Windows XP random freezing problem--finally solved

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Thread Starter
Sep 30, 2014
I have a Dell Dimension 8300 running XP (Intel Pentium 4 cpu at 3.00GHz, SP3, 1.5 Gb Ram, 80 Gb hard drive, CD-ROM drive, floppy, NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200) which is over 8 years old. I know the time is approaching to purchase a newer computer, but this one still runs great and does everything we need to do and more. I am one for fixing things (our society is way too disposable) if I can when a problem arises. We received a large number of pictures from a family event from our photographer, many of which were on Dropbox. In downloading Dropbox and when looking at these pictures I noticed that the computer was responding quite slowly. The original 80 Gb hard drive was getting filled, especially from pictures, and had about 10 Gb to spare. For both increased storage needs and because it was older, I thought it best to add a second hard drive. I installed a Western Digital WD2500JB (250 Gb) IDE drive as the primary drive, and kept the original 80 Gb drive as the secondary. In addtion, some dvds with pictures from our photographer (which I first thought were cds) wouldn’t play in the cd rw drive that came with the computer. Imagine a cd drive that wouldn’t play dvds! So I realized it was time to upgrade to a dvd drive. I installed an Asus DRW-24B1ST Sata drive. And while I was at it, I decided to increase the Ram from 1.5 Gb to the maximum 4 Gb (which may have been more than I needed, but the Ram was cheap enough). I installed the memory recommended for the computer: 4 x 1Gb DDR-400 PC3200 (non-ECC unbuffered) modules. I found I needed to install dvd codecs in order to play the dvds, and then was finally able to look at the pictures on dvds. That’s when the computer freezing issue started. From time to time when looking at pictures on Dropbox, and on the dvd, the system would freeze up: the computer was on but wouldn’t respond; the screen remained frozen in its current view, the mouse was frozen, trying the escape key or control-alt-delete did nothing. I had to do a forced close. Then on starting up the computer would be fine and operate normally, usually for 5-7 hours of operation before freezing up again. Sometimes the freezing occurred while on the internet, sometimes at startup, it appeared to be rather random; although it occurred most often when some video was playing or when using Firefox.

I wasn’t sure whether the problem was hardware or software (or both) related. After seome research and reading a number of related posts on the, I realized that this type of problem could be caused by many possible issues. I started to tackle the problem by using the Windows System Configration Utility to prevent all startup items that I thought were related to the recent upgrades or that I didn’t think were essential. I did the same to limit the services that were running. None of these changes affected the freezing problem. I uninstalled the codecs I had previously installed for the dvd drive, as well as some other recently installed software without benefit. I also looked for viruses (Norton Internet Security which I have used for years) and malware (Adaware) to no avail. So I began to consider hardware issues. I disconnected the dvd drive from the motherboard, thinking there may have been some incompatability between it and the operating system: no change with the freezing problem. I disconnected the new hard drive from the motherboard, thinking there could be an incompatability with it (although not likely) and ran off the original hard drive, when using which, the problem had not existed: the freezing problem presisted. I downloaded and ran AIDA64extreme to look at the status of cpu temperature, fan speeds, and related issues, and everything looked ok. Then I considered the possibility of bad Ram, and downloaded and ran Memtest86+. I removed all but one memory module and tested each by itself. All memory modules passed the test.

Then I decided to try different combinations of paired modules, using 2 x 1 Gb modules rather than all four. I noticed that the freezing problem seemed to go away, but didn’t quite believe it. After several days of problem free operation, I added the remaining 2 modules and expected that with 4 Gb of Ram restored, the original problem would return. It did not!! I was amazed that in the end, it appeared that the freezing problem must have had something to do with the way the Ram cards were seated in their slots. Ultimately I ended up with all of the upgrades installed, but only after removing (and testing) and then reinstalling the memory modules did the freezing problem go away. In hindsight, it would have been better to have installed each component separately and run the computer for awhile, before adding the next new component. That way, I could have pinpointed the problem more precisely. The way I did it, I wasn’t sure which hardware component, or related software, or some combination was the issue. Lesson learned! I hope this post may help others in dealing with similar issues, even with newer operating systems (since we XP users are becoming extinct).

As a postscript, I found that a few months later, when looking at pictures from the same dvds I mentioned earlier (I reinstalled a minimal codec set to be able to use the dvd drive) the computer froze again. I now realize that this is a separate issue from the memory-related freezing. As long as I am not looking at those pictures (or other video from the dvd drive?) the computer is fine and humming! Now to see if I can solve that issue!


Gone but Never Forgotten
Jan 24, 2002
Hi, Here is part of the support site information for your computer, I have taken a small excerpt from their Owner's Manual about replacing RAM modules:

(You can go to the site using that link in the webquote, it is clickable, the manual requires a .PDF file viewer such as Adobe Acrobat Reader that you probably have installed on our computers to handle .PDF files. The entire manual can be saved and downloaded to a computer by clicking the icon next to the small printer Icon at top right of the manual page)

Dell maintains extensive support information for their machines so if you need anything else, it is reached by typing in the Dell service Tag #ID found on the label or tag usually on the side, or rear of a Dell tower.

See "Adding Memory" begins on Page 87 in that manual. Also see page 88 for a diagram that shows how the modules must be situated.....(as you found out)

AND> even more information on Page 88 along with a diagram so you can see HOW the memory modules are paired, they are not 1&2 next to each other as you will see, and as you discovered. You have take a light, and get inside the case, look down at the memory slots for the numbering corresponding to the Dell diagram. I realize you have already solved your problem and am just providing this information in case you could use the Owner's manual, etc. :)
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