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New member says hi - with an interesting stability project :)

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Cryptic Fox

New Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2009
Hi!

I have an interesting PC to sort out here. I can't overclock till I get the stock system stable :) I'd like to go step at a time on the basis too much information is more helpful than too little -- and because it's quite an unusual case :) Full spec is in the sig :)


The problem

I'm not a gamer, but I'm possibly one of the more intensive PC users not into games. I'm hammering a load of subsystems - memory, multitasking, net connections, I/O, you name it, maybe half a dozen virtual machines, loads of disk access, and a bunch of simulations, on a daily basis, without much let-up. The system is up 24/7 and is capable of handling the load, and its stability and performance is immensely valuable to me. So like most overclockers, I'm looking for genuine hard-core rock-solid stability and system build quality from the get-go (if it's not stable under heavy load then its simply not stable full stop) so I can let it run without random BSOD crashes and restarting if I want to.

Unfortunately while the rig can easily handle the workload, it's not stable. I am trying to work out why not. I probably need at the least a very good PSU, possibly even move to water cooling. But before I spend any cash I'd like to ask advice on the weird things I'm seeing, and any suggestions how others would fix the rig that don't involve replacing items that don't need it :) And what kind of OC I might expect :)


Steps taken so far

I started with a Q6600, an Asus P5K series, Crucial Ballistix 1066 (2x2gb), and (significantly) a budget power supply that seemed good enough at the time - a Trust 570W.

After a month or 2 at stock settings, I started to notice the system wasn't as stable as it should be. 1st candidate was memory and RAMTEST confirmed memory issues. I swapped out some sticks of crucial ballistix, then some more, then yet more... before a tech guy commented that they had more returns of that than any other. At that point I replaced the ballistix for Corsair Dominator 2.10v. But weirdly, the problems persisted, the system stayed unstable, the new memory had a high failure rate on RAMTEST too (one stick was even DOA). So I swapped the motherboard as well, to my present Abit IP35 Pro XE. Finally RAMTEST seemed happy, and XP32 seemed happy, and I proceeded to enjoy :)

But the new system was still noticeably less stable than the old. I hit it with prime95 and found it would drop out with fatal rounding errors on random cores, after a random time. It didn't seem to do this on small FFT sizes which don't use much RAM. If I understand these results, it suggests a memory/mobo problem again.

By this time I'd also switched from XP32 to XP64 to get the use of the extra memory, and from SATA IDE emulation to native AHCI in the BIOS and drivers to squeeze an extra drop of performance from the hard drive systems. I don't know if either of those have a reputation for stability issues.

I'd also upgraded the stock Intel fan to an Arctic cooling freezer pro 7 + Antec formula 5 silver TIM and added a fan to the Corsair ram (which gets in the way of the CPU fan). And unplugged most of the HD's to reduce the strain on the PSU and isolate whether the problem was in the PSU. I also have a fan blowing on the HD's to keep them under 45 degC.

I ran Prime95 again with most HD's unplugged, the 2 extra fans, and a domestic high-volume room-cooling fan up close to the motherboard for air flow. The system was definitely more stable, for example it no longer gave an error under Prime95 after 9 hours, but the OS did still crash with stop 0x24 suggesting an NTFS fault - but booting the same PC on a spare system on another HD and testing the XP64 drive using chkdsk/SMART, says there wasn't a disk fault! Finally, when I allowed the PC 2 hours "off", it was then able to boot up fine on the XP64 disk, suggesting the problem was somehow linked to a possible system-wide cooling issue rather than a RAM issue?? You can see why I started to get perplexed!


What might be up

That's where I'm up to. My suspicions are one or more of the following:

  • PSU - The PSU though rated at 570W may be unreliable. If a rail (eg to Ram) is weak or prone to instability under high demand, or the PSU is at its limits and the 570W is marketing puff, then that could account for all kinds of stability issues.
  • Cooling - seemed to help, but old system (P4 based) didnt need more than stock cooling.
  • Problem with the motherboard or RAM - either faulty as supplied and I've been unlucky, or became faulty (eg due to heat or a PSU issue). But how likely it could affect multiple sticks and 2 boards?
  • AHCI firmware or driver issues - although not repsonsible for everything I am wondering whether the AHCI route is as stable as the IDE emulation route. I think I've noticed more problems in XP64 + AHCI mode than XP32 + IDE mode.

The problem is there might be a multi-part issue. Those are notoriously hard to diagnose.


What I'm thinking of doing

I'm seriously thinking about replacing the PSU by a high quality one that I won't have to replace for years, and which will have enough headroom for an eventual shift to i7 - say around 800+ W, 5+ year warranty, modular (for neatness but also in case of new types of connection coming out) and a reputation for rock solid stability.

I'm also considering a move to water cooling, rather than air cooling. The CPU can get to 57 - 60 degC under load with air cooling, but I'm not convinced whether that's low enough to be stable. Any more and I'd have to move to water cooling. It would also remove a big heat-producing block of copper/aluminium from the middle of the case, and bypass the problem where the CPU fan intake is 1/2 blocked by the memory fan.

If those don't resolve the issue then at a pinch, I'd move to a new processor/mboard/memory completely (probably q9550/p5q3/1600ddr3) and sell off this one. I'd like to avoid that if possible - PSU and possibly cooling if I have to do those things will be a big enough "hit" to finance :) Sadly I don't have alternate components for my PC to "swap in" to isolate any fault.


Advice? Hardware purchases? Anything else? :)

So... a long explanation for a complex diagnosis. Any thoughts how to approach this PC or interpret the findings would be appreciated! The symptoms somehow don't really make sense to me. Although as a last resort completely replacing everything would fix it, I'd like to avoid that.


If someone can suggest what the symptoms might mean, or information needed to better diagnose it, or even a suitable PSU and water cooling move (plus any other hardware changes to consider going for!)... then please do :)
 
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xtkxhom3r

Member
Joined
May 29, 2008
Location
San Antonio,TX
it sounds like your NB is overheating have you pulled the nb heatsink and replace the thermal paste on it too?? i would replace the tim and put a fan directly over it ... as for the temps on your cpu their fine

and i would suggest you get a better psu you should take a look at the corsair psu's over at newegg
 
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Cryptic Fox

New Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2009
I think you found the problem.Id be willing to bet the psu is crapping out with 6 HD's and a Q6600.
Yeah, I think that's very likely to be a big problem, if not "the" problem. It's more likely than randomly getting 2 bad motherboards and 10 bad memory sticks. But I've unplugged most of the HD's and that has not brought it back to stability at stock timings though..... which bothers me. (Unless one of the rails is poor quality or unstable regardless of load, which is possible)

It also didn't fix the "fatal error" on the Prime95 torture test where it's returning the wrong roundings in the results. Cooling has helped that one, but with the extra HD's removed, is extra cooling really usually needed for stock timings with no OC?

So you can see why I'm not sure what exactly to make of it!


it sounds like your NB is overheating have you pulled the nb heatsink and replace the thermal paste on it too?? i would replace the tim and put a fan directly over it ... as for the temps on your cpu their fine

and i would suggest you get a better psu you should take a look at the corsair psu's over at newegg

No, I hadn't done anything with the motherboard heatsink. I've never realised till today researching cooling, that you could replace it or might need to (makes sense though and I like the idea). Are they easy to remove? What sort of aftermarket cooler would one use for this motherboard's north bridge? (I assume that's the chip that would needs cooling?)


I also notice the EN8500GT runs hot - around 70-90 degC even with ordinary multiple 2D windows load (says fanspeed). Is that usual? If not, could that be doing anything?
 
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Cryptic Fox

New Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2009
If its the NB like xtkxhom3r said there is a bolt mod for your board.You replace the thermal paste then bolt the heatsinks back on.It drops the temps a good bit .This could help.(I think your board and the IP35Pro are the same just heat sinks are black on yours)

http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showpost.php?p=2330347&postcount=751
Thanks, I was just reading up on it. It sounds pretty straightforward to do - pliers, TIM, and take usual care.

I notice it emphasises "non conductive TIM" though - mine's silver based (Antec formula 5) and I'm guessing it's conductive, but most chips don't have a problem with electrical contact with the HS (they either have non-conductive cases in contact with the HS or the pins are underneath out of the way). Why the need for non-conductive TIM for this mod? Is it because the mosfet pins are close to the HS and might short if TIM reaches them?
 
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Cryptic Fox

New Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2009
The TIM could short traces on the chipset and board.

So basically

  1. New PSU and motherboard heatsink mod (and possible cooler) for now, and recheck temps and stability,
  2. Stick with the arctic 7 pro and hold off on water cooling until we've checked what effect those have.

Does that sound about right? Is the EN8500GT temp any concern?

What kind of wattage supply should I aim for? It's got to potentially handle 6-7 drives, blu-ray burner, i7 + 8gb ddr3 or ddr4 (eventually), LAN, the usual USB add-ons, and whatever happens in the CPU/mobo world for the next 5-7 years, potentially all at the same time on full load (party time!!) but it doesn't need to handle crossfire or sli, just one good video card.

Is 750 or 850 W enough? Too much? A larger PSU just means "more likely to be within spec and temp" I think?? Or is that sort of size overdoing it?

I'm tentatively considering: (1) Antec CP 850 (unusual form factor), (2) Antec TruePower 750, (3) PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750, (4+5) Corsair HX 750/HX 850 (both 7 yr warranty). I like the 7 year warranty, means I don't have to replace for quite a while :)
 

gigabit

Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2004
Location
Claymont Delaware 19703
Is it actively cooled or passive?If its passively cooled it could be over heating to.I have an Antec spot ool fan for things like that that need air but dont have thier own fan
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductReview.aspx?Item=N82E16835209017
The 850HX is one bad *** psu.I just bought one from a member here Okalahoma Wolf.He sells lots of PSU's here(im on my third from him because he keeps selling better and better psu's not because they break.The other two are still running fine) you might wanna check him out for a good deal on a psu but you will need a 100 post to get into the classified section.The Antec CP is great maybe the best 850watt psu made but unless you have one of the Antec cases that support it i wouldnt buy it.Unless you wanna cut your case up
 
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Cryptic Fox

New Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2009
Is it actively cooled or passive?If its passively cooled it could be over heating to.I have an Antec spot ool fan for things like that that need air but dont have thier own fan
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductReview.aspx?Item=N82E16835209017
The 850HX is one bad *** psu.I just bought one from a member here Okalahoma Wolf.He sells lots of PSU's here(im on my third from him because he keeps selling better and better psu's not because they break.The other two are still running fine) you might wanna check him out for a good deal on a psu but you will need a 100 post to get into the classified section.The Antec CP is great maybe the best 850watt psu made but unless you have one of the Antec cases that support it i wouldnt buy it.Unless you wanna cut your case up

The GPU? Passive. Other reports say it runs hot (70 - 100 degC commonly quoted) and may need extra cooling if so.

One thing I am thinking of doing is cutting a hole in the removable case side (it's a broad case) and filling the hole with one of these :) I figure that will give a nice healthy impetus to any cooling required :)

As for PSUs, Antec look good, so do Corsair and all the others. Form factor isn't much of a bother. Is there much to choose between them? Or any others to consider, or any of those that aren't really up to scratch for stability? With several HD's I am assuming there'll be some heavy current switching going on, so a PSU might be under more than average stress to avoid glitches and spikes and just hold it rock steady when it's running at load, meaning I need an above average PSU for this PC. Does that sound about right, or am I being over-cautious there?
 

gigabit

Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2004
Location
Claymont Delaware 19703
The GPU? Passive. Other reports say it runs hot (70 - 100 degC commonly quoted) and may need extra cooling if so.

One thing I am thinking of doing is cutting a hole in the removable case side (it's a broad case) and filling the hole with one of these :) I figure that will give a nice healthy impetus to any cooling required :)

As for PSUs, Antec look good, so do Corsair and all the others. Form factor isn't much of a bother. Is there much to choose between them? Or any others to consider, or any of those that aren't really up to scratch for stability? With several HD's I am assuming there'll be some heavy current switching going on, so a PSU might be under more than average stress to avoid glitches and spikes and just hold it rock steady when it's running at load, meaning I need an above average PSU for this PC. Does that sound about right, or am I being over-cautious there?
Sounds about right to me.And the 850HX will fill the bill perfectly or even Corsairs 850TX would work well.

850HX reviews

http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/741/1

http://www.jonnyguru.com/modules.php?name=NDReviews&op=Story&reid=153
 
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Cryptic Fox

New Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2009
Sounds about right to me.And the 850HX will fill the bill perfectly or even Corsairs 850TX would work well.

850HX reviews

http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/741/1

http://www.jonnyguru.com/modules.php?name=NDReviews&op=Story&reid=153
I just read up on the reviews on those 2 (Antec vs. Corsair). They both seem to be exceptionally well regarded. The Antec CP-850 seems to be remarkably solid, and the larger design seems rational and to pay off. The Corsair HX-850 seems virtually of a similar standard, and costs 30% less here. Almost all reviews are extremely positive, but the HX850 had one apparently-credible review with a finding of poor voltage regulation on one line. It bothers me. (this review)

How much importance should I attach to it, and (form factor aside) does anyone have thoughts on a fair comparison of these 2 PSU's in terms of quality, transient responses to sudden current draw (eg hard drive related), or anything else? Barring that one review, they both seem to be widely rated as exceptional PSUs.

Compared to these should I just choose one of those 2, or is there a reason to continue looking at the Antec TruePower 750 or PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750 as well?
 
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deadlysyn

Folding Team Content Editor, Who Dolk'd my stars S
Joined
Mar 31, 2005
Location
Stealing your megahurtz at night
I would like to recommend the Antec Signature or the Seasonic M12D series. According to the reviews I have read, they are considered to be the best of the best by OklahomaWolf, who happens to be a reviewer at jonny guru. From what I have seen, he is the most thorough reviewer on the net, and when it comes to PSU's, his word is treated like gospel around here.
 
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Cryptic Fox

New Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2009
I would like to recommend the Antec Signature or the Seasonic M12D series. According to the reviews I have read, they are considered to be the best of the best by OklahomaWolf, who happens to be a reviewer at jonny guru. From what I have seen, he is the most thorough reviewer on the net, and when it comes to PSU's, his word is treated like gospel around here.

I only heard of him when reading reviews today (yesterday rather)... I kinda formed the same view independently.

He knows of what he speak, doesn't he :) And then some :). And he's damn thorough and sharp. . I like that in a review. Gives one confidence :) But reluctantly, the Signature's likely to be just out of budget compared to the other two :-/

Fwiw lowest local prices I could find + jg performance ratings for these four: Antec CP-850 £96 (10), Corsair HX850 £135 (10), Antec signature SG-850 £149 (10), Seasonic M12D 850 £166 (9.5).

I've tried to choose well regarded PSUs and with two apparently exellent ones outpricing the signature and M12D, that's why I hadn't shortlisted those two. That said the review on the Corsair that found unacceptable regulation problems on one line (previous post) would worry me even if all other reviews were fine. How much importance should I attach to it, and how are the CP and HX 850 PSUs seen when compared?
 
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gigabit

Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2004
Location
Claymont Delaware 19703
I just read up on the reviews on those 2 (Antec vs. Corsair). They both seem to be exceptionally well regarded. The Antec CP-850 seems to be remarkably solid, and the larger design seems rational and to pay off. The Corsair HX-850 seems virtually of a similar standard, and costs 30% less here. Almost all reviews are extremely positive, but the HX850 had one apparently-credible review with a finding of poor voltage regulation on one line. It bothers me. (this review)

How much importance should I attach to it, and (form factor aside) does anyone have thoughts on a fair comparison of these 2 PSU's in terms of quality, transient responses to sudden current draw (eg hard drive related), or anything else? Barring that one review, they both seem to be widely rated as exceptional PSUs.

Compared to these should I just choose one of those 2, or is there a reason to continue looking at the Antec TruePower 750 or PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750 as well?
Nothing is perfect and that was only one unit.If i here of more of it then ill worry.But if you read enough reviews of any product your gonna find faults.JMHO