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Q: Computer troubleshooting: hardware geek needed (I think) ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Computer troubleshooting: hardware geek needed (I think)
Category: Computers > Hardware
Asked by: svannes-ga
List Price: $2.50
Posted: 09 Apr 2003 19:16 PDT
Expires: 09 May 2003 19:16 PDT
Question ID: 188570
I am having some very serious computer issues that I think are
hardware related.  Here is a description of what has happened.  I
would like to have your ideas as to what the problem is and (if
possible) some way to verify/test your idea.

Description of problem:
Last night I shut down my PC using the normal routine.  This morning,
when I tried to turn the system on, it powered up (i.e. the issue is
not that the system lacks power), but would not go through the boot
process.  The system appears to hang before any drive is detected,
before the system goes through the normal system memory check—even
before the keyboard is detected.  The only thing that happens is that
the system correctly detects the processor types and characteristics. 
Due to the fact that the keyboard is not detected, I cannot even get
into the system BIOS.  Things that I have tried:
1.	Removing/re-installing the memory modules (thought that one had
gotten loose).
2.	Unplugging all drives, except the primary master drive.  

Though I do not think that this is a hard drive issue, I suppose that
I can’t rule it out.  I’m going to attach the drive to a new system to
see if I can access the file system.  My gut instinct is that my
motherboard is fried, but I would think that this would prevent
anything from happening at all (including the successful power up and
processor detection).  Could a virus have infected my system BIOS? 
Any ideas/suggestions are appreciated.

Request for Question Clarification by feilong-ga on 09 Apr 2003 19:39 PDT
Before you do anything else, make sure that all components are
securely attached to the motherboard. If your system doesn't make the
same single beep tone that it usually does during boot-up, you can be
sure that it is a hardware issue. Could a virus have infected your
BIOS? I don't think so.

Clarification of Question by svannes-ga on 09 Apr 2003 20:55 PDT
I do get the single beep.  Also, and perhaps of interest, the hard
drive LED (red light)comes on and stays on though the drive is not
detected by the BIOS.

Request for Question Clarification by snapanswer-ga on 09 Apr 2003 21:11 PDT
Have you tried booting from a floppy disk and/or booting from the CD. 
You may need to access your BIOS settings to move the CD or floppy to
the beginning of the boot sequence.

If you can get the computer to boot, perhaps then you can run
diagonistics on your hard drive.

Request for Question Clarification by feilong-ga on 09 Apr 2003 21:13 PDT
Check if the cables are secure. Check the IDE cables for wire and
terminal breaks. If the cables are 100% okay, your hard drive may have
sustained a physical defect, usually a bad sector or signs of a
failing motor.

Clarification of Question by svannes-ga on 09 Apr 2003 21:23 PDT
I would love to boot from a disk or a CD (CD is at the top of the boot
sequence followed by floppy), but it can't even get that far.  IDE
cables look OK.  Even if the drive was physically damaged, wouldn't
the BIOS at least detect the other drives (5 total) attached to the
board?  I appreciate the help.

Request for Question Clarification by feilong-ga on 09 Apr 2003 21:37 PDT
Try to clear your CMOS either through jumper or by removing and
re-attaching the CMOS battery. See if it works.

Request for Question Clarification by arcadesdude-ga on 10 Apr 2003 06:20 PDT
Have you tried starting up the computer with no hard drives (or
cd/floppy drives) attached to the computer? (This might allow you to
go into the BIOS and check your settings).

A solid light on a hard drive might be because you have a cable that
is connected backwards (It might go in both ways but it needs to be
inserted the other way). This can happen if you have your floppy drive
cable backwards or a cd drive cable backwards. Did you double check
the cables? (Not just fully inserted, but correctly aligned).

A single beep is (almost) universal for the motherboard saying "I'm OK
and everything checks out on the motherboard". That only works if the
part that checks is correct and working and it's not going to be that
way all the time. (It might say it's fine when it really isn't).
Before you check your motherboard, try this:

Get the core components to boot your computer:

In the case have: motherboard, CPU (with heatsink/fan), 1 memory
stick, no hard drive, no floppy drives, no cd drives, fans for
cooling, power supply, and video card (or built in graphics on the
Outside the case have: power connected, and a keyboard hooked up.

If you can boot into the BIOS with those components then it might be a
hard drive problem, or a cable connection problem, or faulty BIOS
settings (you might want to reset them to defaults if you can get to
the BIOS at all, or clear them by removing or setting a jumper on your
motherboard, or you can just take out the watch battery on your
computer and leave it out for about 20 seconds and then put it back
in. That should clear (and reset) the BIOS for you if there are any
misconfigurations that are keeping it from working with your hardware.

If you can boot to the BIOS with just those components, then add the
hard drive and double check the cable,power connection when you put it
in. If you can boot into your Operating System from there then there
might be another problem. If you can't then make sure your hard drive
has the right kind of cable. Most newer hard drives require an 80pin
IDE cable for IDE drives (if that is your hard drive's type) but they
might work on 40pin IDE cables (at a slower speed).

Add and test one component at a time to narrow down the problem. If
all else fails then you should test your motherboard out by getting a
new one (or optionally testing each of your components (like CPU,
video card, hard drive) in another computer where they are compatible.

That might help you identify the problem. If you can identify the
problem you can usually figure out the solution (which is probably as
simple as a improperly connected component or faulty component or bad
BIOS setting(s)).

Clarification of Question by svannes-ga on 10 Apr 2003 07:47 PDT
Good news.  Stripped the system down to the MB, processor, 1 DIMM, a
keyboard and a video card.  After doing this, it successfully went
through the memory check and I could access the BIOS.  Encouraged, I
plugged in both of the hard drives and was able to enter my operating
system.  So, it seems like the problem was either a loose cable, or
perhaps one of the PCI cards that were previouinstalled.  Thanks to
all for the great advice!!  I was about ready to buy a new MB of even
a whole new system.

Request for Question Clarification by feilong-ga on 10 Apr 2003 07:55 PDT
As I said earlier in my first clarification, before you do anything
else, make sure that all components are securely attached to the
motherboard. If your system doesn't make the same single beep tone
that it usually does during boot-up, you can be sure that it is a
hardware issue. I'm glad that your problem was solved.
Subject: Re: Computer troubleshooting: hardware geek needed (I think)
Answered By: feilong-ga on 10 Apr 2003 08:20 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi Svannes,

The reason why I asked you to check if the components are secure and
to verify if the system makes the usual beep tone is because I
suspected, based on your original descriptions, that nothing was
actually wrong with the integrity of the system and what you
experienced is an occurrence, called "chip creep" or "card creep". It
is the result of expansion and contraction of the component during the
normal heating and cooling cycles of the system.  As this process is
repeated over time, the components "creep away" and become loose from
the sockets or slots.

You can find more info about this phenomenon through the links below.

Total Seminars LLC
Chip Creep

"chip creep"

Search strategy:

Personal knowledge + Google web search for "chip creep"

svannes-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Thanks for the help.

Subject: Re: Computer troubleshooting: hardware geek needed (I think)
From: haversian-ga on 10 Apr 2003 00:21 PDT
First off, investigate that 1-beep POST code in your motherboard's
manual or on the manufacturer's website.  If you can't figure out
what's wrong from there, you can go about it the long way:

Checking cabling and connections is all well and good, but if it
doesn't fix the problem your best bet is to go in the opposite
direction.  To boot your computer, you will need a CPU, RAM, and a
video card.  So get rid of the rest (use only 1 stick of memory; make
sure it's in DIMM socket 0 (or 1 - some numbering starts at 1)),
unplug the machine from the wall and wait 2 minutes.  Clearing the
CMOS wouldn't be a bad idea here either.  Plug it back in, boot up and
see what happens.

Post what happens here, and somebody will give you another round of
things to try based on what works and what doesn't.  Good luck!


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