a server.
    The harddrive I planned to use for one of the servers consistently killed the board.
    It worked fine in other boards, the MSI board worked fine with other drives.
    The combination of this particular drive and motherboard model consistently killed the board dead. Not helping troubleshooting, it worked fine on the initial boot, then it was gone.
  • biostud - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    One of my friends had the same problem with the i7 and corsair memory, to get the system stable the memory had to run 1066Mhz, otherwise it would crash at random. Reply
  • takumsawsherman - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I'm confused as to the point of this article. You have 3 systems which are quite powerful. Let's take them in order.

    1. Daughter's computer running slowly, running weatherbug, presumably lots of junk installed over the years.

    a. Weather Channel is different than WeatherBug. Tell her to use the one and not the other.

    b. If the computer was running slowly, why would you put Vista on it, which is not exactly a speed demon? I'm waiting for the storm from this comment, but oh well, I go by observation, and Vista has all sorts of lag, especially when UAC takes many seconds just to decide to ask for authorization. A tuned XP system is faster than a tuned Vista system.

    c. You rip out the processor and memory to upgrade, but don't check for BIOS updates first. Also, you put in $300 worth of hardware, and hours of labor on a system which already has fast hardware and on which she mostly surfs the internet and plays WildTangent games. Is this supposed to inspire someone? What lesson are we taking from this?

    d. Easy worst-case solution would have been to back up her system, reinstall XP, update it, turn off unnecessary services and have her tell you what she needs on it. You vet the apps, and tell her not to install junk without asking you. Not to mention that if you install the apps for her, you can take more care as to what options are being installed, such as toolbars, etc.

    e. Normal scenario is that you uninstall the garbage-ware, replace any lost functionality with non-garbageware. Examine services, trim those not needed, set performance options on XP, and the system would likely have run just fine, even with a bloated registry. I do this all the time on customer's systems when they have crazy kids or are crazy themselves. Also, buy your daughter a Mac. She'll be happier, and it comes with a Weather widget. Amazing.

    2. You keep putting memory that has issues with Intel boards into more Intel boards.

    a - e. Stop doing that.

    3. Having weird issues, may be motherboard related.

    a. You've been updating the BIOS. That's cool. Have you tried going back to an earlier version, since the problems cropped up recently?

    b. Is your processor the 3.2 or the 3.33? If the 3.2, did you try not overclocking it? The memory is overclocked. Did you try removing some modules?

    c. You rip out the motherboard, replace it with another board which has problems with your video card. Ok, it happens. You rip that one out and replace it with a 3rd.

    d. This is your "production" system. What exactly are you producing on this monster?

    I know I probably sound curmudgeonly here, but I'm still wondering what this article is supposed to do for anyone, except show them how to spin wheels and waste money. It's like an amalgamation of every seat-of-the-pants hobbyist-with-limited-experience I have ever met, all in one article. Well, maybe not that bad, but it seems to me that sugar intake may need to be reduced.

    Yes, it could be that you have a high percentage of bad hardware, but excepting the Corsair modules (Corsair should be contacted) it seems to me that you don't really do any troubleshooting because you are way too excited about using the problem as an excuse to upgrade. But for all the energy the upgrades take, I can't imagine your real world performance increasing enough to make up for the lost time.
  • camylarde - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Seriously i do not see a point in your post. at all. You seem to just repeat authors conclusions with the added "you're stupid" tag... Reply
  • Finally - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Maybe because that tag is well-deserved?
    I mean, come on. An already overblown computer for a casual websurfer feat. a HD4870 which has to run that ridiculous Torchlight at max gets even more overblown...

    And who, in his right mind, would want to install any Windows over a crapped one?
  • StormyParis - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    1- stay well away from the bleeding edge. A 20% gain in performance is not, to me, worth even a weekly lock-up. In the same vein; Keep It Simple Stupid: any component that finds it way into one of my PCs must have a very good reason to be there. That means... most of my PCs are just a straight motherboard, with an IGP but no extension card at all. And mature (2+ months) components stock cooler, regular speed RAM, no overclocking. Taking risks on these is more trouble than it's worth.

    2- don't trust reviews. I don't know if it's checkbox craziness, or being convinced that because they get early versions, reviewers shouldn't report problems during testing, or lack of in-depth, long-run testing, or just plain corruption, but reviews often fail to report major reliability / durability issues. Wait a bit before buying, check the forums for alerts from early adopters, or even ask my reseller for advice, then buy.
  • erple2 - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I think that your 20% gain in performance is greatly exaggerated. I'd suspect that the "bleeding edge" of performance (within a processor family) is going to net you (barring overclocking, which if you're looking for actual and not anecdotal stability, you should ignore) about 5% in special cases.

    The other problem is that forum posts mask what the real reliability happens to be. Take every single review, particularly people complaining about reliability with a giant chunk of salt. People will say that there are a ton of people that have problems with product xyz, and evidence some forum post of a hundred or so people. I'd stipulate that that's stunningly and statistically insignificant to draw reliability conclusions from. How often do you post that product xyz that you've purchased just works with no problems? I haven't. I only post questions/responses when I have issues with the product. And I'd be very willing to bet that other people do, too.
  • StormyParis - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    oops, and

    3- buy a good PSU !
  • yyrkoon - Thursday, January 14, 2010 - link

    1) Buy the right motherboard.

    2) buy the right memory

    3) buy the right PSU.

    And of course "the right xx" means they all must play nicely with one another. Research, research, research. Its all about reading all the reviews, user reviews specifically, and weeding out all the BS posts. Who says newegg is not good for something ; ) This goes without saying. Buying into bleeding edge hardware will not work for this purpose either.

    As for review site reviews . . . I've yet to read one that seemed accurate in my own eyes in years. Including from this site. Mainly, the problem is, since they have a time frame in which to review, and write an article. Their tests are no where near as stringent as I and others would like them to be. So perhaps that xxx branded motherboard gets reviewed well, even though it crashes on a weekly basis relating to hardware issues. Or, teh QC process involved in the consumer part is not the same as that from which the reviewed part passed through.

    Anyways, I think I've made my point. Read these reviews for fun, but when you're serious about a piece of hardware, read all the user reviews you can. Then do the math on your own. this was one thing ABIT did well. They had excellent community forums where you could read until your eyes bled . . .
  • dukeariochofchaos - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    First of all, great article. More please.

    2nd of all...
    "How anyone can keep track of which modules run well on which motherboards at this point in time is a mystery."

    That sounds like a really great idea for a list.
    Does anyone know of any effort like this to form a giant DRAM comp. list?
    If not... please, somebody, jump on it.
  • yyrkoon - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    One could say without sounding like an anti-fanboi ( hopefully ) that all of these systems shared commonalities. Specific name brands, that some ( myself included ) tend to shy away from when wanting to build a rock solid stable "production system". For me, and my own personal systems, this is _every_single_one_.

    For me personally, the last 4 motherboards from one company gave me no ends of grief, when trying to build a two separate systems( several years ago ). 3 for the first, and the last for a second system( this is when I completely gave up on the company as a reliable OEM ). Then, a certain name branded memory that would mysteriously fail seemingly randomly. Read: previous to these experiences there were some seemingly good parts from the same manufacturers. Over time, it seems to have gotten only worse. Now, also, researching hardware these days is a must. Fail to do so at your own peril. Then at the same time, one must weed out all the BS read on the web, to make a sound judgement( hopefully ).

    To be sure, these days are no fun finding suitable hardware for ones own personal system, let alone for others who pay you to build for them. Then again, my standards are much higher than most it seems. Days / weeks worth of up times is not good enough relating to hardware. I expect all systems I build to exhibit months for potential up times if the user so wishes to run a system that long. Regardless of operating system running on it. Which is another problem in its self. Read: different OSes like different hardware in some cases.

    Now, to be perfectly honest, I had/have no clue what exactly happened in each of teh above cases. However, I am the type that believes when he puts down hard earned cash, whether it be mine, or a customers, I deserve to receive fair compensation in return. It is not my responsibility to troubleshoot these parts for a company who is selling them to me as new equipment, and I refuse to be a paying beta tester either. Especially to the tune of $200-$300 a pop now days( for feature rich motherboards ), and the fact that my time is worth money. Expenses that will never be reimbursed to me if I run into a snag, and expenses these companies seem more than willing to inflict upon me, and others. If / when we let them. The shame of it all is; This seems to be a perfectly except able trend now days. A trend I have a serious problem with. We could get into an in depth car analogy here . . . but I should not have to.

    So along these lines I definitely can agree. Refuse to listen to your own reasoning at the expense of getting bitten in return. For me however, this usually happens when I stray outside of my own buying guidelines in hopes of getting a better deal. Or, when buying into very young technology. This is not to say that I believe myself perfect. I do silly things I should know better too. But the things that stand out in my own mind is not listening to my inner self when it comes time to spending money on hardware.
  • leexgx - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    did not even read any of that Reply
  • nubie - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I think he is saying to buy Intel motherboards, at least they seem to have solid reliability. Reply
  • RJohnson - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    IMO he's talking about ASUS and i'd pretty much agree with him, my recent experiences with them have been poor to say the least... Reply
  • michal1980 - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    sounds like an ASUS mobo.

    They almost always review well/good. But I've had issues with each one, from various generations and families.

    eastiest non-overclocking boards I've worked with were Gigabyte, and evga. most stable overclocking a dfi.

    asus is off my list
  • yyrkoon - Thursday, January 14, 2010 - link

    Yeap Asus, it is. Corsair is another off my list as well. Add DFI, and Asrock while we're at it. But hey, maybe I am just being finicky ? Because I know what I want . . .

    Anyways, best Over clocking board I had, and still own is/was the ABIT IP35-E, and it does this reliably. Not that I really need it, but who would not want to at least TRY getting more bang for the buck. At least once. right now, it happily chugs right along with the accompanying E6550 at 2.8Ghz. Stock voltages, stock heat sink. Has never crashed due to hardware issues once. Unless you count the time(s) I tried pushing said system passed 3.5 Ghz . . . Hopefully, Gigabyte, or MSI can give me something equally as pleasing in the future. For over clocking ? Not important, I just want something that will continue to run stable, until I decide to turn it off. Is this really asking too much ? I really do not think so.
  • eviloz - Thursday, January 14, 2010 - link

    asus is the brand with best marketing ever, u find them everywhere, filled with goodies and at a afordable prices.
    indd all reviews say nothing but good for them, but.. for me too, they are always unreliable on the long-run.

    i was a big asus fanboy in the very past (p2b times) and slowly realized these motherboards cant stand a 2-year life cycle, simply they become unstable, bios issues, lockups and such.
    The entire AI thing was a epic fail. Qfan never worked with 3pin fans, the probe software is a piece of crap... and so on

    i want to install a mobo, configure it, and after 4 years, come back and see it working like a charm. I know most Anand's readers (including me) change system almost every year, but this it not the real world scenario, where the systems have to work way longer than that.

    so i moved to intel. some stuff is ugly, some features are missing, the mb tools are not the best (still far better than asus thu)... but these motherboards are rock solid. i never missed a boot.
    my videocard blew up one mobo, it was replaced in 2 (thats TWO) working days, shipping was not charged. beat this.

    ofc nothing is perfect, was pretty disappointed to see my dp35dp has no w7 support, but still this board brand is a winner.

    btw i have few gigabyte mbs around and they are good too.

    for my scenario (reliabilty always before performance, never overclock) the best choice is intel, followed by gigabyte.
    i will never buy asus no more.
  • yyrkoon - Thursday, January 14, 2010 - link

    I had been using ABIT since the early 90's, and was extremely happy with every one I purchased for my own systems. Even one of the AMD Thunderbird boards I bought when the "rash" of bad capacitors where circulating lasted 5 years. And it *did have 12 of these bad caps on it. They finally popped, and I replaced them, but it was never the same since. I even modded the BIOS so the system would except a 2000XP+ CPU. Ran perfect. *This* is the worst experience I ever had with them as a brand.

    I too have had some good experiences with Intel boards, but now days for me, they're too unpredictable.

    Now, I am unsure who will deserve my money in the future for motherboards, but I think we all know who it wont be ; ) I suppose Gugabyte will be in order. I have always respected them as a motherboard OEM. Perhaps even MSI.
  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I hope your Daughter isn't runing as admin :) Reply
  • SlyNine - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I think Anand should highlight Dell's throttling issues on these laptops,I'm talking Core I7 720QM's that run as slow as 300mhz while playing games. Dell saying it's not a gaming notebook so it doesn't matter. It sounds like Dell is plenty content to screw over people as long as its not made public.

    Please Anand take a look at the problems outlined here http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=4...">http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=4...

    I beg of you to make these problems obvious so unsuspecting people don't buy something this flawed, I'm getting one tomorrow, wish I hadn't but I'd be willing to offer it to Anand to get these problems in the open.
  • nubie - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    They should do an article, including a nice ATi/AMD descrete video and then forcing the entire system to function on ~90w is just disgusting.

    They are seeing between 50 and 100% improvement in modern games when the throttling is off while using a 130w power supply (I am assuming this is with a fully-charged battery, you wouldn't want to charge at the same time and risk burning up the power input lines.)

    (of course one of my early PC's was a DELL, it literally burned up, 486 with a joke of a heatsink. Dell really lives on the edge of thermals in my opinion, I can't recommend them.)

    Read the thread here: http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=4...">http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=4...

    Pitiful. I can't believe they would release an i7 system with modern discrete graphics and this sort of power limit.
  • SlyNine - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    All we can do is try to get this as much media attention as possible. Hopefully that will prevent Dell from screwing over people to much. Reply
  • semo - Sunday, January 17, 2010 - link

    i think i have a similar issue with a studio 1557. i can't get the i7 to work at its rated 1.6GHz freq. it stays at 900MHz even with 1 to 8 instances of cpu burn in running (and speed step enabled or disabled).

    that's what we get for feeling confident about today's technology and living on the edge. And this DDR 3 compatibility issue sounds scary (hope it doesn't affect laptops too)
  • AstroGuardian - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    That serves you right for buying that Dell crap.

    Just a little joke mate, no hard feelings. I support your effort in making the issue public and forcing Dell to take action and deliver what you payed for.

    Thumbs up!
  • SlyNine - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    The computer could be perfect too, thats the really crappy thing about all this.

    It just needed a bigger PSU, under battery power it runs at full speed.
  • ezero - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    On the 2nd system you said "How anyone can keep track of which modules run well on which motherboards at this point in time is a mystery."

    You can easily track which modules runs well by checking the motherboard's Qualified Vendor List for memory modules.

    For example, the P7P55D's list can be found at http://www.asus.com/product.aspx?P_ID=RBA8CzWoopUl...">http://www.asus.com/product.aspx?P_ID=RBA8CzWoopUl... and clicking on the Memory Support List tab.
  • Bertus - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    My experience with the QVL is different. I have an Asus Formula Rampage board with the latest bios, and I have bought that board to try and run a (amongst others) memory overclock on. All the memory that was on the QVL that was certified for better-than-normal memory timings and frequencies was either only obtainable in Asia or end-of-life. The QVL was never updated since.

    After trying several sets of matched pair memory modules from OCZ (Reaper) and Kingston, the results were:
    - post only with 1 module inserted
    - would not post with 2 modules, not even with DDR2-800 standard settings

    I gave up and bought a pair of standard DDR2-800 value edition. Works just fine.

    Bottom line is: QVL is not always helpful.
  • mackintire - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Installed the latest BIOS update, tweaked the memory as recommended, ran memtest. Booted up and everything is great.

    Granted with BIOS 903 I had a couple memory related issues.
  • camylarde - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    seconding that Reply
  • Peroxyde - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Emily's computer issues could be fixed without even opening the case. Install Linux, start with Ubuntu, it is easier to begin with. Emily is computer savvy. She will figure out how to use Linux in no time. At least my daughter did.

    Once Linux installed, the computer will be blazing fast, no antivirus, no anti spyware needed. You will ever again do any cleaning of crap and bloatware. After a while, you will realize that your own machines need more care than Emily's computer, then may be you will consider yourself also switching to Linux.
  • synaesthetic - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    If he wanted to make sure his daughter never used the computer again for anything, installing Linux on it would be a good way to accomplish that goal.

    "Slightly more computer savvy than the average teenage girl" does not translate into "enthusiast PC user with an interest in *nix OSes."
  • cfaalm - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I'll agree we can forego opening the case. Why do we want to saddle up Emily with Linux? I have an Ubuntu install on one of our old laptops and I like it, but XP is OK. I'll agree that w7 > XP. It also depends on you budget and situation. Some stuff that I use won't work on w7-64 and I'd hate to upgrade to w7-32.

    When my PC messes up (it seldom does without my own stupidity involved) I restore an activated XPSP3 up to a certain date with no software, just OS, mobo and graphics driver. That's still the best way do deal with a real mess.

    Next step is installing my software again: a good way to select what you really need. The only downside is that I don't know how to save settings and preferences for every app before the reinstall, some have UIs for that, others don't. Templates are not to be stored on C:

    All it takes is some preparation. Store your apps in a convenient manner and place e.g. bunch of .iso-files on an external USB drive.
  • michal1980 - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    No, the problem was crap his daugther installed.

    Linux is not the answer. I run a q6600 at home with a slower video card, with vista since vista RC1. Its never been what I would consider slow.

    You linux FanBozzzz, need to get off the stupity that the solution to every problem is linux.

    PC doesn't boot. Get linux
    PC Slow . Get linux
    Viruis. Linux
    UGly. Linux
    etc, etc, Linux
  • Peroxyde - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I know Windows better than Linux. At work I use Windows and I have experience with all versions of Windows. The reason I got into Linux was because I wanted to know enough about Linux to check out the myths.

    My experience with Linux is similar to what petersterncan described in the post below. To you I would say, give Linux an honest try. By honest, I mean willing to learn and make an effort to overcome a technical problem. After that, you will may be revise your opinion.

    I seem to be a Linux Fanboy, actually I consider myself as a beginner. Lots of things I still need to go to forum to get help. However I know enough to recognize that Linux has some strengths that Windows doesn't. After weighting pros & cons, Linux is a better choice for my home usage. Also to backup Peter statement, have a serious look about Virtual Machines. Virtualbox in particular. This solves a lots of problems whenever I need a native Windows environment, actually I use it a lots.

    Ugly Linux? This is also a myth. I have played with enough desktop effects, they are fun at the beginning but becomes either annoying or useless in the long run. Just trust me on that, it is possible to make Linux desktop look very nice. But not everybody is interested by eye0candy effects.
  • michal1980 - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I was joking.

    Not that linux was ugly.

    but that if the PC looked ugly, installing Linux will fix it.

    Look at the target audience. A 16year old highschool female. And the anandtech nerds think LINUX is the answer? WTF. Why?

    I know the reason why, its because the linux fanboism is strong here. The same line of reasoning as to why you shouldn't throw hardware at the problem, should be used at software.

    Theres no need to throw out XP, or Vista, Or Win7 because the underlining windows install is bunk at this point.

    The first step to the problem with this box is to format the drive an reinstall the OS. Odds are the freshly installed OS will run much faster then XP busted, no matter weather or not it was a flavor of Windows, or a Flavor of Linux.

    Personally, I use linux. I dont have the time, nor want to 'learn' another OS. For me windows works.
  • pkoi - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I'm am so overwhelmed by everything in Winworld alone, There must me some 30 new apps everyday and after 15 years you get to know and use some 300+ software, I would really like understanding more of linux, but I don't see the day I'll be done understanding the inner parts of Windows. I fear It would be a 6 month adaptation, that would not benefit that much for me.

    I must agree that most slowdowns are because of software problems, I think he should have cleaned the reg or monitored process then added 2gig at last.
  • petersterncan - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I recently made the switch to Ubuntu Linux 9.10 64-bit.

    I'm not a fanboy for Linux... but I do know some of the practical advantages... such as not being a huge target for viruses and malware the way Windows is.

    But anyway... after my switch... for software problems, I can say with confidence that Linux Can be the answer for 100% of all the Windows software problems.

    What ever doesn't run under Linux natively, you can run within a Virtual Machine under Linux using a package such as VirtualBox. Could can also use other apps such as Wine.

    Note that prior to my switch, I was running Windows 2000 Professional... I wanted to switch to 64 bit for longevity and performance and I wanted to get off an OS that was about to have support discontinued.

    But my concern was being able to run anything... even Windows Apps. When I learned about the VirtualBox application... I know I can practically run anything... or at least any OS that runs on x86.

    For it to work well, all you need is sufficient memory, disk space and processor... in my case... a newly purchased Athlon II x4 630 with 4GB ram and a 2TB HD...

    Windows 2000 works faster now on the new hardware within a virtual machine than on my old hardware (single core Athlon, 320GB hd, 512mb ram)

    And the nice thing about having Windows within a virtual machine... you make one base image and work off a copy. Screw up that copy? No prob... delete it and copy the base set up again. Concern about data loss? No worries there either... you just copy the data to the part of the disk that is not part of the virtual machine.

    Plus Linux boots up and shuts down faster than any Windows PC I've ever used...

    The hardest part of my setup? Getting my netgear Wireless N PCI adaptor working... which was resolved by downloading some closed-source Broadcom drivers.

    Note as well that I did a clean install to a new hard disk to minimize any chances of headaches.

    I find "upgrading" an OS only saves you time in the short run... in the long run, you end up having to do a clean install anyway.

    So yes... I've concluded all Windows software problems CAN be fixed by switching to Linux. All it takes is a bit of research and self-education.

    Now if the hardware isn't up to snuff... that's another story...
  • nubie - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I'm afraid custom drivers for obscure hardware (6 axis 3D controllers anyone?) won't run in that sort of environment, neither drivers for video cards (with stereoscopic or TV-Out support for instance.)

    It is an interesting solution, but until the virtual machines support installation of drivers for the OS in the machine it won't work.

    May not be a concern for software people, but if I didn't need hardware support I probably would have moved to Linux a few years ago.
  • red1 - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    NO no You don't have to install linux, just run a live-cd on it and
    give it a try.
    So then will see what's going on if the hardware is the problem or the xp ?
  • dswilloughby - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Been reading this site for years but this is the only article that has made me want to reply back, wierd. Anyhow, it's a great read, and reminds me about the real troubles of DIY PC people. Some stuff you encounter is just plain silly, and you usually broke your own rules doing it, but hey it happens to the best of us.....
    I have had sound cards that slowly turn down their volume all on their own, motherboards ressurect themselves after sitting in a box for a couple of years [ram in last slot only, fixed it] and CPU's that decide not to OC even by 1MHz, when you had them happily runnning 1GHz overclocks for years. I know I fiddle too much and cause most of these problems myself, but hey sometimes that's half the fun isn't it?
    As for your 5870 problem, don't worry mine also does some real wonders on me, but so far I've found the newer drivers/bios are slowly fixing these issues so I beleive most of them are fixable errors and not it being a shoddy card. That's one thing us Aussies don't have the luxury of, RMA's. You do that over here and good luck if you see a replacement in 6 months time.....
  • nubie - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I think I can beat your story, how about a Cyrix MediaGX system that won't run over 233mhz when it is a 266mhz chip, and if you put the memory in the slot backward (and then return to the correct way) it will overclock well past 300mhz just fine.

    That one was very very strange. And I mean strange!
  • somedude1234 - Thursday, January 14, 2010 - link

    Now you're bringing back some memories. Here's two that make me feel REALLY old:

    Story 1: I picked up a 486-DX4 100 MHz CPU (yeah baby!), motherboard to host it, and some new RAM to replace my aging 386 so I could kick some butt at DOOM2 over IPX. This was my first build that was entirely self-funded, all from a computer show at the local community college. In my eagerness to get it together quickly, I managed to put the CPU in without aligning the "pin 1" arrow on the motherboard with the "pin 1" arrow on the CPU. I assumed that if the CPU dropped in so easily, it MUST have been in correctly. When I plugged it in and nothing happened at first, I was a bit perplexed. Then I heard the POP! and saw smoke coming from my brand new CPU. Needless to say both the CPU and the mobo were toast.

    Story 2: This one is a bit shorter, and much older. Anyone here remember the 5.25" Seagate 20 MB and 40 MB HDD's with the gold colored casing? If you do, then you remember that they were very expensive in their day, and you'll also remember that there was a resistor pack that had to be installed or not depending on whether the drive was master or slave on the controller. Well, I got it wrong one time, the drive did not survive. Dad was not happy =(
  • pkoi - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    too strange , did you repeat that? backward ? Reply
  • nicknomo - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I looked at computer #1, and I don't quite understand why you did any of that. That computer you had is far superior than anything I'm using.. The problems your daughter was having was in no way related to any of the solutions. Why not just try a repair installation of XP if you really wanted to fix the issue? Vista sure wasn't going to help at all. The hardware upgrades seem excessive, especially considering you were using pretty recent hardware to begin with.

    I'm not really in disagreement with the "what I learned" part of it. Yes, check your BIOS... don't do an in place upgrade if you can avoid it.. but, the lessons don't go with the problem..
  • loydcase - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Well, you have an interesting point. I should have probably kept her on XP until it was time to move to Win7. Maybe I should add that to my "lessons learned." ;-) Reply
  • ssj4Gogeta - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Or you could just have done a fresh Vista install. Reply
  • mackintire - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Because that machine eats a ton of electricity at idle and acts like a portable space heater.

    I ran away from that processor for almost the same reasons. Windows 7 would have been a much smarter choice, but I know better than to trust a upgrade install when the OS has been used for that long. Going over the machine with something like Revo uninstaller and removing everything un-necessary would have been a good idea too.
  • Spivonious - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I agree. My best system at home is an E6600 with an HD3850. It runs everything I throw at it and Win7 is smooth as butter.

    Some more thorough spyware scans would have been the proper solution.
  • jigglywiggly - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    That system was great, infact almost better than my pc and it's blazing fast. Go put a cup of Debian or even Ubuntu if you want it to never get slow as hell. Hell even windows 7 runs fine on it.

    BTW I have a qx6700 oc'd at 3.6 ghz, I have no idea why you guys can't oc that qx6850 more. Mine is intel's first quadcore. Though it's a thermalright ultra 120x with 2 110cfm on it.
  • Calin - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Debian or Ubuntu is not compatible with all the software his daughter was using ("anything she might think she will like")

    Overclocking everything will make the system at most twice as fast. This is great when moving from 20 fps in a game to 40 fps, but it's no good when moving from an application start time of 40 seconds to an application start time of 20 seconds.
    Even more, most of the performance problems I imagine it was having were related to frequent disk accesses, and overclocking will do nothing for this.
  • leexgx - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    its the disk subsystem that takes the bashing under Vista some HDDs handle it well most do not (find Hitachi HDDs work well under High random access loads), disabling Superfetch can fix the issue at boot as superfetch does not care about I/O priorty under vista (that was fixed under win7), system restore not that i recommend to turn that off but that can help some times Reply
  • leexgx - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    the permanent fix is an SSD for Vista due to its heavy disk loads ultimately Reply
  • deimos3428 - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Throwing hardware at a performance issue only buys time. Reply
  • Zelog - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    That's what she said. Reply
  • TinksMeOff - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    As a computer tech for over two decades I found this article rather refreshing to hear from a site such as Anandtech.com. You may wish to note as well that 'different parts' don't mean better parts. Under manufacture warranties, techs replace RAM, MB, CPU, GPU and HD's with the exact same parts. They just overheat, wear out or whatever and go bad over time. I not saying don't look for a better quality part, just check your warranties and get it replaced with the same parts with very little overhead (shipping & time usually).

    Of course, most people will not have extra parts to experiment with as your article mentions.
  • ciparis - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Nice article, Loyd! Good to have you here and away from all those PC magazines you've been writing for for so many years :)

    I had the original version of that P6T -- just sold that system after over a year of rock-solid stability. Good choice.
  • blyndy - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Loyd, for future reference, if your PC is running 'slow as molasses' in a loosely controlled software environment you should suspect software foremost, not hardware.

    Sadly, you could have confirmed or confuted that possibility simply by swapping in a spare drive (or ghosting) and doing a clean install and comparing performance.

    If performance was still slow then suspect hardware.
  • vol7ron - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I agree.

    Regarding your daughter's computer:
    Instead of doing a clean install, I think you should have tested the problem out a little bit - it might have been worthwhile to your readers.

    1) I would like to know if the Device Manager was showing everything as connected and running properly (for all the problems)

    2) I would have liked to see you get a Registry Mechanic, or some other sort of registry cleaner.

    3) I would also like to know if you ran a scandisk or disk defragmenter. Often fragments cause problems.

    4) I would like to know if you had any problems in safe-mode. Safe-mode is a good indicator of solvable problems. (as with running Hijack-This).


    With regards to the other problems, I am also curious if this could have been due to some "Win Rot". I would have liked to see some fresh installs before determining it was purely hardware.
  • loydcase - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Well, your point was embedded in my "lessons learned". Changing too many variables when trying to troubleshoot a problem sometimes mean you don't actually track down the real cause... or waste time until you do.
  • OCedHrt - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Sometimes it is simply faster to start over than to find the problem :)

    Also, the not always posting in the last one can very well be a PSU issue where it can't provide enough amps for cold boot when warm.
  • smn198 - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Hindsight is always 20:20! Reply

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