Question [Solved] XP machine freezing….. and more.

ImWolf

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MSI K9N Neo MB
AMD Athlon 64 2X 6000+ CPU
8 GB Ram
3X 500 GB HDD (Seagate NTFS), (WD Fat32), Hitachi NTFS/EXT4)
Dual boot Windows XP / Linux Mint 19.3 OS

About 2 weeks ago this machine starting freezing up mid operation. Sometimes while running several app’s, other times when nothing was running at all and I would find the screen/pointer frozen in the morning and had to restart. Keyboard and mouse did nothing. After the 3rd event I opened the case to check if a HDD cables were seated properly, and they were all fine. But I did note that there were 3 blown capacitors. I had just replaced 5 Cap’s 9 months previously, so that ticked me off. (I guess this is a common issue with MSI MB’s?)

Then I began doubting the reliability of this machine and wanted to backup certain data to my laptop, which I first attempted by transferring files to a thumb drive. The machine would always freeze during file xfer to the USB drive. Then I tried booting into Linux Mint to xfer files, but Linus would not boot at all. Eventually I did an F8 start into “Windows With Networking” and did my backup that way. (I should have done this first). Over the next couple days I booted into Safe Mode more than once and the machine never froze up even after several hours of backing up files using my Home Network. More recently, I also Xfer’d files with the Home Network, but not for hours at a time.

When I initially installed the OS’s on this machine, I started by installing XP on the C: drive, which would obviously put the boot loader onto that same drive. Then I installed Linux Mint onto the E:Mint drive and made sure I put the GRUB dual boot loader onto that drive. This way, if either drive failed down the road, I could change the boot order in the BIOS and at least be able to boot with one of the OS. (The D:Data drive is purely for data storage and has no boot sector).

This morning after yet another freeze, I opened the case again and disconnected the E:Mint drive to see if the machine would run stable without that drive, and changed the boot order in the BIOS back to C: expecting Windows XP to boot up….. but instead I ended up at a “Grub Rescue” prompt. So at this point I’m really scratching my head. How did my boot sector on C: get over written while previously the boot order was always to read off of the E:Mint Grub menu?

Eventually I tried to boot off of my WinXP install CD and go to the Recovery Panel and try the old BootFix from the command line, but after many attempts the CD would not boot. Then I tried my trusty USB Rescue thumb drive (which has a dozen utilities on it), and some of them would start to load, but eventually they all froze up. I even grabbed some old Windows Boot Floppies I have, and the machine would not even recognize them and always end up back at the Grub Rescue prompt. Same as my CD.

One thing I did notice that I don’t have the knowledge to explain, is that while the machine was unplugged, and the E:Mint drive was still disconnected, the PWR light on the front panel blinked on and off in 2 second intervals until I hit the PWR button.
(this was right after a failed boot cycle).

So now I’m at my wits end… XP has thrown me a few hurdles over the years, but I’ve always been able to boot into the fix…. Now I can’t boot into anything except a machine that will freeze up. I did eventually re-connect that E:Mint drive, booted into Windows XP, and am now writing this with that OS. Of all the things I suspect, they don’t explain all of the symptoms…. Blown caps don’t change boot sectors, nor do they disallow other boot devices do they?

What do I try next and why? Cmos battery? Swap HHD cables? Hit is with a big hammer? :b

If you’ve read all of the above….. thanks…. Appreciate your input.

Wolf
 

ImWolf

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PSU is Enermax (CNS 13438-Z ?), 330W. I don't recall ever changing it out, so it's at least 20 years old. No heavy use for anything you asked about.

When I added a 3rd HDD to the system I spec'd out everything to make sure the PSU was capable, and at the time my math said it was OK.

Aside from the drives/hardware mentioned above, the system also includes NVidea Gforce 7600, Soundblaster Live, 12 USB ports (2 in constant use), one input and two output fans. Plus the CPU cooler fan and the PSU fan, of which all 5 are working.

At one point while booting into Windows I got the BSOD "Hardware" problem screen.... at the bottom was a hex address + "Realtek HD Audio (something)". I tried uninstalling RealTek Audio but Windows just reinstalls it at startup. Then I disabled it, but this made no difference.

Thanks,
Wolf
 

BFG-9000

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Your Enermax E351P-V was rated 32A on 5v and a paltry 12A on +12v so was really more suited for older Athlons that drew more power from the 5v rail. Worse, it derates to zero watts at 70°C so can only deliver half power at 47.5°C (so 72w on 12v) which is all to easy to reach if there is some dust accumulation inside. And of course that was 15 years ago when it was new.

Fortunately, this means you can easily replace it with a modern PSU that is pretty weak on the 5v line, since your Mobo draws all its CPU power from the +12v P4 connector. That's what I would try first, along with replacing the 3 caps (note they can fail in other ways besides blowing up, especially if fed high ripple from a failing PSU so it might be worth replacing all of the ones on the primary side).
 

ImWolf

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My knowledge concerning PSU's is pretty much non existent. If I were to replace it, I would probably just be looking at total wattage output, and that the form factor and available connectors meet my needs.

In your estimation, could an inadequate PSU cause a HDD boot sector to be over-written? Or somehow cause a machine to stop booting from other sources including the CD, Floppy drive, or USB flash drive, all of which were functioning previously?

Last night after starting XP normally, I used Mini Tools to rebuild the MBR on the C: XP HDD. Then (with fingers crossed) I did the time consuming re-install of every update MS had released for this OS. Luckily, the machine did not freeze up and completed the install. After restart, (with BIOS still set to boot from C:), the machine booted directly to XP as expected, and has not froze up for about 12 hours now, which is an improvement.

It doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but the indications are that going through the GRUB menu, which was apparently on both drives with OS's has something to do with the system failing.
 

ImWolf

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My previous assumption was flawed..... does not matter which boot sector is used.

Noted more than once now the 2 second on/off power LED blinking... is this an indication leading to solving this issue?

Does anyone know where I can D/L schematics for this MB? I'd like to get an idea of what these 3 blown Cap's might be affecting.
 

BFG-9000

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Just look at what MSI did with the K9N Neo v3.0 after they got tired of all the RMAs for bad caps--they went to all polymer caps.
Google for pictures of the v3.0 and you'll find what kinds of caps they upgraded to as well as their values which are helpfully printed right on their tops.

And you can use any modern PSU on that board because, as I said, that board pulls most of its power from +12v just like modern motherboards. If for some reason you are strangely attached to your old poorly suited and undersized* PSU at least check the outputs for ripple on an oscilloscope, or average ripple with a multimeter set on "AC" since something is blowing those caps, and you might have to recap the output stages of that PSU too to keep using it.

*Total wattage output can be pretty misleading since fully half of the power output of that old Enermax is on 5v... which your motherboard doesn't use to power the CPU with.
 

ImWolf

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Never been attached to a PSU, and probably have not paid enough attention to them for too long. Currently the 3rd MB with this case / PSU, and I've seen many blown caps over the years, so perhaps this PSU has been the culprit from day one? Went shopping on EvilBay but didn't see anything exciting.... got any suggestions?

Current MB is the only one I have replaced cap's on. Originals were 6.3V 1800uF so I replaced them with same (Rubycon). Last night however I ordered some Panasonic 10V 1800uF for this board.

WHAT I WOULD REALLY LIKE, is knowing why I can boot into XP Safe Mode and run the machine all night and day, but the only other program that I've managed to boot and run so far was MemTest86 off a floppy drive. No other OS's or programs will run for long if they even complete the boot cycle. This includes from both HDD's, from a USB flash drive, or from my CD-RW drive (which might have issues of it's own.)

Thanks,
Wolf
 

ImWolf

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Would this PSU work for my system?

https://www.ebay.com/itm/155082818925

On all the newer models I'm looking at, they all seem to lack an on/off switch and a connector for the CPU cooling fan.

Thanks,
Wolf

(edit) Now that I look closer, my PSU has a 2 wire connector that goes to "SysFan1" on the MB. That's strange? The PSU goes thru the MB to power its own fan?
 
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BFG-9000

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Wow, a claimed 38A on 5v and I'll bet it's much lighter than your Enermax. The general suggestion is to buy a reputable brand, and I have bought Seasonic PSUs for less than that. If you want to do some research I suggest finding any "PSU tier" list (this one seems to list more sensible wattages) and you probably can't go far wrong with any of the highly ranked ones. If you are trying to find who makes what, this is a good place to look. BTW along with the excessive 5v, a voltage adjustment switch is a dead giveaway that it's an old design.

Pushbutton on-off switches on PSUs went away with the AT standard, and a flip toggle with the XT standard. A molex to run system fans was never a really common feature, and you can certainly make one yourself from any molex adapter if needed (although then the PSU cannot adjust that fan's RPM). More common was a motherboard header so you could monitor the PSU's internal fan speeds. And for ages CPU fans have had either 3-pin or 4-pin motherboard headers to allow the BIOS to vary speeds with load, which is preferable over PSU temperature.

XP was always way more sensitive to instability than 9x and you may find it just works after a new PSU and caps. At least you should be able to boot the XP CD then, and do a repair install (which is kind of like installing Windows on top of itself in 9x)
 

ImWolf

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I have bought Seasonic PSUs for less than that.
Decided to take your advice and "upgrade" my PSU. Bought a used "Sea Sonic SSR-550FX FOCUS Plus 550W 80+ Gold Fully Modular Power Supply" for under $20. Seller said he couldn't find the documentation, but I was able to D/L the PDF's off SeaSonic. In a week or so, we'll see what happens.
 

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