In the last month, I have learnt a valuable lesson when it comes to giving care and attention to things that I do. When I built my desktop computer, I tried to make sure I did the research properly to find the right parts and make sure that it all runs smoothly.
It has now been about a year and a quarter since I first switched it on and it has been a bumpy year to say the least.
The first couple of months of operation were flawless. With its 8GB of RAM and its quad core processor, I was delighted with how smooth my creation was running. I was doing all sorts of things that I could not do before at speeds that I could only dream of.
But then they came from nowhere. The Blue Screens of Death (BSODs). I ignored the first couple. It is Windows after all, this stuff happens.
But then it continued to happen. Every few days, a BSOD. It was most prone to happening whenever I was moving large quantities of data, during a backup for example, so it was easy to replicate. But it also happened randomly too.
The most common given cause for them was “MEMORY_MANAGEMENT”. After looking around on the Internet, I found many suggestions. A lot of them would start with things like “check that the RAM is properly seated”. I would instantly dismiss these kinds of statements because I thought that I would have noticed if the RAM was not correctly in place.
At the time, I had also repaired an old external hard drive and thought it would be a good idea to put it inside my computer after taking it out of the caddy. I had to use a SATA to IDE convertor to make this possible. It was suggested that this was a cause of my BSODs and so I took it out.
I tried updating the motherboards BIOS software which did result in a probably coincidental improvement. The BSODs always happened when I did a backup. This was a big problem to me because I know the importance of doing a backup. It wasn’t just backups, it was anytime that a large quantity of data was being transferred. This was also a problem because it prevented me from transferring all the data from the external hard drive that I mentioned earlier, to the folders on the computer that I wanted them to be in.
Then the first major incident occured. During one particular attempt of transfering 11,000 pictures and videos from the Desktop where I had dumped them, to my pictures, the computed experienced yet another BSOD. On reboot, I couldn’t log in.
It would get to the past the Windows logo just when it was supposed to show the login page, and then stop. Nothing but a black screen with the cursor was visible.
I decided to run a chkdsk. I noticed this did a huge number of deletions of corrupted files but this did not fix my problem. In the end, I decided to reinstall Windows. When I did this, it helpfully put all of my old files into a folder called Windows.old. This was a massive relief because the only backup that I had was from a program called Acronis and required me to have the program to recover my data (but I had lost the program with the reinstall).
So the process finished and I went into Windows.old and guess what? All the pictures that I was transferring were missing, both from the source folder and the destination folder.
Eventually, I managed to get Acronis back to recover my backup. Well, I now would rate this program very low: it took a lot of effort to get the pictures back because the backup was done and set the “ownership” of the pictures to the previous User Account of the original install. I had to activate the Administrator account in order to copy the data back onto my machine.
So now I had the tedious task of transferring my Windows.old data back into this installation. A task that I had never got around to until the latest run of problems.
At the time, I had no idea that the RAM was the cause of this, but on hindsight, I realised that it was.
I took ages to return all of my files from Windows.old back into the computer. Weeks pass. More BSODs. I decided that I had to really work hard to get it sorted. Custom built or not, BSODs shouldn’t be that frequent and it was a testiment to my ability to build computers.
After much research, I came to the conclusion that the Blue screens were definitely being caused by the RAM. I have two RAM chips. Each one 4GB. Either only one of the modules was broken, or they were bother broken.
So I had to take one out to test the other one. I opened the computer and looked at the RAM and instantly I saw the problem. You have probably guessed by now (especially from the title), one of the RAM modules was not clipped in properly.
I was a little reliefed because it meant that I found the problem and money would not have to be invested into fixing the problem. I was annoyed with myself that I had not noticed it all this time and that I ignored the advice about checking that the RAM is in its place.
So I removed the displaced RAM module and weeks passed without incident. I was doing backups and large file transfers. But a problem had occurred. It must have happened before I had taken the RAM out but I didn’t notice it until later.
The OS had become corrupt again, this time preventing certain programs from being installed (both times this happened, I blamed the program and even bought a replacement for one of them). More importantly, Windows Update stopped working.
I tried everything and I couldn’t even reinstall the OS! So I partitioned the hard drive and installed it on the clean partition. Once I transferred all my files from the old partion, I merged them again.
Another problem was that a handful of my photos had become corrupted (they were viewable but had a strange translucent overlay). Luckily I had these backed up on DVDs so could easily replace them.
I have since put the RAM back in and clicked it in properly, but it seems that it is damaged because the BSODs come back. I can’t believe how much trouble a stupid mistake can make.
I wondered how I didn’t spot and if I had done it when I upgraded the fans. I found a picture that took BEFORE I started the work and even there you can clearly see the RAM out of place. HOW DID I NOT SEE IT?!
I tried looking at pictures of when I first built it, but the RAM is not visible enough. Since the first couple of months worked fine, they must have been clipped in properly at first.
But the system is now stable. I havent had a BSOD in three weeks and all my files are OK. 4GB is enough RAM to run on for now so I won’t worry about replacing the damaged one.