PC Upgrading Nightmare Over?

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Good news! It appears my PC upgrade aggravations are over. I’d like to share a bit just in case anyone Googles this, because I wish I had been able to find something like what I’m about to write.

It’s tax season in the US and that means federal refunds for many. I got mine and promptly got to ordering my planned PC upgrade. I’ve had my old Athlon 64 X2 4600-based machine since the start of 2007 and it’s served me well, but it was really showing its age. Especially in video editing and the occasional game. So I decided to upgrade to the new Phenom II 1090T hex-core CPU, a GIGABYTE GA-770T-USB3 motherboard (rev 1.3), Thermaltake TR-700P 700W PSU, Mushkin 996770 DDR3-1333 8GB RAM, with a GTX 560 Ti video card to follow soon.

I got everything, installed it, and then there was a loud *CRACK*-blik-blik-blik-blik sound. Balls.

The PSU had a slightly misshapen fan assembly which was smashing up against the grill. I adjusted it somewhat, but the noise continued. Not nearly as loud, but an slight intermittent “clipping” noise. Lovely. Never had any problems with Thermaltake before this! PSU itself was just fine, power was reaching components at proper voltags, just a screwed fan assembly. So I arranged an RMA replacement and decided to take a look at the other parts until then.

Got a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate x64 going and then… instant BSOD on first start. Wot. Hmm, maybe driver issues? Removed unneeded components, updated all drives, BSOD after about 25 minutes. This time with gusto, didn’t even wait around to see the memory dump screen. Hmm.

Checked everything I knew to check: cooling, adjusted some voltages (for some reason they were set HIGHER than stock in the BIOS, namely CPU Vcore was set at like 1.45V instead of ~1.325V!), RAM, PSU again, all seemed fine. Started back up and it was good. Tried installing programs, GTA IV first to test the new CPU. It ran wonderfully! Ridiculously better than my old setup, and I had only changed the CPU. Then, crash. System just shut off. Cooling issue, was my first instinct. Strange though, as it had plenty of ventilation and airflow.

Tried installing some other things and they seemed fine, but then I tried using the internet and installing my Adobe products. Um, nothing worked. Gave me corruption errors every time. Couldn’t install Adobe Anything, also couldn’t install newest nVidia drivers because the download was corrupt. WTF? Tried another LAN adapter, still corrupt. Tried another batch of RAM, still corrupt. Tried a freaking torrent download, but even after hash checking the file at 100% it would be corrupt when I opened it! Then the torrent would go corrupt after opening. Wow. Oh yeah, throw in a few more random BSODs, system crashes and lock-ups every so often and you’ve got a grand ol’ time.

I noticed the fans weren’t exactly spinning too quickly, mainly the CPU fan. I looked at all the settings again and all was just dandy. Even enabled manually-controlled fan speed and it still crashed (using the stock cooler for now, BTW). Temps seemed fine, but still crashing all over. Looking through the feedback for this board on Newegg, it’s plagued with all-too-similar horror stories. I decided it was time to RMA the motherboard. Man, I’d always heard great things about Gigabyte! I’ve used their mainboards in other builds, though not my own and nothing on the AM3 platform. Thankfully Newegg was awesome as usual, taking everything back and replacing/refunding as necessary in a timely manner without any lame questions asked.

MSI Awesomeboard

I went with an MSI 870A-G54. And guess what? No problems whatsoever. Gave it all the same stress tests (GTA IV, Crysis, video encoding) and it was solid after many hours. And I like the board’s features better. The fans seem to be working properly now, too: varying in speed in regards to how hard it’s working, just how it should. The stock CPU fan is a bit noisy, but I planned on replacing that soon anyways with something awesome. I’m just glad my system works and I can get to making videos again! And even surfing the internet without freaking stupid corruption issues on files of any size whatsoever, frick. It’s also worth noting that I’m still waiting on a new PSU, so in the meantime I’m using my old 550W Thermaltake. I was concerned that its 4-pin CPU connector wouldn’t be adequate since these new motherboards have an 8-pin CPU power connector. But after doing some research I gave it a shot, and it’s fine. Seems that the extra pins are just for added stability, since it divides the load over more wires and stuff like that. So yeah, I’ll just chill until my new PSU arrives in a couple days. I’m still well within the load limits of my 550W for now.

Someone will no doubt say “you should have just bought a Mac and you wouldn’t have these issues!” Perhaps. In fact, I wouldn’t mind a good Mac Pro to do my editing and main computing on. But I also really love tinkering and playing high-end PC games. And I enjoy being able to eat. To attain similar specs/performance to my PC I’d have to pay several thousand dollars for a similar Mac, at least. This build was about $700. Worth the trouble to save the cash? For me at this time, yes.

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11 comments on “PC Upgrading Nightmare Over?

  1. shaurz says:

    I had some trouble with my Gigabyte board (GA-EP45-DS3) when I put together my current PC about 2 years ago. It’s been running stable ever since but it really annoys me how slow the BIOS takes to boot up. Compared to my old MSI KT4 motherboard (circa ~2003) it takes a lot longer to boot the BIOS before starting the OS.

    • My Gigabyte had a fast BIOS boot option in the setup menu that only shows the pertinent information for a couple seconds before it loads Windows. You can allow the full-length booting, but other than for detailed troubleshooting there’s no need. Wonder if yours is the same?

  2. Chris says:

    Mac my ass. A PC is superior in every way. And anyone who thinks that a Mac doesn’t have issues is deluded. I know a Mac user who has reported a 100% failure rate with every Apple product he’s bought.

    But glad you got it sorted. My motherboard is a high-end Asus, so I don’t think I’m going to have any issues with it.

    • I can see the appeal of a Mac just from the standpoint of its OS and the fact that you can run Windows quite well on it, among other things. And there are several Mac OS-specific programs that are very enjoyable to use. But frick, it’s basically an Intel PC internally nowadays. That price is a deal-breaker for me and I find more joy in “rolling my own” so to speak.

      I was also highly considering an ASUS M4A89GTD but ended up with the MSI because it was a really good deal for all the features that I wanted and then some. Plus I knew I’d like the BIOS and board layout that the MSI board uses.

  3. Foxhack says:

    Ha, funny you should say that about tax season.

    I’m banking on people buying my stuff on eBay using their tax returns so I can upgrade my three year old system!

  4. Shagittarius says:

    This is the kind of issue that I find fun and challenging and love to tackle when a work machine or a friends computer is acting up. It’s also exactly the kind of issue I can’t stand when it’s happening to my main PC. I love trouble shooting but not when your troubleshooting on your bread and butter machine.

  5. pubesz says:

    I’m also glad that you were able to sort out your technical problems. I hope that the new rig will serve you well for many years to come.

  6. Old Thrashbarg says:

    I don’t know what happened to Gigabyte, the types of issues you saw seem to be commonplace on their AMD boards. I’ve personally seen similar things on boards of my own. They advertise all this ‘ultra durable’ stuff, but that doesn’t really mean a whole lot when the thing doesn’t work right in the first place.

    The bit about the voltage is particularly crappy, my 780G board did the same thing, deciding to feed about 1.6V to my Athlon II 250, which probably would have fried it had I not caught it quickly and set the voltage manually. Even putting aside all the other strange issues I had with their boards, when I found out that the incorrect voltage detection was not an isolated problem, I swore off Gigabyte entirely. Boards that can kill your CPU if the CMOS gets reset? Even the lowliest of PCChips’ wares won’t do that crap.

    Anyway, rant over. Glad to hear you got everything worked out.

  7. I got sick of Macs recently and took the tax refund plunge to go back to PCs after 6 years of Mac use.

    My 2.8 ghz Core 2 Duo’s Hard Drive died for the second time, and its the THIRD time its taken my data overall. (2 HD deaths once just forcing a total reformat.)

    I’m 6 months out of Applecare coverage so lets look at prices.

    Ended up with a Sandy Bridge (sort of early on that one sadly but I only need 1 HD and DVD burner in it anyhow so it shouldn’t affect me) i5 2500K and a Radeon 5770 videocard.

    Machine screams as is and a 6870 or Nvidia 560 will take it above and beyond the call of duty.

    Since unlike a Mac at roughly twice the price I can replace components as needed and wanted.

    Sure I will miss the sweet sweet OSX and the lovely nearly silent all in one form factor, but the ability to easily enjoy most programs on the planet and replace bits myself won out in the long run.

  8. NightShade says:

    This is why I have a love/hate relationship with computers. To me sometimes it feels like its up to the computer whether or not it wants to work.

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