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Computer shuts down suddenly, now can't stay on for more than a few seconds

Hi forum-goers,

Recently I was playing Skyrim when my computer shut down very suddenly. I tried turning it back on right away, but it didn't power on for a few seconds. Once it did, though, it turned off right away. Then, I smelled something burning, so I unplugged it from the wall socket and investigated. The smell seemed to emanate from the power supply, so I borrowed a friend's (which was the Corsair GS800) but I still got the same problem.

I then troubleshooted the RAM. I tried it with just one of them, which still gave me the same problem, but when I tried it with the other one, the computer stayed on but nothing displayed on screen and I got a "08" error code on the 7-segment display on my motherboard.

I'm really at a loss here. I read somewhere on these forums (someone had a slightly similar problem) and apparently, I should replace the battery in the motherboard. I'll try that tomorrow, it's pretty late here.

Intel Q9650 Core 2 Quad 3.00GHz
Crucial 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1333MHz
ZOTAC nVidia nForce 790i
Corsair TX650W (I later tested with a GS800W)
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  1. Best answer
    I really hope it is not your motherboard, because that will be the most difficult part to replace.

    The following is an expansion of my troubleshooting tips in the breadboarding link in the "Cannot boot" thread.

    I have tested the following beep patterns on Gigabyte, eVGA, and ECS motherboards. Other BIOS' may be different, but they all use a single short beep for a successful POST.

    Breadboard - that will help isolate any kind of case problem you might have.

    Breadboard with just motherboard, CPU & HSF, case speaker, and PSU.

    Make sure you plug the CPU power cable in. The system will not boot without it.

    I always breadboard a new build. It takes only a few minutes, and you know you are putting good parts in the case once you are finished.

    You can turn on the PC by momentarily shorting the two pins that the case power switch goes to. You should hear a series of long, single beeps indicating memory problems. Silence indicates a problem with (in most likely order) the PSU, motherboard, or CPU. Remember, at this time, you do not have a graphics card installed so the load on your PSU will be reduced.

    If no beeps:
    Running fans and drives and motherboard LED's do not necessarily indicate a good PSU. In the absence of a single short beep, they also do not indicate that the system is booting.

    At this point, you can sort of check the PSU. Try to borrow a known good PSU of around 550 - 600 watts. That will power just about any system with a single GPU. If you cannot do that, use a DMM to measure the voltages. Measure between the colored wires and either chassis ground or the black wires. Yellow wires should be 12 volts. Red wires: +5 volts, orange wires: +3.3 volts, blue wire : -12 volts, violet wire: 5 volts always on. Tolerances are +/- 5% except for the -12 volts which is +/- 10%.

    The gray wire is really important. It should go from 0 to +5 volts when you turn the PSU on with the case switch. CPU needs this signal to boot.

    You can turn on the PSU by completely disconnecting the PSU and using a paperclip or jumper wire to short the green wire to one of the neighboring black wires.

    A way that might be easier is to use the main power plug. Working from the back of the plug where the wires come out, use a bare paperclip to short between the green wire and one of the neighboring black wires. That will do the same thing with an installed PSU. It is also an easy way to bypass a questionable case power switch.

    This checks the PSU under no load conditions, so it is not completely reliable. But if it can not pass this, it is dead. Then repeat the checks with the PSU plugged into the computer to put a load on the PSU.

    If the system beeps:
    If it looks like the PSU is good, install a memory stick. Boot. Beep pattern should change to one long and several short beeps indicating a missing graphics card.

    Silence, long single beeps, or series of short beeps indicate a problem with the memory. If you get short beeps verify that the memory is in the appropriate motherboard slots.

    Insert the video card and connect any necessary PCIe power connectors. Boot. At this point, the system should POST successfully (a single short beep). Notice that you do not need keyboard, mouse, monitor, or drives to successfully POST.
    At this point, if the system doesn't work, it's either the video card or an inadequate PSU. Or rarely - the motherboard's PCIe interface.
  2. Best answer selected by Polnadian.
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