I should have known better. I’d read enough online posts to know that the in-place upgrade from XP to Vista can be problematic, particularly if your XP system registry has grown to huge proportions. My own personal experience with a Vista upgrade had been moderately successful, but even that system was eventually nuked and a clean Vista install performed.

So here was a PC, with lots of fairly useless (from my perspective), but fun (from her perspective) background tasks running under XP. In goes the Vista upgrade.

Did I mention that this system had 2GB of system RAM?

Within two weeks, her system had pretty much become unusable. I scanned it with several malware detectors, and other than complaints about a couple of adware items, there were no Trojans or viruses found. So the problem really came down to an already overloaded Windows XP system that had developed massive registry and hard drive bloat after the Vista in-place upgrade. So I decided to nuke and start over.

One of the cardinal rules of troubleshooting is: change only one variable at a time.

Unfortunately in my hubris, I ignored that rule. I put her system on the bench, swapped out 2GB of Kingston DDR3 RAM for a pair of Corsair 2GB DDR3 modules. I then swapped out the QX6850 for an E8500 3.16GHz dual core CPU.

When I powered the system up, I got no POST, but the fans spun up. Also, the PC beeper didn’t beep. This is, as anyone who has built systems will tell you, one of the most ambiguous and frustrating types of errors.

So I popped her old CPU back in and rebooted.

Same thing.

So I put the old memory back in, and the system POSTed properly. I checked her BIOS on the P5Q3 motherboard, and found out it was still running the 0704 BIOS. That BIOS predated Intel’s 45nm CPUs. On top of that, if you read the summaries of the various BIOS updates, you also see a number of them with text that reads “enchances compatibility with certain memory.”

Flashing the BIOS fixed both the CPU and memory issues. At that point, a clean install of Windows 7 proceeded without any problems.

Lessons (re)learned:

  • Before upgrading CPUs or memory, check the BIOS version
  • Never change more than one item of hardware at a time without testing it.
Index The Constantly Crashing P7P55D


View All Comments

  • 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

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