More MCE woes

Posted: June 1, 2008 in Uncategorized
My MCE 2005 machine had been running without a glitch for almost two years. I use it exclusively for recording, Live TV and DVD playback. Two weeks ago, it suddenly started to spontaneously reboot during scheduled recordings, at least once for each hour of recording. No BSOD, just a sudden restart of the OS…weird. So I dropped the original image, got all the updates installed, and it worked flawlessly again. I can only assume that two years of recording and deleting shows heavily fragmented the hard drive. Thank gawd for images: for ten minutes of effort, I saved a couple of days worth of re-installing the OS, drivers, DVD playback software, tweaks, etc.

Anyway, I’ve been using an FX5200 for video output to my 36" Sony Wega, and have always been disappointed by the picture quality of LiveTV and recorded playback (looks great for DVD playback), so I picked up a 6200 and installed it yesterday…while I had the box out, I decided to also drop in two matching sticks of PC2700 RAM that I salvaged from an old machine last year, which doubled my memory to a full gig (not that I ever needed more than a half-gig, but if I ever want to install Vista MCE later, I’ll need more memory then). But the damn box wouldn’t even show the BIOS screen, much less boot! The hard drive was silent. My mobo is an Asus, which is usually really good with RAM, but obviously not this stuff. So I put the original stick back in, and it worked fine again. Hmmm. OK, I had another old stick of PC2700 RAM and dropped that in as well…it wasn’t a matching stick, but I figured since both were PC2700, I’d be fine. And the system booted, so I declared victory and closed up the box.

After finishing up and putting the box back into my HT cabinet, I fired up the machine, MCE started to load, and was then greeted with a message that the current video drivers weren’t supported by MCE…huh? OK, assuming the older drivers weren’t up to snuff with the video card, I installed the drivers from the CD, and then MCE loaded fine (YaY!). I checked Live TV…picture seemed to look better, colors were more vibrant, but still not the quality of sticking the cable directly into the TV. Then I noticed little red dots flickering around on my picture…WTF? Again, I assume the drivers are at fault, so I go to nVidia’s site and grab the L&G drivers. BIG MISTAKE: while Windows looked OK during boot and loading MCE, the loaded MCE screen is in black&white, heavily slanted, and sometimes doubled…when going into Live TV, the screen just turned into heavy interference. A reboot fubared Windows as well, and I had the ugliest possible situation. I booted into Safe Mode and uninstalled the video drivers, then re-installed the drivers from the CD…whew, back to normal. But still with the occasional red dots, even when playing a DVD…drat.

During all of this I needed to boot or reboot numerous times: I would sometimes get system errors for the MCE shell, and it couldn’t load. This happened four or five times. I downloaded all the latest updates, but that didn’t help. I started thinking the new 6200 was a piece of junk, and was thinking about putting the FX5200 back in.

After walking away from all the fiddling and just letting it run for awhile, the biggie happened: BSOD. And it was happening about once an hour. That was my clue: a videocard with WHQL drivers should never cause a blue screen just for sitting at the MCE navigation screen, much less watching Live TV. The only other new thing I did was dropping in that other stick of RAM, so I unhooked the box again, pulled the second stick of RAM I had installed yesterday, and shazaam! No more red dots while watching TV or DVDs! YaY! So far I haven’t suffered a BSOD, and it’s been over an hour. I’ve only rebooted the machine twice since, but no more error when attempting to load the MCE shell.

So apparently the RAM was the culprit for ALL the problems I saw. My mobo must be really finicky. Hopefully the machine will last the day without another BSOD…

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