How to Strip Your System Down in Preparation for Hardware Troubleshooting
The purpose of this guide is to show you how to strip your system down to the minimum configuration needed to troubleshoot problems with hardware devices. (This is a "last-resort" technique and should only be used after all other troubleshooting tools have been tried).
- DOS Boot Disk ( a floppy version is preferable - but if you don't have a floppy you can use a CD version (be sure to get the CD drivers if you're using the CD version)).
- A bootable drive test tool from your hard drive manufacturer's website (if Windows won't boot and install SpeedFan)
- Test your memory with this free utility: MemTest86 Let it run for at least 2 hours (overnight is better).
This will ensure that your memory is error free and isn't the source of the problem.
- If Windows is still running, run this free, online test: Windows Live Scanner
This will ensure that you're malware free, will clean your registry, will delete your Temp files, and will defragment your hard drive.
- Then check the SMART status of your hard drive using this free utility: SpeedFan
This will ensure that your hard drive isn't the source of the problem (due to an impending failure). If Windows isn't running, you'll still need it - so download it anyway.
- If Windows isn't working to install SpeedFan, then go to the website of the manufacturer of your hard drive and download a bootable drive test CD/floppy from there. Run the test on your drive to see if it is OK.
- Unplug the system from the wall, and ensure that you remain grounded to the metal chassis throughout the procedure. Then, remove everything from the system leaving only these components:
Case (and remove it if you've got a non-conductive mat you can use for testing (and no kids or cats to get into it).
PSU (Power Supply Unit)
CPU, cooler and fan
1 stick of RAM (presumed to be good since you ran the MemTest86 utility in Step 1)
floppy drive OR CD drive (not both)
- On the very first boot, disable any onboard devices (like the USB ports) in the system BIOS.
- At some point (if this is a hardware failure) you'll find the error is caused by a particular piece of hardware. While this is most likely the cause of your problems - please remember that it can be a combination of things that have caused this. As such, a single device replacement won't necessarily fix the problem.
So, on to the troubleshooting! Just follow these steps until you get the error. Then do it again to double check. Then replace the device that caused it and all should be well with the system (see caveats above).
- Try and boot from a DOS floppy.
- If it works, then add the mouse and try again.
- If that works, then add the hard drive and try again.
- If that works, then start trying to get Windows to load.
Once Windows is up, use this free utility to check the SMART status of your hard drive: http://www.almico.com/speedfan.php
Generally, this sequence should at least allow your system to boot up. If not, post what you've done on the forums and someone will be able to help you isolate the problem.
Once that's done, start by enabling the onboard devices (one at a time). Check for the error and then enable the next one.
After all the onboard devices are done, then start with the devices that plug into the mobo inside of the case. Do these one at a time also.
Then start plugging in the external devices, one by one, until they're all in.
- So, you've found the bad device and have replaced it. Either this makes the problem go away or it doesn't. If it fixed it, great! If not, let's start the troubleshooting all over and try it again. Since the case is stripped, the easiest thing is to run through this hardware troubleshooter again.