My computer failed to boot 20-25 times this morning, then finally did. What's going on?
October 1, 2004 8:00 AM   Subscribe

My otherwise perfectly fine PC booted after 20-25 false starts this morning. Hitting the power button brought it to life for a second, then nothing. Eventually it started up. What's going on?
posted by davebush to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
Make sure the power cable is tightly connected in the back. Then check the power connection on the motherboard. Then find a new power supply somewhere you can swap in and see if that solves it.

This just happened to me last week. I was sure it was the power supply but it was the power cable in back that was wiggly.
posted by luser at 8:09 AM on October 1, 2004

If you have an AthlonXP-type processor: If it booted into the BIOS for a few seconds and then shut itself off, make sure the CPU heatsink has enough contact with the CPU; and that the fan is working flawlessly.
posted by ckemp at 9:10 AM on October 1, 2004

Could be a failing power supply. I've seen them do this before.
posted by shepd at 10:34 AM on October 1, 2004

If you have had the computer for a few years the CMOS battery may be going out. This is a small, nickel-shaped battery on the motherboard itself. It stores BIOS information even when the computer is shut down, but like all batteries its life is finite. If it dies, the computer will not be able to boot up the BIOS even though power lights go on. Your computer may have an automatic shutoff in this case, I don't know. They are almost always a CR2032 nowadays, and can be picked up at any drugstore for like a buck. Even if this isn't the problem it can't hurt to replace it.
posted by spatula at 10:37 AM on October 1, 2004

I'd open the case and re-seat all the connectors.

Might also be a switch problem; perhaps it's got a case of nasty keybounce.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:11 PM on October 1, 2004

I've had this problem with an improperly set video card and another time with my ethernet card. Either way, it's not a bad idea not crack open the case and make sure evdrything is set properly.
posted by ashbury at 12:56 PM on October 1, 2004

I had this problem with my pc after I added another hard drive... turned out that spinning up three disks was too much for the power supply, and it underfed the motherboard, which promptly shut down again.
posted by twine42 at 2:41 PM on October 1, 2004

I'm assuming that you have already checked all your plugs and determined that they are all nice and tight, and that there is nothing wrong with your electricity service, i.e., you have not just had a hurricane.

First and foremost: While your system is still running, back up any essential data if you have not already done so. I have always done this whenever my 'puter has behaved in any unexpected fashion, and at least once I have ended up using the backup.

Then: As per fff's advice, I would open the case and make sure everything is seated properly. All the connectors, all your RAM, everything. If you put your computer together yourself, you should have a map of the motherboard connectors so you can check it easily. If you bought it ready-made, you should still be able to see if any connectors are obviously loose. Even one loose connection in the wrong place can cause bizarre things to occur. And if your system is more than a year old, as long as you have the case open it's worth it to change the battery, just to make sure.

If there are still weird booting problems after you check the case and battery, the next thing to suspect is your power supply. I will leave it to the more tech-savvy to explain how to troubleshoot and replace a power supply. Being slightly shy of electricity generally, and very afraid of 240V house current, when my power supply started to fail after 5 years of faithful and constant service, I just backed up my data and built a new machine out of parts I ordered off the net.
posted by Tholian at 3:46 PM on October 1, 2004

I don't think it's worth "trouble-shooting" a power supply these days. Once you've identified it as the culprit, get a new one. They're pretty cheap, and you can't go wrong with a higher-quality, higher-capacity PS at any time.

240V house current? Is that a UK standard? Mind, I've seen the whacky sorts of things you brits do with your electricity: plugs that fall out of the walls, appliances you have to wire yourselves, crazy shit. I've never fathomed how the UK managed to avoid fixing an obviously poor interface design on their wall outlets.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:15 PM on October 1, 2004

House current here is roughly 220-240V. As it is on the Continent. And I agree with you that appliances should come pre-wired. We had to wire our own oven, which I thought was ridiculous at best, dangerous at worst. And when the plug went on fire a year later, I decided that the wire-your-own-appliances thing was for the birds.

I'm not a Brit by birth, actually. I'm a US expat, moved here for love. And brought my 2 year old computer with me, which had (obviously) been on 120V but served valiantly at ~240V for another 3 years before the PS gave up the ghost. I was lucky in that it gave me fair warning--a few weeks of random restarts before it finally died, so I was able to backup all the essential stuff.
posted by Tholian at 5:02 PM on October 1, 2004

>Mind, I've seen the whacky sorts of things you brits do with your electricity: plugs that fall out of the walls, appliances you have to wire yourselves, crazy shit.

The problem is the UK underwent (many, many years ago now) a change in plug types and some cheap bastards have yet to upgrade their wiring and plugs.

The old plug type used round pins and seemed to fall out pretty easy, the new type doesn't. The new type I have never managed to pull out of wall by accident, and, heck, it's next to impossible to plug them in / unplug them as is!

Also, UK house wiring amperages aren't standardized like they are in North America. One would think all homes *SHOULD* be 15 amp service per plug (or another standard number), however, in the UK you find 13 amp service (seems to be pretty standard now) and 10 amp service (older wiring). I could be off on those numbers, but I do recall that at my Grandmothers house only certain appliances were safe on the old circuit, and some had to be plugged into the fridge socket instead (yes, fridge had to be unplugged first, obviously).

Did I mention that the really old fuseboxes there use (gasp!) bare fuse filament wire that you wire in yourself? YIKES! Yep, Grandmother's set on fire once. Oh, the memories mom had let me know about.

I only know this because my Grandmother was probably one of the last people in the UK to upgrade her wiring. Only a few years ago she was still putting money into a meter to turn on the electricity for a few hours. She could have had it upgraded sooner, but she's stubborn.

She finally decided to get it changed when *NOBODY* was selling the old plugs anymore.

Here's an article on that. Check the UK types. I think there's at least 3 or 4.

For total awesomeness, I knew everything in the UK was done opposite to North America, but even the colours for Hot and Neutral are backwards! ARGH!
posted by shepd at 5:33 PM on October 1, 2004

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