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Windows 7: New computer - constant BSOD - baffled as to root cause

19 Jun 2012   #1

Win 7 Ult x64
New computer - constant BSOD - baffled as to root cause

Hi all,

I just built my new system (I've built many over the years, never a problem). The new PC was great for about 1 week (including a 24hour burn in), then all of a sudden starting yesterday night, I began receiving BSODs constantly. This has been extremely frustrating and I'm desperate for answers.

Hardware (all brand new):
Windows 7 Ult x64 OEM
16GB G.Skill PC1600
EVGA Nvidia GeForce 670
Corsair 256G SSD, 1.5TB SATA hdds
Corsair 750W Pro silver PSU
Antec 302, CoolerMaster 212 heatsink, 3x case fans
All drivers were the latest updates. BIOS updated to latest before installing OS the first time.

As my system is currently in pieces across my workstation and I'm typing this on my Mac, I cannot run the dump/analysis tool. I will, however, attach a .zip of the dump files I put on my NAS before wiping the PC. The errors were all of the "caused by Address ntoskrnl.exe+7f1c0" type, with BSOD messages of MEMORY_MANAGMENT, IRQL_etc, or various others that typically seem to point to drivers or RAM. After these dump files were taken, I uninstalled a variety of the software (such as the Asus utilities) and anything else I could find, behavior only worsened.

Behavior: system ran great for a week. I tested various OC settings, nothing extreme (e.g. CPU @ 3.5GHz instead of 3.4) and went with standard settings for the main (the OC actually decreased video card performance). Midday Monday (yesterday), the Windows update autoinstalled some packages, possibly in the middle of auto system backup. I returned home to find the "your system has quit unexpectedly, check for solutions dialog." Checked, no solutions. I launched a browser and... boom. BSOD. Reboot. BSOD on Windows startup. etc. I ended up removing every bit of extraneous software and drivers I could find and it seemed to be more stable - I played Battlefield3 (the real reason I bought the machine, let's be honest) ... for about 40 minutes, then it crashed. After the BF3 crash, the system was not able to stay functional for more than 5 minutes at a time. Dump logs analysis was inconclusive. Heat tests post-BF3 were within spec - CPU/GPU ~41C or less. Ran some hardware tests, typically from boot-USB or safe mode as system was too unstable to stay in Windows.

Giving up on attempting to fix via software, I thought a clean install might fix the issue (which seemed to be driver-related at the time). I blew up the Windows install drive, deleted the partitions, and went to reinstall Windows. Only to find that now the Windows installer will not successfully complete installation and hard freezes after the 'expanding files' section. *However* the system was entirely stable when I started the installation, and left for work, coming back 10 hours later with the machine still on and waiting on the disk selection screen (so at least we know it was stable at true idle, no activity other than displaying VGA screen). Also of note: during these installs, the Windows install would not recognize my USB mouse (though it did USB keyboard) which was annoying and also different than the first install (where mouse was recognized). After the complete teardown, rebuild, and attempt to install Windows this evening, the mouse was recognized by the Windows installer. This, to me, pointed at the mobo as well.

I even put a Linux live CD (Mint 12, in case it matters) to test stability and the system hard locks after maybe 2 minutes post-getting-to-desktop.

As this is by and large the same behavior that just killed my previous machine (3yo), where I first thought it was the RAM, but turned out to be the mobo frying the RAM (... and the replacement sticks I put in), I checked the RAM first for hardware issues, but they passed memtest on multiple iterations over multiple hours.

Hardware diagnostics/tests:
* Ran memtest more than 10 times. No errors found in either stick.
* Checkdisk reported no errors.
* SFV returned corrupt system files once, but irrelevant with later clean install attempts.
* No overclocking.
* Temperatures all within norms (~32C at idle).
* Voltages stable
* took machine completely apart. Checked every connection, including screws. Disconnected every nonessential component, leaving only fans, SSD, and DVD drive. All POST LEDs on the motherboard reported no errors.

Since every piece of hardware passed, I RMAd the motherboard (shipping it back tomorrow) and hope the replacement fixes these crashes... and I get it before the weekend so I can actually spend time on the system. If that doesn't work, my fallbacks are RAM, then the SSD, but both seem remote. My last mobo was Asus as well, but should I try another brand? I thought the premium pricing would help avoid these problems (if it is the mobo), but identical behavior on 2 systems in a row built 3 years apart tells me I may have backed the wrong horse.

Have I missed anything? What should I be looking for? I'm at a loss as to where to look next if the new mobo does not fix things, though I've of half a mind to return everything and live in my no-gaming-allowed OS X Siberia for another year.

All help is most appreciated.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
20 Jun 2012   #2

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit

All the crashes point to hardware with memory as the primary culprit. If Memtest86+ checked out, the RAM is probably okay, but Memtest86+ is not 100% reliable; in fact, no diagnostic software is since they are designed to look for certain errors under stress but not all. Due to the CPU overclock, I wonder about the CPU. It is possible it was damaged in the overclock and may need to be replaced.

If replacing the motherboard does not resolve the problem, see if swapping out a different CPU helps. You should try to borrow one if possible since the overclock you did, even for the short period of time and the small amount it was overclocked, may prevent you from an RMA of the current processor. Let us know what you find out when the board is returned.

It is equally possible the overclock damaged the motherboard or the motherboard was faulty and a component failed, so replacing it may resolve things. Best wishes.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
20 Jun 2012   #3

Win 7 Ult x64

That would be depressing if the slight OC (which was done automatically by the BIOS when I selected the "ASUS Recommended" setting) killed the hardware... which was specifically selected for it's OC-friendliness (including the CPU).

Thanks for the reply. When I get the new mobo, I'll pop it back in and update here. Despite the Memtest+ results, would the next suspect be RAM (and should I order new RAM anyway, just to be safe?
My System SpecsSystem Spec

20 Jun 2012   #4

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit

If you overclocked through an automatic setting, I would be surprised if it damaged anything. Still, it is probably best to set up the overclock manually and have an expert help you with it if you want to overclock. We have a forum on SevenForums for that task: Overclocking and Case Mods - Windows 7 Forums.

Yes, the third suspect would be the RAM. As I said, Memtest86+ can return no errors and the memory can still be faulty. Further reading on this: Finicky RAM.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
22 Jun 2012   #5

Win 7 Ult x64

Alright, rush ordered a new motherboard (Asrock Extreme4) and ... it wasn't the motherboard. Hard BSOD on Windows install.

I then took out one of the sticks of RAM and... it was the (tested as error-free) RAM. Took out one of the sticks and the system has now been running for 12 hours with no crashes. Knock wood, but I think that did it.

Of course, now I've got an extra motherboard for no reason whatsoever. Pretty much just set my money on fire there.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
24 Jun 2012   #6

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit

Yeah, it's too bad you did not post prior to getting a new board. I probably would have had you go through steps to narrow down the problem further before recommending replacing anything.

Glad you found the problem, though. Let us know when you are sure it is solved, and you may also mark the thread solved at that time.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

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