My system has 1 SATA drive and 1 IDE drive. The SATA holds my Windows XP, along with several other partitions for pure data purposes. My IDE holds another partition for storage purposes, but also has my Mint installation. (Yes, I dual-boot. It’s the best of both worlds, with games on XP and real work on my solid Linux environment.) I had some random crashings (no blue screens), and some strange behavior. Here were the symptoms of my system:
- BIOS would not detect my SATA drive, and would change the HDD (hard drive) boot priority from my IDE (which holds the GRUB bootloader, I think) to my SATA, thus making me automatically go into Windows without loading GRUB a choice. (The temporary solution was to change the HDD priority in BIOS to load my IDE drive first, before my SATA, and this made GRUB show up.)
- Even after changing the HDD priority back, GRUB would stop detecting my SATA drive, and thus would not boot Windows.
- Within Linux, sometimes one of the partitions on my SATA drive would not be auto-mounted by Mint like they always were before.
- I noticed strange characters (data reading corruption) for some of my mp3 files that were on the SATA drive in my Rhythmbox music player.
- My dual LCD screens would suddenly stop receiving signals from my video card.
- When I ran Memtest86+ v1.70 from the GRUB menu, it would run for a while, but then all of a sudden, my computer screen would go blank/black!
- I got error code 26 from my motherboard during POST. (EVGA 122-CK-NF63-TR LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI ATX Intel Motherboard – Retail)
- Suspecting bad video ram, I checked my video card (EVGA 320-P2-N811-AR GeForce 8800GTS 320MB 320-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card – Retail) by going into NVIDIA Control Panel in Windows XP just to see if it would crash my system. It did. Clicking on NVIDIA Control Panel immediately crashed my system (blank/black screen, but no automatic reboot).
- When I booted up Mint once, one of the Screenlets started out with messed up graphics.
- My system gave a blank/black screen randomly while in both Windows and Mint.
The solution? I changed the power connector to my video card, from the default one that came with the video card, to a 6-pin connector that my PSU came with. The one that came with my card actually had only 5 pins (if you look inside, there is only metal for 5 of the pins, since 1 pin out of the 6 doesn’t have any conductive metal in it), although the NewEgg images on the product denote a 6-pin (PCIe) connection (see the other images in the link)! It now all makes sense, since I had attached both the 5-pin connector and my SATA drive’s power connection with the same power cable. My SATA hard drive was receiving not enough power, which explains the strange data reading corruption I pointed out (and why BIOS failed to recognize it sometimes — since the drive was not starting up at all). It also explains why my screens were going blank – my video card was not getting enough power! It’s strange, because I had not had any problems for several months with my old configuration. Either my PSU is slowly generating less power (it’s a 530 watt power supply), or the old 5-pin connector was bad.
Anyway, I just wanted to share my experience. The lesson? Strange symptoms do not always mean that you need a BIOS update, or your PSU is dying, or your SATA drive is dying, or your motherboard killed your SATA drive, or your video card is dying, or that your RAM is bad. All of these ideas were brought up in the many forums I googled up to see any similar troubles for owners of the same hardware as myself. No one suggested a faulty power connection (or that the power connection on 1 power cable (“rail” as they call it?) had been overloaded with too many connections). So, next time, be sure to check your power cables, and make sure to distribute power as evenly as possible across all the cables! (My system has since been up without a hitch running through graphics benchmarks, rendering tests, and what have you.)