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I am the systems administrator at a small business. We recently upgraded our computers to custom-built boxes, which I put together myself, running Windows 7. We have about 7 or 8 of these boxes, and they were all set up from the same Clonezilla image. They are identical.

For some reason, though, one of our machines occasionally crashes really hard, and I've not been able to determine why. It does this:

enter image description here

The screen will just sit there like that and flicker. No minidump, no error messages, no warning - it just happens. I've checked the Event Logs - nothing.

My gut instinct is that it's a hardware issue, but I'm not sure. I ran a memtest and it came back clean, so it's not that, either.

Potentially Relevant Specs:

  • ASRock H55M-GE Motherboard
  • 8GB Corsair DDR3 1333MHz RAM
  • Integrated Video
  • Intel Core i3
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I assume you've updated all system drivers.

There are no error logs because Windows doesn't know anything is wrong so it isn't technically a crash. It's a problem, but not a crash.

First, check if it's a monitor versus video card issue by trying different monitors attached to this computer and these monitors connected to different computers. If the problem follows the monitors, get new ones. If the problem stays on the same system, it's the video system on the computer.

The video may actually be on the CPU itself depending on which generation Core i3 you've got, in which case I'd replace the CPU. If something like this is wrong with the CPU itself, it is better from a business continuity standpoint to simply replace the entire CPU.

If the video is on the mainboard chipset, this problem is less likely to be indicative of imminent further issues and could simply be resolved by installing a discrete video card and running the monitors that way.

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The video processing is in the CPU, yeah... really hoping that's not defective. – kivetros Oct 6 '11 at 19:32
With that output and confirmed to be a system (rather than monitor) problem: It's defective. It could keep working. I'd just not trust it to a critical user or task. – music2myear Oct 6 '11 at 20:41

My next pick would be the graphics itself. Since the graphics are part of the processor itself, I would let the computer run prime95 overnight. But my guess is the graphics are crapping out and that resets the motherboard.

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Running Prime95 right now. I'll let you know how it turns out. Thanks for the tip. – kivetros Oct 6 '11 at 19:33
Prime95 definitely saved the day. Thank you. – kivetros Oct 7 '11 at 13:21
@kivetros: Oh yeah? What was the outcome? – surfasb Oct 7 '11 at 14:50
See my answer for a better explanation, but it triggered the issue when I used it on the system with bad RAM. – kivetros Oct 7 '11 at 18:38

So I learned a very important lesson from this. Let's call the faulty system and its components A, and the second identical tower and its components B.

  • Tried dropping the HDD right into another identical tower - system ran fine but could NOT access networked shares, regardless of login info provided
  • Prime95'd Processor A in the rest of System B - held up fine. No issues.
  • Determined that Motherboard A must be having problems, since I ran a memtest and all and it came back fine.
  • Made preparations to Repair Install Windows 7 on Hard Drive A, but in System B, in hopes that this would 'bind' the installation to the motherboard and allow me to access network shares (no idea if this would've worked).
  • Gut instinct: Run Prime95 on System B with System A's RAM. Duplicated state of failure.

tl;dr: Either memtest on my Ubuntu Live USB drive is not working properly, or I'm an idiot and probably didn't run memtest for long enough. Probably that second one.

Lesson learned.

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