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Symptoms

While attempting to install Windows 7 (64 bit) on my new PC build, it freezes usually at the point where it is expanding the windows image, but has frozen as early as accepting the licence agreement, and as late as just after the first restart.

My specs are at the bottom of the post.

So far I have tried the following to identify the problem, in rough chronological order:

  • Tried different hard drives with different sata cables. Same symptoms. I later used a different computer to install windows on the same hard drive with no problems.
  • Tried the RAM in different slots, and tried one RAM stick instead of two. Same symptoms.
  • Updated the BIOS to 1.60. Same symptoms.
  • Ran Memtest86+ with RAM in dual channel. It passed about 6 times when I left it running overnight.
  • Used USB to install windows instead of an optical drive. Same symptoms.
  • Change SATA configuration from AHCI to IDE. Same symptoms.
  • Tried various different SATA ports. Same symptoms.
  • Updated BIOS to 1.70. Same symptoms.
  • I saw the RAM did not list my motherboard as being supported even though the motherboard did list the RAM as being supported. So I tried some Kingston DDR3 1333MHz RAM instead. Same symptoms.

Other (possibly) pertinent information

My CPU idles at about 30 °C. I can't tell what it gets to when it's working. When I installed the CPU, the lever which locks the CPU in place took quite a bit of force to pull down. Now I didn't just yank it down without rechecking the CPU was seated properly about 5 times, but it does seems unusual, and I wonder if the CPU was seated badly if I would see these symptoms?

I am out of ideas and don't know how to diagnose any further. I suppose either the motherboard or CPU must be the problem. I am on the verge of taking it to a specialist.

The Question

How should I proceed from here? Is there anything I can rule out as being the source of the symptoms I am seeing?

My Specs

  • CPU: Intel i5 3570k
  • RAM: G.Skill RipjawsX 8GB kit
  • HDD: single 3.5" 500GB SATA or 160GB 2.5" SATA (at different times and sometime together. But no RAID or anything).
  • MB: ASRock Extreme4 Z77
  • PSU: Silverstone Strider Plus 600W ST60F-P

UPDATE:

I decided to reinstall the CPU to ensure that everything was seated correctly. I was worried because the lever arm which locks the CPU in place took rather more force to press it down than I thought would be necessary. It turns out this is fairly usual. I also found that the thermal paste had spread just over the edge of the CPU (too much). So I cleaned the CPU and heat-sink with methylated spirits and cotton buds, reapplied the thermal paste and put it all back together. The CPU now idles at about 23 °C, that's 7 °C cooler than before.

First time I tried to boot, one of the RAM sticks had come loose (probably from flex of motherboard when plugging power back in). Then when I installed Windows, I got a blue screen with something about accessing protected memory. So I double-checked the RAM was installed correctly (pushed down firmly and checked the plastic holding arms on each side) and tried again. This time, Windows installed without an issue!

However, the desktop froze after a few minutes the first time I logged in. I subsequently ran Windows diagnostics (which I can do now I have installed the OS) and it found no problems.

My next step is to run Prime95, which I believe will very thoroughly check for problems. So even though there is some improvement, my question remains.

UPDATE 2

I ran Prime95 for a while. I didn't get any errors and the computer didn't freeze. Next I tried to install some drivers for the motherboard. This caused a blue screen, and ended up making Windows not able to boot up. So I then tried reinstalling Windows, but it kept freezing again.

Next I tried Ubuntu Live (I used this to create the bootable USB). First time, it wouldn't boot. It kept flashing up something like "Hardware Error Check" and then restarted, and continued repeating until I stopped it. I tested the USB stick on another computer (and it worked), so I tried it again, and it booted up. After a couple of minutes of use, the screen froze. I repeated this one more time to be sure and got the same result.

I also noticed that the CPU temperatures reported in the BIOS monitor were back up to about 30 °C. I'm not sure if this is just due to room temperature or what.

UPDATE 3

This is hopefully the final update. I haven't put it as an answer because I personally don't think it is very decisive. I took my PC to a shop for diagnosis, and they went through the following process:

  • seatools (hard drive diagnostics I think). Both drives passed ok.
  • reflashed BIOS. Same problem.
  • Installed with USB. Worked ok.
  • Installed with SATA optical drive successfully.

The overall diagnosis from these guys was that it was most likely a problem with Windows 7 and Ubuntu handling legacy USB3 drivers.

I took the PC home after this and installed each of the motherboard device drivers one by one, ensuring I installed the chipset driver first. I haven't had any problems since then, and I have stress tested with prime95 two or three times.

I am having problems bringing the PC out of sleep. Nothing works; mouse, keyboard or power button. I don't know it that's connected though, since everything else seems to be working fine. However, I haven't tried installing Windows myself since I got it back from the shop.

The sleep problem turned out to be a BIOS setting. I simply needed to allow USB devices to bring the computer out of sleep.

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Try booting with an Ubuntu live-CD and check whether happens any problem. –  Renan Jun 7 '12 at 2:55
    
I will give this a go I think. What are you hoping this will demonstrate if it does or does not work without freezing? –  jhsowter Jun 7 '12 at 5:49
    
Yes, it will demonstrate if the system works under a different OS. –  Renan Jun 7 '12 at 14:21
    
Even though I have installed Windows now, this is probably still a good step to take to ensure it isn't something about Windows? Perhaps a generic driver or something? –  jhsowter Jun 8 '12 at 1:11
1  
+1 for actually having all the necessary details in the question. Burning in the system is a good idea too. –  Journeyman Geek Jun 8 '12 at 1:12
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2 Answers

Only completing six passes of memtest86 overnight seems a bit low and hard freezes (mouse frozen and keyboard unresponsive) typically point to hardware issues.

It sounds like a memory issue. If your using two sticks, both should be in the same channel. I'd also check the BIOS to see how the memory is being recognized. Memtest86 should show the SPD of the RAM as well.

You really need to push these down firmly when installing, they should click in with the latch or latches engaging in the process.

30 degrees C is nothing to worry about. So, it's doubtful heat is the problem.

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How are you installing windows 7? From a DVD , .iso, or upgrading your current OS?

An intel i5 chip can run a 64 bit OS.

Try formatting the hard drive and installing Windows from a DVD. You can install Windows 7 (any version) by downloading a trial edition and then entering your product key to obtain the version your key is good for.

Also, If you are trying to upgrade from a 32 bit OS it will fail. You have to start from a fresh install.

Check your graphics card as well- DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/products/system-requirements

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I am not upgrading, I am installing on a blank disc, and I use the setup process to format the disk before installation begins. I also successfully installed from the DVD to the same hard disk using another computer. –  jhsowter Jun 7 '12 at 5:48
    
Also, I am using on-board graphics. I have a Radeon 7850 but haven't installed it yet. I don't want to complicate things until I work out what is going on. –  jhsowter Jun 7 '12 at 5:50
    
The graphics card driver might be the problem. When windows first starts installing there is an opportunity to add drivers. I would try adding your graphics card driver since it is a requirement. Good luck –  SoftwareCarpenter Jun 7 '12 at 19:47
    
I still haven't installed the graphics card; it is still in its box. I have seen improved behaviour after reinstalling the CPU (see my updated post). However, there are still freezing problems. –  jhsowter Jun 8 '12 at 1:13
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