No video input detected on bootup.
July 13, 2009 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Computer froze completely during a game, all subsequent downloads of various installer files were corrupt. BSODs galore. Now, when I turn on my computer, no video input is detected whatsoever. Next step?

This problem sounds like a combination of a virus, hard-drive failure, and video-card failure, so I'm not sure what to try next. Any suggestions?

Approximate timeline of events from last Friday night, to Saturday morning:

0. Built a near-top-of-the-line computer 3 months ago
1. Friday, started a game Team Fortress 2 using the Steam client (I play this all the time).
2. An hour or so into play, the entire computer froze, game audio was on a 1-second loop. Couldn't even CTRL+ALT+DEL
3. Performed hard reset, tried to defrag, but it stopped progressing after about 20%.
4. Tried to launch Steam again but was told a game file had been corrupted. Uninstalled Steam.
5. Downloaded latest Steam installation and ran it, but was told the installation was corrupt
6. Uninstalled Avira anti-virus, downloaded Avira installer, ran it, and again was told installation was corrupt.
7. Same results with Adaware installation. However, Spybot installation was successful (no results from SB scan btw).
8. Rebooted and immediately got some sort of "NTLDR, unable to boot" error. Hard reset fixed this.
9. Was able to reinstall Avira and begin a full virus scan. 3/4 of the way through, scan stopped progressing and got a BSOD.
10. Now, when I turn on my computer, I can hear the whirring and humming of the internals, but no video input is detected by the monitor. Neither resetting monitor, nor replugging video cable helps.

I haven't touched any of the physical internals yet (e.g. re-seating video card), but will try that tonight.

I tried to keep this brief, so some details may be missing. Let me know if you need clarification.
posted by TimeTravelSpeed to Computers & Internet (19 answers total)
Sounds like the video card is fried, no? Or, of not fried, jostled, at the least. But it sounds like a video card problem.
posted by GilloD at 10:48 AM on July 13, 2009

So the machine isn't even posting ?

What you first described sounded like you were on the shaky edge of losing your boot drive.

Most modern machines have diagnostic LED's on the mainboard or even beeps that will tell you what stage during the post process the box is at. Pull out the manual for the motherboard and see if you can diagnode the LED code on the mainboard (if it has one) and see what the magical beeps tell you.

It's possible it's something as simple as something becoming unseated or it could be as complicated as a mainboard that went sideways, or you could just have lost your drive like it looked like was happening initially.
posted by iamabot at 10:56 AM on July 13, 2009

Response by poster: The only thing that makes me think it's not the video card is that the original problem was that all the installer files I was downloading to help troubleshoot the issue were corrupt. I wouldn't think a fried video card would affect the downloading or installing of executables.

Also, it seems like a bad video card would instantly cut off video input. In my case, I had at least 12 hours of input during which I was troubleshooting the installer file problem.
posted by TimeTravelSpeed at 10:56 AM on July 13, 2009

Yeah the machine isn't posting, it's gotta be something in the hardware. Try unplugging all USB devices, use a PS2 mouse and keyboard, and try booting.

If you don't have the diagnostic LED's listed above (and you should, if it was a hobbyist build), there should be a series of long beeps which can be interpreted to indicate where the problem is.

Just double check the input on the monitor as well, is it looking for digital when it should be looking for analog? Stupid question, I know, but worth checking.

It's not necessarily the video card, it could very well be the RAM or MoBo.

And I agree, it seems like your hard drive was dying. Removing/unplugging all drives and trying to boot, might be a good idea, to at least rule that out.

Do you have more than one video card?
posted by teabag at 11:01 AM on July 13, 2009

A virus or a hard drive failure probably wouldn't prevent you from getting to POST. A video card failure wouldn't corrupt file downloads. Either something's come unseated, or it's a bad CPU, motherboard, or RAM (in increasing order of probability, in my experience).
posted by roystgnr at 11:02 AM on July 13, 2009

If you don't have the diagnostic LED's listed above (and you should, if it was a hobbyist build), there should be a series of long beeps which can be interpreted to indicate where the problem is.

Yeah even if your video card is totally dead you'll get some beeps at startup giving you some indication of the problem (the actual beeps and what they mean are BIOS-dependent). You should be able to remove the video card altogether and at least get the beeps.

If you can get back to the point of getting something to boot I would suggest running a Live CD like System Rescue CD to rule out OS or HD issues and run things like a memory test.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:07 AM on July 13, 2009

A RAM failure was once giving me an absurd number of seemingly random crashing, corrupt files, problems at boot-time, etc.
posted by astrochimp at 11:13 AM on July 13, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions. My dad suggested the same thing regarding listening for the beeps. I don't remember hearing any beeps once I lost video input, but I'll double-check tonight.

I'm thinking more and more that the issue is the MoBo itself since, like roystgnr pointed out, I'm getting the symptoms of 2 independent diseases simultaneously.

I have one video card: GeForce GTX 260. FWIW, I did recently try some TF2 graphics-enhancing tweaks but I wouldn't think that could possibly fry a card.

I'm hoping it's just the RAM. I have two 2gb sticks (XP 64-bit). Would removing one of the sticks (and switching sticks if problem persists) be a valid test for RAM being the cause? Or would this cause other problems?
posted by TimeTravelSpeed at 11:17 AM on July 13, 2009

Yes, I was about to suggest swapping RAM sticks as a first resort, since it's no cost. I once had a RAM problem and the machine wouldn't boot and gave no beeps.
posted by Simon Barclay at 11:52 AM on July 13, 2009

Remove and reseat the video card. If it's not beeping on powerup (and 'no video' is a common, if not obligatory, beep code) that means the mobo thinks the card is fine. If this doesn't work, try an old, crappy video card just to see if you can get to POST. If the mobo can spit video out that way, then it's the GeForce.
posted by rhizome at 12:06 PM on July 13, 2009

I'd wager you fried your video card or it was bad from the get-go. Everything else that happened was indirect fallout from that issue and now you many have corrupted your disk though it is probably not physically damaged.

It could be RAM, as noted, but I think video card failures are more likely.
posted by chairface at 1:20 PM on July 13, 2009

Response by poster: **UPDATE**

I'm writing this comment from the FUBAR'ed computer (yay). I'm running a virus scan now, and will then perform a full defrag. Then, I'll be testing some installation files to see if I'm still having issues there.

Unfortunately, it's not clear exactly what fixed the video input issue. Here's the approximate timeline of troubleshooting events:

1. Got home and turned on compy -- same problem with video input. No beeps, no interesting lights. Turned off machine.
2. Removed one stick of RAM, no luck.
3. Swapped RAM, no luck.
4. Switched DVI cable to the secondary output -- no luck
5. Reseated graphics card -- no luck.
6. Unplugged hard drive -- no luck.
7. Realized I'd never tried flipping the kill switch on the back of the PC. Turned it off, waited 30 seconds and flipped back on. Turned on machine -- no luck
8. Realized I hadn't swapped back the DVI cable to primary -- no luck
9. Unplugged all USB devices and pulled out a stick of RAM again -- LUCK!
10. At this point, I gradually plugged everything back in and was able to boot up fine (although still no beeps or interesting lights).

My hunch is that the problem was actually solved from flipping the kill switch in back but because I had some leftover components unplugged or not plugged in right, I wasn't able to see the success. In retrospect, I think I had a similar problem awhile back that was fixed when I reset the kill switch.

As I'm finishing this comment, anti-virus is still humming along fine at 85%. I have a good feeling about this.
posted by TimeTravelSpeed at 5:55 PM on July 13, 2009

Response by poster: Oh, I'm also going to try SystemRescueCD as per burnmp3's suggestion
posted by TimeTravelSpeed at 5:59 PM on July 13, 2009

When you talk about flipping the kill switch, are you talking about the mains switch on the power supply - the one that does the same thing as physically unplugging the mains cable? Because if you are, you need to be aware that plugging and unplugging internal bits and pieces while standby power is still active can easily damage things.

A very useful test for dodgy RAM (which I'm tipping will turn out to be the root of your problem) is memtest86+. Leave it running overnight. If it shows even a single error, remove one RAM stick (after fully powering down the PC, of course) and run it overnight again. If any errors: replace the remaining stick with the one you pulled and run again.

Memtest86+ will occasionally report RAM errors when run against known good RAM in faulty motherboards or with faulty processors, but the memory locations reported faulty in these cases tend to be random and non-repeatable.

Personally, I would not be doing anything involving rewriting major portions of my hard drive (such as a defrag) until I was sure my RAM was OK.
posted by flabdablet at 6:37 PM on July 13, 2009

FWIW, USB devices cause more problems than most people realize. In my diagnostic days, removing all USB devices was one of the first steps we took.

Glad to hear it's working; I hate it when I can't fix my homebrew machines... makes me wish I went with a Mac :D
posted by teabag at 5:36 AM on July 14, 2009

And to further emphasize what flabdablet said, you should NOT be working on the internals of a machine without the power supply completely unplugged. The risk of personal injury or (worse) damaging your hardware are too great to justify the convenience of "hot swapping".
posted by teabag at 5:38 AM on July 14, 2009

A very useful test for dodgy RAM (which I'm tipping will turn out to be the root of your problem) is memtest86+

This is on the System Rescue CD by the way. Just press F2 at the first prompt and choose memtest.
posted by burnmp3s at 6:23 AM on July 14, 2009

Response by poster: You are of course absolutely right about the power supply. I just plain inexcusably forgot.

I ran the memtest overnight and after 11 passes, no errors turned up. Restarted and am now letting it defrag at home. Once I get home, I'll try some installer files to see if anything's still getting corrupted.

Thanks for all the suggestions, guys.
posted by TimeTravelSpeed at 8:10 AM on July 14, 2009

Response by poster: I ran the defrag and it found about 8 files that could not be defragmented. I'm guessing this is simply because there were processes that had handles on those files. I don't have the report handy, but I can post it here later if this is abnormal and should be investigated.

Installed Team Fortress 2 and played it last night without a problem.
posted by TimeTravelSpeed at 12:15 PM on July 15, 2009

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