Athlon system locking up on start up. Is it MoBo, Processor, PSU or what? - Techist - Tech Forum

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Old 02-04-2004, 11:00 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Athlon system locking up on start up. Is it MoBo, Processor, PSU or what?

As with most stories, mine needs a small introduction.

About 6 months ago I had just started to burn a cd when the power went out. The outage caused some very severe XP issues and I eventually had to do a format and reinstall.
Also about that time, I started seeing some strange behavior from the computer during start up.
I want to make it clear that I am only speculating that the power outage caused this behavior, I can't definately say that the power outage was the start of it (due to the fact that the software was so screwed up, if it was locking because of hardware, I couldn't seperate those locks from the software), but I am resonably sure it was. Ok, back to the story.
The strange behavior during startup was almost as if the computer had to warm up before it would work. If I turned it on after it had sat for a long time, say over night, it would generally boot until the windows splash screen, but lock up there. If I reset it might get farther and lock or it might start up all the way. The 2nd or 3rd time might make it all the way to windows, but lock after a couple minutes. Generally It would lock off the cold start but by the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th reset it would make it all the way up and be fine until the next time I turned it off for an extended period. When it locked, the monitor would continue to show the same thing I had been viewing and the keyboard lights would not react. ctrl + alt + delete had no effect. Only a restart affected it.

I had these symptoms for months, and I mostly ignored them because I figured it was working and I wasn't really sure what it could be, so I let it go.

Fast forward to a month ago. About this time the computer started locking during normal use, meaning not during start up. Before, once I got it past the initial lock ups it could be on for weeks at a time with no problem. A month ago, it started locking up randomly, with no obvious cause. I tried to replicate the lock ups and was unable. It would lock about once every 3-5 days, and one restart was all it needed to fix it. Then about a week ago, it started locking up more frequently, about every other hour. At this point, a restart was all it needed. Then, a day ago, it was locking every 20 minutes. After about 4 lock ups and restarts, it did not post (no beeps) on the restart. At that point, I figured it was done and I let it be.

Since then I have experimented and discovered this:

If I let it sit for a couple hours, on my first cold start, it will post and boot all the way to windows, but will lock less than a minute later. If I reset it will post and lock before or during the windows splash screen. If I reset it a second time, I may or may not get any beeps. If I do, it locks after only one or two (I think there are three) beeps. If I reset yet again, it will not beep at all. Almost as if it only works when cool, and works less when hot. During all of this, all the lights, case to keyboard, all the fans (4 case, 1 PSU, 1 processor, 1 mobo, 2 videocard) spin, all the drives spin up and the mouse led lights up. It just doesn't beep or start the bios or anything.

One guy I spoke to suggested it was a processor heat issue, so I dusted everything and put a 10" house fan pointed at the processor, while leaving the heat sink and proc fan in place. No change. The proc fan is spining fine and is working well as far as I can tell. I also took off the heat sink and respread the heat goop.

I figure it acts like a mobo or processor problem, but the fact that I can get it to start windows sometimes confuses me. Other possible causes that have been suggested are power supply and video card. That doesn't leave much else in the computer and I would like to narrow it down before I start replacing parts.

The system:

Athlon 1900
512 MB Ram
Soyo Dragon Plus! Mobo
Nvidia 4200 Video card

Can anyone out there help?

Thanks in advance.

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Old 02-05-2004, 12:31 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Wow, a strange problem. Well, I guess I'd start with the PSU, as power outages can give a surge through your wiring and possibly burn something out. Usually when that happens the computer will stop working right away, but maybe a capacitor blew somewhere on the PSU or Mobo and it has taken a while for it to become a problem. It does sound a lot like a heat problem, caused by the melting of something important. Do you have another computer you could test the PSU and Mobo on? I'd check them out first. Let this be a lesson to all! Buy a Uninterrupted Power Supply! They don't cost much ($50-80) and are worth EVERY PENNY!!!

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Old 02-05-2004, 01:28 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Thanks for the reply.

I do have another computer that I can test the powersupply on. I can even try the "good" psu in the kaput computer, but it is a 275W unit and I am currently running a 400W unit, so I don't know if it will work. I will try though.

As for the Mobo, the working computer is an old PII so I can't swap it out and test it. I will try the powersupply and let you know.

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Old 02-05-2004, 01:55 PM   #4 (permalink)
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i would bet my left knut its the CPU, when its cold, it works fine, once it heats up, the material expands, causing a short in the circuitry on the chip, get a new CPU and test it, you might have to replace youre memory too, if not, its prolly the MOBO, but i can tell you FOR SURE it is not the PSU, because, you said the mouse lights up, which means that your MOBO is getting plenty of power (as the mouse draws its power from the MOBO) and if it was the PSU, it prolly would never come on, i just replaced the PSU on a PC for my aunt, and when you turned it on, nothing would happen at all (except sometimes the fan would spin a little) but i replaed the PSU and it woked fine, but if your mose lights up, more than likely itll be the CPU, hope that helps
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Old 02-05-2004, 06:49 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Right, here is what I know:

Motherboard: Soyo Dragon Plus! SY-K7V VIA KT266A
Processor: AMD Athlon 1900
Running XP professional, I assume SP-1, though I can't really check.
One HD: IBM 80Gig 7200rpm
CdRW: Plextor
Graphics card: LEADTEK Geforce TI 4400
Case: Antec sx-840 server case
Fans: 4 case, 1 PSU, 1 processor, 1 mobo, 2 videocard
lights: Mouse LED, HD, Power, CdRom, Floppy.
BIOS: No Clue, honestly, I don't know how to find out.
PSU: 400 Watt
RAM: 512 DDR (2 sticks of 256) PC2100

One bit of information that I find interesting: I booted to the BIOS to try and figure out the specs on the bios and it locked after about a min. On the reset it didn't beep at all. WTF?
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Old 02-05-2004, 07:26 PM   #6 (permalink)
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what about the ram going bad? I've had my systems lock up and just turn off due to ram issues, give that a check
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Old 02-06-2004, 12:24 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Last night I tested the RAM with memtest86. The computer locked before I could get through the test.

The first time the test ran for 2mins 31 seconds. I tried to restart, but it wouldn't post, so I let it sit for 15 mins or so. I tried again and the test ran for 1 min 26 seconds before locking. I gave up after that.

I have two sticks of memory, so I removed one and attempted to boot, nothing. I replaced that and removed the other, nothing. My rational was that only one stick would be bad, not both. So, either both are bad, or it isn't the memory. Anyway, it doesn't even boot far enough for the memory to have engaged most of the time.

Question: At what point does the processor activate? if you boot to floppy or go into the bios, is the processor working? or not? If not, I should be able to rule it out.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 02-06-2004, 12:29 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Forgot to say: when the memtest86 test locked, the cursor at the bottom of the screen kept blinking and at the top of the screen where it says 'memtest 86 +', the + kept blinking, which was odd, because every other time it has locked, the screen has frozen. Regardless, the test stopped and no keystrokes or keyboard lights would work.
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Old 02-26-2004, 11:56 AM   #9 (permalink)
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To everyone who posted, thank you.

I finally figured out what the issue was. I took the Processor and the Motherboard to a local shop and had them test them in their system. Turns out, the Motherboard was toast. I have purchased a new board and the problem is gone.

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