I've been around computers for more years than I care to remember, usually I get to the point where I'm certain what component is dying but this one has me confused.
I'm leaning towards possible motherboard (which is usually the case with odd problems) or power supply failure (never had power supplies cause problems this strange before).
So anyway the symptoms. On a cold boot (computer been off for at least 12 - 15 hours) is when all this happens. If I leave the computer on for about 20 - 30minutes before knocking the power off and back on it is usually fine.
The problem started with odd mechanical noises almost sounding like beeping. Similar to what you get on hard drive read failures where the head ticks back into park. This was after the POST beep and into the on board SATA initialisation.
This originally only lasted about 1 minute before you could hear the 'beeping' stop and the hard drives spin up. It was usually doing this at the point of initialising one particular HDD. The problem being this is the HDD with the OS and boot sector on it so I pretty much put up with it.
This steadily got worse taking longer and longer to stop beeping and spin up. Its now at the point where for the first 10minutes the PC won't even POST, no display on screen, effectively dead to the world apart from all the fans etc spinning.
After 10 - 15minutes and pulling the plug out of the wall (case power buttons do nothing) it will POST and go back to the hard drive beeping problem for another 10 minutes or so.
When you finally get into Windows and do something like boot a game up, the mechanical HDD beeping starts again and usually either my PC crashes completely (pull the plug out again) or the main boot sector drive disappears (Windows 7 on a separate HDD with XP on the boot drive).
What I've tried
* I've tried a few things, pulling out the Hard drive that usually disappears.
* Removing all extra CD/DVD Drives (in case its a power draw issue)
* Removing extra HDDs
* Moving the HDDs to the secondary SATA controller on the Motherboard.
By removing the worst affected hard drive I've found that all the HDDs 'beep.' I also believe the CD/DVD drives do a similar thing.
I have a 480W power supply with a maximum theoretical draw of around 360W, considering no hardware changes have been made that caused this I doubt the power supply is all of a sudden underpowered.
The PC itself is getting on a bit now, its got to be around 4 - 5 years old but its actually coping with gaming etc remarkably well.
RAM: 3GB of DDR 1, 2x512, 2x1GB (speed was something crappy my memory is failing)
CPU: Socket 939 Athlon XP x2 4200+ (Winchester core which I never see listed anywhere)
HDD: 1x120GB, 1x40GB, 1x500GB (All Sata)
DVD: 1xDVD ROM, 1xDVD/RW, 1xCDRW +1 Floppy just because
PSU: 480W Mid range can't remember the brand (was around £80 when I bought it).
GPU: 320MB Nvidia 8800GTS
Extras: 1x DVB-T Tuner
I can only get crappy micro atx motherboard replacements which probably means I'm going to bite the bullet and sort out an i7 build, was just wondering if anyone else has experienced anything similar?
No POST when cold is usually not enough voltage to the memory. Usually.
It also sounds very much like your PSU is going down hill, I would first check the memory voltage, if it is correct, bump it up slightly, like from 1.6 to 1.65 or 1.7, or whatever, but just a little and try. If that does not do it, my next move would be replace the PSU. A failing PSU can demonstrate all sorts of strange problems.
If a new PSU does not do it, you can carry it over to your new i7 build later, so buy a good unit.
I suspect you could chase a problem like this and spend a lot of time changing components one at a time before you have some kind of resolution .
Id just build the new pc , but you could detour a bit . Buy a new hard drive for the new computer first . Install it in the old , disconnect all the other drives completely , install windows and see if you have the same problem .
It wont have cost you anything since you are buying the new hdd for a new computer , and when you do build new just format it
I think you should assume it's the motherboard and part out the rest on ebay. socket 939 dual cores go for alot, and yours is a 4200+ x2, and those usually go for over a hundred. DDR1 RAM is also expensive so that should go too. If you want to get a replacement mobo to check or instead those are about $40 for a ASRock one that has a PCI-E plug.
Then you can easily get a new 780g chipset mobo for about $70 one of the AMD $100 AM3 socket CPU's and DDR2 RAM without too much cost to you.
Just to follow up, replaced the PSU and everything is back to normal. Slightly relieved that it wasn't the mobo as replacing this with a crap board wouldn't have been worth it plus this rig still has plenty of gaming life left in it until DX 11 really gains traction anyway.