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Troubleshooting your PC problems

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huddy
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Troubleshooting your PC problems

Post #1 by huddy » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:33 am

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Whether you've switched your PC on for the first time or your PC has decided not to play ball, the thought of your PC suddenly not working fills you with anxiety and fear that your expensive hardware is no more useful than a empty sardine can but with some careful planning, diagnosing and fixing the problems doesn't have to be so daunting. This guide is here to help.

The first thing to do is not to panic and stay calm. Clear your head, in most cases, errors are often found quicker on a clearer mind. There’s a saying that the most likely fault is yourself.

The second thing is to remember that diagnosis is a process of elimination. Make a test plan and/or a check list of what you intent to do and make one change or test at a time. This makes deduction much easier and also helps to explain to others what you have already tried if you seek help elsewhere.

Here’s a few troubleshooting steps to get you through. Check which description best matches your problem and follow the guidelines.


Your PC is dead. Nothing comes on

If your PC fails to show any sign of life, then chances are it’s either power related or the motherboard itself. A system with faulty RAM or video card will still show signs of life, so it’s a good clue to start.

Perform the following steps in the check section:

1. Check the obvious
2. Power Connections
3. Front Panel Connections
4. Check the Power Supply Unit
5. Obvious shorting?
6. Out of the case testing



The PC starts but then immediately shuts down/
I get a series of bleeps when the PC starts


If the PC starts then shuts down almost immediately, then there’s a good chance your PC is failing the Power On-Self Test (POST). You will only be able to identify POST errors if your PC is fitted with an internal speaker or has an error LED. If the PC is bleeping as soon as it starts or is showing an error code, it's telling you something is wrong but it’s there to help you.

As the PC boots, a basic hardware diagnostic program is run from the BIOS known as the POST. The POST process checks that the processor is correct and can be identified, that the size and compatibility of your RAM register correctly, that if a discreet graphics card is present that it can communicate correctly etc. Most motherboards use a small internal speaker to emit "Morse Code" style bleeps to indicate if the POST has either completely normally or has found an error. Unless the speaker is built in to the motherboard, you must install a small internal speaker to the Front Panel Connector. In fact, regardless if you think you'll ever need one or not, it's always a good habit to install one in case.

When the POST completes, it will emit a single bleep to indicate that POST has passed and your PC will boot normally. However, if it fails, the PC will emit a series bleeps to indicate an error has been found and the PC can not start. The number and sequence of these bleeps relates to a specific error depending on the manufacture of the BIOS. Make a note of the bleeps and cross reference them with either your Motherboard manual or by checking http://www.bioscentral.com. You’ll need to know the make of your BIOS. This will be displayed on the top line as the PC boots or in the BIOS itself.

Most newer motherboards use LEDs to display POST errors so check if you motherboard has this feature. The process is the same; the number shown refers to a specific error.

Common faults are:


• RAM not inserted correctly, not working or is missing – Re-seat the RAM making sure the RAM slots and the contacts are clean and free from dust and dirt. If you still having problems, then check the “Troubleshooting RAM” guide.
• CPU Fan not attached or undetected – Make sure you have attached the CPU fan to the CPU_FAN header or adjust the settings in the BIOS. Make sure the fan is clean and free of dust so it spins freely. If the fan is rotating less than the expected warning value, you will get errors.
• CPU not detected or not working. Check your BIOS recognises the CPU installed. You may need to adjust CPU speeds manually or update the BIOS software. This is common where compatible CPUs are released after the motherboard.
• Check the motherboard manufactures website for BIOS updates. These are frequently updated to accommodate new CPU releases.
• Video card not inserted correctly or is not working. Make sure the card is inserted correctly and has the right power connections if applicable – please see “Trouble Shooting Video Cards” Guide.

Note however, this applies to when the PC first starts, not when windows starts as the boot process will have already passed any self-diagnostics by that stage. That is to say, a system will not attempt to the OS until it is happy that the underlying hardware is in check.

Perform the following steps in the check section:

2. Power Connections
3. Front Panel Connections
4. Check the Power Supply Unit
5. Obvious shorting?
6. Out of the case testing



The PC starts but then hangs or restarts as soon as Windows starts

This suggests that the PC has passed the POST diagnostics testing and has handed the process to the boot loader ready for loading the OS, in this case Windows. It could be that vital hardware that is needed to boot to the OS is failing or can’t be found. Just because a device passes the basic diagnostic check, it doesn't mean it’s working to fulfill its function. It could be that the Windows boot loader itself has been corrupted and you may need to repair or re-install windows.

Such an error world normally invite a Blue Screen of Death Error (BSOD) which stops the system to show you what the problem is but Windows is set to automatically restart when the system fails which isn't much use.

Before you do anything, ask yourself if anything changed recently? Any new hardware, drivers or software been added or updated? Did the problem occur only afterwards? Try reverting the changes or hit F8 just as windows starts and select "Last known working configuration".

Perform the following steps in the check section:

2. Power Connections
4. Check the Power Supply Unit
5. Obvious shorting?
7. Check the RAM
8. Reset the CMOS
9. Update the BIOS
10. Check your storage
11. Chipset Drivers
12. Display Drivers
13. Check the Event manager
14. Check the mini-dump
6. Out of the case testing - only do this when all else fails


There's quite a bit there but hanging and restarting PCs is by far the most common fault. The problem is there are many factors and combinations that can cause the same outcome so the process of elimination is greater.

I get a Blue Screen and the system stops

As above, the dreaded Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) as it’s known, has found a problem and stops to prevent any further problems. Rather than restarting, its purpose is to show you what seems like a meaningless message such as “irql_not_less_or_equal” for example but more often, the information is quite useful. Either Google the message shown or visit Microsoft TechNet for assistance.

In the above example, the problem is normally memory related so you can immediately check for memory problems. http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/l.../cc957609.aspx

Check the same steps as above


Windows starts but occasionally the system restarts without any error or notice.

If your system randomly restarts without a Blue screen error, the chances are that you have the Automatic Restart option on system failure set.

If you are able to do so, from “System Properties”, click on Advanced tab, then “Settings” in the “Start-up & Recovery area”. Make sure both the “Write an error event to the system log” and “Automatic Restart” tick boxes are checked. Click on ok.

This won’t solve the problem but you’ll have better chance of finding what the error is next time the problem occurs so you can follow the step above.

Windows is incredibly slow.

Make sure your BIOS setting are set correctly. Your system could be running a “fail safe” mode. Change this to “Optimised” if available. Check the CPU is correctly identified and that it shows the correct speeds. If the motherboard was shipped before the release of the CPU then your motherboard BIOS will need to be updated.

Again, as above, has anything changed recently like hardware, drivers or software?

Perform the following steps in the check section:


7. Check the RAM
10. Check your storage
11. Chipset Drivers
12. Display Drivers
13. Check the Event manager
14. Check the mini-dump


The CPU temperature readings in the BIOS are slightly higher than in windows?

This is normal. The BIOS doesn't activate any power saving features like it does when in Windows. For a true reflection on your system temps, use CPUID HW monitor under both idle and stress to make sure. If the system is too high, then check your fans are connected and spinning as expected and that nothing is obstructing them. You may have to re-seat your CPU cooler making sure you used the correct amount of thermal compound. Remember, having too much thermal compound is just as bad as not having any at all. Bear in ind, most modern systems have a thermal cut out to prevent any damage. So if your PC is shutting down unexpectedly, this may by the culprit.


After playing a game for a while, the system just shut down (unexpected shutdown)

As soon as you start playing games, then the system starts to work harder. In most cases, the clock speed of your system is significantly increased boosted to compensate for the additional work load. It could be the system isn't stable at the increased settings. Check the CPU is correctly identified and that it shows the correct speeds.

See the section "The PC starts but then hangs or restarts as soon as Windows starts" above as the diagnostic checks are the same.


The PC appears to boot but I get a black screen.

First thing, check that the monitor video signal LED is on.

No light – No power.

Again, very obvious but check your monitor is plugged in and is on. Change the power lead and/or change the fuse.

Orange – No Signal Received

Check that correct video cable is being used and is attached at both the monitor and the PC. Swap for a known working one if you can get one.

If you have a dedicated video card, then make sure the video cable is plugged into that rather than in any on-board graphics port you may have. Also, if you have more than one output, try another port. Sometimes, the cables have to be set into the primary port.

Check the video card is seated correctly in the correct slot (check motherboard manual) and is receiving power if needed. Most modern cards require one or more 6/8pin block power connections so make sure these are in place, although this would have failed POST.

If you can, try another known working screen, if the same problem occurs it’s looking like a faulty video card. Either swap the video card for a known working one or test in another compatible machine to confirm this is the case.

If that doesn't help, refer to the Video Card trouble shooting guide.

Green – Signal received

Typically, if the green LED is displayed and nothing is displayed, then this looks like a problem with the monitor. Try the monitor on another PC to confirm.


I get strange red lines across my screen

This problem is typically associated to faulty video RAM. Either swap video card for a known working one or test in another compatible machine if you can.

Check the display drivers first, the refer to the Video Card trouble shooting guide for further help.


System does not keep date or time

This is likely to be a dead or dying CMOS battery which powers the BIOS settings. The battery is located on the Motherboard and is normally a disk type battery. These are commonly CR2032 which can be purchase from any watch repair or hardware store. If you have just bought a second hand motherboard, I always recommend changing before use.


If the problem persists further, then it maybe a faulty BIOS. You can have these replaced but it might be expensive. If the motherboard is warranty you be able to arrange a replacement through the RMA process.




I've tried to cover a lot of ground over a relatively short article and the truth is you won't be reading this article until you actually need to but that doesn't matter because it here anyway for when you do. The key to problem solving is finding out has changed recently that caused the problem in the first place then taking the necessary logical steps to find the problem. Sometimes the problem can be as obvious as a not switching something on. I've seen people strip their systems down before they actually they realised they hadn't switched the PSU on.


If you have any questions or wish to discuss this subject then please join our forum - all are welcome



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Troubleshooting PC problems - The Check List

Post #2 by huddy » Fri Sep 12, 2014 11:28 am

This is the check list which is associated to the above but don’t follow it in sequence. Match your PCs symptoms to the best description above and following its recommend course of action :)

1. Check the obvious

This may seem daft but you’d be surprised at the amount of people who forget even the basics. Make sure the power cable is plugged in to the wall socket and is switched on. Make sure the PSU is switched to an ON position.

Try changing the fuse or swap the power lead for a known working one if you have one.

2. Power Connections

Make sure you have both the 24-pin ATX and 4pin or 8pin supplementary power supplies securely connected to the motherboard. Re-seat if necessary.

If the video card is supplemented via additional power, make sure these are plugged in. These will be a combination of one or two 6/8 block connectors direct from the PSU.

3. Front Panel Connections

Check that the front panel “Power On” cable is connected to the correct front-panel header on the motherboard. If you suspect a faulty switch or cable, then you can test this by “Shorting” the two pins with a flat head screw driver. If the PC starts with the screw driver but not with the front panel cable or switch then it would appear the front panel cable/switch is faulty. Likewise, check the “Reset” connector. If this is shorting, it can cause shutdown/restart problems.

Always connect a small internal speaker to the speaker header. This will help diagnose any POST problems when problems arise.

4. Check the Power Supply Unit

Assuming that the basic power connections are in place and working, your next step is to test your PSU. Read through my "How to check if your Power Supply Unit is working"Guide.

If the PSU is at fault, then you are going to have to replace it. If it’s a new PSU then check with the retailer you bought it from for a possible replacement.

If everything appears to be in place and the PSU is functioning as expected, then we are going to have to get our hands a little dirtier.

5. Obvious shorting?

If this is a new build, did you remember to fit the motherboard on to motherboard risers? Motherboard risers prevent contact with metallic services in the case, preventing a short. If you have screwed the motherboard on to the case directly, then it may have shorted the circuitry.

Check also for loose screws, especially under the motherboard as sometimes these can be dropped or dislodged during building or even when moving the PC around.

6. Out of the case testing

It might be a good idea to take all the components and test them outside of the case which is good common practice before installing a new motherboard anyway as it saves installing everything only to find a fault later but here we are using as part of diagnostics.

Place the bare motherboard onto a box and connect to the PSU (both 24pin and 4/8pin). Remove all stick of RAM, Video cards, HDDs so only the CPU and HSF is installed.

Switch the system on by shorting the two power pins on the front panel connector using a flat head screwdriver. We don’t expect the PC to boot of course but it will instead give you a series of Power On Self -Test (POST) errors to indicate something wrong. If that occurs than all is good because the at least the system is booting through the POST process. Try then adding the components one by one starting with the RAM by one. You should get a different POST code each time. When you’re happy that the POST is progressing through as it should, then install everything back in the case.

If the systems fail to provide any POST indication, then your problem is looking more like a faulty motherboard. This could be anything from broken or short circuitry to faulty VRMs (Voltage Regulator Module) which are responsible for distributing the power correctly. If it’s a new motherboard, it may have been sent to Dead on Arrival (DOA)

If it’s you have bought a new motherboard or it’s still in warranty then don’t disappear, then check with your retailer or the manufacturer or a possible replacement.

7. Check the RAM

Check for if your problem is RAM related. Refer to "Troubleshooting RAM" Guide.

8. Reset the CMOS

Resetting the CMOS will put the back to factory settings forcing the system to re-detect devices etc. If you have any preferred settings such as overclocks, make sure have noted what they are as these will be lost. Either remove or replace the CMOS battery or set the jumper setting to “Clear”. Refer to motherboard manual.

9. Update the BIOS-

Check for BIOS Updates. Visit the motherboard manufacturer’s website for latest BIOS updated. Sometimes this can resolve a number of issues. Refer to your motherboard manual for details on updating your BIOS.

10. Check the Storage device

If there are problems with the boot drive, then the system may automatically restart.

Refer to "Troubleshooting Solid State and Hard Disk Drives" Guide.


11. Chipset Drivers

Check for latest chipset drivers. Visit the manufacturer’s website for latest downloads. It is also ways recommended that chipset driver are installed before any other drivers. If you have changed motherboard to a different chipset, it’s highly recommend that you re-install windows to avoid driver conflict.

12. Display Drivers

If you are experiencing display/video card problems, then check for latest video drivers before doing anything. Visit the manufacturer’s website for latest downloads. If the problem you are encountering only occurred since an update, then roll the drivers back to last know working configuration. Make sure you use DriverCleaner between uninstalling the new and old as this will clean the registry and therefore eliminate any driver corruption.

If you are still experiencing display problems still occur then refer to "Troubleshooting Graphics cards" Guide.

13. Check the Event manager

If your problem is intermittent and you are able to access Windows, then look at the Event viewer

Refer to the guide Fix problems using Event Viewer for further details.

14. Check the mini-dump

The system dump is a little harder to understand and to decipher as it’s often view through a debugging tool. The mini system dump is normally located in your Windows system root %SystemRoot%\Minidump. If you are able to view the log, Google any stop messages listed.

If you do not have a dump, it’s likely it’s not been turned on. You can read how to turn on the dumps, read and debug the mini dumps on the Microsoft website.
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/315263#method4

If the PC isn’t stable enough, then try copying the dump file to another machine for further examination. You can use a Live CD such as PartsPEBuilderor Trinity Rescue kit to boot from a DVD to grab the file. These bypass the normal Windows boot sessions.




Please feel free to discuss or make any comments in this thread - thanks

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Re: Troubleshooting your PC problems - Synopsis

Post #3 by Gregster » Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:26 pm

Nicely done :)
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Re: Troubleshooting your PC problems - Synopsis

Post #4 by OverFienD » Fri Sep 12, 2014 8:40 pm

Good work Mr Hudson.
You get way to much spare time ;)
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Re: Troubleshooting your PC problems

Post #5 by Bigmender » Thu Sep 18, 2014 1:58 pm

So many kind helpful people here, Takes alot of time to write all these helpful guides. Love this forum and the great attitude and support from its members :thumbup: :thumbup:
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Re: Troubleshooting your PC problems

Post #6 by huddy » Fri Sep 19, 2014 3:01 pm

Thanks Bigmender :)


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