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Hard Drive Shuts off Inexplicably, Hard to Start Up


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#1 Barbarino

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 12:25 PM

Hello All. I'm a neophyte, please be kind.

I have a Dell Optiplex GX270 with Dell installed software, Windows XP Professional Service Pack 3 Build 2600 (not the 64 bit) with all the updates, and I installed a lot of updates the last few days. It also rained a lot the last few days. I have the computer plugged into a surge protector.

Two nights ago 11/17 I fell asleep with the computer on, (I don't remember if it was updating while I slept) and the next day when I tried to use the computer I realized that it had turned off. (And it is not set to turn off automatically.) The screen didn't turn off,just the hard drive.

When I turned on the hard drive, I saw the Dell logo, and at the top of the screen the choices were

F2 = Set Up
F12 = Boot Menu.

Then after a second or two that screen goes away and another screen comes on which is black except for a message in white which says:

Alert! Previous shutdown due to thermal event.
Strike the F1 key to continue, F2 to run Set Up utility.

When I hit F1 key, the following appears on the screen:

We apologize for the inconvenience but Windows did not start successfully. A recent hardware or software change might have caused this.
If your computer stopped responding, restarted unexpectedly or was automatically shut down to protect your files and folders choose laLast Known Good Configuration to revert to the most recent settings that worked:

If a previous startup attempt was interrupted due to a power failure or because the power or reset button was pressed, or if you aren't sure what caused the problem, choose Start Windows Normally.

Safe Mode
Safe Mode with Networking
Safe Mode with Command Prompt
Last Known Good Configuration (your most recent settings that worked)
Start Windows Normally

Use the up and down arrow keys to move the highlight to your choice.
Seconds until Windows starts..

I chose Last known Good Configuration, but when the Windows icon flashes on the screen, the hard drive shut down.
None of the other choices work at all.
I have done this at least 10 times.
A few times I have gotten Windows to start and I can log in, but after several minutes, whether 5 or 15, the hard drive shuts down, whether I am in a Word document or on the internet or in an email.
I did a system restore to before this past weekend (before the rain which also got rid of a lot of the recent updates) and that didn't stop the hard drive shutting down on me.


WHat do you think the problem is, and how can it be fixed?

Thannk you in advance and please explain things very simply, I am not conversant with computer lingo.

Edited by hamluis, 20 November 2012 - 09:28 AM.
Moved from XP to Internal Hardware - Hamluis.


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#2 dc3

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 02:29 PM

Usually a thermal event involves the processor (CPU) overheating. This is usually the result of a build up of dust. There is a heat sink and fan assembly which sits on top of the CPU which if enough dust settles in on it will cause this. You can purchase canned air at most hardware stores, to see a variety of these click here.

Before you do anything Unplug The Computer!

Before you touch anything inside the case touch the metal of the case to discharge any static electricity in your body. An electrostatic discharge can damage or kill board components.

The fan has an opening through which you can blow it out. Unfortunately it looks like the fan would need to be removed to access the blades inside as they are on the underneath side of the fan. I will look further later this afternoon for pictures of this so you can see what I'm talking about.

Edited by dc3, 19 November 2012 - 03:19 PM.

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#3 Barbarino

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 10:01 PM

I opened up the CPU, for the first time since I got it 9 years ago and it was full of dust.
I cleaned it very well.
I unscrewed the fan and cleaned that as well.

I noted that there were approximately 9 cylindrical things that were black on the outside and silver on the top with hatchmarks on them to the rear of the fan (there were others in the CPU elsewhere) that had some crud on top. This crud looked like the crud that batteries get when you leave thenm in a device too long, but the crud on touching was softer and not metallic. I removed the crud gently and blew it away with the compressed air.
After all that work, I re-connected the CPU, and it is still the same thing.

Except now I cannot get it to start at all.

After I press the choice of "Return to last good configuration", I see the Windows logo for a nanosecond and then the CPU turns off.

This has happened 4 times now after my cleaning it thoroughly.

What should I do?

#4 dc3

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 09:03 AM

From what you have described I believe those are electrolytic capacitors, and if they are bulging they are failing. Do they resemble the ones in the picture below?

Posted Image

If the capacitors in the picture match your parts then you have a couple of choices. You can have them replaced, the caps aren't that expensive, but the shop time will be, and at nine years of age you need to realize that other components could start failing as well. The other choice is to accept that the computer has come to the end of its usefulness and transfer the data on the hdd to external media so you can save it.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Edited by dc3, 20 November 2012 - 09:05 AM.

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#5 Barbarino

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 12:53 PM

Hi-

Not all of them look like that, but some of them. I didn't realize that's what bulging looked like. I thought the bulging would be really exaggerated. It's actually fairly subtle.

Can't I just replace the motherboard?

By the way, I remember that way back when it was under a service contract Dell came out and replaced the motherboard. Apparently the motherboard was the achilles heel of the Optiplex 270 and Dell ws replacing them for free until 2008.

I really can't afford to buy a new computer now.

They have refurbished motherboards with replaced capacitors on eBay for $20 or so (incl shipping).

Do you think that would do the trick?

#6 dc3

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 02:08 PM

Yes, you could replace the motherboard.

There is one small problem with doing this though, and that's an issue with your hdd.


When you take a hdd with a Windows OS installed on it that you have been using on one computer and then install it as the primary hdd in another computer you are asking for major problems. The excerpt below is from a Intel article which describes in detail what happens. The article also mentions a reference to an article by Microsoft, it can be seen here .

"Moving a hard drive with Windows* 2000 or Windows XP* already installed to a new motherboard without reinstalling the operating system is not recommended.

If a hard drive is moved to a new computer, the registry entries and drivers for the mass storage controller hardware on the new motherboard are not installed in Windows for the new computer you may not be able to start Windows. This is documented in Microsoft's knowledge base article. This is true even if you move the hard drive to a motherboard with the same chipset, as different hardware revisions can cause this issue as well.

Additionally, moving a hard drive to a new motherboard may not exhibit any errors until you install new IDE drivers. This is because each chipset uses a different Plug-n-Play (PNP) ID to identify it. If you move your motherboard, your registry will have multiple PNP IDs (for the old hardware as well as the new hardware). If there are multiple entries in the registry, Windows cannot determine which hardware to initialize and therefore fails with a STOP error."


There is a slim chance that you could get away with this, but I would strongly suggest that you back up all of your important data to an external form of media, CD, DVD, flash drive, etc.

If you have the installation disc for the operating system I would suggest that you do a fresh install.

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