After having been away from my computer for little over two weeks I came home late-ish the day before yesterday. Everything was perfectly normal; nothing behaving out of the ordinary.
Early the next day I was listening to a podcast in Winamp and sorting through some photos (nothing I haven't done a thousand times before) when the computer suddenly shut down, and then
instantly powered up again. No freezing or "crash" per se, just powering down. In fact, it was exactly like when there's a second-long blackout, and your computer flicks off and then on again.
But when it started up, it stopped at the BIOS screen and it won't go any further.
Some information that might be of use, including some stuff that shouldn't logically have anything to do with the problem:
It's an old HP Pavillion t865. 3 GHz, 512 MB RAM, Seagate Barracuda 160 GB, Windows XP Pro SP3 English (retail). I only use it to surf, write and play old games, and for that it's plenty fast. I can't remember it ever being unreliable in the past.
The computer had been lying on its side for the 2+ weeks. Not that it should matter.
I had saved some files on my flash memory. Again, nothing I hadn't done before. Some images, podcast, etc. No .exe-files, nothing from any shady websites.
It doesn't react to keystrokes on the BIOS screen (v 3.28: Esc=Boot Menu, F1=Satup, F10=System Recovery). The keyboard blinks when the computer starts up, so it's not dead.
Even if it were, that doesn't explain freezing at the BIOS screen. It should just proceed if no keystrokes are registered.
I cleaned the case internally (particularly the processor fan was VERY dusty, to the point where I don't think much of the air from the fan reached the processor, if that could have anything to
do with my problem) and checked that the SATA- and power was properly connected to the harddrive and motherboard.
I have a faint memory of not being able to restart with the front power button BEFORE cleaning it out, but now I can. Don't take my word for it because A. why would it do that? and B. it shouldn't have anything to do with my problem.
The harddrive is stil working/vibrating so it can't be completely dead.
I popped in a Windows XP-CD and rebooted to see if I could boot from it and format and/or reinstall XP. If it it boots from the CD, I thought to myself, that should happen before the BIOS screen so I would be able to bypass the frozen BIOS screen. No such luck. The computer ignores it and goes to BIOS anyway. The drive LED blinks for a bit so it "works", but that doesn't matter because it ignores it and goes to BIOS.
If there's anything more you'd like/need to know, just let me know. I'll be watching this thread like a hawk.
The power supply may be dying. Even though it may be able to power some components it may not be able to power them all efficiently.
Also, try resetting the bios: remove the plug from the wall and remove the battery from the motherboard for a minute or two, then replace the battery and plug in the computer. At this point you will most likely need to go into the bios and load optimized defaults. The adjust any neceesary bios fields, save and reboot.
UPDATE: Finally some progress! Or maybe change, rather. I hard reset the BIOS (CLRTC jumper) and CMOS (CLPWD jumper) and removed the battery for about 15 minutes. No change.
Then I disconnected everything other than the monitor. Mouse, keyboard, harddrive and DVD drive. No change.
Then I tried removing one of the two 256 MB RAM modules and rebooted. Finally something new.
1. The first screen of all after removing the RAM module was packed with text and only showed up for a few seconds while I had my head in the case, so all I caught was something about hardware change, and loading some sort of special BIOS or loading the BIOS in a particular way. This screen hasn't appeared since. One-time thing.
2. The next screen is the regular hardware problem screen that lets me choose between Safe Mode, Normal, etc.
3. Regardless of which option I choose, the XP load screen appears next, but instead of the loading bar doing 3 full , it only moves for a second and then bam, next screen.
4. Which is the same old blue BIOS screen. The difference this time is that it responds to keystrokes which lets me access Setup, System Recovery and Boot Menu. That should be helpful. If I DON'T press anything it goes back to the Safe Mode, Normal, etc. again (point 2 above).
That's extremely odd. In number 3 above you state that the XP load screen appears, but then returns to the option menu. I have never heard of windows doing this. I think a repair install or clean install might be needed to resolve these issues.
1. Power supply died/burned out, possibly taking something with it in the process. (But if that were the case, the computer shouldn't start up at all?) 2. Processor shutting down due to being too hot (what with the dust and all). 3. Malfunctioning RAM module. See below. 4. Thunderstorm etc. Nope. The computer wasn't plugged in during my absence, and there was no thunderstorm when it shut down.
Suggestions I've tried so far:
1. Hard reset via CMOS jumper, BIOS jumper, and motherboard battery. No difference. 2. Unplugged everything not needed to see the screen (harddrive, DVD, mouse, keyboard). No difference. 3. This "worked": Removed 1 of the 2 RAM modules. This makes a difference from 2x256 MB: Instead of the frozen BIOS screen I get the hardware configuration problem screen with "Safe Mode" etc. Then, a fraction of a second on the XP load screen. Then on to the blue BIOS screen, with the important difference that it reacts to keystrokes, which lets me edit BIOS. This could be useful. When I put the second module back in, the original problem is back.
Suggestions I haven't tried yet (mine or others):
1. After hard resetting motherboard with the 2 jumpers and/or battery, try entering BIOS and choose "Load Optimized Defaults" or "Load Defaults" and then save changes. This doesn't work when having reset with 2x256 MB modules, because I can't enter BIOS. It's frozen. It might work with 1x256 MB though. 2. Try booting with XP CD with only 1x256 MB module. 3. Cleaning all the motherboard slots, RAM slots, etc. 4. Testing RAM module 1 in slot 1, module 2 in slot 1, etc. To see if it's one of the modules or slots that are malfunctioning and causing the freezing.
1. Power supply died/burned out, possibly taking something with it in the process. (But if that were the case, the computer shouldn't start up at all?)
I just recently found out this isn't necessarily true. I have a Dell machine at work that suddenly just shut down and wouldn't start back up, just front panel lights blinking. I tried evrything but the not so obvious, but I figured what the heck, I tried everything else. I removed the battery and the computer ran fine. If I put the battery back in, it wouldn't boot... BECAUSE OF A BATTERY??? I got a replacement motherboard and the darn thing acted the exact same way. It turns out it was the power supply. Don't ask me what the power supply has to do with not being able to boot unless the battery is removed. It was totally weird considering everything ran fine as long as the battery was removed.
Narrowed down the problem significantly, I reckon.
Switching around the RAM modules I figured out that I got different effects depending on their placement.
The motherboard is an ASUS PTGD1-LA (Puffer2); you'll see it at the end of my post. Originally, the RAM modules were placed in the slots I marked 1 and 2 respectively.
To simplify I'll call the module originally in slot 1 for module 1 and the one originally in slot 2 for module 2.
1. Both modules connected (original configuration) = frozen BIOS screen. The original problem.
2. Module 1 in slot 1 = hardware configuration error screen ("Safe Mode" + other options) -> about 1 sec. of XP load screen -> automatic reboot.
3. Module 1 in slot 2 = see above.
4. Module 2 in slot 1 = XP booted successfully!
5. Module 2 in slot 2 = see above.
So the logical conclusion would be that module 1 is wonky somehow, module 2 is working fine, and both slots are also OK. No problem with them.
Is there any way to get around the problem with module 1, or should I just bite the bullet and buy another one?
Are you OC'ing at all? If so, I'd try putting it back to stock speeds first and see what happens. If not, I'd run memtest86 for a few hours at least and see if it comes up with any problems. If so, most manufacturer's have lifetime warranties on their ram and I'd just RMA it.