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Fail to start from power on (not even monitor on)


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#1 westwoodside

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 03:16 AM

Hi
I have a startup problem with my machine from power on.
Most times when powered on from a 'mains power off' it fails start - to even get to the Geeforce splash screen.
Occasionally (say one out of 40 attempts) it will start properly and fully boot without any hitches.
At this point it will run normally (for hours) and I can use repeatedly use 'restart' and it boots properly.
If I fully shut down the machine the startup problem returns.
My assumption is that there is a physical difference between a startup from 'power on' and a soft restart using the restart option, this blocks me getting to even the first splash screen.

Symptoms:
First indication of a problem was a complete freeze of the screen about a week ago.
Following the freeze the symptoms below appeared:

Fails to get to first GeeForce screen (ie 6600, 128 MB RAM) - monitor not even activated
LED lights: power LED and drive LED on, may remain on or both go out after about 30 seconds. CPU Fan remains on.
Hold in power button to swtich off.
Repeating power on many times (at least 20) and it will eventually start normally.
Occasionally will start normally, first time, from a power off state.

I've tried:
Device manager shows all devices working proprely.
Reseat all plugs and sockets
Remove all plugs for external hardware - selectively replug in, including positions for SATA leads
Remove RAM, selectively replace, including different sockets. Run Memtest86.
Uninstall graphics card, reinstalled (eventually!) when it was able to restart.
re-loaded default BIOS settings
using PEG display
All temperatures are normal.
Drive is healthy, checkdsk returns no errors.

When up and running it is fully reliable
Scrapping the machine is not a financial option for me - so could you suggest what I do next please?

Giles


Machine details.
Processor:
2.20 gigahertz AMD Athlon 64
128 kilobyte primary memory cache
512 kilobyte secondary memory cache
64-bit ready
Not hyper-threaded

Drives: 320.07 Gigabytes Usable Hard Drive Capacity
108.50 Gigabytes Hard Drive Free Space

TOSHIBA CD/DVDW SDR5372V [CD-ROM drive]
TOSHIBA DVD-ROM SD-M1912 [CD-ROM drive]

ST3320620NS [Hard drive] (320.07 GB) -- drive 0, s/n 5QF7P0CL, rev 3.AEK, SMART Status: Healthy

1024 Megabytes Usable Installed Memory

Slot 'A0' has 1024 MB
Slot 'A1' has 1024 MB
Slot 'A2' is Empty
Slot 'A3' is Empty

NVIDIA GeForce 6600 [Display adapter]

Edited by westwoodside, 15 March 2011 - 03:18 AM.


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#2 hamluis

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 10:15 AM

Device Manager will never reflect a PSU problem...the PSU would be my first suspect.

Louis

#3 Suicide King

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 10:31 AM

I agree with hamluis. The power supply could be the problem. You could either test with another power supply, or get a power supply tester to be sure.

Additionally, I'd also recommend taking a look at the capacitors on the motherboard. If there is any way for you to see into your computer case, liquid capacitors look like this -- when healthy: http://www.capacitorlab.com/capacitor-types-electrolytic/radial-capacitor-polarity.jpg

They come in different shapes and sizes, but generally are striped and have two colors. What you are looking for is if they look like they're bulging, or leaking any fluids. Here is an example of a bulging (blown) capacitor: http://daneshnameh.roshd.ir/mavara/img/daneshnameh_up/6/67/blown-capacitor-close-up1.jpg

Notice how the blown ones have a slightly rounded shape on top, compared to the healthy capacitor that has a nice, flat, top to it. If your capacitors look like this, it could be the cause of the freezes and failure to start.

#4 westwoodside

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 01:53 PM

All capacitors look OK.

I seem to have a few consistent features of the problem (or I could be imagining them?):

- if I waggle the graphics card it seems more likely to boot next time
- it seems less likely to have a problem if the card is lose - when screwed in it seems more likely to happen.
- it seems less likely if it is on its side (MoBo at bottom)
- I get the same problem with an alternative card (Geforce 7600 GS)

Is there a difference between soft and power on boot?

Your continued advice is very important to me.

Giles

#5 MrBruce1959

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 03:33 PM

It seriously sounds to me like your motherboard is shorting out somewhere inside the computer case.

You mentioned if you leave the video display adapter loose, there is less chances it will NOT boot.

You need to play special attention to the bracket that holds the video card in place to make sure it is not shorting a near by circuit to chassis ground.

The bracket tongue should be properly inserted into the slot near the motherboard area, if it is not and only the screw tab is in place, the bottom of the tab can make contact with the motherboard.

Stress on the motherboard can cause intermittent issues to pop up.

Stress is often caused by add-on hard ware causing the motherboard to bend in order for the device to fit into its slot.

Soldering techniques are not always what they are cracked up to be when mass production is part of the procedure at the factory.

Stress can reveal a hidden defect the motherboard may have had during production.

Make sure the motherboard is not shorting to chassis ground via a case to motherboard stand-off.

Stress can cause the motherboard to shift and those stand-offs can sometimes make contact with a circuit trace that is not meant to be grounded.

So you may want to try loosening a few of those motherboard mounting screws to see if the problem has been resolved.

Bruce.

Edited by MrBruce1959, 16 March 2011 - 03:37 PM.

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#6 westwoodside

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 04:33 PM

OK thanks for this.
It seems to be something to do with the seating, possibly in combination with the original card.

- I've put back the original card and screwed in the problem resurfaced straight away, losen it off and it is nearly fine.
What I'm not sure is why it is intermittent and only from power on start? (as opposed to restart.

The Geforce 7600 GS card (ie swapped from another machine) worked every time (30 plus power ons) when screwed in.
I'm going to try looking at the screws for shorts when I get back from work tomorrow.

#7 MrBruce1959

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 05:28 PM

Well a motherboard is a flat board with many parts soldered to it that create a series of working circuits.

When a video card is placed into the slot it puts a stress on the motherboard, this is because it is mounted to the computer case by a screw, tightening this screw forces the video card down on the case frame.

The motherboard is holding the remainder of the video card in place, if the slot has a locking lever such as with AGP video cards, this locking lever is also pulling down on the video card from a different direction.

This causes stress on the motherboard.

The motherboard has to bend in different directions in different locations.

Sometimes a component on the video card its self can come in contact with another component on the motherboard, the video card board could be pushing against another part such as a capacitor, causing it to loose its connection to the motherboard.

Electronics theory can become a mystery.

You can have a circuit where it is joined together by two separate pieces of metal touching each other to close the circuit, like a switch for example.

When those two pieces of metal make 100% contact with each other, the connection is said to be 100% and resistance is said to be 0%.

Resistance is just like the name implies, resistance means something is resisting the force.

Force is the electrical current flowing through the circuit.

If resistance is applied, the current is reduced by that amount of resistance.

So if you have current flowing through two separate metal contacts and the connection becomes faulty, a barrier which is a form of resistance is applied to the fault, the circuit will fail to produce the intended result.

Now the thing with low powered circuits is very little current flows through those circuits, sometimes microvolts is the value rating and in some rare instances current can increase that can JUMP over this barrier, sometimes we think of it as an electronic ARC of electricity, during this momentary ARC, a circuit can be activated and become functional.

You do know what is meant by an ARC of electricity don't you?

It is where an electrical signal can jump over from one metal to another, atmospheric lightening is a very good example of an electronic ARC which I am describing and that can happen long enough in electronics to allow a circuit to function one moment and fail the next.

It simply depends if the arc jumped or not over the barrier.

Hopefully this explained why a circuit works one moment, but not the next time around, then works again.

When a system is powered off 100%, most of the energy is used up by the components, when the system is powered back on, and there is a failure, it means a circuit has failed.

If the device takes several attempts to get going and it finally does, it means that ARC finally jumped to activate the circuit that is beyond the fault.

Bruce.

Edited by MrBruce1959, 16 March 2011 - 05:48 PM.

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#8 Suicide King

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 07:57 PM

I want to say it sounds like the motherboard too, if you tried another card and you still have the problem.

Just to be sure, you might want to disconnect other devices, even ones not related to the video. It's a long shot, but I've seen odd electrical shorts in other devices prevent a boot. Keep the video card in, and start unplugging CD/DVD drives, floppies, etc ... one part at a time -- when the computer is off, obviously. After removing each device, try to boot the computer 10 times. If the problem happens within those 10 times, unplug another device and try another 10 times with the new configuration. The goal is to find out if the source if it is any device other than the video card.

Try this order of removal:
1) External devices (USB devices, firewire, etc)
2) CD/DVDs/Floppies/Other Removable Media
3) PCI Cards (Other than the video card)
4) Hard Drives
5) If you have extra ram that works, try other ram.
6) Video Card

Hopefully this will narrow it down.

#9 westwoodside

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 05:30 AM

Thanks for your suggestions
- I suppose there can be a lot going on in terms of stress and possible foul contacts on the boards.

- I've already tried to exclude all other devices plugged in to the board.

At present, other than the drive, it doesn't have any other devices plugged in.

The problem occurs with both cards, but far less likely with the swapped card, so the problem seems to be mother board / connector related.
I wonder if the dimensions of the swapped card are slightly different, hence it is more likely to work?

I've think I may have found a temporary solution.
- with the card out of vertical and screwed in place with a wide bridging washer, the boot up from power on is much more successful (14 out of 15 before I had to waggle it again).

However, could this be putting more stress on the boards leading to further problems?

Is it feasible to try to resolder the connector?
I've done some soldering before but I think I'd need a better iron than the one I have.

I've also tried to source a replacement board - no success.
Will my OEM Windows licence (came with the machine) be no good on a different board?

Thanks for your continuing suggestions.

Edited by westwoodside, 17 March 2011 - 11:11 AM.


#10 MrBruce1959

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 11:51 AM

If you decide to try and fix an intermittent solder connection, make sure you use a grounded 15 WATT soldering pencil and very extreme caution not to over heat the traces, as those will eventually lift up off of the board if too much pro-longed heat is used.

Make sure you use the proper procedures to guard against any stray Electronic Static Discharge from damaging any of the components.

Practice your soldering skills on a junk electronic circuit board first, before you attempt to make any repairs to your motherboard.

As for the OEM licensed Windows version of your operating system installation disk, those are written solely to be installed on a motherboard made by a specific chip set and motherboard maker I.D. number.

You would only be able to successfully install this operating system on a motherboard made by the same OEM vendor.

You never posted your computers/motherboard make and model number, so I will explain it this way.

If your computer is a Dell, the OEM Windows installation disk would NOT install on a HP related motherboard or vice-versa, if it is an HP computer, it would NOT install on a Dell related motherboard.

Those OEM disks are pre-written for the motherboard vendor and can not just be copied to any system like a full or upgrade retail copy of Windows can be.

Those OEM disks check for a specific motherboard vendor I.D. number that is burned into the chip set of the motherboard.

So lets say you bought an Asus motherboard off of newegg.com and tried to install your OEM Windows operating system on it, it would not install once it sees your motherboard does NOT match the OEM vendor's I.D. number.

Bruce.

Edited by MrBruce1959, 17 March 2011 - 11:57 AM.

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#11 westwoodside

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 01:38 PM

Many thanks
I must have edited out the board info.
For the record the unit manufacturer is Targa (A German firm selling via Supermarkets in the UK) and the board is a Gigabyte GA K8NF9-SI.

I'll have a go at soldering. I'll practice on some dead PCBs with your suggested 15 watt iron.
Some irons seem to be trigger operated instant heat - are these OK or do I need an alternative sort?
There is an electronics shop about 15 miles from here...

When you say grounded do you me a 3 wire flex on the iron?

I'll make a start in about a week.

Once again thanks.

#12 westwoodside

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Posted 20 March 2011 - 04:08 AM

I've got a 15 watt iron.
I've practised with an ancient PCB - mixed results so far. It has a lot of sockets similar to the troublesome PCI exress socket.

Do I need lead free solder?
The MoBO is about 6 years old.
How can I tell if it uses lead free solder?

Can I safely mix leadfree and traditional lead solders?

Also what type of tip do I need on the iron?
Mine is oval about 4 x 2 mm

Edited by westwoodside, 20 March 2011 - 02:40 PM.


#13 MrBruce1959

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Posted 21 March 2011 - 07:59 AM

A grounded soldering pencil is one with 3 prongs on the plug end.

You can use lead or lead free and the tip you have should be just fine for circuit board repairs.

You will not be able to effectively solder large wires or wires to metal objects with this type of iron, they are primarily used for circuit board repair or CMOS chip replacement.

Make sure you tin and wipe the tip often, this guarantees better heat transfer and longer tip life.

Be careful NOT to splatter any solder on the board, do your tinning and wiping away from the board.

Only apply solder to the area being soldered, NEVER apply the solder to the tip allowing it to drip down on the connection. That is NOT the proper way to solder, the strand of solder should only liquefy by the heat present on the circuit trace and part, not from touching the solder to the iron tip. Doing it that way will result in dull looking "cold solder" joints and those you do not want.
So avoid making actual contact with the solder strand and the iron while making your repair.

When tinning the tip, it is fine to use as much solder as it takes to get that tip shiny and silver, but make sure you lightly wipe off excess solder from the tip before return it to the work area, one stray drip of excess solder on the board and your done, you'll never be able to figure where it attached its self to the circuit board and you'll have a short circuit as a result.


Bruce.

Edited by MrBruce1959, 21 March 2011 - 08:06 AM.

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