I bought an older Pentium 4 PC to run Linux and use as a server/music player/etc. I installed Ubuntu, and basically everything works as expected software wise.

However it often freezes completly some time after booting. The screen just stays as it is, with no interaction possible anymore except for hard reset. No SSH over network either. This happens within 10 minutes after booting usually. If it does not happen after that time (usually after I already rebooted it 1-3 times), it runs fine for hours. Almost like it needs to warm up or something. Another hint: 2 times it actually froze in the BIOS screen right after turning it on.

What could be the cause of this? I checke the RAM already with MemTest, but it came up ok.

  • Unplug and replug everything. – Daniel R Hicks Dec 6 '13 at 22:32

There might be several causes

  1. CPU gets too hot

    • Clean the Case/Fan/..., maybe replace thermal paste
    • try disabling hyper-threading (this might help even when the Problem is not related to CPU temperature)
    • disable Overclocking as suggested by Martin
  2. Defective hardware / not correctly recognized hardware

    • disconnect unnecessary devices
    • run memcheck
    • try disabling on-board devices

and others...

From my experience P4 freezes were most of the time caused by the CPU getting too hot or problems with Hyper threading. But all general problems like defective ram apply too.

  • Thanks for your suggestions. I just excluded temperature by accident: I was just looking at CPU temp and fan speed settings in the BIOS when it froze on me with the temp showing: it was 47 degC. Also, it runs fine for hours when it makes it past the first 10 mins after boot, even when it's running software and so on. – ShellfishGene Dec 7 '13 at 8:36
  • It has a TV card in it, maybe I'll try to remove that. – ShellfishGene Dec 7 '13 at 8:41
  • I don't think it even has Hyperthreading, there's no mention in the CPU part of the BIOS (Pentium 4 3.06GHz). I does however have a SIS649/SiS965 chipset, I faintly remember some SiS chipsets having problems. I'll do some searching. – ShellfishGene Dec 7 '13 at 8:45

I'll admit it's probably not a great shot, but try and have look at the CPU clock settings in BIOS. The Pentium 4 runs at a very high clock speed, thus it has a tendency to get very hot, and it may cause problems. Maybe the former owner of the PC overclocked it poorly?

You should probably also try to reset all the BIOS settings.

  • Did reset them all, did not help unfortunately. I don't the the BIOS even allows overclocking, and I doubt the previous owner would even know how to. – ShellfishGene Dec 7 '13 at 8:46
  • Okay. You can also always try to clean the heat sink and fan, especially when you consider how old the computer is, dust can build up quite heavily over the years. I'll suggest that you atleast make sure that the space inbetween the heat sink layers isn't blocked by dust. – Martin Dec 7 '13 at 12:25

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