Motherboard problems

Recently, as of these past few months, I’ve encountered a slew of computers that have random problems which revolve around blue screens.

I’ve run the basic diagnostic tests on them.  I’ve run Memtest to test the memory, often times 24 hours +, Prime95/Orthos on the processor if I can get into Windows – this is actually a stress test upon the CPU and the memory, Hitachi Drive Fitness Test upon the hard drive – no bad sectors, no bad hard drive, and seem to still come across computers that blue screen for random reasons.

I’ve looked at the dump files through the Windows Diagnostic Tool and have found the blue screens attributed to random things.  Normally this would indicate that there is a problem with the memory modules.  However, when you run Memtest and Prime95/Orthos for 24+ hours and no errors are found or no blue screens occur, it’s hard to confirm whether or not it is the memory.

Then you have the dreaded possible motherboard problem.  This is when perhaps a power outage, or a power surge has silently affected the motherboard and the motherboard shows no physical signs (blown caps) or any other signs of failure.  This is the hardest to pin point and diagnose as this is an evasive problem which has no physical symptoms.

Often times you can change out every single component and still encounter the same problem and this is a definitive diagnosis of a bad motherboard.  Other times, the problem still occurs.

For example, I have a few units in shop that are plagued by this problem.  This one in particular is a Dell E510.  This Dell had a bad memory module.  I replaced the memory module, ran Memtest, no errors or problems.  I can boot into Windows, stress test within Windows, no problems either.  I send the unit home, client reports two days later that there was a blue screen with a message indicating problem with memory.  Client brings it back in, I check it out, stress test the entire thing again, no problems to be found.  The only thing that I could see is that there are four memory module slots with the computer having 1x1GB and 1x512MB and each being in the respective slots for dual channel.  I honestly haven’t seen this cause any problems in the past and with the stress test coming back with no problems, I honestly am at a lost as to what could be causing or what could have caused that blue screen.  The only thing I can think of is that she attached something like a printer, a thumb drive or something that didn’t really like the new configuration and therefore it blue screened.

I’m back in the office today.  Will have to go through a bunch of different scenarios with the client.  Will report back later with what went down.

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