I just survived two weeks of AMD64 system-building hell. I want to report
to you the results in hope of saving some of you other modders from lots of
Summary: The Crucial Ballstix 1GB DRAMs do not work as advertised on AMD64
The goal: To build a conservative high-end development system for software
development and occasional gaming. Reliability must trump performance at
every level. Fast but no overclocking, add lots of cooling, add as much
memory as possible (needed for testing of 4-6 virtual machines on a virtual
network), two video cards, and use conservative timings.
AMD64 3500+ ("Winchester" 90nm) CPU (2200Mhz), ASUS A8N SLI motherboard,
MadDog SuperPower 400-watt power supply, two MSI nVidia 6600GT video cards,
two Diamond Maxtor SATA-II NCQ disks (200GB), Arctic Cooler Freezer64 CPU
fan, Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste, and two Crucial Ballistix 1GB DRAMs
(rated PC4000/DDR533) running at PC3200/DDR400. The Winchester CPU cannot
drive four 16-chip DIMMs, 1GB is the largest DIMM available, so 2GB was the
max (2 DIMMs).
Everything ran fine, temps were cool, and Windows XP installed nicely. A
few days later XP would inexplicably crash about once an hour. After some
investigation I zeroed in on the memory timing. I dropped the timings
ridiculously low, 3-4-4-10, Trc=22, Trfc=24, Trtw=6, Twr=3, 2T. Still
failed. I booted MemTest86 (version 1.60+). After 30 hours MemTest86 found
*one* bad bit on test #7 (random numbers). Only test #7 found errors, none
of the other tests found any problems.
The same bit was failing (though rarely). So I RMA'ed the bad Crucial
Ballistix stick (part BL12864L503). The new stick was clean after 186
hours of MEMTEST86 (version 1.60+).
The computer still crashed every hour.
So I gave up and built a second system:
AMD 3000+ ("Venice" 90nm) CPU (1800Mhz), ABIT AN8 SLI Fata1ty motherboard,
bigger power supply (MadDog 500 watt). Same pair of PC4000/DDR533 Crucial
Ballistix 1GB DRAMs.
I checked all the voltages, ran MemTest86+ for 5 days. No errors.
Installed a fresh Windows XP.
It crashed once an hour.
At this point I was ready to pull my hair out. Out of desperation I dropped
the DRAM speed a second time, down to DDR333 (PC2700).
Now it was stable.
Keep in mind that the Crucial Ballistix DRAMs are rated at PC4000. I
dropped it to PC3200 and it still was unstable. Only until I dropped it
*again* to PC2700 was it stable.
The conclusion based on my experience is that Crucial Ballistix 1GB DRAMs do
_not_ work as advertised and should not be used on high-end systems.
-- Alan Klietz
alank at algintech NOSPAM dot com