My current desktop computer is a custom built gaming rig, built in late 2011 with a few minor upgrades since then. It has the following hardware:
- Motherboard: ASUS P8P67 Deluxe
- CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz
- RAM: 8 GB (2 x 4GB) G.SKILL Ripjaws Series DDR3 1333MHz
The computer is very fast, and with one exception, I am very pleased. However, the exception is a big one. Since day 1, my build has been plagued with random lock ups. In the middle of a task, with seemingly no provocation, the screen will freeze and the only solution is to shut down the computer. Then, when this happens, the computer will not restart until about 30 minutes have passed, and then only if you hold down the power button for 10 seconds, release, and again press the power button normally. The computer would do this approximately every other day.
My early diagnosis was the three Mushkin solid state drives that I had in a striped RAID configuration. After researching them heavily, I discovered that the firmware on those particular drives was prone to freezing up the computer in various ways (blue screens, freezes, random shutdowns, et cetera). So I lived with this for quite a while as I had invested heavily in those drives, and wasn’t keen on laying out more cash to replace them. Eventually I did replace them with one of my favorite series of hard drives, Western Digital’s enterprise collection (RE4). They are not solid state drives, but they are extremely fast, and seemingly impossible to kill. Unfortunately, this did not solve the problem and I kept getting more and more frustrated.
After extensively Googling the problem, I found that someone with similar symptoms had solved it by running ASUS’ auto overclocking software (AI Suite II), and telling it to go for maximum performance. This, unfortunately, did not work for me, but it did cut down the frequency of the computer freezes. Now instead of every other day, it happens maybe once a week, and rarely when I’m in the middle of something. So, I let it sit like this for a while. It was annoying, but tolerable, and I was afraid that the solution to the problem would require an outpouring of cash to replace the guts of the computer, something I did not want to do.
However, I wasn’t satisfied with the status quo forever, and eventually got frustrated enough to try my hand at tracking down the problem again. I started by thinking about what exactly ASUS’ overclocking changed exactly. Unsurprisingly, it ups the clock frequency of the CPU, but I found it unlikely that increasing the clock speed would reduce the frequency of freeze ups.
But, something else commonly done when overclocking a processor is overclocking the RAM. These are inextricably linked, and are thus often adjusted together. Again, I had my doubts that simply pushing the RAM harder would reduce the freeze ups, but I figured that perhaps it made some subtle voltage increases which increase stability. I knew that the RAM, prior to overclocking, was set to the proper voltages and speeds in the BIOS as I had to set those manually when first setting up the computer. But maybe those stock settings weren’t good enough. So I removed all overclocking, and began messing with RAM voltages to see what would happen. Without any overclocking, and at the proper voltages, the computer would freeze as it did early on, every other day. After ramping things up, the stability increased, but the computer would still eventually freeze. I did manage to dramatically reduce lock ups, but they would not go away, and I was uncomfortable with pushing the voltage any higher. So there was my diagnosis! RAM!
Eventually I may replace the RAM, but again, I don’t feel like laying down any money to do so right now. So, for the time being, I have lowered the RAM timing’s by a notch, and have the voltage raised by one increment above the default. As of well over a week later, the computer is still stable and hasn’t locked up. Fingers crossed.
If you have an ASUS P8P67 Deluxe motherboard suffering from random lock ups, try messing with your RAM voltages and timing. It seems to be working for me.