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My computer died suddenly for no apparent reason!

Last response: in CPUs
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May 19, 2006 3:15:46 PM

Sadly, I don't find one particular category where this topic would fit more than another, since I don't know what part of my computer is causing the problem, so I'll just post it here.


Description of the problem :

This morning I started my computer and while it was loading I went packing my stuff for school, then when I came back, it had restarted and was on a DOS-like screen saying: "Windows has termined abnormally, blah blah blah, do you want to start in safe mode or normal mode, blah blah blah".

I chose normal mode and the computer started loading windows, but in 16 colors 640x480. (It looks positively disgusting btw). When I asked windows to resize my desktop to a more confortable setting, the screen went black and my computer restarted again.

This time it didn't even get to the loading screen and restarted just after having booted.

I was late for school and had an exam so I turned it off. I just hope my little brother doesn't harm it more than it was at that time.

The only random restarts I had during the two years I had this computer was when heavily overcloking my video card and playing Morrowind packed with 5 GB of textures and other mods, which is comprehensible. I had not done that for a couple months now though, and was running all my hardware normally.

Yesterday, my computer was working perfectly fine as usual, I just did a little disk cleanup with compression of many unused files, a defrag (I do one like everyday), and used powerpoint and msn messenger - big deal. So I really wasn't expecting this.

Here is my config, custom-built system, nothing overcloked:

- ATX 300W mid-tower case+psu I think it's a generic brand, I'll go check tonight
- 2 optical drives (1 cd-rom and 1 cd-rw)
- 1 floppy drive
- Pentium IV 2.8 Ghz HT
- 1 stick of value RAM 512MB DDR 400
- 1 HD IDE 7200Rpm 80 Gigs Western Digital
- 1 Asus mobo P4S800
- Sapphire Radeon 9600SE

I didn't do anything really special lately with my computer. It has been raining for 3 days but I doubt the humidity could be a factor; I have never cleaned the hardware from dust but I don't think overheating is the cause since it was working perfectly stable, no crashes, no reboots, no artifacts, etc. and now it just doesn't want to start.

I guess it might be the PSU but I'm wondering how could have it failed, like, during the night, or just this morning on startup.

Any help appreciated!
May 19, 2006 3:26:48 PM

Maybe it's a Microsoft conspiracy. :twisted: I recently had the same type of problem. I think it's my videocard as I installed an older card and it worked fine. The old card did do the same thing after I put it in a week later, but I know it's running hot. I'll know more when I get my replacement card.
May 19, 2006 3:39:59 PM

Your PSU is the prime suspect, especially if your computer just fails to even turn on.

While you're at it, it would be wise to get a can of compressed air to blow the crud out of your 'rig and some quality thermal compound, after two years, the thermal interface between your CPU and HSF must have dried out and may need to be replaced.
Related resources
May 19, 2006 3:58:18 PM

Thanks, that's what I also thought. I'd like to know what can I do to make sure the PSU is the culprit, because I don't feel like spending 50$, wait one week, and then have my problem not fixed and having wasted that money. I don't have any extra PSUs lying around to check.

Also, could you point out a guide on how to clean your computer and change thermal compound? Do you just add some new on top of it?
May 19, 2006 4:07:02 PM

I'm gonna take a stab in the dark and say trying reinstalling your video card drivers.

The only other thing I can think of is that you need to reapply the thermal paste that interfaces your CPU and heatsink.

Good luck.
May 19, 2006 4:18:38 PM

As for cleaning your 'rig, it's pretty straightfoward, remove the bigger dust bunnies by hand, with a dry cloth or a soft brush then proceed to vaporise the compressed air wherever you see accumulations in hard to reach nook and cranies.

This can be very messy so consider doing this outside.

As for removing and cleaning the HSF and CPU, This Thread will be an interesting read. Never apply fresh thermal compound on top of the old stuff !

Don't even bother with testing your PSU, it's probably dead or on its last leg anyway.
May 19, 2006 5:06:00 PM

try booting in safe mode and uninstall the video driver. Then download the latest driver for your video card and reinstall. More than likely you have a corrupt video driver.
And you probably need to blow out the dust in your system it can accumilate much faster than you think. Dust can definately effect a computer's ability to cool itself.
May 19, 2006 6:34:19 PM

Quote:
try booting in safe mode and uninstall the video driver. Then download the latest driver for your video card and reinstall. More than likely you have a corrupt video driver.
And you probably need to blow out the dust in your system it can accumilate much faster than you think. Dust can definately effect a computer's ability to cool itself.
If I can get my computer running for more than 10 minutes straight in safe mode, I'll try reinstalling the video driver. The last time I tried, however, it wouldn't even load windows before shutting down. I think I will try removing as much dust as possible, but I doubt it will fix my problem.

Hell... I always wanted to buy a new PSU anyway. But I had also a video card in mind at that time. :p 
May 19, 2006 7:12:03 PM

Quote:
If I can get my computer running for more than 10 minutes straight in safe mode, I'll try reinstalling the video driver. The last time I tried, however, it wouldn't even load windows before shutting down. I think I will try removing as much dust as possible, but I doubt it will fix my problem.

Hell... I always wanted to buy a new PSU anyway. But I had also a video card in mind at that time. :p 


So your computer DOES turn on !

Their is a big difference between a computer that won't turn on, won't POST, won't boot the OS or that suddenly turns itself off.

Your first post was slightly misleading then, anyway, a sudden shut down like that could very well be the CPU overheat protection kicking in, meaning that the thermal interface is'nt doing its job or that your HSF is clogged in dust, lint and hairs. Some PSUs will also turn themselves off if they reach a certain temperature or when the power load exceed their capabilities.

Anyway, get that computer cleaned up and try to report your problem a little more accurately.
May 19, 2006 7:26:42 PM

Just a thought....Go into Bios - and look at your system temps. Watch them for a bit to see if anything interesting happens. If nothing wierd happens to your temps - go away for a half hour - and see if BIOS is still up.

If the system shut down, or rebooted(don't know how) then you have a problem with the PS.

If the system stays up - you may STILL have problems with the PS, but it may also be one or more of your other periferals.

You can also try to simplify the situation by removing anything that you do not absolutely need for your computer to boot. Unplug your Opticals, use the onboard video (if available), get rid of all but one stick of memory. use only your boot disk and take out any unneccesary cards. (while you do this - blow the sucker out with compressed air.)

See if your problem persists. If it persists - then it isn't being caused by anything you just disconnected (how could it). I would then refocus on what is actually connected.

Good Luck
May 19, 2006 7:58:17 PM

I had a problem like that about 3 months ago, right after I installed a new geforce graphics card and a usb 2.0 pci card. The second night after i had installed the new gpu and pci card, I have my computer in my room, all night I heard beeping sounds from it. In the morning when i checked it out it would say that windows had terminated abnormaly like yours did and then 2 seconds later it would reboot, start back up, give me the error, restart,boot back up... In a never ending cycle. It would boot up in safe mode but it would never stay on long enough to do anything. I dont think its your PSU I think you should maybe find a spare hardrive and put windows on it and afterwards see if it boots up normally.
May 20, 2006 12:52:07 AM

Well, right now I am typing this from my computer, it is up and running correctly. Basically all I did was to remove some dust but I didn't do the job very thoroughly; for instance, I was unable to remove the fan or the heatsink from the mobo. I did remove a whole bunch of dust from what was accessible to me. After that I replugged all cables and booted windows in safe mode; from there I asked for a system restore, and now the system is working fine. I have just tried Oblivion and no reboot.

Quote:
So your computer DOES turn on !

Their is a big difference between a computer that won't turn on, won't POST, won't boot the OS or that suddenly turns itself off.

Your first post was slightly misleading then, anyway, a sudden shut down like that could very well be the CPU overheat protection kicking in, meaning that the thermal interface is'nt doing its job or that your HSF is clogged in dust, lint and hairs. Some PSUs will also turn themselves off if they reach a certain temperature or when the power load exceed their capabilities.
I said it would restart just after having booted, before the WinXP loading screen. That only happened once, this morning.

I am not sure if it is the system restore or the cleaning up that fixed the problem; that's the problem when you just want the damn thing working as quickly as possible :p 

If any random reboots occur from now on, I'll try to give some more info.
May 20, 2006 1:25:06 AM

What I would really like to know, now, is how I can remove the fan from the motherboard. The processor is a Pentium IV 2.8Ghz HT Northwood.

There are two big latches that switch in opposite direction and seem to unlock the heatsink, but the fan itself, which blocks the heatsink, stays firmly in place. I haven't figured out any screws or other latches on it.
May 20, 2006 1:51:44 AM

While your up and running use a can of air and a pipe cleaner to finnish those hard to clean areas. Be sure to also clean out the PSU!

As your PSU wattage is so low it looks like a pre-built/store computer so be aware if it is a DELL you just cant install a better-proper PSU as DELL has done a nasty thing and swaped the pos-neg wires around.
never buy a Dell....ever.

Z
May 20, 2006 6:41:32 AM

Quote:
What I would really like to know, now, is how I can remove the fan from the motherboard. The processor is a Pentium IV 2.8Ghz HT Northwood.

There are two big latches that switch in opposite direction and seem to unlock the heatsink, but the fan itself, which blocks the heatsink, stays firmly in place. I haven't figured out any screws or other latches on it.


There are four "hook" type latches on the fan assembly. You should be able to

get your fingers under one, and pull it upwards....carefully. Do this to the

second one, on the same side. now do the same on the other side, and the

fan and retention mechanism will come off. If the machine is working ok

now, after a system restore, it was either a corrupted driver, or you

were lucky enough to catch a virus/trojan. You did say that when you

were using it last, you were on MSN Messenger....which is getting very

bad as far as viruses and trojans are concerned. :wink:
!