I'm a professional game developer from Wakefield, England, working as a senior programmer for Rebellion North.
I'm a married father of five and I a also sometimes do Retroburn stuff.
Martin 'Bytrix' Caine
Father. C++ Games Programmer. Cyclist. Guitarist.
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Sunday, January 27th 2013 / Blog

PC Hardware Troubleshooting

This whole process has annoyed me so much that I decided I'd make my first proper blog post of the year about it;

The Kids' PC buggered up about a month or two ago and having had a quick look at it I came to the conclusion that one of the sticks of RAM was bad (Damien kept turning the PC on and off one day as it wouldn't boot).

I took out all the insides of the PC, disconnected all the drives, the HDMI capture card, the (HUGE) 8800 GTS graphics card and then took out all of the RAM (4x 1GB Crucial Ballistix DDR2-800).

One by one I placed a stick of ram in and booted from a USB stick with Memtest86+ on it. Left it to run two full passes and found no errors.

So, I put all four sticks in and ran the tests, an error popped up about half way in to the first pass.. So I swapped sticks 1 and 2 to see if I could try and identify the bad stick. This time it completed pass 1 with no errors and hit an error part way in to pass 2. This had me thinking that the RAM perhaps wasn't getting enough voltage (knowing that these old sticks were rated at 2.0v).

I booted up again and went in to the bios, found the settings for setting the FSB, the DRAM frequency, manual timings and all the usual stuff but couldn't see the voltage settings.

So I swapped the sticks round some more (who knows) and left Memtest86+ running over night. In the morning it showed it had completed 17 passes and errors had occurred 241 times.

Again I googled for the VDIMM adjustment and found a few people saying the motherboard didn't support it (but I could've sworn it did since this used to be my gaming PC for taking to LANs and wouldn't've worked with the RAM running less than 2.0v). I then went looking through the bios again and finally found what I was looking for. There was a setting 'AI Overclock Tuner' which was set to automatic. By changing this to manual it appeared to make no difference what-so-ever, but if I then scrolled all the way past the bottom of the screen two new options were available, CPU Voltage and RAM Voltage.

After then setting the RAM Voltage back to 2.0v the PC has been sat for a good few hours on Memtest86+ and has found no errors.

Can't believe that's all it was, somehow the BIOS must have lost it's settings but then with it crashing and my Son turning the PC on and off it seems to have broken the Windows installation so have it re-installing Windows right now.

All together I think I've spent 4 or 5 hours trying to fix this problem which just turned out to be a hidden settings in the BIOS! At least now the kids will have a nice fresh install of Windows on their PC (and will be able to use it again) and I might be able to get back in to recording some gameplay for my XBLIG review site IndieTrials.com (since this is the PC with the HDMI capture card in it).

Hopefully it'll be a while before I need to try and fix any more broken computers!

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