View Full Version : New "Supercomputer"...superproblems

10-22-2000, 11:04 AM

I am new to this forum. I stumbled onto this link in my search for the solution to problems relating to building my new computer that has plagued me for weeks now. This seems to be a great source for technical info, so I registerred.

First, I am not a newbie computer builder. I have assembled my own computers in the past. I am a computer tweak, not a "geek". I have researched the topic to the end of the planet and back but do not have a lot of time to devote to this project...boy am I fed up!

Here are my problems, as best as I can describe them. I will try to include as much relevant info as possible, nothing worse than having to play "20 questions" before you guys can even fathom a guess at my predicament.

I am building a computer based on the following components.

Abit KT7 Raid mobo, VIA Apollo KT133 chipset, HPT 370 chipset (RAID)
AMD Athlon 1Ghz Thunderbird
Micron CT16M64S4D7E PC133 128meg memory, cas 2, 7.5ns, non parity, unbuffered (more RAM will be added as funds become available)
2x IBM DTLA-307030 30 gig ATA-100, 7500rpm, 2mb buffer hard drives in a RAID 0 array (striping mode)as the primary C drive
1x Quantum QU320500LM 20 gig ATA-66, 7500rpm, (I don't recall the buffer size, probably 2mb as well) as the D drive
1x Toshiba XM6702B-s 48x CD-Rom, Master unit, primary IDE channel
1x HP 9500i CD-R 12x8x32, Slave unit, Secondary IDE channel
1x LS120 IDE drive, Master unit, Secondary IDE channel
Creative Labs CT4760-3 Live Platinum Sound card, w/front mounted I/O panel
STB Velocity 4400 2D/3D board 128 bit nVidia Riva TNT, 16mb SDRAM, 250mhx RAMDAC, PCI (this was just layin around, it is temporary till my CardExpert GeForce 2GTS/400 64mb ddr board is released and delivered
Linksys LNE100TX 10/100 fast Ethernet adapter
Windows 98se ver 4.10.2222 A

The Raid is setup as follows:

IDE channel 3 (this is the first ATA-66/100 channel on the Abit mobo
IBM is the Primary master, Quantum is the secondary slave

IDE channel 4 this is th secondary ATA-66/100 channel on the Abit mobo)other IBM (stripped, and hidden)

This is all housed neatly in an full INWin ATX case w/300watt power supply

I think that is all.

I have not committed to a full software install, because I expected some conflicts, and the necessity to re-install a few times, but never like this! I have read different reviews on various sites with mixed results on this particular mobo/cpu combo. Some hate it, some love it. Personally, I think it is a great combo IF I can ever get it working.

The Abit mobo has a built in RAID chip, by Highpoint technologies. Specifically, the HPT 370.

After the initial installation, and load of the Win98, I immediately configured my modem and ISP so that I coould download any and all update patches available.

Went to the Windows update site, and downloaded all critical update components, 128 bit encryption, Directx 7a, and a host of other applets brining the OS up to speed.

Next, went to VIA, and downloaded the latest 4 in 1 driver patch, and the latest HPT 370 patch.

My first problem was stability..still is. I kept getting the blue screen of death with the message....failure to write to C (or something to that effect). All data will be lost (great!). I think this even happenned a few times during the installation of windows.

Went into the Bios settings, changed every setting imaginable (based on information supplied by Thomas McGuires "Bios tweak guide" updated 6/21/00, available on www.3dspotlight.net/tweaks/bios). (http://www.3dspotlight.net/tweaks/bios).)

I went from performance biased to stability biased settings and everything in between. Still having problems. Different ones, mostly lock ups, un solicited reboots, sometimes the failure to write to C problem resurfaces.

I cannot discern a pattern, memory timing issues (have been addressed, I think), hard drive writing delay has been set from a delay of "0" to the max of "15", no real help, perhaps helped on one issue, but created others????? I cannot tell anymore, the logs and notes are all a jumbled mess! I am ready to by an abacus and call it quits! <can you tell I am frustrated?>

Please, any and ALL comments, suggestions would be welcome. I may have missed something basic and fundamental...I just don't know at this point. I don't do this professionally, just whenever I have to. I am pretty competent technically, just not specializing in computers per se.

I think that I know enough to be dangerous, but not enought to be successful! http://www.PCGuide.com/ubb/biggrin.gif. I do know that I am tired of watching my computer reboot an running scandisk.

Thanks in advance technical computer gurus!


Paleo Pete
10-23-2000, 02:38 AM
Will have to ponder this one a bit. First thing I see is a LS120 on an IDE channel. LS120 is a floppy drive, and replaces the A drive, should be plugged into the floppy controller.

Next, if you had trouble with the Windows installation, I'd think that's where your main problem started. I would format and start over, install the 4 in 1 drivers before trying anything else, or installing Windows, and possibly pull all but the primary hard drive, get it working that way then add other drives.

In addition to that I would not install the NIC until Windows is installed and working.

Set BIOS to performance defaults before installing Windows, and make sure the boot sequence and hard drive parameters are correct. Make sure video pallette snoop is disabled. Disable Power Management in BIOS until you have everything working, and make sure the antivirus setting in BIOS is disabled. Set PCI Configuration to Auto.

Check my site and take a look at the BIOS Survival Guide, I have a couple other good BIOS links too. You might find some other settings you need to look at.

I always avoid recommending the format/reinstall process, but since you've had problems since the installation, I think you got a bad install, and should back up and start over.

Are you installing from CD or from a folder on the hard drive? I always copy te win98 folder to the hard drive and install from there. Works great, and seems to be faster than CD.

If you had everything...Where would you put it?

Computer Information Links (http://www.geocities.com/paleopete/)

Paleo Pete
10-23-2000, 07:04 AM
Was kinda fuzzy on RAID systems, and after checking a bit I find that mulitple drives are what RAID is designed for...so never mind most of the previous post. I do, however, think you'd be better off if you could get a clean install.

One other thought...Is there a possibility the different drives are clashing with each other? The different brands not getting along?

Also maybe you could consider going to RAID2, from what I could see in the info I looked up, it looks like it might be a bit more stable. RAID1 is designed for performance, not stability.

If you had everything...Where would you put it?

Computer Information Links (http://www.geocities.com/paleopete/)

10-23-2000, 08:03 PM
Thanks for your reply Paleo Pete.

After posting, I looked around a bit, and it seems you are certainly the resident Master Geek. I really appreciate the time that you devote to answering the questions here.

I checked out some of the links that you have graciously provided on your website. I would like to add that your page should be bookmarked by all, if they have not done so already. The links provided seem to be packed with wonderful information that I will certainly find useful in my endeavors.

Now, regarding your suggestions. I was resigned to the unpleasant task of undoing all that I have done, and starting again, at square one. I have done this already at least a few times in recent memory.

My proceedures were basically as you have outlined. Build it piece by piece, evaluate the stability then add another piece. I will admit that I have gotten to a point of frustration, that I have been trying to troubleshoot this on intuition alone, because I was tired of the rebuilding.

To clarify a few items, the Raid 0 setup is intended solely for the 2 IBM 30 gig ata 100 drives. Performance is my main criteria, of course this is a moot point if the damn thing doesn't run. The third harddrive that I outlined above is not tied to the other two at all with respect to the Raid thing. It's purpose is to be an archive drive to store the music, video, and pictures.

The Abit setup recommended that I configure striped drives as I have done; in that striped drives should not be on the same IDE channel. The assignment of the Quantum 20 gig as the slave on the primary ata 100 IDE channel (channel 3) was by default. It is an ata 66 drive and needs to be connected on either of the two available ata 66/100 ide channels of the mobo (ch 3 & 4). Do you think it would function better as the slave on IDE ch 4? I didn't think it mattered...but I am not the expert.

My LS120, is in fact an IDE device, much like a Zip drive functions. I have disabled the FDD controller as it is no longer necessary. My bios allows me to boot from the LS 120. This is not a problem at all.

I am suspecting that my problems may be video related as the card is a bit dated and there are no current drivers available other than those supplied with Win 98. No help there.

Believe it or not, the computer was actually booting to windows with some regularity before the installation onf the NIC card. It even booted fine after I installed it and set up the software. If my memory serves me (it is a little bit of a blur now, can't retrace my steps with any certainty...I think I may have tried to update some drivers after I installed the NIC card.

Here is the sequence of my proceedures:

MOBO, CPU, Ram, all relevant jumpers/switches set to the appropriate CPU voltage settings all set first.
Video card installed onto mobo and booted to see if bios screen is present.
attach LS 120, CD rom...configure bios for the devices, boot to evaluate
install harddrives, configure bios...see if auto detect detects the IDE drives.
format/partition drives using a boot disk.
setup raid array using the HPT bios screen.
fdisk to verify/view new partitions (computer registers one large 60 gig drive for the two striped 30 gigs
install windows 98 from the included boot disk from the cd rom.


Boot after Windows is installed...configure modem, isp, dial up and update Windows, and acquire any and all relevant drivers relating to my hardware.

Sound card was next, then the NIC card after that.

There were a host of problems along the way, but I felt that I had worked around them, some I didn't (some drivers made the system unstable, so I reloaded Windows, but the system instability stayed.

I will rebuild again and log each and every step....this will take forever, but I need piece of mind at this point.

Your suggestion to load from the hard drive sounds great. I will try it.

The only other thing that I did not do as you have suggestied is to defeat the bios antivirus. I will try that as well.

PCI config is set to auto, I suspect that there may be a conflict with respect to IRQ's.

Here is a final note, before I embark on my long journey back to square one.

I removed the striped drives, formated what was my D drive (the Quantum 20 gig) and installed Windows 98 clean onto it, with all of my hardware installed....no help. So I formated that drive yet again, reconnected the raid drives, made the necessary changes from the HPT 370 bios setup menu, rebooted to safe mode. Checked the system properties, all seemed ok...rebooted again. Get to the Windows logon screen, enter my password.

As the desktop starts to load, the screen goes black and everything locks up. The numlock light doesn' light up on the keyboard so that is locked as well. This seems to be the problem du jour. Does this point to anything in particular? I suspect my video card, but don't have another to install and mess with.

So that wraps up this vey long post (is this a record?)

Well I am rolling up my sleeves <sigh!>



Paleo Pete
10-24-2000, 01:10 AM
Seems like you've done everything about the same way I would, one thing at a time rather than plug it all in and cross your fingers.

I didn't know the LS120 was available as an IDE drive, thought it was simply a glorified floppy...learn something every day in this bizness...

When loading from the hard drive, you only need to copy the win98 directory off the CD, not the entire CD. That's where the cab files are.

I'm leaning toward the video card as a probable source of your misery, but can't convince myself. But I have seen more various problems with the nVidia cards than most. Could be more an incompatible driver than the actual card...wonder about the RAM too, that can cause similar problems. Can't convince myself of that either, Micron is a good brand, and the specs seem to me to look ok. I wonder if buffered would make much difference...possibly parity too, parity is more expensive, but generally better. Don't know much about the buffered/unbuffered angle, need to check into that.

In other words..I'm stumped!! Just takes me a bit to admit it... http://www.PCGuide.com/ubb/biggrin.gif

If you had everything...Where would you put it?

Computer Information Links (http://www.geocities.com/paleopete/)

10-31-2000, 12:35 PM
I the problems started after you intalled the NIC then one possibility is that you installed the NIC on a shared PCI slot. (unless it is an ISA card) Most NICs MUST be installed on a non-shared PCI slot. Shared slots are ussually PCI slot 1,4,5 is you have AGP video and USB.

10-31-2000, 06:26 PM
Originally posted by Matt:
I the problems started after you intalled the NIC then one possibility is that you installed the NIC on a shared PCI slot. (unless it is an ISA card) Most NICs MUST be installed on a non-shared PCI slot. Shared slots are ussually PCI slot 1,4,5 is you have AGP video and USB.

might it also be part of the problem, the UDMA setting? would the hardrives have different UDMA speeds? or maybe there is a problem with your IRQs?

Also, the size of your HDs and the level of raid must be compatible. im not entirely sure, but i believe that level 5 raid supports different size HDs.

also, quite often, the hardrives need 2 b sinchronized in fairly precise timing, you can achieve this through the RAID software that ur ussing and or the BIOS.

i searched around the microsoft knowledge base, and WIN98SE doesnt seen to support RAID chips; only RAID PCI Cards, and even then, theres an "issue". (although is on a specific card but worth cheking) read KB article Q259057 http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/Q259/0/57.ASP?LN=EN-US&SD=gn&FR=0

On the other hand, WINDOWS NT SERVER does support raid, so u may wanna try that.

in any event for testing purposes or just setup, you should configure a bare system first and then add things like sound, modem,printers, VGA drivers, once you are happy that the system is working, one by one.

a good site to check for more info about raid is the pcguide website.

dont give up! maybe give it a days rest, so that your thoughts are clear and the solution will come to u!

hope this may help you!


10-31-2000, 06:39 PM
Originally posted by Matt:
I the problems started after you intalled the NIC then one possibility is that you installed the NIC on a shared PCI slot. (unless it is an ISA card) Most NICs MUST be installed on a non-shared PCI slot. Shared slots are ussually PCI slot 1,4,5 is you have AGP video and USB.

also, something else that i forgot, windows 2000 and linux (after kernel 2) supports raid, just make sure that you have the apropriate drivers!

hope this may help you!


11-02-2000, 01:47 AM
My thanks for your replies. Yes, one of my problems did arise after the installation of my NIC card.

I have since rebuilt the computer. In fact. I am typing from it right now from my newly installed DSL line...WHOOHOOO! There is light at the end of this damn tunnel after all.

To summarize the changes...The parts were isntalled one at a time. The tow identical IBM ata100 (UDMA 5) hard drives were setup using the Highpoint 370 chipset bios. Striped and fast. All seemed stable. I did not introduce my third harddrive (the Quantum 20 gigger that I intended to be my "D" drive once everything settled down) To reiterate, the Quantum 20 gig is "only" an ata66 UDMA 4 harddrive. IT was never actually part of the raid setup, with respect to striping or mirroring aything...its purpose was to operate as a seperate entity. However, the HPT 370 chip on the mobo is the only device capable of handleing this drive in its intended capacity (as an ata66 drive) If I connected it to one of the other two IDE channels on the Abit board, it would not operate at ata 66 specs (these IDE channels were not intended to be used in this fashion)

After I established that the system was rather stable...I did introduce this drive to the system....as the slave drive on the third IDE channel (the first ata66/100 channel of the HPT chip). Tried to transfer files to it, and it locked up (blue screen "unable to write to C drive" even thought it wasn't the C drive in question). I then hooked it as the slave on the 4th IDE channel (the secondary ata66/100 channel of the HPT 370 chip)...same problem. Well, needless to say, I moved on, so I haven't figured out the cause yet.

I was more interested in getting the NIC card to work. Installed that first, before the sound card, but after the video card, naturally. I am aware of the PCI shared resource thing. The Abit mobo is wonderfully flexible in assigning resources. I played with assigning the Irq's myself until I had a pretty good resource assignment scheme. Hooked up the DSL (tweaked the settings, of course) Got that all working, then enjoyed the high speed updates for the Windows applications (1267 kbps download!!!)

The sound card was last to be installed, and I have been juggling cards/slots/irq's since. The introduction of the sound card seemed to slow the boot time extensively, even locked up the computer a few times. I think I have come up with a pretty good resource arrangement right now!

Both seem to be working. Haven't really torture tested the system though

Tinme will reveal the problem.


11-02-2000, 03:11 AM
I am sorry, forgot to mention that the NIC card is a PCI card.


While I appreciate your checking out this for me, I really do! I am in fact using the raid setup right now. Perhaps this has something to do with the quality of the controlling chipset built into the mobo????

My problems occur when I added the Quantum drive into the mix. I have yet to reinstall it yet...maybe it is a timing thing...this will be hard to nail down, unless someone else has had this type of problem before. Mind you, this is all "latest and greatest" stuff. There are no legacy devices and the hard drives are all recent releases. I did NOT update my VIA drivers this time, nor did I update my HPT 370 bios. The last build, I updated everything.

I am a little bit "wiser" now, I actually read the readme files associated with the Via drivers, realized that none of them were applicable to me and my setup, so I refrained from installing them. I could probably use the bus masterring drivers, but was worried about messing up the delicate balance of the system, call me a "chicken" lol!

I really do want this computer to work for it's intended purpose...pure power gaming rig! I am therefore focused on just getting it running. Want to play some games before they become obsolete after all.

Still haven't released that damn Cardexpert geforce card yet...I am not going to invest too much time to tweaking my bios settings until that arrives sometime in mid November I am told...Not soon enough for me!