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Please help w/ system start up troubleshooting

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January 8, 2009 5:47:38 PM

I have a self-built system which is having trouble starting up. I'm not sure if it's the mobo, RAM, PSU, or what.

System specs:

AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+
Gigabyte GA-M59SLI-S5 board
2 GB of Crucial DDR2 RAM (two sticks in a dual channel setup)
XFX NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GS
Antec True Power Trio TP3-650 PSU
Windows XP SP3

Symptoms:

When I turn on the power, lights and fans come on, but I don't hear the drives starting up and the monitor shows no input signal. (I don't have an internal speaker, so I don't know if I'm getting any POST error codes unfortunately.) What I did today was open it up, clean it out, and then unplugged any peripherals (drives and case fans) to see if I could get it to post. Still nothing. I tested each stick of RAM separately and got the same symptoms as before with one stick in any of the 4 slots, but with the other stick it would post. So I plugged the drives back in and with this stick of RAM it would start up fine and then black out after I had loaded and logged onto Windows. The computer didn't turn off, but the monitor stopped receiving a signal and the fans started running faster (primarily the video card fan I think). It did this consistently regardless of which slot this stick of RAM was in, and it happened soon after I was logged in (within 30 sec) but not necessarily at the same point each time. I then tested both sticks together again in different slots and it acted as before with no posting.

I decided to try it again with both sticks, and for some reason this time it booted up, but then went black as before after log in. So I tried again and booted in safe mode. This worked, and I restarted from safe mode and now it seems fine.

The computer itself is about 1 1/2 years old, and never did this until after the following incident: I ran a 3rd party defrag program (I don't remember which, but it was supposedly reliable), left for work, and then got a call from my wife that the computer was making a bad noise and smelt bad. I told her to just unplug it, and when I came home I took it up to my friend's to test what parts I could (RAM and PSU), and they both appeared to work fine in his system. I took it back home, did stuff similar to what I did today (unplug stuff and switch slots) and it just started up again fine.

Since then, I've only had to deal with this 2 or 3 times, probably because I usually leave the computer on for 1-2 weeks, just putting it into a low-power state at night.

I could've sworn I had a bad stick of RAM today until it started up fine with both. Is the mobo just flaky? Could this 3rd party defrag even affect the mobo? Is it the PSU (which I already had to RMA and replace once about a year ago)?

Thanks in advance for your help!

January 8, 2009 6:09:29 PM

Is there any visual signs of something that looks like it has a burned spot on it or anything. Most likely you have some sort of a hardware failure if your wife said it started smelling bad. could be the hard drive?
January 8, 2009 10:22:02 PM

I can't see anything that looks unusual, and I'm pretty sure it is a hardware issue, but it's just a matter of figuring out where it is.

Could it be a hard drive issue if it doesn't post even when they are unpowered? I would think that the problem is somewhere before the hard drives...?

Thanks
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a b B Homebuilt system
January 9, 2009 4:18:30 AM

The hard drive is one of the devices it checks for when it POSTs. If there is a defect in the HD it could cause this. If you can get it to boot up, try running a diskcheck on it.
January 12, 2009 1:35:11 PM

Well I downloaded Seagate's drive check utility (I have 3 seagate hd's) and ran all of the tests that they offered (except for the advanced tests) on all of the drives and found no errors. I also ran windows chkdsk on the boot drive but no errors were found. I'm thinking of doing a fresh install of windows, possibly using one of the other drives as the boot drive to see how that changes things.

Two days ago the computer went black again as I was playing a game - black screen and the fans going faster/slower like they usually do when I put it into sleep mode, except I couldn't bring it back to life. It's never done this before, is this indicative of something else, like the power supply? If so, could the PSU be responsible for the occasional start-up trouble as well? Any other ideas?
a b B Homebuilt system
January 14, 2009 10:03:03 PM

Get your hands on another video card. You may have a bad card, which can cause POST problems, and can be flaky enough to cause intermittant issues with display. You have a good power supply. If it isn't defective, it should be providing plenty of power.
January 15, 2009 1:23:03 PM

Alright I'll try that. I did a fresh install of XP and so far I haven't had any issues, but then it's pretty much been on continually. I'll turn the computer off for a while and see how if there are still start-up problems, and then seek out some friends who'll let me borrow another graphics card to switch out. Thanks again!
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