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Diagnosing Optiplex GX280 boot-up problem


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#1 Richard Hufford

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Posted 01 July 2010 - 12:59 PM

Sorry about the long story: My veteranarian (and client) brought me her Dell GX280 computer running Windows XP to be repaired. She said the computer was freezing up because of a thermal problem. Her veteranary software support person told her to buy another computer and put her hard drive into the new computer. So, she got another Dell GX280 on ebay and brought both computers to me. I opened the original computer and found some incredibly dirty fans, so I cleaned it up, turned it on and left it on overnight. It was still running in the morning, so I told her I thought it was fixed. Naturally, it wouldn't boot at her house, so I've got both computers again, and the original computer boots up occasionally. I put the hard drive into the replacement computer and it does not boot up at all. In both computers, when they don't boot, the CPU fan starts slowly and then in a few seconds runs at a very high speed and no image appears on the monitor.
My guess is that either the hard drive is broken or else both computers have the same, or almost the same, problem. I have a lot of obsolete parts, so I tried a couple of things.
1. I tried installing the hard drive into my only (non-Dell) computer that can take a SATA drive. The computer appeared to be booting into Windows and then rebooted and went to the boot-up menu (Safe mode, ..., Last Know Good Configuration, Start Windows Normally, etc.). I tried starting Windows normally and the same thing happened again.
2. I tried plugging an IDE drive that had something like Windows 98 in it, into the IDE port of each of the Optiplex GX280s, with the SATA drive removed. The computers did not boot, just as before (fast fan, no video).
Here are my questions: Is there something in Dell's boot-up sequence that causes the boot-up menu to come up if the hard drive is installed into a non-Dell computer? Can a Dell Optiplex GX280 boot from an IDE drive plugged into the IDE port? What else can I try?
Right now, I am inclined to buy a new hard drive and copy the original hard drive onto it. Whether this fixes anything or not, I'll at least have as good a backup as I can get.

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#2 MrBruce1959

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Posted 02 July 2010 - 03:56 PM

Hello and welcome to Bleepingcomputer.

First off, when an OS is installed on one system and that hard drive is moved to another system, the OS does not always boot up properly, plus the HAL sees another motherboard ID different from the origional one, it is better for the hard drive to be set as a slave drive and accessed through an origional install on that system.

Another issue of course is having the proper chip set drivers installed for that particular system. IMO

That is why windows is suggesting "last known configuration that worked".
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#3 Platypus

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Posted 02 July 2010 - 06:59 PM

I agree with Mr Bruce, it's seldom that Windows is able to run on a different computer, as the installation on each hard drive is for the different hardware in the other computer.

Dell GX280... freezing up because of a thermal problem.

A Dell misbehaving and showing the "thermal event" error normally has bad electrolytic capacitors on the mainboard.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitor_plague

http://www.badcaps.net/

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#4 DeathStalker

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Posted 02 July 2010 - 09:11 PM

Dell bought bad parts.

Dell

#5 Richard Hufford

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 10:22 AM

Thank you for your replies. I'm surprised that I couldn't find that information about the Optiplex motherboards and capacitors. It turns out that my client does have backup data and also a couple of similar computers that she bought at the same time. I've given the computers back for now, but I may try installing the hard drive into a computer that has been observed to be running.
I've observed the original computer freeze while it's counting down the seconds to "Start Windows Normally". Also, most of the time, it doesn't start at all--no video, no beep, just a very fast fan. So I have a hard time belienving the problem isn't hardware.

#6 DeathStalker

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 10:38 AM

I read an article that I can't find for you now, detailing exactly the problems Dell had in the time period that computer was probably purchased. I also got an Optiplex in that same time frame but luckily mine didn't go bad. Well it MIGHT have lol but I built a new one a couple of years ago so the Dell does nothing but collect dust now. I'll keep trying to find that article and I'll post it for you if i can come across it again. It verifies the "rumors" of shoddy electronics and Dell's lack of response. As a "fan" of Dell, I was most shocked.

#7 Richard Hufford

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Posted 06 July 2010 - 10:13 AM

Is it worthwhile to replace the motherboard of a Dell computer? I had a bad experience with an eMachine awhile back, in which I correctly decided that it needed a new motherboard. I found a new one, installed it and discovered that I had fixed the problem, but I needed to buy a new copy of XP in order for it to run. This really ended my enthusiasm for repairing other people's computers.




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