Thursday, December 11, 2008

When will the fun ever stop?

I think the drama with my desktop system is almost at an end. Let's see if I can remember what all went wrong...
  • My new hard drives (Seagate 7200.11 1TB SATA drives) apparently run crazy hot. My old case kept them too close together and/or without sufficient airflow.
  • Obviously this meant I needed a new case, and rather than gut my old case, I thought this would be an excellent excuse to upgrade. I threw together an almost entirely new system with parts on-hand, which happened to include an AMD Phenom 9600, an Asus M3N-HD/HDMI, and some Crucial DDR2/1066 DIMMs. This would have been great, except...
  • Apparently the M3N-HD/HDMI gets the memory timings wrong when you use DDR2/1066. Everything is fine with DDR2/800 or slower. I'm still talking to Asus about this...
  • I would have noticed this fact sooner, except I broke my #1 rule of system building and troubleshooting... I didn't let memtest finish a full pass. After about a half an hour, I decided everything had to be OK, right? It threw the first error after like 38 minutes.
  • After figuring this out, and figuring out that another system with the same RAM on a M3N-HT Deluxe had similar issues, I contacted Asus. They were helpful enough to suggest double-checking the memory timings using CPU-Z, which would have been fine if I had Windows on my system. I finally figured out that I could use an OEM Vista install disk's recovery menu (which will get you to a real command prompt eventually) to run CPU-Z from a thumb drive.
  • While forcing the memory timings fixed (well, mostly fixed) the issues with the M3N-HT Deluxe, my system still wouldn't pass memtest.
  • After trying lots (and I do mean lots) of other things, I eventually gave up and pulled another processor (a 8750) off the shelf. With that, memtest passes, and the system has been stable for over a week.
Imagine all that, with much weeping and gnashing of teeth, spread out over the last nearly 3 months.

The 9600 is on its way back to AMD for a replacement. It will be interesting to see if whatever comes back works... I'm still not 100% sure this wasn't some weird incompatibility between that processor and the board. (I found a post where someone had a similar problem with a 9500 and a different Asus board, and their problem was fixed with a BIOS update.)

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