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Can someone help me troubleshoot my HTPC

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by Ollie81, Feb 2, 2009.

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  1. Ollie81

    Ollie81 Thread Starter

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    Hi I’m hoping someone can help me with a problem I have a HTPC I built about 3 weeks ago. The components I used are as follows:

    Case – ThermalTake Mozart SX with VFD (case fans replaced with 2 X Noctua 80mm)
    PSU – Corsair 450w
    CPU – Intel E8400
    CPU Fan – Scythe Shrunken
    MoBo – Gigabyte EP45-DS3
    RAM – 4GB Rambo 800
    GPU – ASUS HD4850
    HDD – 1TB Samsung Spinpoint F1
    ODD – LG HD-DVD/Blu Ray combo
    O/S – Vista Premium

    I brought the various components from various suppliers and built the PC myself (I’d replaced GPU’s, RAM and PSU’s before but this was my first full build). All went well, and I did a bit of testing/checking after I’d finished – bios showed the CPU temperature at around 40c – 50c after an hour or more usage, and Catalyst showed the HD4850 at around 75c after light usage both of which I figured were acceptable for a cramped little case.

    Over the past three weeks I’d been using it on and off, mainly setting up Vista and my other programs and configuring a couple of external TV cards. I had done some light gaming on it too, maybe an hour to an hour and a half at a time on a couple of occasions.

    However this Friday evening I turned it on to do some gaming and played Fifa 2009 for maybe an hour and a half to two hours when the screen turned into a pixelated green frozen mess and the computer stopped responding. I turned the computer off and left it for a few seconds before putting it back on, there was no signal to the monitor and there were a couple of error beeps from the mobo (I since checked and they’re to indicate a graphics issue).

    So my assumption was that my graphics card had bitten the big one, however the next day I took the card out and swapped it with a Radeon HD3650 I have in my desktop PC. The HD4850 worked fine in my desktop (and has been used and gamed on a few times over the weekend and is still running fine), the HD3650 then also appeared to be working fine in the HTPC?!?!

    Confused I swapped them back again, and again the HTPC with the HD4850 just black screens and beeps at me. The only thing I could think of that was different between the two cards is that the HD4850 needs a 6 pin PCI-e power plug directly from the PSU whereas the HD4650 doesn’t. So I’m thinking well maybe it’s the PSU?

    I noticed that when I first built the HTPC I forgot to plug in that 6 pin power cable and that as a result the motherboard beeped continuously at me and there was a message on the screen informing me of what a fool I’d been. So I unplugged the power from the HD4850 and tried again with the HTPC but I still got the same black screen and just a couple of beeps. Now, my theorising may be wrong here as I’m not too sure what to make of that result but I thought that the issue probably isn’t a power one and must be the motherboard or the riser card (my HTPC case uses a right angled riser card so that the graphics card lays parallel to the motherboard).

    But I’d still got the problem that the HD4650 seemed to work fine in the HTPC, so I left the HD4850 in the study desktop, put the HD4650 into the HTPC and went and plugged it back in to my TV. Powered it on, all looking fine, up comes the vista logo, the loading screen then black, nothing but black. Power off, wait, restart I’m told windows shut down unexpectedly and given the usual safe start options and I chose to try again normally, same problem of the black screen after loading. So another restart, this time load into safe mode and finally I’m in. So now I’m concluding it must be a driver/Vista issue. Over the course of the day I try turning off various services, start-up apps and running in diagnostic mode none of which will let me in to Vista normally, but I’m always able to get into safe mode.

    I did however start on a few occasions get into normal Vista; they were after I did the following:
    Ran the repair option from the Vista disk – this then let me in, then updated drivers wanted to restart then wouldn’t let me back in again.
    Disabled the Display Adaptors /uninstalled the display drivers from device manager in safe mode then re-boot – again this then let me in, then updated drivers wanted to restart then wouldn’t let me back in again.
    Reloaded a recovery point from the Thursday before all the issues – same again with the driver and restart.

    So I set Vista not to auto restart, downloaded the latest catalyst and ATI drivers & deleted all the old ones. Got into normal Vista, installed the new drivers, restart, black screen!!!

    So after more testing (essentially variations on the same uninstall/reinstall of drivers theme) normal Vista would only run when not using the graphics card with it’s drivers (I take this to mean that the graphics card isn’t doing any processing in that instance and is just passively passing on the signal, and as soon as I tried to get the card to actually do some processing it doesn’t work).

    Figuring maybe a fresh install is my next step I attached an external drive to back-up a few files that I wanted from within safe mode. However during this process the mouse cursor started to repeat it’s self on the screen, then the screen & pc froze completely. Power down, wait, restart black screen and the motherboard gives me the graphics issue beeps. Exactly the same as when I had the HD4850 in there.

    This is its current status, I’ve tried a few times to turn it back on and nothing will show on the screen now and I get the graphics error beeps.

    So (and I must say if you’ve read through all this thank you so much for sticking with me) what do I do next? Does this sound like a mobo/riser card issue? Presumably I could rebuild the computer outside of the case and plug the graphics card directly into the mobo to see if it is the riser card, is this safe to do if I have the mobo sat on an anti-static mat and don’t leave it on for very long? Is this what I should be doing or have I missed something out I should test first (maybe something that doesn’t need me to take apart my pc to such a degree)?

    Any advice, help (and at this point even sympathy) would be greatly appreciated, and thanks again for wading through such a lengthy post!
     
  2. BG-0

    BG-0

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 1969
    Messages:
    6,922
    Running outside of the case is safe, even for quite a while. Probably even healthier for the system than boiling it inside the small case... That would probably be the next step in your situation. If that does not help... Failing motherboard or power supply, or both. That's what comes to my mind.
     
  3. crjdriver

    crjdriver Moderator

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2001
    Messages:
    37,134
    A 450W pw supply is really marginal for that card/system. With the hardware you have installed, I would like to see an absolute min of 35amp on the 12V rail. More is better however the system should work OK with 35amp. Corsairs are fine pw supplies however the one you have selected is made for general use systems NOT ones with high end video cards.

    When you do something like install a high end video card with a low powered pw supply, you make that pw supply work at or near its max output all of the time. Even worse is making it run in a small case so it gets even hotter than normal :eek::eek:

    Just think how long the engine in your car would last running at full throttle all of the time on a 100F day???
     
  4. Ollie81

    Ollie81 Thread Starter

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2009
    Messages:
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    Thank you both so much for your responses. I'm not going to be able to do some more testing until the weekend but I have a couple of further questions before I dismantle my machine further/splash cash on new parts:

    1. Does it sound like I've potentially fried/irreparably damaged my current PSU, would this be why the lower powered HD3650 is playing funny too?
    2. The Corsair HX620W specs shows that it has 18A on its 12v rail but has 3 of them (presumably 54A in total) would that suit my needs (plus this one is modular which would probably help with the airflow in my hot little case!!)
    If I'm trying to more accurately establish my power requirements I probably aught to confess that along side the listed specs I also have a few USB devices that are all un-powered (well powered only through the USB I mean as obviously they are all powered):
    2 x TV USB Cards (a dual HD digital tuner and a hybrid HD digital/analogue)
    1 x Draft N TP link wireless USB dongle
    1 x IR receiver for a Microsoft remote control
    1 x Blutooth adaptor for a Logitech Novo mini
    (and the Case’s VFD, which also contains an IR receiver).

    I assume they wouldn't be helping with any power issues either :eek:
     
  5. BG-0

    BG-0

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    Messages:
    6,922
    Modular PSUs are quite bad. You'd want the 550 W model from corsair, or 610 from PC Power & Cooling. Or other, non-modular, single 12 V rail, high quality unit at those power levels or higher.
    And no, they're not 54 A in total.
     
  6. Ollie81

    Ollie81 Thread Starter

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2009
    Messages:
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    Right it's my motherboard!

    I tried another PSU which resulted in no difference. I unscrewed the Mobo, laid it on top of card on top of the case and plugged the HD3650 directly into the 1st PCI-e x16 slot (the main one that had been used previously with the riser) - this resulted in the computer booting again (the last few times it wouldn't even make a POST beep let alone turn on the monitor) however as before I could only get into safe mode.

    I tried fiddling around with the ATI drivers again to try and get into Windows proper but everytime I tried the system would hang after the initial loading screen.

    Then I removed the GPU from the PCI-e x16 slot one, and plugged it into the 2nd PCI-e slot (this one's x8 on the Gigabyte - EP45-DS3. This fixed the issue, I was able to get straight into Vista proper. It recognised the card and installed the driver and after a restart it still worked. I was able to turn on Areo and the vista score system amended its self according to my new card.

    I put the riser in that slot too (although obviously it won’t fit in my case like that - but I could hold it there with my knee whilst I checked it out) and with the riser in it again worked perfectly. So I tried one last time in the PCI-e x16 slot, and still no joy with that one :(

    Soooooo, (and thanks again for sticking though another of my rambling posts if you got this far again) I'm assuming that that first slot has some issues and that my motherboard is at fault. However before I try to return it (if I'm able to as I've thrown away the box already) and get a new Mobo does it sound like I may have fried it or did I just get unlucky? Any ideas in case I fry another one?
     
  7. BG-0

    BG-0

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    6,922
    Ookay. You're most propably unlucky, those things happen. Good luck getting a new one.
     
  8. Ollie81

    Ollie81 Thread Starter

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2009
    Messages:
    4
    Cool, fingers crossed that it was just the luck of the draw! Thanks again for your help and advice in following me on this, places like this are so helpful.
     
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