MSI K8N Neo-FSR
Like all my motherboard reviews, this isn’t a review per se but my collected experiences with a particular piece of hardware.
My uncle had a socket 754 motherboard that had received a power surge and fried. Everything else was still good ( except the power supply ) so he needed a new motherboard, so I picked up an MSI K8N Neo-FSR ( MS-7030-020 ). I don’t really understand why MSI uses product names and product numbers interchangeably but they do. I installed this board and reinstalled everything and ran Passmark’s Burn In repeatedly over the next three days. Everything was smooth sailing so back it went to my uncle’s home.
He’s not a real PC technical type but he tries to fix things himself and asks for help when needed, unlike most people who screw things up and then dump the PC on your doorstep. Once he had the machine home it would blue screen periodically. He diligently updated the drivers and BIOS, checked for conflicts, ram memory tests and kept working on it. Oddly the blue screen errors were different each time. He finally gave up and dropped it at my house. I watched it a while but no issues, so I wiped it and started fresh, returning a new and ready to go Windows XP installation. I figured he had done something odd with a software or driver install.
He had the machine home for a few days and reported back the same issue. What was going on here? Some time passed and the blue screens increased so much that you couldn’t reliably use the PC. He dropped it off and I went to work again. ( I’ll work on family and friend’s PCs gratis but only if they drop it off and leave me alone while I have it; if they’re in a big rush they can go and pay for service! ).
Wiped the machine and did a fresh install. This time I installed a standard software collection and ran them on and off. I experienced memory errors with all the programs but no blue screen crashes. I ran Memtest86+ but found no errors. I checked the BIOS settings for the memory and they were set to automatic. Three 512 MB PC2700 DIMMs were installed, all identical. I removed all but one and checked the memory settings, rotating in all three DIMMs. One of the three had different memory timings; removing that DIMM eliminated the memory errors. I didn’t have another exact DIMM to see if there was an issue filling all three DIMM slots on the motherboard, but removing the odd timed memory did the trick.
Running the PC now showed no memory errors and I still hadn’t seen a blue screen crash so I signed off on the PC as working. My uncle asked if I could load a few games up for him so I installed some of the great free games available now ( MechCommander series, America’s Army and Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory are great freebies ). When I loaded a game I received a vague memory blue screen crash. Rebooting and trying another game put me again in blue screen territory. Only running games gave me the issue, so I checked out the video card for problems.
Everything was installed properly; it was an Asus GeForce 6800 that had a perfectly working fan and proper power with the latest drivers installed. I know you’re thinking IRQ conflict but no such luck: everything was in order but I was crashing constantly now. I ran the MSI Windows Flash BIOS utility, Live Update 3, to make sure I had the current version, and it listed 2.10 as current and the same for what was installed. I had read of flash issues using a Windows utility and decided to reflash the BIOS from a boot disk.
Checking the MSI web site revealed three different motherboards with the MS-7030 model number. Checking all three showed no 2.10 BIOS. I knew we had the K8N Neo-FSR version 1 as that’s what was silk screened onto the motherboard ( only MS-7030 is listed on the web and on the motherboard, but -020 is listed on the product page and is the final information needed to be really sure what board you have ), yet the latest BIOS listed was version 1.90. Thinking myself blind, insane or both I checked the Windows utility and it indeed showed version 2.10 as the latest.
I downloaded version 1.90 and flashed the BIOS. After making a few adjustments ( why don’t motherboard manufacturers enable S.M.A.R.T. by default; I mean who doesn’t want to know their hard drive is about to die! ) I booted into Windows and played a little of all the games without a blue screen crash. Fully functioning PC with no issues, finally.
Two issues plagued my use of the MSI K8N Neo-FSR: memory timing and BIOS versions.