Freezing - Hardware Failure - Please Help

My computer had been running fine, then started freezing just after startup. It would boot into windows and my programs that were set to start automatically would open, but as soon as I tried to do anything else (open a browser window, etc) it would become completely non-responsive. It was time for a reformat anyway, so I did that to rule out any software problems. It made it through the installation of Windows 7 (same OS as before), but as soon as the desktop loaded it froze again, and did this every time consistently (as it did before the reformat). This confirmed that it was a hardware problem.

I did what I believe is standard procedure - removed everything but 1 stick of RAM and the processor, and unplugged all accessories other than keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Mobo has on board graphics, which I don't use, but am currently using to rule out graphics card problems. Computer starts fine like this, and as expected gets to the screen that displays "Reboot and select proper boot device..." I first tried connecting a sata optical drive with the Windows 7 disc in it. It worked fine and got to the installation screen and as expected there was no hard drive to install windows on. Then I tried connecting a sata hdd. it hangs up on the "detecting storage devices". I have three different hard drives that were all in the computer when it was running smoothly (two are a few months old, one is a little over a year old), and 6 sata ports. I tried the 3 different hard drives in a variety of sata ports and they all had the same result. It hangs regardless of whether the optical drive is connected or not. After my experiment, with only the optical drive connected which worked before, it still hangs in the same place. With nothing connected other than the extreme basics, it does what it did before i started playing around with sata ports (gets to "reboot and select proper boot device"). So... whatever the problem is it got worse.

What to replace? As far as I can tell its either PSU or mobo. I haven't tested the hard drives or optical drives in another computer because I don't have another desktop, but it seems unreasonable that they would all fail at the same time unless the mobo or PSU somehow damaged them. Power supply and mobo are both about a year and a half old, part of a prebuilt HP that has been upgraded in other areas. If it could be something else, please let me know.

My reasons for suspecting mobo: The issues with the sata ports not working. Also, I attempted a mod from another thread. I tried to use a soldering iron to open the end of one PCIe x1 slot to put another pcie x16 video card in it, but my not so steady hand failed me. I really don't think this is related because I didn't damage the mobo really, I just did a bad job of melting the plastic and pushed it in slightly so a card does not physically fit properly. Again, I didn't touch any connections or anything, just some excess plastic, and the computer ran as normal afterwards for a time.

My reasons for suspecting PSU: I have recently (worked fine for a few days) been using an upgraded graphics card which google tells me requires a minimum of a 350W PSU, which is exactly what the prebuilt came with. I'm also running 3 HDD so I should probably require more than 350W PSU, meaning mine has been getting overworked. I have no idea how PSU failure occurs, and if its possible that it would still power the basics and only the sata device connections could fail, or if PSU's fail all at once, or ...?

I'm an Engineering student (civil, not computer related as I'm sure you can tell) and really need to get this thing running again to get my final projects done, so I'd be grateful for any quick advice. My ooolldd laptop doesn't handle CAD so well.

Oh, I just ordered a new PSU (before failure) because I knew mine was quite taxed. It wont be here for several days though, so I'd still really like to try and figure this out before I get a chance to try the new one. Can't really afford to wait for it to come and then have to wait for a mobo. Thanks all!
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  1. Best answer
    Its not your PSU. if you were barely squeezing by on wattage, opening something simple like a web browser would not overload anything power wise. Different story though if your opening something like AutoCAD or Call of Duty, etc.

    I don't suspect your Hard Drives, UNLESS, the program you opened was identical every time AND if your computer doesn't freeze after leaving it idle in windows. However, since now you can't even get into windows, or better even the basic repair tools on the windows disc, that automatically rules out bad hard drives.

    Future note: I don't know what website suggested breaking the PCIe X1 slot, but NEVER NEVER NEVER do such mods if you don't have a steady hand. Well, even if you do have a steady hand, bad idea, terrible idea. Did I mention bad idea? ;-) Graphics card issue can be easily ruled out by switching to the integrated card. Defective slot can be ruled out by trying another graphics card.

    I'm a little confused. So with hard drives out and JUST the optical drive, RAM, and processors, does it hang? If it does, more the reason to suspect bad SATA controllers, a bad SATA port on the motherboard, or a little bit of both. Either way, it translates to bad motherboard.

    Its hard to tell why this happened. I don't know much about how power routes to the motherboard, but I think under wattage to component on the board (such as a SATA controller) can also cause damage to it (very big guess there).
  2. At first it did not hang with just the optical drive, RAM, and processor. After I started testing various things out the problem worsened and it currently does hang with only those parts. It gets stuck at the "reboot and select proper boot device" spot.

    It wasn't alway a web browser.. trying to open any basic program (view pictures, word doc, etc) had the same results.

    Yeah, it was probably a bad idea to mod that slot. I found a discussion on it on this website, although now I can't seem to find a link (had it bookmarked on the now dead computer). It seemed to work well for the guy who did it, so I figured what the hell. Live and learn I guess.

    If under wattage can cause damage that would explain why it happened. Should have waited a few days to use the new video card I guess. That live and learn thing strikes again.

    If you can rule out the PSU, which you sound pretty sure of, then it looks like I'm going motherboard shopping. The only real question is... to get a replacement, or an overdue upgrade that would also require an upgrade in processor and memory? Time to evaluate the finances!

    Thanks for the speedy reply. I appreciate the help.
  3. Best answer selected by NaturalAttrill.
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