The death of a PC? Maybe you have some ideas...

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Chris Lockwood, Jan 12, 2005.

  1. Chris Lockwood

    Chris Lockwood Producer

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    This will be long, but I hope somebody will have some ideas for me and others with similar problems, or maybe writing it up will make me think of something.

    My HP PC (Win XP home edition, SP1) from late 2002 has been running slow the past couple months. I realized recently that it may be due to the hard drive filling up- about 95% of capacity, so much that Windows defrag says it doesn't have enough free space to run. I've scanned for spyware, have a hardware firewall, always have antivirus software running, etc., so I don't think it's something malicious.

    Since it only has 1 physical hard drive, I thought the solution was to get a 2nd one & move a bunch of stuff there to free up space on the main drive.

    I've installed drives before, so this should not be a big deal, although the last time was in the mid 90s, so maybe there is something I'm missing. I do know enough to unplug things & ground myself, although static electricity seems pretty rare where I live (maybe due to high humidity?).

    I bought a Maxtor 160GB Ultra ATA drive. I had already checked to make sure I had a spare drive bay & unused power & ribbon connector on my drive cable. The old drive (also a Maxtor) already had the jumpers set for master, as far as I could tell, which makes sense because it was the drive that came with the PC, so how else would it have been set up? The new manual says leave the jumpers off the new drive to use it as the slave drive.

    I got it all connected, hooked up the power cable, turned on the monitor & PC. The PC beeped a bunch of times, the green power light on it came on for a while, but the monitor never seemed to receive a signal. My monitor (which came with the PC) has a light that's amber when the PC is off, green when it receives a signal. The screen stayed completely black like it wasn't even plugged in.

    Here's what I've tried since then. I'm still not able to get anything to appear on the monitor- none of the stuff you'd expect to see on screen when a PC is powered on. For most of these attempts, the amber light on the monitor never turns to green, but for a few it does, briefly. In all cases, the PC shuts itself off within 30 seconds or less. For each step below, I removed the power cable to the PC, did the step, hooked it back up & turned on the PC, with the results I just mentioned.

    1. Replaced the ribbon cable with the one that came with the new drive, which the instructions recommend doing, although they seem to be the same thing.

    2. Looked up the old drive on Maxtor's site & couldn't find a jumper diagram matching how the jumpers were installed on the drive. Changed the jumper on the old drive to what the new manual says is the setting for master, which is the same as the online info for the old drive.

    3. Removed the power & ribbon cables from the new drive, leaving just the old one connected.

    4. Put the Maxtor MaxBlast CD (which came with the new drive) in my DVD drive & tried to boot from that, although I really don't know if my BIOS is configured to even try booting from that drive. This was one of the times I got the green light on the monitor briefly.

    5. Same thing with Windows XP CD that came with the PC, a CD that had been in shrinkwrap til now.

    6. Same as #5, but with the new drive set up as the master, hoping I could set it up as the primary drive. By this point my focus has gone from installing a backup hard drive to trying to salvage the PC and old HD.

    7. Same as #6, but with the jumper set for cable select, rather than master, which the manual suggests.

    8. Tried booting from old Windows 95 bootable floppy I found, although I can't say for sure that diskette is still any good.

    9. Reconnected the old drive with the old cable & old jumper settings, everything as before, except the new drive is still in the bay, just not connected to anything.

    This is where I am low on ideas- does it sound like some other PC component is dead here? When it tries to boot, the fan runs, & it makes the normal booting sounds, then shuts itself off. What else should I try? My next step is making a bootable floppy from the Maxtor CD.

    The DVD drive requires power for the drawer to open, & I'm able to do that during the brief period when the PC is on, so I guess that means the power supply is functioning.

    I don't mind replacing the PC so much if it comes to that, especially if I can salvage the old drive long enough to copy stuff off it. I'd just like to see if there's something I haven't thought of that would fix this, even temporarily.

    I'll add anything else I try, just wanted to post this now.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Andrew Bunk

    Andrew Bunk Screenwriter

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    My first suggestion would be to get the PC back to the way it was before you moved cables/jumpers/etc. and added the drive. If it still works then, you've got a good point to start from.

    It's possible your main drive was jumpered for cable select, but I'm not sure that would produce the result you described.
    Also, if you're adding a second HD, you'll likely have to go into your BIOS and make sure it's not disabled.
    Although the problem you're describing sounds to me like the PC is either not seeing any hard drives now, or it is seeing your new one as the master. (Which again is why I think you should take it back to the original configuration to make sure it still works before moving forward).

    Either way, you should definitely check your BIOS settings to see what drives are being detected. It's possible that if they weren't jumpered correctly when they were both connected, the PC saw the new drive as the master, and is still looking for the master on that channel.

    It may be worth removing the original HD to see if there is either an illustration of what jumper settings are master, slave and cable select. At the very least, you can usually see on the drive MS, CS and SL near each jumper setting.

    I honestly don't remember if I set up my drives as master/slave or cable select on my older Dell when I added an HD, but as long as the original is jumpered as Master, you should be able to boot I think. Most IDE cables should also indicate which connections are which (master/slave) in case you are jumpered for cable select. Also, make sure you have power connected to both drives! [​IMG]

    HTH
     
  3. Chris Lockwood

    Chris Lockwood Producer

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    > My first suggestion would be to get the PC back to the way it was before you moved cables/jumpers/etc. and added the drive.

    That's where I'm at at step 9 above. The only difference is that the new drive is sitting in the spare bay, not connected to anything, which should be the same as physically not being there.


    > Either way, you should definitely check your BIOS settings to see what drives are being detected.

    Any way to do that when I can't see anything on the monitor, & the PC shuts itself off in 30 secs or less as I described?


    > It may be worth removing the original HD to see if there is either an illustration of what jumper settings are master, slave and cable select.

    I looked that up on Maxtor's site. Before I got the new drive I checked my system settings to see what the old drive was & wrote down the model number & so on.

    Also, the cables are clearly labelled as to which ribbon connector is for master (the one on the end, black connector) vs slave drive (middle, gray connector) & board connection (blue). None of the connectors will go in upside down, so I must have them hooked up properly.

    Anyone know if it matters which power connector goes to which drive? I wouldn't think so.
     
  4. Andrew Bunk

    Andrew Bunk Screenwriter

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    Power connections shouldn't matter unless one is bad or one is meant for fans specifically. I just installed a new power supply in my home-built PC, and it has two connectors that are only meant for fans. However I wouldn't expect this from a store bought HP, but it's possible.

    I apologize I didn't realize you weren't seeing anything at all. My experience with HP made PC's is nill, but I would think any PC should at least show the BIOS splash screen unless there is a motherboard, video card or monitor issue. Any chance something else may have been disconnected or bumped ? I'm guessing this PC may have an integrated video adapter, but if it doesn't it might be worth reseating the video card.

    I only suggested checking the hard drive physically for jumper settings on the off chance that it does in fact differ from what the vendor's site states.

    It's very strange-misconfigured hard drives or missing hard drives shouldn't keep you from seeing the BIOS splash unless something else went wrong in the process. Again I apologize I don't have more insight on this specific model. I would hope HP hasn't built their PC's to not display if there are no drives present.

    EDIT: One other thing I forgot to mention. Does the series of beeps you get when you power it on stay the same every time? Usually the beep codes (duration and frequency) can point to the problem. The PC manual should have a listing of what each beep code means. For instance, 4 beeps = hard drive failure, etc.
     
  5. Jordan_Brulotte

    Jordan_Brulotte Stunt Coordinator

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    As long s nothing was damaged when you installed the HDD, I am sure I have the answer for you. Every single one of your symptoms is telling me that your problem is due to an unseated video card. You may have accidentally bumped the video card out a bit while installing your HDD.

    Take the video card out and then put it back in firmly.

    Tell me if this works, if not I'll think of something else.
     
  6. Glenn Overholt

    Glenn Overholt Producer

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    1. If you have an HP PC, have you been to their site?

    2. I take it that you DVD drive is your secondary master? Try swapping that cable.

    3. If HP contracted with Maxtor for the HD, it is possible that Maxtor doesn't list it, because it has an "HP" HDD number.

    4. I'll second pulling your video card and reseating it. I'd also check to see that no other plugs were accidently knocked loose, especially the one(s) to the motherboard.

    Glenn
     
  7. Andrew Bunk

    Andrew Bunk Screenwriter

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    Actually Glenn, you'd be "thirding" it, but that's what I get for embedding it in a longer paragraph. [​IMG] But I have a feeling this might have an integrated video adapter.
     
  8. Chris Lockwood

    Chris Lockwood Producer

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    I'll check the video adapter. It's definitely not the monitor, since I dug my old Win 95 box out of the closet & have the monitor working with that now.

    If that doesn't work I'm wondering if I can move the old HD to that old PC & access it that way to copy files off it. It's circa 1998, so I don't know how compatible its controller is with a more recent drive.

    If the video adapter angle doesn't pan out, I'll lookup what controller that old box has...


    > Does the series of beeps you get when you power it on stay the same every time?

    No, it varies according to situation, although I didn't take notes on that since I didn't think of that as a clue. Sometimes it's steady beeping, sometimes more normal "I'm trying to boot" sounds.

    Something I should have mentioned in my first post- for the past few days before I bought the new drive, I was having startup problems. I'd get the splash screen, but the next one that appears right before it goes to the Windows login would run forever. It got where I'd have to boot in safe mode, shut down, then start back up to get a normal Windows desktop. Would a drive that's getting full be enough to cause that? Windows having trouble with the swap file, maybe?

    Until last week, I only remember having to boot in safe mode maybe twice in the past 6-12 months. It's been at least 6 months since I made any changes inside the current PC.
     
  9. Andrew Bunk

    Andrew Bunk Screenwriter

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    Chris,

    There shouldn't be a problem connecting your drive to your older PC unless HP has some kind of proprietary HD connection but that's not too likely. The Gateway I bought in early '99 used IDE just liked most PC's still do now, although they're starting to give way to SATA in higher end PC's.

    The beep codes are still worth researching further unless you're OK with just getting your data from the old drive and starting over, which trust me, I understand!

    I've never had an HD that full so I can't speak to the conditions it causes, but that certainly could cause Windows to have a hard time starting, thus throwing you into Safe mode. Although you could just as easily wind up in Safe mode due to hardware issues.

    For a 2+ year old PC, if HP didn't use the best parts, it's certainly possible there are hardware problems. What's worse, it could be entirely coincidental that your video problem started during this operation, which really makes things more difficult to diagnose.

    Out of curiosity, each time you wound up in Safe mode, would restarting out of Safe mode into regular Windows work or did you have to try more than once each occurrence? Safe mode should be less demanding on the video card, so if it was on its last legs, Safe mode might not necessarily expose that. Just spitballing here.

    Keep us posted.
     
  10. Chris Lockwood

    Chris Lockwood Producer

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    I checked the video card (nvidia GeForce, not built into the motherboard. It seems pretty firmly seated.

    Another clue: to get to the drive bay I had to take out a plastic curved tunnel thingie that functions as an exhaust port for the CPU fan, which I also had to move out of the way to get at the bay. (I tried going in the front way, but the case is solid metal there, even after removing the external face plate of it.)

    I think I got the fan put back on properly, & also the big plastic tunnel, which I put back right after popping in the new drive.

    Just now I took the tunnel out, & with no drives connected, turned on the PC for kicks. I get beep, pause, beep, pause, etc continually- I let it go to the IEEE standard of 18 beeps before finally powering it down. This is the first time it hasn't shut itself off since I started messing with it last night. So when I finish posting here I'll go start hooking up cables again. I almost hate to put the monitor back since I'm enjoying the screen saver on the old PC, just a reminder of what it should look like.


    > Out of curiosity, each time you wound up in Safe mode, would restarting out of Safe mode into regular Windows work or did you have to try more than once each occurrence?

    Usually (not always) after shutting down in safe mode would lead to a good boot the next time, but a shutdown in regular mode would lead to the need for safe mode the next time. Sometimes just getting to safe mode would be feel like getting an Oscar nomination, though. There were times when I'd just see the list of drivers that seemed to stop scrolling after a while.


    > There shouldn't be a problem connecting your drive to your older PC unless HP has some kind of proprietary HD connection

    Do you mean proprietary on the drive itself or the old PC (which is not an HP)? The old hard drive is a Maxtor, the model number of which shows up on their website, so it seems like any off-the-shelf drive of that era.

    This is what shows up in the system settings of the older PC:
    standard dual PCI IDE controller
    standard IDE/ESDI HD controller
    the drives in it show as IDE type 46

    This is what Maxtor's site says about the drive I'm trying to rescue:
    Fast ATA/Enhanced IDE compatible
    Ultra ATA/100 Data Transfer Rate

    So I'm not quite sure if that's a match...
     
  11. Chris Lockwood

    Chris Lockwood Producer

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    I got the PC & monitor to talk briefly...

    Although the video card seemed pretty well seated, I took it out & put it back in anyway. I don't see anything else in there that looks loose.

    I tried a bunch of combinations of cable & jumper settings- in most cases the PC would come on briefly, fan running, no beeps, monitor light never turning green, then shut itself off.

    I set the jumpers on both drives to cable select & was able to boot from my DVD drive (E[​IMG] with the Maxtor CD that came with the new drive- actual text on the screen, then the menu of that CD came up (its own GUI), let me select the language, then the PC shut itself off.

    I was able to do the same with a bootable floppy I made using that CD on my laptop- in either case, the PC just shuts itself off after a while, maybe a minute. I didn't time it.

    I'm still confused why the old cable with the old drive only & old jumper settings doesn't get me that far.

    So I assume this means the video card is OK, but what does the shutting off mean- motherboard or power supply issue?

    Does it sound like there's something I could replace to fix this? I'd be comfortable putting in a new power supply if I was fairly sure that was the problem, but if I'm unsure it's a bit like putting new tires on a car right before pushing it off a cliff.

    If anyone has more ideas, please let me know. I'm going to look into whether my old PC can handle that old drive, so I can tell if the data on it is still accessible before I go buying a new PC.
     
  12. BruceD

    BruceD Screenwriter

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    I expect you will not be able to read the hard drive from your XP machine (FAT32 based file system) on your older Windows 95 machine (FAT16 based file system), because the file systems are completely incompatible and Win95 will never recognize a FAT32 based file system.

    Like the others, it sounds to me like you disturbed a connector to the motherboard.
     
  13. EricWilliam

    EricWilliam Agent

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    Windows 95B and 95C most certainly will read a FAT32 drive but not an NTFS drive without some 3rd party tricks. Check and reset everything plugged into the systemboard. The RAM, CPU, the fans, everything. Its very easy to knock something just a hair out of place when working inside the system unit. With it shutting down after a minute like you said, that points to a heating problem. Double check the heatsink and fan on your CPU. Hope that helps.
     
  14. Chris Lockwood

    Chris Lockwood Producer

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    The only reason to try the hard drive in that old PC would be to see if it was still readable, but I'm at the point where I don't trust the current PC any more, so I can move the drive directly to a new PC. The fan is fastened right to the motherboard & spins properly during the brief period when the machine is on. I've looked all over the inside & can't see anything that seems to be loose or broken. I have the whole side of the case off, not the back, so I can see everything pretty well, even use a mirror & flashlight for a better look.

    Don't forget that before I even opened the case, I spent a few days booting into safe mode to get anything done on that machine.
     
  15. EricWilliam

    EricWilliam Agent

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    i take it you never did find out the beep codes for that machine?
     
  16. Walter Scott

    Walter Scott Agent

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    You mentioned that you had to move the CPU fan? are you sure the heatsink is in good contact with the CPU? Your CPU could be shutting down due to overheating.
     
  17. Andrew Bunk

    Andrew Bunk Screenwriter

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    I second Walter's comment. Sounds like maybe a fan could be out of place or not connected and the PC is shutting itself down as a precaution or due to overheating.

    Also, if you do decide to get a new PC, I assume it will have XP, in which case you should be able to read the drive from your down PC in the new PC. Just a thought.
     
  18. Chris Lockwood

    Chris Lockwood Producer

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    I found beep codes on HP's site, but how do you translate this code: beep beep beep a bunch of times before shutting down, or no beeps at all before it turns itself off? There's no "signal" in the pattern- when it beeps, the sounds are evenly spaced & continue until the PC decides to turn off. I've counted as many as 18 beeps. I don't see an entry for that.

    The fan on the motherboard is fastened securely as it was originally, & it runs the entire time the PC is on. The fan running is about the only normal thing about the booting process. Also, since the entire side of the case is off, how overheated could it get in 30 seconds?

    Without touching anything overnight, I tried turning it on a few more times today. Sometimes it beeps, sometimes it doesn't. I never saw the monitor light go to green, although I haven't touched the inside of the PC since I was able to see things on the screen last night. I tried booting from floppy, CD, hard drive- the monitor might as well have not been attached to the PC.
     
  19. Jordan_Brulotte

    Jordan_Brulotte Stunt Coordinator

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    Usually a continuous beeping means that something is "missing" or damaged. I'd also check to see if the ram is properly seated. As a computer technician, I've found that the simpleest answer is usually the right one. And the fact that it happened suddenly after tinkering inside the computer add to the fact.

    One last thing that many people overlook is bulging or faulty capacitors on the motherboard. Several years ago there was a company putting out imitation caps, which were faulty.

    Take a look at every capacitor on the motherboard. If any of them are domed on the top, or have small amounts of crystals on them then they are shot. I have seen dozens and dozen of boards with this problem, and it usually explains a sudden "death". It is something easy to overlook, especially if you are unaware that it could happen.
     
  20. Andrew Bunk

    Andrew Bunk Screenwriter

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    Chris,

    Are there any cables coming out of the processor fan that connect to the motherboard? On my newer PC my CPU fan connects to the motherboard so it can be monitored. Maybe if that connection is missing the PC won't boot up.
     

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