Windows Legacy OS forum


How to Track Down Random Crashing in Win XP

by rnd53 / February 11, 2012 4:30 AM PST

Brand new homebuilt system:
Win XP SP2
ASRock P67 Fatal1ty Performance
Default settings except spread spectrum turned off
8 GB Ram Kingston Hyper PC1600
Core i5-2500K
ATI Fire GL V3600 (from previous PC)
Cooler Master 500 W PSU, dual rail
Boot drive: Crucial M4 SSD
Seagate SATA III 500 GB
2 caddys (one for IDE, one for SATA), but it happens if drives are not in the caddies
DVDROM (Writemaster from previous PC)
PCI cards: DVRaptor Audigy 2, Linksys wireless (all from previous PC)

I get completely random crashes to a black screen. There is no BSOD, there is no minidump, there is nothing. Have to hit reset button or power cycle. Happens every 30 minutes to 4 hours.

CPU and PSU were used with a different mobo for a month with no problems.

All BurnInTests pass. Memtest86 passes (ran for 12 hours). FurMark passes. IntelBurnIn test passes (CPU got to 98C with no problems). Temp and voltages are rock solid. It has happened when I'm doing nothing other than playing solitaire, It has also happened when copying 200 GB of files (and also not happened).

Yes, I am running PC1600 with a PC1333 CPU, but 1) MemTest passes and 2) I thought it was ok to run higher speed RAM with lower speed CPU, it just runs slower (mobo goes to 1600, or 2133 oc'ed). It's 2 dimms, and yes win xp only sees 3.5 GB, but someday I'll go to a 64 bit os.

How can I track the problem down? If I could consistently make it happen, then I could track it down. But nothing works. HELP!!! And thanks!

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Clarification Request
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 13, 2012 4:47 AM PST
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XP and Hard Drives
by durnell777 / February 14, 2012 1:15 AM PST
In reply to: NOT YOUR SSD.

Hi again,

XP does understand SATA drives. Some of the early versions of XP required the use of a floppy disk / extra CD (with appropriate software) a liitle way through installation from CD (pressing F6 at the appropriate point) when installing the OS to make the motherboard recognise XP with a SATA drive on installation - With XP Sp3 this is not the case it should go straight in (May have to modify setting in BIOS).



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by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 14, 2012 2:24 AM PST
In reply to: XP and Hard Drives

Sorry but after running afoul of this I can only agree if XP is "XP SP2" and we have some driver or BIOS to help XP work with said drive. XP without the SP2 or later and on a machine with only SATA and no driver or BIOS to emulate IDE has not found any support.

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Mobo Bios IDE Mode Setting for SATA ports
by rnd53 / February 14, 2012 11:23 AM PST
In reply to: XP and SATA

Yes, I had ordered the OCZ (from Amazon) and then went into shock when I read those exact reviews and scrambled to cancel the order! I did some research and it turned out the new Sandforce controller (for SATA III), which just about everyone is using, has the crashing problem. I determined the Crucial was using the Marvel controller, and although quite a bit slower, I couldn't find any crash reports so I thought it was safe.

The mobo has a bios setting to use IDE mode on the SATA port. I've been using that and WinXP installs without a hitch. I also read that using IDE mode doesn't degrade performance (hmm, I wonder if I can test that?) so the only thing I'm sacrificing is a few features (e.g., hot swappable). I notice a significant performance difference (i.e., boot up time) between the HD and the SSD. Haven't tried SATA II on this mobo.

I must emphasize that when I install WinXP to the Segate Sata III (6 GB/s) hard drive, my system is completely stable, even with all of the drivers loaded. It is only when I install XP to the Crucial SSD that I experience the crashing. I would hope that the SSD would perform the same as the HD under identical conditions. Is this a reasonable expectation?

I am testing to see if it is a particular set of drivers that's the problem. First test, which I'm running now, is default drivers after a fresh install. So far, it hasn't crashed, but I've only done one test which takes several hours and isn't 100% reliable. I'll run it 3 times, and if they all pass, install the first set of drivers (for the graphics card) and re-run the tests.

Unfortunately, I only have WinXP SP2 and to go to SP3, I must install SP2 first, then apply the SP upgrade (I downloaded SP3 from MS). But, because the Seagate HD works fine, I expect the SSD to work under identical conditions. I hope Crucial agrees with me.

Yes, I remember the beginning, DRDOS (Digital Research DOS), the precursor to MSDOS and the Bill Gates era! I still have a copy of MSDOS6 (although I don't have a 5.25 floppy drive anymore Happy ). And yes, I remember the constant crashing. It wasn't until WinNT that we finally got some stability. That's where I feel I'm at now with *this* problem. Back in the 90's! Stability is more important than anything. That's why I don't oc. Tell you one thing though, my homebuilt PC will run circles around my work Dell PC Happy

My fundamental problem is that I'm in the last year of a five year project and I can't afford to upgrade the applications (either in money or the time to re-learn them). After the project is done, I will upgrade Windows. Until then, I'm stuck with XP. And the 32 bit version at that! Happy

Thanks for all the help! You guys are marvelous. Simply marvelous (as Billy Crystal would say). Happy

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Good to read. My fundamental problem is simpler.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 14, 2012 10:48 PM PST

Too many things on the market are in-operable or cause too many loop holes for the everyday user.

Good to read that you are recovering from the near disaster.

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It's Not the SSD, It's Adobe Flash Player
by rnd53 / February 17, 2012 3:03 PM PST

Well, I re-installed Windows with just the default drivers, and there was no crashing. Then I installed the drivers one by one, testing in between. No crashing. Then I as I was browing a web site, I had to install Flash Player and boom, the crashing starts. It also starts when I install WinXP to the hard drive (apparently I didn't do that before). Flash Player 11 is the biggest piece of crap software in the world. I now remember it crashing my old PC as well. What's puzzling is my wife's PC is solid as a rock, and it has Flash.

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by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 17, 2012 11:35 PM PST

Flash's new use of HARDWARE ACCELERATION does crash many drivers.

The fix is WELL KNOWN TODAY but it can confuse many.

-> Yes, it is showing a bug in the audio or video drivers.
-> Sure, you can try other drivers but WHY?
-> No, I never fix that with any effort other than disabling the hardware acceleration setting of FLASH.

I've encountered TWO PEOPLE that refused to turn that off and had to let them swing in the wind so to speak. Let's hope you don't join them.

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Flash Fixes?
by rnd53 / February 18, 2012 2:55 AM PST

I tried the latest video drivers, and I thought it solved the problem, but apparently not. With the old drivers, Flash would crash when I was watching a video so I kind of knew what the problem was. I upgraded my drivers and I thought the problem was fixed, but then it crashes and I don't have to be watching any videos! I didn't suspect Flash at first, but the crash is identical (Black Screen of Death) so I'm 99% sure it is Flash. Yes, turning off hardware acceleration seemed to fix the problem, but then my displays runs as slow as molasses in the winter for all other applications! What I was doing before was installing Flash when I needed to watch something and then uninstalling it afterwards. I think the conflict is with my ATI FireGL but the FireGL is more important than watching videos. So, my choices are:

1. Installing Flash when needed and uninstalling it afterwards
2. Turn off hardware acceleration when using Flash and turn it on afterwards. (This is ok as long as I don't get the random crashes)
3. Don't use Flash.
4. Change video cards. After paying $500 for the FireGL, I don't think so! (Plus, the FireGL is one of the few certified cards for Maya 8.5)

Is there anything else, or are those my only choices?

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by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 18, 2012 4:28 AM PST
In reply to: Flash Fixes?

I can't guess why you would turn Flash hardware acceleration back on. It you persist in this, it's your choice.

All Answers

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Too many things a miss here.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 11, 2012 5:15 AM PST

You may encounter resistance from some folk but 8GB can lead to very bizarre crashes on XP 32 bit. I've worked with those folk and try to be gentle and not run up the bill but what to do when they've created something that is incorrect and they counter with MEMTEST passes? Frankly you smile and point out that it's failing so why not move to what's supported?

I also see a dual RAIL PSU but no word about how you balanced the rails and made sure neither gets over taxed.

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Will try 1333 RAM
by rnd53 / February 11, 2012 10:23 AM PST

Happens I also have some PC1333 RAM, 4 GB I think (2 sticks), so I will give it a go. I think I was using that RAM with the old mobo. Disappointed if MemTest doesn't find the problem, I've heard lots of good things about it. In the meantime, are there any test tools out there that I haven't tried that might be able to track it down? I'm really suspecting the SSD, so I will try the old RAM and remove the SDD. I'll report back tomorrow, and thanks for the suggestions!

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Why do that?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 11, 2012 10:28 AM PST
In reply to: Will try 1333 RAM

Couldn't you pull one stick and get to 4GB in seconds?

Just to recap. 8GB is not going to be initialized proper or rather the OS and drivers may not correctly handle the memory management unit of this system. XP is going to be trouble on new gear. To avoid some of that trouble we make sure nothing is out of range of what we could see in XP machines long ago.

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Not the RAM
by rnd53 / February 12, 2012 2:05 AM PST
In reply to: Why do that?

Ha! Didn't think of pulling one stick! Great suggestion! (Hind-sight is soooo 20/20 Happy ). Anyway, I pulled the PC1600 and put in the PC1333 old RAM and same thing happened. so the RAM is officially ruled out. However, thinking about what a friend told me - only change one thing at a time - I did not pull the SSD. So now I've pulled the SSD (still using the PC1333 RAM just to be safe) and re-installed windows on a SATA III drive. I am now testing, with the default Windows drivers. I think I have a test, when I copy 200 GB from one drive to another (which takes about 2 hours), the crash usually happens (but not always). If it works, say, three times, I think I'll call it a pass. I also think maybe I'll install XP fresh on the SSD with the standard drivers and test that too.

So, I think I'm down to 2 possibilities: the mobo or the SSD. The problem is, it takes so long to test and my test doesn't always work. Interestingly, if I leave the PC on, nothing running except the screen saver, the crash never seems to happen (at least it has never crashed but the longest I let it run was probably 8 hours). Again, thanks for your help and if you have any suggestions, please post them (although I probably won't get back to the forum until late this eve or tomorrow).

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SSD and XP
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 12, 2012 3:07 AM PST
In reply to: Not the RAM

That's pretty new stuff and can cause XP to fail since it's something they never tested for.

I'm sure you remember Windows years ago crashing as faster CPUs arrived. You are slapping rockets to a turtle. An old turtle at that and the result can't be pretty.

OK, you didn't try the one stick of ram. I didn't tell all why that matters. It matters because it detunes the memory system to slow and safer.

As to balance the rails, it's not simple for most folk today. I have to get a "loop" Amp meter and measure what each rail is using and then move loads from one to the other. Given the 100 to 200 buck charge, most folk just change to a single rail PSU.

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It's the Crucial M4 SSD
by rnd53 / February 13, 2012 12:17 PM PST
In reply to: SSD and XP

Apparently the problem is the Crucial SSD. I have heard of similar problems with other SATA III SSD brands, which is why I went Crucial, I guess Crucial has the same problem.

I did a fresh install on a SATA III hard drive, everything was stable. I added more drives (to do the file transfer test) and loaded up my graphics card drivers. Everything was stable. Six tests and 12 hours, no problems at all. That means CPU, PSU, RAM, and hard drive are ok. I then disconnected all of the hard drives and connected up the SSD. While I was playing freecell (and nothing else), the system crashed - Black Screen of Death. Checked the logs and nothing. The only thing there was the next startup. So, the only difference was the hard drive versus the SSD. I think I'll do a fresh install on the SSD and see if it crashes before I install any drivers. In the meantime, I'm contacting Crucial for warranty replacement or just get my money back. I have a bad feeling all SATA III SSDs have the problem.

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You're right but then again, it is XP.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 13, 2012 11:47 PM PST

You are putting an OS that never ran on SSD onto a technology that didn't exist then. I can't know if you remember Windows crashing as faster CPUs arrived but it was a bit of an embarrassment at the time.

Then again, I don't know if you lived through those days.

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How to balance rails?
by rnd53 / February 11, 2012 10:33 AM PST
In reply to: Will try 1333 RAM

Forgot to reply to the rail question, sorry. I'm not exactly sure how to balance the rails, try to connect the drives to separate lines coming from the PSU?

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Would like to point out
by mchainmchain / February 12, 2012 6:46 AM PST
In reply to: How to balance rails?

that programs such as Memtest do not run in a Windows environment, so if the 8 GB RAM tests fine, that result is only relevant in the context of the motherboard and chipset used. It would not apply to the 32-bit limitation that XP has for memory addressing.

XP will not see more than 3 GB RAM because of this.

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Not to mention
by mchainmchain / February 11, 2012 6:25 AM PST

you are still on SP2

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Yes, SP2
by rnd53 / February 11, 2012 10:27 AM PST
In reply to: Not to mention

Yes, on SP2. The old mobo, CPU, video card and PS worked fine on SP2 so I'm leaning towards something else. I have SP3 so I will try that if the other suggestion in the other thread doesn't pan out (try old RAM and remove SSD).

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Check Hard Drive
by durnell777 / February 11, 2012 7:26 PM PST

Hard drive manufacturesrs sites have 'tools' that are better than what windows has built in. find the make of your hard drive - if you are unsure how to do this and o not want to open the case use Belarc Advisor the address is as follows:

Once you know the make of your hard drive go to the manufactures web site and download their tool - This will enable you to thoroughly check your hard drive for faults ie SMART capability, etc. If the drive is faulty it may be in warranty; obviously if the drive is faulty it will need to be changed, A clicking sound when the drive is operating can be a give away that a drive is faulty, however this sound is not always there.

Other options (bearing in mind the tests you have already carried out yourself)

Is there heat sinc compound between the processor and the fan?

Are the fans on the system operating properly?

Is there plenty of ventillation around the PC?

Possibly Reinstall completely (Not system restore) to as new?


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Will test hard drives
by rnd53 / February 12, 2012 2:32 AM PST
In reply to: Check Hard Drive

Ah! I didn't know hard drive manufacturers did that, I will try to get their test programs. Great suggestion! The case is open so no problem there.

Yes to thermal compound. Since this is the second time I installed it (second mobo, same CPU), I applied the compound myself. Used a brand name, think it was Cooler Master, although the CPU fan is stock. Plus, when I run the thermal tests, my CPU doesn't go above 98C so I think I'm good there.

Yes, fans working, I've got the case open so I can see them spin. Also monitor says CPU fan at about 2k and case fan at about 1k (if I recall correctly) under load.

Ventilation - yes and no. The right side is about 0.5 inch from a desk, but the left side is open and that panel is off. PSU fan intake is on the bottom of the case, and it's on carpet so that is the weakest link. Case fan is at the top, a little above the horizontal level of the CPU. However, I can put the chassis on a hard surface which would give me about an inch of space due to the legs. (On the carpet the gap is only about 0.5 inch).

Yes to the re-install. (Trying that now). I *believe* I have a test for the problem (copy many files). With a test tool, I can try a bunch of configurations. Only thing is it takes a long time. I think one test I'll try is the SSD with the old mobo. I think the problem is Windows drivers (yes, I 've been using the latest, even flashed the new mobo BIOS) just don't know which one. So, I don't think the hardware is faulty, I think it's a driver thing, would you agree? I will definitely get the disk manufacturer tests and see what they say. May not be able to post back for awhile, these tests take a long time - it's like a "shall not". They are impossible to verify. :-). Thanks for your suggestions and if you think of any more, please post them.

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RE: Check Hard Drive
by durnell777 / February 12, 2012 10:25 AM PST
In reply to: Will test hard drives

Hi again;

Firstly as I said previously it could very well be a heat issue or a hard drive issue.

The tools you can download from the manufacturers web sites will even try to 'fix' the hard drive by basically avoiding any bad sectors etc.

I ran a computer repair shop for a long time and the best advice I can give to you is firstly make sure ventillation is alright, secondly check the hard disk drive with appropriate tools - if faulty in ANY way Replace it with a new one, thirdly Reinstall from scratch with a full format (Not Quick) then make sure that after the install you use the correct drivers from the disk that came with your motherboard / Graphics card /Sound card etc (If you cannot find these discs download the relevant discs from the manufacturers web site (Windows Update can frequently give a driver that is NOT the correct one (This used to be a big problem with graphics drivers in the past).

The following will ALWAYS work as a check:

Go right back to the start of things:


Check all cables are firmly seated.(pins can easily pop out of place)

Check any cards are properly fitted start off with just the MOBO if possible using on board graphics if available. (add cards later one at a time)

Check memory contacts (grease of your fingers can cause problems.

Check memory configuration -Refer to motherboard specs (memory normally needs to be in a certain order if different capacities are used) Used matched memory for better results, the same manufacturer and size etc.

XP 32 bit - Use 2 X 2GB (Operating system will only recognise 3.5GB)

The PC must be ventillated well

Check the BIOS - If any doubt with the bios accept default configuration


Power on

Reinstall with Full format (Only install XP for now)

Use Correct drivers

Use minimal hardware cards MOBO only if on board graphics (and see if you still have problems)

If no problems then gradually introduce new hardware and test if running right insert new cards and correct drivers.

If everything is OK then install programs perhaps once again one at a time.

This way is the logical way to identify problems firstly it will test the mobo, hard drive, psu and memory then 'other cards'



Go back to the start

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Good Advice, thanks!
by rnd53 / February 14, 2012 11:27 AM PST
In reply to: RE: Check Hard Drive

Yes, good advice! I even did the full format, not the quick format, as you suggested. I think I've narrowed it down to the SSD. I'm now adding drivers one at a time, between tests, to see if it is a driver problem. Wish there was a quicker way to test.

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