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Computer keeps turning off

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October 26, 2012 4:21:27 PM

Ok so here is my problem. I have an old Dell Dimension desktop that has recently started to just randomly turn off. When it does this I get a very strong pungent odor. Right after this happens the computer won’t restart but after about five minutes or so the computer will turn on just fine. What do you think the problem.

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a c 141 à CPUs
October 26, 2012 4:22:29 PM
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bubs3 said:
Ok so here is my problem. I have an old Dell Dimension desktop that has recently started to just randomly turn off. When it does this I get a very strong pungent odor. Right after this happens the computer won’t restart but after about five minutes or so the computer will turn on just fine. What do you think the problem.


IMO it sounds like the CPU is overheating. First thing to do is the easiest and most basic, make sure the heatsink fan is spinning. Also for that funny burning smell I would guess it is probably dust “burning.” When a really dusty computer overheats it always seems to get that weird pungent burning smell. The only thing I can figure is the dust in the heatsink is heating up and giving off weird smells
a b à CPUs
October 26, 2012 4:22:55 PM

Open the case up and look for evidence of a fire. Sounds like you had a short or something and it ended up being a computer fire.
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a b à CPUs
October 26, 2012 4:25:02 PM

Pretty much what rds1220 said. Try to clear out the dust, make sure fans are working and if you can get your computer running long enough try to download and install a program that will show you your cpu temps e.g. SpeedFan
October 26, 2012 4:28:09 PM

rds1220 said:
IMO it sounds like the CPU is overheating. First thing to do is the easiest and most basic, make sure the heatsink fan is spinning. Also for that funny burning smell I would guess it is probably dust “burning.” When a really dusty computer overheats it always seems to get that weird pungent burning smell. The only thing I can figure is the dust in the heatsink is heating up and giving off weird smells


Ok I took the side panel off the case and from what I can see the fan is still spinning but the computer is loaded with dust. The area where the fan intakes air for the heatsink is so clogged with dust I can't see how the processor is getting any air. Also the whole case is very dusty too.
a c 141 à CPUs
October 26, 2012 4:33:47 PM

Well than in that case I really believe your problem is overheating. If it's that bad than the heatsink is probably getting little to no air flow which means the heatsink fins can't dissipate the heat causing the CPU to overheat. My guess is if this is an old Dell you are running an old Pentium 4 or Pentium D with Windows XP. If that is the case than those old Pentiums tended to run pretty hot which isn't helping.
October 26, 2012 4:39:08 PM

Yes you are exactly right it is an old Pentium with XP, like I said the computer is really old. So what should I do?
a b à CPUs
October 26, 2012 4:42:43 PM

Use compressed air or something similar to clean all the dust out the case and heatsink.
a b à CPUs
October 26, 2012 4:44:48 PM

Clean out the dust and it should make the processor run cooler.
Remove the heatsink fan and clean the dust under it to ensure proper heat dissipation
a c 101 à CPUs
October 26, 2012 4:47:15 PM

bubs3 said:
Ok I took the side panel off the case and from what I can see the fan is still spinning but the computer is loaded with dust.

Looks like you found your problem.

I usually dismantle my PCs every two years for thorough cleaning or when fans start getting loud due to dust caking up on the CPU heatsink, whichever comes first.
a b à CPUs
October 26, 2012 4:47:47 PM

^^ problem with taking off the heatsink is that by removing it you have to apply a new coat of thermal paste, which i doubt he/she has... without a new application of thermal paste, it will run worse than it did.
a c 141 à CPUs
October 26, 2012 4:53:08 PM

bubs3 said:
Yes you are exactly right it is an old Pentium with XP, like I said the computer is really old. So what should I do?


Like everyone else said take a can of compressed air and dust everything out. If you can, take off the heatsink and really get in there with the air and clean out the fan. Also my guess is the thermal paste under the heatsink is probably fried by now. I would clean off the old thermal paste and re-apply it. All you need is a non lint cloth (coffee filters work great) and rubbing alcohol. Take a coffee filter and wipe off the old thermal paste. Then take a new coffee filter and wet it with rubbing alcohol and start cleaning. Repeat this step until the cloth no longer comes out with any gunk on it. If you don't feel comfortable doing this yourself take it to a computer repair shop and have them do it for you.
October 26, 2012 4:55:24 PM

Thank you everyone for your help especially RDS. I don't have thermal paste but I will take it to the computer repair shop and have them clean it for me.
October 26, 2012 4:55:45 PM

Best answer selected by bubs3.
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