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Simultaneous memory module and hard drive failure?


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#1 Lebowitz IT Services

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 03:13 AM

I came home tonight to a desktop that would not boot due to a failed memory module and hard drive. No question in my mind about either one:

- The motherboard (Intel Midway motherboard, 8 years old, stock equipment in my Gateway 510XL Media Center PC) was displaying a solid red diagnostic LED. Looked up support info, pulled the memory modules one by one (shutting power off in between, of course <g>) and the red LED went out when I pulled the faulty one. Rechecked the faulty module in other slots, and always got a solid red diagnostic LED whenever the faulty module was installed. No red LED without it. I'm convinced that it's no good.

- The hard drive is slow as molasses and won't boot; XP Media Center (2004) quits during bootup with a BSOD saying that the boot volume is unmountable. The only way to get any diagnostic software to run is to disconnect the hard drive's data cable. Did so, booted with my Active@ Boot Disc and plugged the drive back in using a SATA-to-USB interface. Active@ Boot took a very long time to recognize the drive or read anything from it (although eventually all folders showed up), and reported that the drive doesn't support SMART (I'm pretty sure it's supposed to - it's a 2-year-old Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB model).

The reason for my post is that I don't believe in coincidences, at least not of this nature. Hard disk and memory quit spontaneously and simultaneously? And both components are less than 3 years old? What're the chances of that? Before I put replacement parts in, I'd really like to get some idea of what might've caused them to fail.

I started by testing the output of the power supply, but all channels appear to be putting out the right voltage.

The cooling system appears to be working fine - all fans turn freely and nothing is choked with dust. At this time of year (coldest part of winter in Chicago) in my mildly drafty house, the area under my desk is rather cool without the desktop running to warm it up. So I'm reasonably sure that the computer did not overheat.

There was no electrical storm activity today (and none expected for months), and the computer is connected to a "standby" type APC Back-UPS 750ES uninterruptible power supply that ran a successful self-test last week. I believe the UPS runs a self-test only once a month, and it's not overloaded, so I'm quite sure that it didn't cause any electrical ebbs or jolts that might've fried anything.

I suppose it's possible that the memory module failed first and caused an operating system error that might've caused garbage to be written somewhere on the hard drive, but would that explain the very slow overall operation of the hard drive and cause it to prevent diagnostic software from running?

Mark Lebowitz
Chicago, IL

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#2 hamluis

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 10:39 AM

I would suspect a failing CMOS battery...if it's as old as the system is.

My experience is that a failing CMOS battery can generate unusual, unexpected consequences and error messages regarding hardware.

CR2032 batteries are available everywhere for less than $5. May not be the answer, but won't break the bank.

Louis

#3 Lebowitz IT Services

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 12:41 PM

Thanks - I hadn't thought to check that. I had a replacement on hand, so I tried it. Didn't solve the problem, but it was a good thought.

Your post reminded me of something I neglected to mention: For months now, this desktop has had difficulty with cold boots. POST would complete, the Windows XP screen with the chaser lights would appear, then, just after the screen would go blank before going graphical bootup would inexplicably die - no error messages either displayed nor in the hardware log - and the USB components that had visible status lights would revert to their pre-POST state (my IR blaster's pilot LED would go on, and my USB mouse's LED would go out. My keyboard, which is PS2 connected, would go dead - no lights and no response from the CAPS Lock, Num Lock and Scroll Lock keys. I tried pulling out all the USB devices and substituting a PS2 mouse, but no change. I would finally get the system booted back up by warm-booting several times until I could get it into Safe Mode, invoking chkdsk c: /f (which would occur on the reboot) and warm-booting again. The computer is still exhibiting this problem even with the hard disk disconnected and attempting to boot from a CD-ROM. However, as of this morning, no amount of warm-rebooting has been able to get it to successfully boot. I've also tried pulling the PCI cards out one at a time; still no dice. (I'm not going to try to start it with no PCI cards installed. I have no qualms about replacing a bad PCI card, but if the only way it will start is with no PCI cards installed, then all that does is confirm that the motherboard is FUBAR.)

#4 hamluis

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 01:16 PM

I'm not a hardware guy, so take this with a large dose of salt :).

The PSU seems to be the common element that could cause the various problems you have mentioned, IMO.

I suggest you exercise a little patience and await some input from the regulars at this forum who know a lot more about hardware than I could ever want to know :).

Louis




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