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Creaphis

Let's try to save my computer one last time.

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I'm pretty sure that my computer has finally breathed its last, which is good in a way as that finally gives me a good excuse to upgrade. Too bad I don't have any money!

Instead of making my own inexpert diagnoses I'll just list off the symptoms:

-Aside from the small glitches that inevitably infect a computer as it ages disgracefully, I have had no problems with my computer recently.

-This morning, when I tried to turn my computer on, the fans whirred to life as usual, the light on my DVD drive blinked as if clearing the sleep snot from its eyes, and then nothing else ever happened. A few more boot attempts replicated this pattern. Nothing appears on the screen, and the light in the power switch never even turns on. However, the hard drive activity light stays on constantly, without even flashing. I can't hear any read/write activity.

-At first, I was able to turn my computer off in the normal way, just by holding in the power button for a few seconds until everything comes to a standstill. But, after a few power cycles, holding the power button stopped having any effect - the fans just keep whirring forever.

-As soon as the computer gets any power, it tries to turn itself on. Even after turning the computer off by holding in the power button, unplugging and then re-plugging the computer causes it to come back to "life."

-Thinking that this might be a BIOS issue, I tried to reset the BIOS with the jumper-moving method. I don't think it worked because when I plugged the computer back in after moving the jumper to the alternate position it instantly turned itself on, robbing me of the chance to press the power button myself. The computer behaved exactly as it does during every other stalled boot-up.

-I don't think I have any other options for resetting the BIOS. Removing the battery from the motherboard would break something.

-There are no error beep codes.

-The power supply is definitely not to blame. Symptoms are identical when the PSU is swapped with another.

-There are no bulging or exploded caps on the motherboard.

-I haven't moved or modified my computer in a while. If this is a hardware problem, then it could only be caused by being on for extended lengths of time, or by being turned on and off too many times, or etc.

So, whattaya think?

PS: Thank you, Doomworld, for repeatedly letting me enlist you into my personal tech-support army.

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It sounds like your computer doesn't even know it's a computer anymore.
If you take out your RAM and you're still not getting a beep code (you could try taking out any modems, sound-cards, etc. as well), then it would be your motherboard that has died (dried solder-caps are usually to blame). Not much you can do about that.

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Creaphis said:
So, whattaya think?

I just wonder what magical powers you use to post without a computer!

PS: Try removing and resetting the cards on the motherboard. Occasionally, some cause the mother to get grounded, making the computer do what you describe, more or less.

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I've had times when my computer has done nothing when powered on after working fine. I have fuddled with cards, removing and putting em back, and then inexplicably the computer worked again. but it sounds like in your case the problem might run deeper.

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Edward850 said:

It sounds like your computer doesn't even know it's a computer anymore.
If you take out your RAM and you're still not getting a beep code (you could try taking out any modems, sound-cards, etc. as well), then it would be your motherboard that has died (dried solder-caps are usually to blame). Not much you can do about that.


Aside from a vestigial modem, my computer has no expansion cards to speak of. I've gone as far as to remove the modem, the RAM, and unplug the hard drives. There's been no change, except without hard drives the drive activity light stays off. There was a pleasant surprise on one attempted boot-up - something in my computer's remaining guts sounded off a familiar crescendo, as it always used to when starting, and there's something comforting in hearing your friend's voice even as it utters pained curses on its deathbed. Alas, those were its last words. The only thing left to do is forge its name on an organ donor card.

myk said:

I just wonder what magical powers you use to post without a computer!


Well, I haven't lost my sunglasses on my forehead if that's what you're imagining. I'm writing these posts from my mother's Mac, the wretched thing.

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I had a PC that would every now and then fail to boot - the fans/hdd/dvd drive would all power up, but nothing - no beeps, image on the screen or anything.

Found if I lifted the motherboard slightly in one spot, the problem would disappear and boot without issue. I can only assume there was a broken wire or bad solder joint that would prevent it from booting and flexing it joined the circuit and off it went.

-At first, I was able to turn my computer off in the normal way, just by holding in the power button for a few seconds until everything comes to a standstill. But, after a few power cycles, holding the power button stopped having any effect - the fans just keep whirring forever.


Uh what? You are forcing the PC off without letting it shutdown properly? Not the smartest thing to do to a computer, holding down the power button should only be done if its completely locked up or you cant get it to shutdown.

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My computer did a bit of that this year. Some days it wouldn't POST or show any display at all. It would just start up all its fans and drives. Resetting it cured that every time.

If you can't make it do anything, even with the RAM and cards unplugged I'm sure the mobo is toast. I suppose maybe the power could have just gone weird, and swapping that out might have some effect. Or it could have been the thing that toasted the mobo, in which case it's new computer time.

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Planky said:

Found if I lifted the motherboard slightly in one spot, the problem would disappear and boot without issue. I can only assume there was a broken wire or bad solder joint that would prevent it from booting and flexing it joined the circuit and off it went.


Please tell me you eventually soldered that fucker and didn't keep moving it around.

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Planky said:

Found if I lifted the motherboard slightly in one spot, the problem would disappear and boot without issue.

Either a dry joint or shorting to the case.

You are forcing the PC off without letting it shutdown properly?

With nothing on-screen and no apparent drive activity, it'd be reasonable to assume that Windows isn't booting and consequently there's nothing to shut down apart from the BIOS.

@Creaphis - it sounds like you need a new motherboard. IIRC your current motherboard has weird mirror-imaged expansion slots so fitting a different make/model of board might be impractical. On second thoughts - it sounds like you need a new computer.

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I would say it's the motherboard as well. I have a Compaq laptop that has done exactly that multiple times. Thank god for warranties.

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Have you got spare old hard drives you can swap out just to eliminate that - remove any gfx cards etc. basically I would try to eliminate all other possibilities before deciding the mobo has had it, though it does indeed sound like it.

Do you build your own or was this a shop PC Creaphis?

I spent quite a bit of money building my current machine but I haven't regretted it once because I know the quality of everything inside the case, and even the case, heh

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Planky said:
Uh what? You are forcing the PC off without letting it shutdown properly? Not the smartest thing to do to a computer, holding down the power button should only be done if its completely locked up or you cant get it to shutdown.

I wager he meant "normal under the circumstances" compared to pulling the plug, since he can't shut it down in the really normal way because the machine starts but the system doesn't.

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I concur with the motherboard conclusion. My old Dell used to do the exact same thing, but only for about 3 seconds, and then it would shut off.

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pritch said:

I spent quite a bit of money building my current machine but I haven't regretted it once because I know the quality of everything inside the case, and even the case, heh


No you don't. Even top brands have catastrophic quality-control issues now and then. And that doesn't cover the random failures common in most kinds of hardware. So yeah, you know you didn't buy something that's total junk, but your computer could blow up any minute and I doubt the chances are much different than a standard HP box, though the case is probably way better.

Building your own is still the best bet. Better specs for similar money, total control (as far as is practical), more customization, etc. Not for people who don't like a bit of troubleshooting.

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Happened to me quite a few times. And every goddamn time it was a different problem. These are some of the solutions that have worked for me:

- take out the main memory and put them in different slots;
- leave only one hard drive on, and change the flat cable if you can;
- you wouldn't have a spare processor, would you?
- taking out the battery from the motherboard is not something to be worried about. I've done it so many times, and I have an old Pentium running for years without one;
- if nothing works, just leave your computer stored somewhere, and then try to turn it on some years later. It will most definetly work. Already been through that.

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Try removing the CMOS battery and putting it back in. Doesn't do shit aside from clearing every BIOS setting and putting it back to default.

If you aren't getting any display upon boot you might have a dead GFX card. Does your monitor do a "No sync input" or something to that effect it's left on long enough? If yes it's a sign that the monitor isn't getting a signal from the display adapter.

Try using only one stick of RAM and try all the channels. Do it with each stick. Check the jumper settings on drives if they're PATA(IDE), might be difficult if you can't get display and into BIOS. Try using a new PATA cable, see if you can bum a spare CPU, video card, and memory. Try known good parts and see if they make a difference.

You could also try re-seating your motheboard if you know what you're doing. Look for anything that might cause it to not be grounded properly. Check the power connectors pins going from the case to the mobo. Are they plugged in properly? Get yourself a schematic and check.

If your PSU was bad, then it might've fucked up your MOBO and other components already. So don't rule out a bad PSU. Because if you replace everything and use the same PSU, you could have the same problem all over again.

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Creaphis said:

I'm pretty sure that my computer has finally breathed its last, which is good in a way as that finally gives me a good excuse to upgrade. Too bad I don't have any money!

Instead of making my own inexpert diagnoses I'll just list off the symptoms:


Here's what I say.

Creaphis said:

-Aside from the small glitches that inevitably infect a computer as it ages disgracefully, I have had no problems with my computer recently.


Memory problems? CPU Failure? Hardware failure in general?

Creaphis said:

-This morning, when I tried to turn my computer on, the fans whirred to life as usual, the light on my DVD drive blinked as if clearing the sleep snot from its eyes, and then nothing else ever happened. A few more boot attempts replicated this pattern. Nothing appears on the screen, and the light in the power switch never even turns on. However, the hard drive activity light stays on constantly, without even flashing. I can't hear any read/write activity.


When the computer first turns on, the BIOS tells all fans to run at 100%, this is a safety feature. With fans running 100% the system can determine if a fan has failed (the fans usually report their speed and if it's too low it's considered a dead/faulty fan). Also other devices will turn on also when they are given power.

Now, with the hard disk indicator lit up solid (or possible your suspend LED lit constantly when not suspened, depends on the computer) usually means there is a hardware failure. You can try removing some ISA/PCI/PCI-X/PCIE cards and reseating them or keeping them out. You can try RAM changing also. Try all combinations, your fancy video card could have died.

Creaphis said:

-At first, I was able to turn my computer off in the normal way, just by holding in the power button for a few seconds until everything comes to a standstill. But, after a few power cycles, holding the power button stopped having any effect - the fans just keep whirring forever.


The 4 second power down when holding the power button is an emergency feature to shutdown the computer. For it to really work you require the BIOS or whatever to be in a working state, unless the hardware implements such thing.

Creaphis said:

-As soon as the computer gets any power, it tries to turn itself on. Even after turning the computer off by holding in the power button, unplugging and then re-plugging the computer causes it to come back to "life."


Power on after power fail. Based on the BIOS Setting this setting usually defaults to Last State with other options such as Never and Always.
- Last State: If the power was cut while the computer was on then turn on, otherwise stay off.
- Never: Don't turn on when the power is restored
- Always: Always turn on when the power is restored regardless of whether the computer was off or on when it was removed.

The computer will also turn on when it does not have a power switch. PSUs attached to a computer where the power switch wire is not corrected or where the switch fails will turn on. In normal operation, pressing the power button shorts the connection.

Creaphis said:

-Thinking that this might be a BIOS issue, I tried to reset the BIOS with the jumper-moving method. I don't think it worked because when I plugged the computer back in after moving the jumper to the alternate position it instantly turned itself on, robbing me of the chance to press the power button myself. The computer behaved exactly as it does during every other stalled boot-up.


It's possible you have a faulty power switch if as you said before you cannot shutdown the computer by holding the button. The jumper is just to reset settings usually or remove the password protection (in case of lost password).

Creaphis said:

-I don't think I have any other options for resetting the BIOS. Removing the battery from the motherboard would break something.


Usuallly BIOS settings are stored in flash memory, so if you do remove the battery you'll just reset the system's clock. However on many systems the BIOS settings are volatile and require a battery. The battery is required for time to be kept. If the battery is not connected but the system is plugged in time keeping should still work as the system will draw power from the PSU to keep time and such.

Creaphis said:

-There are no error beep codes.


Beep codes come later usually, and you will only hear them if you have a PC speaker in your computer. Some computers play it through the speakers through Intel's shitty AC97 shit. No beep code and a solid light usually means pre-BIOS failure somewhere around the line, check addon cards and memory.

Creaphis said:

-The power supply is definitely not to blame. Symptoms are identical when the PSU is swapped with another.


A possibly good sign.

Creaphis said:

-There are no bulging or exploded caps on the motherboard.


Another possibly good sign.

Creaphis said:

-I haven't moved or modified my computer in a while. If this is a hardware problem, then it could only be caused by being on for extended lengths of time, or by being turned on and off too many times, or etc.


Computers work best and stay in the best condition when ON always. Powering the system on and off causes power spikes usually which can damage components. But this info is debateable. However if you turn it off and turn it back on rapidly then you will harm the system. Also they say there is an increased chance of electromigration when powering on a device.

Creaphis said:

So, whattaya think?

PS: Thank you, Doomworld, for repeatedly letting me enlist you into my personal tech-support army.


Yep... As long as you read what I say.

PS: IF there's no RAM in the system it won't start and would produce similar symptoms.

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I don't want to let any good advice go unfollowed, so I've done another few rounds of testing. I think I've well and truly eliminated every possibility aside from the motherboard having gone kablooie. I tried the following set-ups:

-No cards, no hard drives, no excess cables, no optical drives, no RAM, no CMOS battery.

-Same as above but with one stick of RAM (re-tested with different sticks of RAM, different slots)

In all tests, symptoms were unchanged.

A few more random replies:

pritch said:

Do you build your own or was this a shop PC Creaphis?

Dude, it's a Gateway.

cbronson said:

- you wouldn't have a spare processor, would you?

No sir.

cbronson said:

- if nothing works, just leave your computer stored somewhere, and then try to turn it on some years later. It will most definetly work.

I actually fully believe this. Even so, this computer isn't worth the storage space.

POTGIESSER said:

Does your monitor do a "No sync input" or something to that effect it's left on long enough?

My monitor's message is "No input signal." I can't blame the graphics card, though, because I've been using integrated video.

POTGIESSER said:

You could also try re-seating your motheboard if you know what you're doing. Look for anything that might cause it to not be grounded properly. Check the power connectors pins going from the case to the mobo. Are they plugged in properly? Get yourself a schematic and check.

Well I'm already planning to dismantle the computer for fun so I guess I could keep an eye out for anything suspicious while I'm at it.

GhostlyDeath said:

Now, with the hard disk indicator lit up solid (or possible your suspend LED lit constantly when not suspened, depends on the computer) usually means there is a hardware failure.

On my computer it's a hard disk activity light. The light stays off now but I had to disconnect my hard drives for that.

GhostlyDeath said:

The 4 second power down when holding the power button is an emergency feature to shutdown the computer. For it to really work you require the BIOS or whatever to be in a working state, unless the hardware implements such thing.


The four-second power-down is working again. It only failed a couple of times at the end of my first round of tests, and it's possible I was just running out of patience and not holding the button in long enough.

I find it interesting that this implies my BIOS is still in a somewhat functional state. Does that make it more or less likely that my motherboard has tanked?

GhostlyDeath said:

Beep codes come later usually, and you will only hear them if you have a PC speaker in your computer. Some computers play it through the speakers through Intel's shitty AC97 shit. No beep code and a solid light usually means pre-BIOS failure somewhere around the line, check addon cards and memory.

All I know is that this computer has given me beep codes before, when I was dumb enough to buy and install the wrong kind of RAM. I figure that I'd be hearing beep codes now if missing/bad RAM was the problem.

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I haven't read the rest of the thread, but have you tried pulling your HD out and putting it in another computer?

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Creaphis said:

Dude, it's a Gateway.


Wrong answer.

Otherwise I'd go with the shorted/grounded mobo theory myself. And caps aren't the only thing that can fail, unfortunately (there are also CPU power buck/boost converters, for one. To eliminate the shorted part, try running the mobo outside the case on a piece of cardboard, and check whether any conductive debris has lodged itself between the mobo and the case (e.g. a screw).

You can verify if the CPU is getting any power at all by running the mobo for a few seconds without a heat sink and touching it with your fingers (if it works you'll feel a heat surge, at which point pull the plug ASAP, the CPU won't be damaged with so little and there's always overheat protection in post Pentium-III CPUs). If it doesn't even get power consistently, then you either have bad converters, a bad BIOS, or a shorted device on board (that's the worst-case scenario, as you can't really replace those unless you own an industrial soldering oven).

If you have a spare PCI video card you can see if it will boot up (it should get priority over the integrated, if the BIOS is not completely junk).

Speaking of which, I'll propose something that hasn't been mentioned yet: get hold of any official BIOS updates from the manufacturer, and on one successful boot with a floppy drive, try reflashing.

If your BIOS is VERY fucked up though, you can try a last ditch "minimal BIOS restore".

If your BIOS gets fubared for whatever reason, there usually is a read-only section that just about allows the system to boot and recover from a floppy disk ONLY, with no video output, and you must boot with a specially crafted recovery floppy, and pray for the best. Then again that's a Gateway, so you may not even have that option.

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Maes said:

Then again that's a Gateway, so you may not even have that option.


Fo' shame, even Apple has full download support dating all the way back to the Quadras11!!!11!! ;-)

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Even if Gateway doesn't supply a BIOS, you may get around that if you discover what make your mobo is -probably something like this, rebranded.

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Creaphis said:

HA! That's a good one.


OH GOD

*looks down at his box*...... OH NO, NO! you have that piece of shit too???

half the audio sockets do not work. Sometimes the fan fucks up and I hve to get a program to give the thing enough "current" to start spinning. it makes my room an oven, it really is the worst thing to exist!

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Oh dear. This is one of the few instances where I'd wholeheartedly advise buying a Mac over a PC.

I don't know what circumstances led you both to choose a media center bitty-box as your main PC (VERY low price? Where they on offer?) but IMHO if you are dead-set on buying a neutered desktop "media center" PC, at least get something that has better value for money, is much better made -and also has better support, since you decided to give up on expandibility and cheap upgrades anyway.

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Mr. T said:

Did you see if your data was OK?

Everything important is on a slave drive and an external drive that wasn't even connected when this happened. I'm not worried.

Maes said:

Even if Gateway doesn't supply a BIOS, you may get around that if you discover what make your mobo is -probably something like this, rebranded.

I actually posted that same link in my earlier post. The manufacturer doesn't supply a BIOS or flashing instructions either.

Csonicgo said:

*looks down at his box*...... OH NO, NO! you have that piece of shit too???

It's actually served me surprisingly well. This is the first major problem I've ever had with it (aside from a failed stick of RAM, if that counts as major).

Maes said:

I don't know what circumstances led you both to choose a media center bitty-box as your main PC

Maes, we weren't all born with static protectors on our wrists. Some of us have to learn by making mistakes.


PS: If any Mac users are reading this, I need some help adapting to my new lifestyle.

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