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Thread: My annual "dead computer" thread

  1. #1
    Rainbow Carrot Loves You
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    My annual "dead computer" thread

    I feel like I make too many of these. I don't know why I have so much trouble. This time I'm not really expecting much, just posting about it because I don't know what else to do right now. Googling the issue hasn't been much help.

    The short of it is that my computer will not post, it starts, but the cpu fan (not obstructed) doesn't spin so the motherboard shuts everything down. It then repeats the process until I cut the power. It will begin doing this in the middle of normal operation, just shut itself off and then begin with the false starts.

    I believe I first noticed this maybe six months ago, when I was installing a new hard drive in my system. I recall being vaguely annoyed because the HD bays are so effortless to use that I didn't have to touch anything else in the computer, so why would it suddenly stop working? I eventually discovered that unseating the power and then resetting the cmos would fix whatever was causing the fan to not spin.

    Over the months it has happened a few more times, becoming more frequent, until a few days ago my cmos trick wouldn't work anymore. I got it running for 10 minutes before it started again.

    I will also point out that while I don't remember what the problem was, I was originally going to use an aftermarket fan with this computer and ended up going back to the stock intel cpu fan in order to get the computer running.

    So, is it possible this fan has gone bad? Is there likely something wrong with the motherboard itself? I've tried different fan headers. Short of taking everything a part and having spare components I don't even know how to test what the problem could be.


    While having your computer cease to function is never a good thing, this was a particularly bad time for me I think. It's exhausting and I don't think I have the energy to build a new one, even if I had the money set aside.
    Last edited by Wool; February 18th, 2015 at 02:53 PM.

  2. #2
    Elder Arcanist

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    Re: My annual "dead computer" thread

    Power supply? What's your wattage and what are you running for a vid card? Any other cards? Sound, networking, etc? How many optical drives?

    Seems like your power supply could be dying the slow death.

  3. #3
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    Re: My annual "dead computer" thread

    Failed RAM can also cause post failures. You typically hear some audible beeps though. But RAM is usually kind of an easy thing to try, since most people have multiple sticks.

    RAM failures can also tend to be quite random.

    I'd also inspect LED indicators for the various power busses on the motherboard. Ianlynyien's power supply suggestion is also certainly a possibility.
    Last edited by Nerkahia; February 18th, 2015 at 04:44 PM.
    Nerkahia
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  4. #4
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    Re: My annual "dead computer" thread

    Power supplies just lose efficiency over time... I wouldn't be surprised on RAM either, especially if it got nicked during installing something

  5. #5
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    Re: My annual "dead computer" thread

    In addition to what has already been mentioned, check that none of the relevant wires have poor connections. If you have some spare parts that are known to work, put those in the system and record what happens. If it is stable then, put the newer parts in one at a time until you isolate when it becomes unstable. If it is unstable even with the known to be good parts, check that none of the pins are broken or bent at the connection points with the wires. If that is good, check that none of the traces are 'broken' in the motherboard. Record what happens with all of these tests so you don't double back on yourself.

    An excellent debugging technique, which generalizes to all systems, is the '5 whys' developed by Sakicha Toyoda: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5_Whys

    Note that when recording the Question/Answer process, the question must be concrete, it must be determinate, and it must be reproducible for someone else to be useful. Failing to do the debugging technique in a concrete, quantitative way is where people fuck up using this and make it useless in a team context and inconclusive for themselves often. When I am working on projects this is what I use to keep a log of what I have tried, what I have found out so far, and continue to narrow the surface area where failure may lie at. It is very powerful even if you do not do anything technical. And most importantly, don't get emotional when doing this, especially if you are working with someone else, it helps no one and increases stress ten fold.

  6. #6
    Rainbow Carrot Loves You
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    Re: My annual "dead computer" thread

    Thanks for the responses. Taking it apart and doing a proper diagnostic is problematic at the moment, and I'm done paying people to tell me there is nothing wrong with my computer, so I don't know when or if I will properly figure this out.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ialnyien View Post
    Power supply? What's your wattage and what are you running for a vid card? Any other cards? Sound, networking, etc? How many optical drives?

    Seems like your power supply could be dying the slow death.
    You think so? It's newer than the system (I think), and I got one with more power than what I needed. What about if I am using a battery backup? Could that cause similar problems if it is dying? It hasn't alerted me to any problems, but I did notice the other day when the power went out that it immediately shut down my computer instead of giving me the 3-5 minutes to do it myself. Windows screws with my various power and sleep mode settings every time it updates so I wasn't sure what to make of it.



    P.S. My power supply is 750w. I don't pay much attention to the bios readings beyond noting that it didn't warn me of any problems. My gpu is a 560 ti 448, which recommends a 550w power supply. I have tried booting without powering this (the motherboard has onboard video, I think). I also have a Xonar dg (or something) sound card. One optical, and two hard drives.



    My motherboard is an asus p68z78, not sure of the exact revision, but it has leds that light up if there is a problem with the gpu, cpu, ram, or other (can't remember). The cpu led is the only one lit, and only when the fan refuses to spin.
    Last edited by Wool; February 19th, 2015 at 02:22 PM.

  7. #7
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    Re: My annual "dead computer" thread

    So, the easiest steps are:

    Unplug the new hard drive, just the power and disk cables, no need to remove the drive from the case.

    Try to boot then.

    If it boots, your power supply is inadequate. If it doesn't boot, leave it unplugged, pull the ram, and see if you get any beepcodes when you power on with no RAM.
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  8. #8
    Rainbow Carrot Loves You
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    Re: My annual "dead computer" thread

    I'm convinced that I never actually knew anything about computers at all. All my previous experiences were just grand delusions. Computers aren't powered by science and logic, but by arcane and shamanistic gods. Gods who hate me.

    My computer is up and running, although I'm not convinced it is stable yet (pessimism). I'm still not actually sure what the problem was, as the project didn't quite go the way I expected. My best guess right now is that there was a short with some of the case cables or something, though I found no direct evidence of this. It's still possible the psu or motherboard is wonky, and that the problems just aren't going to manifest again for a few weeks (like the previous pattern).

    Putting the process in a spoiler tag because it's boring, but some people might still enjoy a little technological schadenfreude.

    Spoiler for fixing the PC:

    The first thing I did was use my power supply tester to test the power supply, since that was something you guys mentioned. The voltage readings all seemed fine. I had used this to previously discover a bad psu so had at least a small idea on what to expect if this one was bad too. And this is the only thing I have a spare of, so could be easily replaced.

    Since the psu (apparently) checked out, and my fan wasn't spinning at all now, I then decided to order a replacement cpu fan. I had also had trouble with cpu fans in the past, so was hoping it was a simple matter. My only other idea was that the motherboard was faulty, which is a bigger pain to replace.

    Anyway, the fan comes in, and one weekday I decide to install it, hoping it would fix the problem without much hassle. Still didn't work.

    Okay great, I actually have to put effort into it now. Start unplugging stuff. Do the RAM dimm thing, nothing. Note that in the next step I check the area between the motherboard and case where the standoffs are, and don't see anything that would cause a short.

    Take it completely apart, out of the case, on a cardboard box. Just the mobo, cpu+fan, and a spare power supply. It works!

    Install the RAM. It works!

    Put it back in the case. It works!

    Install the GPU. It works!

    Connect the case fans, front panel cables, data cables for hard drives (no power yet), the case shroud for the gpu, and the cover/shroud for the psu. It doesn't work! Ugh. And no amount of backtracking gets it running again until it is once again outside the case on a cardboard box. Frustrating!

    This time I test each part for 20 minutes before going to the next step, thinking maybe I jumped the gun on previous successes. I also take the working psu outside of the case and test it in conjunction with the spare psu, just to be doubly sure the old psu isn't the problem. And since I have to deal with the power supply cables again anyway, I go ahead and re-organize the other cables in the case as well. Most of them are already neatly tied away, but all of the things in the last step that failed are related and need to be taken into account.

    After working on this all night and wishing I waited until the weekend, I get to the same point with no problems. Aside from re-organizing the cables when I re-installed the psu, I also decide to plug two (out of four) of the case fans directly into the motherboard instead of into the molex connectors being used previously.

    That's the last step I took. I have not yet re-installed the gpu shroud or the power supply "cover", and as a result the cables are actually a little sloppier in the case. Either a cable was being pressed somewhere it didn't belong, or one of those cables for the case fans was bad. I don't know.


  9. #9
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    Re: My annual "dead computer" thread

    Nice work. And I can sympathize with your frustration. Its not particularly encouraging when you fix something without knowing exactly what you did, heheh.
    Nerkahia
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  10. #10
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    Re: My annual "dead computer" thread

    Because I'm too lazy to start a blog, another update just because.

    I did not fix it. The problem returned but with less severity. In the process of all this I had found myself forced to start researching upgrade paths again, and deduced that if my system was in working order that my gpu would be the only thing that needed upgrading in order to stay current with modern PC games. As I have had weird driver issues with this gpu in the past, I decided to upgrade it regardless of if it fixed my problem or not and see what happens.

    At the same time, I realized that my battery backup was a lot older than I thought it was, and got a replacement battery for that just in time for the old one to completely die. After doing these two things, the problem never returned, and I went on to play AC Black Flag to great success.

    But then a new problem arose, a very specific problem that could be ignored if I wasn't so stubborn. While trying to play the very first Witcher game, I was continually getting blue screen of death crash errors (note windows 7 doesn't flash the blue at you anymore, but you can look in the error log and it will say what it is). I pretty much spent an entire weekend trying to figure it out, as initially it seemed like a problem with just the game itself. It was known for crashing and Blag Flag (a much newer and demanding game) was perfectly fine. I eventually moved on to investigating possible driver problems, but I won't go into detail for everything I checked and will jump straight to the end.

    I had noticed people on other forums talking about programs known to cause bsod errors, and one person mentioned AI Suite, a program that comes with Asus motherboards that lets you monitor vitals (temperatures for example). Now I've never had problems with it before, but started poking around with it just to be thorough. I noticed that the 12 rail voltage reading was fluctuating between 11.4 and 11.6. Previously I had been led to believe a 10% discrepancy was fine, but that 5% is what people go on now, and that while 11.6 is barely acceptable, 11.4 is not. I'll also point out that the readings I get with my tester independent of a running system were perfectly fine.

    So I swapped out the psu with my spare, and haven't had any blue screen crashes since. It's likely that the power supply was always the problem, or at least part of the problem, but the scale of the various problems were so miniscule that they would only pop up in certain circumstances.

    It's also possible that I am yet again celebrating too soon, and that something else will break next month. What this teaches me is that science fiction in which machine intelligences are eternal are bullshit. Stuff needs to be replaced every three years.

  11. #11
    hella Star-Demon :3
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    Re: My annual "dead computer" thread

    It is super not hard to run diagnostic tests on desktop computers and narrow it down to a highly probable fault source. Then google for a youtube video on fixing it. Congratulations you are now a computer expert and now the super top secret algorithm for becoming an expert in anything. Welcome to the autodidact club, enjoy your pay raise as you crush your enemies and subjugate your peers.

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