Casey Bralla on 30 Dec 2009 06:57:15 -0800

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[PLUG] How To Diagnose System Instability?

Lately my computer has started showing signs of instability.   I get rather 
frequent SegFaults which pop up windows in KDE and (usually) allow me to 
restart applications.  The computer is about 8 months old, and had been 
completely fine up until about a month ago.

At first I thought this was just goofiness with the latest version of KDE, but 
after I removed half my RAM, the stability improved tremendously.   Also, my 
BIOS includes the memtest86+ program and it shows errors (sometimes).

I use Gentoo, so am compiling a lot of software.  I've read that recompiling 
the kernel is a great way to identify hardware problems since it exercises the 
whole system so thoroughly. <sigh>

So I'm struggling to identify which component(s) of my system are causing the 
instability.   Here are the things I've tried, with very limited success:

 - run memtest86+.  (Sometimes shows errors, but sometimes can run overnight 
without any problems)
 - Removed half the 4 memory chips. [I had 8 GBytes, so could spare the RAM] 
(This helped, but not 100%)
 - Used to BIOS to restrict my 4-core AMD Phenom to a single core (no 
 - Used the BIOS to raise the RAM voltage slightly (no apparent effect)
 - Used the BIOS to slow the DDR-800 chips to DDR-400 speeds (no apparent 

Here are the things I still want to try:

 - Swap the remaining RAM chips into the other sockets
 - Swap out the power supply

Beyond these tasks, does anybody have any suggestions to help identify the 
cause of the instability?   I would hate to have to replace the motherboard.  
And how would I "prove" that the motherboard is the problem? 

BTW, here are the specs:

Motherboard: BIOStar TA790GX
CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 940
RAM: Crucial "Ballistix Tracer" 2 sets of 2@2 GBytes each
Disk: Western Digital SATA
Video: Sparkle GForce 7600 PCI Express
Power Supply: Raidmax 730 Watt


Casey Bralla

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