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

  • 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.

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