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PC Endlessly Rebooting All of a Sudden - Was Working Fine

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October 22, 2008 12:22:59 PM

Please forgive me if this is not the correct place to post this. Last night my PC went haywire and I'm trying to figure out where the problem may lie and the best approach to troubleshooting with the limited resources I have available.

Here's the what I can tell you:

This is a PC I built 3 years ago with a few upgrades along the way. No new hardware or software or drivers have been installed in many months (if not longer). Last night I came home from work, powered on the PC. It came up fine. Had a brief power outage and the PC shut down. Powered up the PC again and it came up fine. Logged in to an online game and played for about 30 mins. Went to get a snack downstairs and came back to find a blue-ish screen that looked like the windows user login screen but very much scrambled and garbled. There was nothing to click on so I did a ctrl-alt-delete. I could see the pop up but it was mostly not there and not usable.

I rebooted and the BIOS screen was mostly gibberish although I could make out some words. Got to the windows loading screen and it was slightly off-color. Then, before going into Windows XP, it rebooted again. On the second reboot it does give me the option to go into safe mode or boot normally. I went into safe mode and I can navigate through my files, etc. although the screen is kinda messed up. It looks like there's a pattern of pixels across the screen that are unlit. I also ran a chkdsk and got no errors.

Trying to boot into Windows normally does not work, I get an endless cycle of reboots.

My system specs are as follows:

AMD Athlon 64 4000+ 2.4GHz
ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe MoBo
2GB OCZ Gold Series DDR 400 Dual Channel SDRAM
Nvidia 7950 GX2
Sound Blaster Audigy2 ZS Gamer
Two WD 74GB 10,000 RPM Raptor Hard Drives
Windows XP

My inclination is that this is hardware related since absolutely nothing has changed software/OS related in awhile. It was late, so I didn't do any real troubleshooting yet but will tackle tha tonight. I guess I'll start with removing each pair of RAM one at a time and see if it comes up properly. I don't have a spare video card to swap out and also not sure how to determine if my mobo went bottom's up or not either.

Anyways, just looking for any suggestions or guidance on working through this mess. Thanks in advance.
October 22, 2008 12:37:42 PM

You said power outage!! do you have a surge protector??
You listed all the parts of your PC execpt the PSU.

The problem might be related to the power outage and some of the hardware suffer from it.
October 22, 2008 12:48:07 PM

FIRSTLY::::: There is most probably NOTHING really wrong with your system!!!..
More'n likely it is a windoze snafu,it'a probably eaten the boot.ini or some such stupid thing,,when my system acts like that,exactly like that,,i usually take my ME boot disk to it with scandisk on it,sometimes i get lucky,and if i don't,,,,
well there's always norton ghost,the other thing that you can do is hook up the offending hdd as a secondary hdd in another system and then run the file fixing utils under the hdd's propertys menu,and finally reinstall i do not think that you are having hardware problems of any kind ,,i have experienced this very problem many times,sometimes you can fix it others nix,kind of hard working with os's that are basically self destructive..:) 
Related resources
October 22, 2008 12:56:49 PM

I do have a surge protector but not a backup power supply unit.

To Dokk2... I hope you are right in it not being a hardware issue. I do have TruImage installed and also have a full C: drive image of a fresh WinXP install (with all my apps fully installed and configured) backed up on another partition. I was also thinking about reloading that but it wasn't going to be my first step until I read your post. I will give that a whirl first thing today when I get home from work. Thanks for the advice, guys.
October 22, 2008 1:01:04 PM

It might be a windows corruped file.

If important system files were open, when thew power cut those files might havew been corrupt or damage.
October 22, 2008 1:01:27 PM

Try a different video card.
October 22, 2008 1:04:36 PM

Run memtest86+ and check for errors.
October 22, 2008 1:09:43 PM

You might want to try booting from a bootable CD. If the bootable CD works fine than you it's most likely a Windows problem. If you think it's a memory problem you should run memtest to verify. If you do run memtest make sure to disable cache so it only runs your DIMMS.
October 22, 2008 1:20:44 PM

nocteratus said:
It might be a windows corruped file.

If important system files were open, when thew power cut those files might havew been corrupt or damage.



If that were the case, wouldn't the system have exhibited issues booting up the first time after the power outage? It came up fine for some period of time following that and then the problem reared its ugly head some time later. Not second guessing you, justv trying to understand. Thanks for your reply.
October 22, 2008 1:29:01 PM

urgatorbait said:
If that were the case, wouldn't the system have exhibited issues booting up the first time after the power outage? It came up fine for some period of time following that and then the problem reared its ugly head some time later. Not second guessing you, justv trying to understand. Thanks for your reply.


You might still have corrupted files. Have you run a bootable CD or run memtest? Also you said you run chkdsk but you did you use the /R switch to repair bad sectors? Using chkdsk /R has fixed a lot of problems for me.
October 22, 2008 2:11:29 PM

allhands said:
You might still have corrupted files. Have you run a bootable CD or run memtest? Also you said you run chkdsk but you did you use the /R switch to repair bad sectors? Using chkdsk /R has fixed a lot of problems for me.


I have not run a bootbale CD (yet) or Memtest. I downloaded Memtest here at work and will throw it on a jumpdrive and see if I can run it tonight - that's assuming my PC will recognize the jump drive when in safe mode. I can't get into Windows normally right now.

When I ran CheckDisk I did not do the /r switch. I just went to the Run prompt and typed chkdsk and it ran automatically. It did not give me the option to enter the switch as I recall. I can try and get to a command prompt and try running it that way.
October 22, 2008 5:27:00 PM

I highly doubt that windows is causing your problems. Given your symptoms and the POST screen appearance you have capacitors in your system that have gone bad.

You will need to check for bulging capacitors on all of your components, any component with bulging capacitors will have be repaired or replaced.

Try to find a PSU that you know to be functioning correctly. Once you have a properly functioning PSU you will need to test for bad capacitors (in case they don't appear to be bulging).

Use this article as a guide to identifying bad capacitors.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/fixing-motherboard,...

Once your system is in order, if you want to try and salvage your PSU you will need to run voltage test on that as well.
October 22, 2008 6:51:19 PM

ravenware said:
I highly doubt that windows is causing your problems. Given your symptoms and the POST screen appearance you have capacitors in your system that have gone bad.

You will need to check for bulging capacitors on all of your components, any component with bulging capacitors will have be repaired or replaced.

Try to find a PSU that you know to be functioning correctly. Once you have a properly functioning PSU you will need to test for bad capacitors (in case they don't appear to be bulging).

Use this article as a guide to identifying bad capacitors.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/fixing-motherboard,...

Once your system is in order, if you want to try and salvage your PSU you will need to run voltage test on that as well.


I currently have a Silverstone 650W PSU. Now that you mention PSU's, my original Silverstone PSU went bad about 1 year after I bought it. In doing some research there were alot of issues with this model of PSU and they eventually exchanged the unit for an identical new one. It's the second one I have installed currently. It has been about one year since this one was put in so now you have me thinking it could be PSU related. Maybe this second unit is failing just like the first one did (approximately the same time frame the first one failed in).

The article you linked was interesting but if I had to go through all that to fix a component I would just bite the bullet and buy a new one LOL.

The PSU in my wife's PC just crapped out recently and I luckily had a spare I could install but now I don't have one to *easily* swap into my machine to see if its the PSU. Well, sounds like I have some things to try and troubleshoot the issue. I'll post my findings once I know something. Thanks all.
October 23, 2008 11:47:22 AM

Well last night I did the following steps with the following results:

1. Tried to run a chkdsk with the /r switch. For whatever reason, I could not accomplish this. Each time I tired the message I got was something to the effect that the volume could not be locked and did I want to run this on next start up. I entered "y" and rebooted but it never appeared as if it did anything on start up.

2. Booted the PC with the WinXP bootable CD in the drive. Selected the repair option and, as I recall, it said there was nothing to repair. Honestly, my mind is a little sketchy on this one as my kids were distracting me as I was doing this, but it didn't seem to have any effect on fixing the issue.

3. After much ado, I was able to run TruImage in safe mode and restore my backup image. Rebooted when complete and it didn not fix the issue.

4. Downloaded Memtest86 v3.4 and booted to it from CD. This thing ran for nearly 2 hours and returned no errors.

That was really all I was able to accomplish with the time I had. So, I guess my next step will be to begrudgingly remove the PSU from ym wife's PC and hook it up to mine and see if the issue lies there. It would seem to me that either the PSU is working and is able to power the PC or it's not working, in which case it would not be able to power the PC. Is it possible for a PSU to be in some mid-state of failing where it would still be able to power the PC but just with the visual anomalies I am seeing?

My other question is that if Memtest returned no errors, does that completely eliminate my RAM as the potential source of this porblem? In other words, would there be any value in still removing each pair of memory sticks and booting up?

Any suggestions for eliminating my video card as the problem when I don't have a spare card to plug in? Any tests similar to Memtest I could run on it or does Memtest actually validate video memory as well?

Thanks again for any assistance, everyone's help is very much appreciated.
October 23, 2008 11:49:34 AM

Oh and one more thing... Even when I am in Memtest and in my Bios, I get the garbled text where random characters are replaced with symbols and other characters. Does this pretty much eliminate the issue being with my O/S?
October 24, 2008 2:04:29 AM

Well I swapped out the PSU and the issue still persisted. Any further advice based on my previous few posts? Any and all help appreciated :) 
October 24, 2008 2:09:37 AM

when you ran chkdsk /r did you run it from inside Windows or from the Windows CD? You should run it from the CD. How long did you run memtest? You want to run it for at least a few hours and also you want to make sure to disable your cache since memtest will use the on die cache from your CPU which you want to eliminate. If you truly want to separate hardware from the OS you must run off a bootable CD (preferably one with a GUI such as a Ubuntu live CD) If the problem still occurs while running off the CD than you know the problem is in the hardware since you are not using the Windows installation on your HDD.
October 24, 2008 2:24:45 AM

He is receiving these issues while in BIOS and POST, his hard drive is likely not causing the issue, hell he can remove the hard drive completely and return to BIOS to see if his problems still persist.

Aside from testing the capacitors I am not sure how to isolate the problem without throwing money at it.
October 24, 2008 2:47:52 AM

I don't know if the problem is Windows or not since his problem is endless reboots of Windows. I understand he had an off colored screen at least the first time he rebooted the computer ( I'm not sure if it happened on subsequent reboots) Either way it could be unrelated issue to the rebooting. He should still run off a live CD to double check. However if he is persistent the problem is not windows he should remove as much hardware as possible from the mobo (sound card, nic card, optical drives, etc) see if the problem still occurs. He should also leave only one stick of RAM in even if the memory passes memtest since the problem may be in the slot and not in the memory. If problem still occurs with memory in slot A move it to slot B and see what happens. Unfortunately his mobo does not support integrated graphics so he will not be able to remove the video card unless he can find a spare one around.
October 24, 2008 11:32:35 AM

Thanks for the replies. Memtest ran for right around 2 hours and eventually stopped with a message that there wer no errors. Not sure how to disable the cache when running Memtest. As I recall, when I booted to it, it just ran. I don't remember seeing any options to set any parameters but then again much of the Memtest screen is garbbled text/characters so perhaps I just can't read it.

I did not run chkdsk from the Windows CD. When I boot to the CD I get options to reinstall, repair and maybe format. How do I get to a command prompt from that in order to do the chkdsk?

As far as removing all but one stick of RAM, if I have 2 matched pairs, do I have to have one pair in at a minimum or can I still go down to one single stick?

Also not sure what caused it but now I seem to only sometimes get the option to go into safe mode. Now when I get to the Windows loading screen, the screen will go blank and just stays there on a black screen indefnitely. It used to kick off a reboot at this point before that would allow me to go into safe mode.

So I'm assuming the issue most likely lies in either the video card, mobo or CPU at this point.

Man, I gotta get this thing fixed soon. I'm having serious withdrawals from being PC-less and not being able to play my online games. :pfff: 
October 25, 2008 1:51:28 AM

1) for disable cache when running memtest - When you boot into memtest (I'm assuming your using memtest 86) you can hit the "C" button for configuration. Once you do that a window will pop up with several options. Pick number 1 (test selection) select uncached ( I think that's what it's called) In any case after you select that if you look about halfway down the screen where it says cache it should then say either no or disabled (again can't exactly remember)

2) for running chkdsk /r from the windows CD when you pop in the CD and it boots up it gives you 3 options. You want to pick repair. It will look for installations of Windows. Most likely it will come up with one installation on C:. Pick that with number one. It will ask you for a administrator password. Most likely you don't need it just hit enter. At this point you are at the command prompt. Just hit chkdsk /r and grab yourself a cup of coffee or something because it will take a while to run. Using chkdsk /r has fixed a lot of problems for me so this may solve your problems.

3) for removing a stick of RAM - you can remove a stick of memory and run it with just one stick. Of course this disables dual channel assuming you were using that to begin with. Also it does not matter if you disable dual channel since you are only troubleshooting not benchmarking your system.

If doing the above steps does not work I would highly reccomend booting off a live CD such as Ubuntu or whatever to eliminate the OS. You can also just reinstall Windows which would also eliminate the OS or fix the problem. Also when removing hardware remember to remove everything you can. Optical drives, sound cards etc. If you eliminate all the rest of your hardware and the OS then you are looking at either CPU, mobo, or video card. Try to find another video card to swap out. Are you still having the off color screens. If you are you might want to check out this post http://www.podnutz.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=290&p... In that case it turned out to be the CPU but I don't think the computer was rebooting in that case. You can also check out the event viewer to narrow down your search. If you don't know how to get there right click "my computer" go to "manage" under "system tools" is "event viewer" expand that and go to "system" you should see a bunch of exclamations when you had a problem and if you double click any of them it should give you some info.
Good luck and let us know how it goes
October 27, 2008 11:12:04 AM

Thanks again for all the good info. Well over the weekend I decided to take a leap of faith and buy a new video card and plug that in. I'm pleased to say that upon first boot up, my problem was no more :) 

I found a good deal on a 9800 GTX+ and grabbed it. Not sure why my 7950 GX2 crapped out when it is not particularly that old but it sure seems to have. Anyways, now I have to work on getting my CPU/mobo/RAM upgraded so I can un-bottleneck my system and realize the full gaming potential of my new 9800 GTX+.

If anyone wants to take a stab at suggesting a CPU/mobo/RAM combo (will also probably need a new heatsink/fan as well), I'd be all ears. I have a budget of around $500-600 for those things although I may be able to stretch that a little if the added quality/performance were justified.

To restate some factors to consider: I am an avid gamer but mostly in the MMO arena as opposed to FPS's.

My other hardware to go along with the new CPU/mobo/RAM is:

Case: SILVERSTONE SST-TJ07 - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Hard Disks: 2x Western Digital Raptor WD740GD 74GB 10000 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 1.5Gb/s - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Also have a 350 GB Seagate internal hard disk

Power Supply: SILVERSTONE ZEUS SST-ST65ZF 650W ATX 12V 2.0 & EPS 12V SLI Certified CrossFire Ready Active PFC Power Supply - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy2 ZS GAMER Limited Edition - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

NIC Card

250 GB USB 2.0 External Hard Disk

Thanks again for all the help everyone.
October 27, 2008 11:49:33 PM

Nice!!!! congrats on fixing it! It also made a convenient excuse to upgrade that GPU! As far as suggesting a CPU / mobo / RAM combo that depends on what you want to do. Are you going to want to OC? Do you want to do SLI (if so that is going to limit you to a NVidia based board. The one thing I can tell you is first decide what features you want and if you want Intel or AMD. I highly recommend Intel for your price range. Then pick out a mobo, then model of CPU ( I say go the fastest quad core you can afford) finally get the cheapest DDR2 you can find. I'm sure people in here will tell you that you need super fast memory. Because of the way the cache on a CPU is designed speed of memory has little to no affect on overall performance.
These links should help to illustrate my point

http://forum.scottmueller.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=618

http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,2845,2328804,00.a...
October 30, 2008 10:45:17 AM

Those were interesting articles. Thanks.

I do not plan on OC-ing anything. I've never doen so in the past and have always been leary to do so. Guess I'm just scared to fry an expensive component due to my inexperience in that arena.

I do want to go with an Intel chip. I've pretty much always been an AMD guy but from everything I've been reading of late, Intel has the performance edge within the same price point. Unless something come to light to the contrary, I want to go with an Intel Core 2 Quad CPU (and as fast of one as I can afford) but I get a bit confused by the seemingly different varieties. I have been considering the Intel Core2 Quad Q9400 2.66GHz 6MB L2 Cache LGA 775 95W Quad-Core Processor which is going for $269 at Newegg. Not sure if that's the best way to go within my budget or not.

Funny you suggest deciding on a mobo first and then picking a processor for it. I've always done it in reverse in the past. Find the best processor I could afford and then find a mobo to accommodate it. As far as all the fancy features some of these mobos offer, I've had poor experiences with most of them. On my current Asus mobo, half of the cool "extras" on the card never were able to work even after working with an Asus technician. They finally told me "sorry".

When you talk about if I want to SLI and, if so, being limited to an Nvidia based board, do you mean an Nvidia *brand* board? I was looking at those briefly and they seem quite expensive. I thought most of the other brand mobos could SLI my card too - not the case? Heck, on my current mobo I could plug in a second 9800 GTX+ - are you saying that would not give me true SLI (or double the power of my original card)?

Thanks
October 30, 2008 11:30:54 AM

IMO the motherboard is the most important component in your system. It's what everything works off of. The mobo will determine the rest of the components. It is the heart of the system.

If you want to run 2 Nvidia based cards in tandem (aka SLI) you must use a Nvidia chipset because Nvidia does not license out SLI to other chipset makers. That is until the imminent release of core i7. Nvidia will not be making chipsets for said CPU and will license out the technology to other motherboard makers. But that seems to be a mess and besides SLI just doesn't seem to be worth it IMO.
October 30, 2008 4:12:47 PM

At one time on my current mobo (Asus A8N SLI Deluxe) I was running 2 identical eVGA 256MB NVIDIA Geforce 6800GT PCI Express x16 cards with the SLI connector running between the two. Are you telling me that I was NOT running those cards in SLI at that time? Was I only getting the benefit of one of those cards? This would be a revelation in my world if so. I'm not second guessing you, this just flied in the face of everything I've held true until now. And why would that mobo say "SLI" in it's name? I think I must be misunderstanding you. And thanks again for taking so much of your time to explain this stuff to me, you've been a big help.
October 30, 2008 4:15:25 PM

OH! I think the lightbulb just lit up LOL. The mobo just has to have an Nvidia *CHIPSET* on board and does not necessarily have to be an nvidia *BRAND* mobo. My current mobo does have the nvidia chipset so that's why I was good to go with my two older cards I was SLI-ing.
October 31, 2008 1:11:42 AM

now your getting it
!