I've had enough of the heat problems with my computer, so this week I bought a new one. The full spec is:
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E4600 2.4 Ghz (back to Intel after 8 years with AMD!)
  • Asus P5KPL-CM motherboard
  • Kingston 2GB of DDR II 800 MHz memory
  • Seagate 320GB SATA II Hard disk
  • Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 3450 Graphics Card
  • Thermaltake Swing mid-tower case

In this purchase, I tried to optimize on best heat-resilience, so the CPU is relatively cool[1], there are no fans on either the motherboard or the graphics card, and the case has a single large (12 cm) fan in the back, and a washabale filter in the front.

When I tried to install Windows XP Pro from my installation CD on it, I ran into a problem. Shortly after loading modules to memory (and before asking on which partition to install), a BSOD appeared with the error:

***stop 0x0000007E ( oxc 0000005, oxf9a380bf, oxf9e84208, oxf9e834208, 0xe9e83f08

*** PCI.SYS address f9a380bf base at f9a31000, date stamp 3b7d8ssc

My first thought was "crap, a hardware problem", which was quite depressing, for a shiny new computer a few hours old. So, I booted from a UBCD and ran some hardware test, which went OK. I then tried installing Ubuntu Linux 8 on it, and it also went OK. The OS installed and booted successfully - the computer seemed to be working.

So what's wrong with the Windows installation ? At this point I was quite stumped and began Googling. It quickly turned up some interesting results. It appears that the plain old Windows install CD (w/o SP2) doesn't handle PCI Express graphics cards. Advice ranged from trying to disable PCI Express in the BIOS before installing, or removing the graphics card, but people reported mixed success. What was successful for everyone was, however, installing from a CD that contains Windows XP SP2. There's even an interesting article that explains how to create such a CD from an old Windows XP (no SPs) installation CD and the download of SP2 form Microsoft.

Luckily, I found a CD with the installation of Windows XP Home SP2 at home, which came with Anna's laptop. I installed the computer from it - it all went smoothly and I had Windows XP running and activated in half an hour. Another couple of hours and I had all my drivers and most important installs in place, as well as my backed up data back from the backup external HD.

There is one concern left, and that is the difference between XP's Home and Pro editions. I've always used Pro before, and have concerns of what I might be losing with Home. An article (link long dead...) lists some differences, but not all are accurate. For instance, it says that XP Home doesn't support multiple processors, but it appears to have no problems supporting and using my dual-core CPU. It also says that XP Home doesn't support multiple-languages installs, which is also false - I've easily configured it to support a Hebrew keyboard layout.

XP Home seems to have many limitations in networking, but for my home network with 2-3 computers, it seems to be doing what I need, which is sharing files and a printer. The only real difference I'm feeling is that it doesn't have Remote Desktop capabilities, but this is not too bad. So I'll be running XP Home now, it seems.

[1] I ran two instances of the CPU Burn-in stress test. After about 2 minutes the CPU temperature (measured with SpeedFan) stabilized at ~58C, which doesn't look like too much. When idle, the temperature is around 40C.


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