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I have a home-built computer that's probably about four years old. I realize this probably seems ancient to some folks, but computers have no moving parts (except the fans), so theoretically they should last a long time, if I still have software to run on them.

A few weeks ago, it began blue-screening and freezing up, with various error messages. It almost always happened about five minutes after startup. I assumed that the video card was overheating, since the cheap little fan on the heatsink died, so I replaced it.

Long story short, after upgrading the video drivers a couple of times and performing some other troubleshooting, I remembered that the last time this happened, I took out the memory SIMS and cleaned the contacts with a gum eraser, so I did that again (noting that the SATA cables were very close to the chips on the SIMS). I re-routed the cables and reinstalled the SIMS. So far, so good; the machine has been trouble-free since.

But blue-screens are distressing; I never know what bits are being chewed up in my OS installation when something like this happens.

So I'm wondering if I'm choosing my components properly. If it matters, it's an Intel D915GAG motherboard and Corsair memory, but what I'm wondering is, should I be looking for certain characteristics when I choose these parts for my next computer, so that I can avoid this problem in my next build?

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Capacitors usually fail after several years. Which is the main reason for failure. Both in motherboards, powers supplies and add-in cards. There are boards with so called 'plastic' or 'Japanese' or 'solid' capacitors which are supposed to last longer.

You usually pay more for those, so I am not sure if it saves money over time.

Other things which age are CPU's (but those should last a decade or more. Usually longer than other components) and items with moving parts such as drives/fans/fans in the PSU/...

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My first thought was oxidation on the SIM contacts, but I hadn't considered capacitors. –  Robert Harvey Oct 18 '12 at 16:35
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I've more commonly heard them called "solid" capacitors. Gigabyte has a page on their ultra-durable motherboards with some pictures of what solid versus electrolytic capacitors look like. –  David Schwartz Oct 18 '12 at 16:41
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