Wasted many hours last night "fixing" my computer

2 replies [Last post]
Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969

Take this as a cautionary tale I guess... My main computer, a gaming desktop PC, was generating an odd smell several days back, and then, just a few days back, it started to beep, then shut itself down. I suspected my vents were maybe blocked up with dust, so I cleaned everything out, but the dust level wasn't anything unusual. That seemed to help some, but again, beeps and then a shut down.

Initially I thought an update had caused some corruption with my Windows 7 installation, so I rolled back prior to some HP updates (never trust HP) and thought I had solved the issue. I didn't. I then suspected it might be my SSD cache drive, so I went through the tedious process of uninstalling its software and unplugging it. Still the same issue.

After having my computer apart, checking all the connections, checking for overheating points (my power supply WAS unusually hot), I finally had the brainstorm to look up what the beeps meant in relation to my particular motherboard. It turns out that it meant my video card (it's a discrete ATI board) was overheating. This was obviously odd, particularly since I was using it for regular computing and did not have it overclocked, plus, even though my gaming PC is not exactly a premium model, it is in fact loaded up with fans and a nice airflow friendly internal layout.

So, I went back to the updates idea. Turns out, when I had allowed my ATI video card software to update to the latest version of the control panel - which added MANY more features than I had previously - it seemed to default to overclocking of all things. Once I set it to "Normal" operation, no longer did I have the shut downs. I restored my SSD cache drive and its software, did some registry checks, etc., and I was even able to improve my Windows Experience score from 5.8 to 5.9 (the limiting factor being my 1GB 7200RPM regular hard drive). Go figure.

Anyway, while my BIOS has an overclocking friendly interface and there are all kinds of overclocking techniques I can use in Windows, I have zero reason to bother. For the type of PC gaming that I do (and at 1080p, no less, meaning no need to drive higher resolutions, even though I dual screen), it's just not worth it (and I tend to game more on my gaming laptop anyway), as I have all the performance I need (matched up with 16GB of RAM, etc.). Because I paid less than $1000 for my PC, it does NOT have premium cooling features like a radiator or other liquid cooling solution, so, even with all those fans and a 700-something watt power supply, it's clear that I CAN'T really overclock much even if I wanted to.

Anyway, long-winded story, but perhaps it will save someone some time. Bottom line, if you have sudden shut down issues and all of your fans and everything seem to be working, check for unsolicited overclocking after a software update, particularly one involving your video card.

While I feel a sense of accomplishment solving the problems after many hours of effort and more than a bit of worry (not wanting to get another new computer, so soon after this one), it was all too reminiscent of the "old days" with this stuff and one of the reasons why I got down on PCs for so long. I certainly could have used the time far more productively, particularly now with the projects I have going on. The average person who was not into PCs (or had the background I had) would have had a heck of a time troubleshooting this. It certainly highlights what is still bad about regular computers, and of course what is so nice about them still in that you can troubleshoot your own stuff. It's truly a love/hate thing.

Regardless, I ran my computer for a few hours last night and did various tasks, so it does well and truly appear to be an issue resolved, and again, running as well as it has ever ran. Hopefully I'm not back on here late tonight lamenting a "too soon" enthusiasm...

n/a
Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Comments
clok1966 wrote:

Ati cards.. im a CPU OClocker. and also video card.. but have quit on vido cards as i Only run 2440 x ???? ( man i forget).. and my SLI setup handles anything stock.. but I have fried 3 ATI cars with OC.. never fried a Nvedia. Now Im not sying anything with that.. just my luck and I am currenlty using ATI (AMD).. but my luck with them has been so-so... Amazing you found it.. I guess once you knew it was the video card it would help. frustrating when they mess it up!

What helped me find it was that my PC maker - Cyberpower - seems to use all off-the-shelf parts that are clearly labeled. Without that I would have been on a rather more generic hunt, but once I was able to identify the beep sequence of my specific motherboard, I could at least narrow down the issues. Otherwise, I would have suspected my power supply, since that seemed overly warm, but that was only because of what the video card was doing.

Speaking of PCs, I went through a period of time where, since I didn't game much on them, I would buy for me or my wife the occasional cheaper computer or laptop without discrete graphics and occasionally other performance drawbacks. Big mistake, as these systems pigged out far faster than I could have anticipated. My last two purchases for myself - the Sager gaming laptop and this Cyberpower gaming PC - have taught me the error of my ways. If it's optimized for gaming, it's optimized for everything, plus you have the benefit of better parts, design, etc., over a more generic, mass market system (HP, many Dells, etc.). Obviously gaming systems do have their downsides--more heat, more power draw, more noise, if it's a laptop lower battery life and increased weight, etc., but the benefits in performance (even in every day tasks) far outweigh them.

One thing I wanted to do with this last PC purchase, but I wasn't in the position at the time, is that I wanted to eschew overclocking, but still deck out a PC with all the latest watercooling and silencing treatments. This way it would run super cool and quiet and not be taxed in any way (my theory, any way). My budget at the time stopped me from doing that, but I really do love what I got for half the price of what I would have spent otherwise making an "ideal."

One area where I'd go against my own advice is with an ultrabook or MacBook Air as my next general purpose, carry friendly, laptop (considering I already have an oversized behemoth of a gaming laptop). With the new Sandybridge processors with improved video performance and the extreme portability and battery life, I think it would serve its purpose just fine, even for the occasional game or video editing. Every device with its own purpose I guess...

n/a
clok1966
Offline
Joined: 01/21/2009
Im a fan of ATI cards ( bang

Im a fan of ATI cards ( bang for buck) and while I dont say it often.. back in the 90's ATI had a bad rep for drivers (deserved back then).. they still slip a sanfu out here and there. In about 2005 i did an update as i was about 4 behind and EQ (end of my EQ days) quit working.. As i still played quite alot it was frustratiing.. the vid card update was my only change so i rolled it back.. one version.. nothing, rolled it back 2 verssions nothing.. so i looked eleswhere.. for over a week i fought it.. in the end, it was as simple as yours.. i had to roll it back 4 versions.. and searchs of forms at the time showed it was a problem and ATI kept saying it wasnt.. they di update it with a fix and all was well.. but a simple driver issue stopped me.. Yours is much worse when its basicly breaking everyday stuff. Mine was at least game releated and all else worked..

Ati cards.. im a CPU OClocker. and also video card.. but have quit on vido cards as i Only run 2440 x ???? ( man i forget).. and my SLI setup handles anything stock.. but I have fried 3 ATI cars with OC.. never fried a Nvedia. Now Im not sying anything with that.. just my luck and I am currenlty using ATI (AMD).. but my luck with them has been so-so... Amazing you found it.. I guess once you knew it was the video card it would help. frustrating when they mess it up!

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.