My computer has a sudden inexplicable inability to initiate.
January 3, 2005 4:54 PM   Subscribe

My computer has a sudden inexplicable inability to initiate.

That is, it was working fine, now it won't boot. AOpen AX4SPE Max II motherboard, P4 3.2 GHz, WinXP. (more inside)

System specs: AX4SPE Max II mobo
P4 3.2 GHz 800 MHz FSB
1 GB Altec Precision DDR 400 RAM
ATI Radeon X800 Pro
160 GB HD
Win XP SP2

This system was running like clockwork for months. I left it last night and nothing was wrong. The only recent change that I can think of was swapping out a CD-R drive for a DVD-R drive, but I've rebooted since then and everything has been fine.

When I sat down this morning, the monitor was dark, as if in low-power mode, but moving the mouse didn't bring it back, nor did pressing any keys. I turned off the power and turned it back on. I got an abnormal-sounding startup beep and then the BIOS screen came up, but it locked up on the first screen. I restarted again, and this time I got a normal beep and the computer booted up as usual. It ran normally for about a minute before suddenly turning off. Now when I turn on the computer the lights and fans come on, but I get no beep and nothing is displayed on the screen. I've unplugged and reconnected all of the components, and I've disconnected everything besides what I list above. AOpen's site is a mess and I've got nowhere else to turn. Any ideas are appreciated.
posted by ludwig_van to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
My guess would be that the power supply failed. That X800 Pro draws a lot of power. It's probably more than enough to kill many of the cheaper, lower-wattage power supplies.
posted by mcguirk at 5:32 PM on January 3, 2005

I second mcquirk.

If you do mention the power supply, make sure you include the brand name and model number. There's a few guesses from the top of my head: L&C, AN, DEER, Powmax.
posted by shepd at 5:44 PM on January 3, 2005

Response by poster: It's a 500 watt power supply. I don't see a brand name on it; it came with my case.

If the power supply failed, would I still get lights and fans? The standby LED and the boot LED both light up and stay that way, as they're supposed to in normal operation, and the CPU fan and case fans all spin, although the sound of everything turning on and spinning up when I hit the power switch seems a bit "weaker" than it should be.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:57 PM on January 3, 2005

It's a 500 watt power supply. I don't see a brand name on it; it came with my case.

Ooo! Generic PSU fun! The wattage written on most generic power supplies is whatever number the company who made the case asked for.

In cases where they make mistakes, they often cover the original PSU stickup up with another sticker indicating the new desired wattage (somtimes with another brand name, too, if they're trying to "up-brand"). I've seen this several times, even to the point of up-safetying, as in sticking UL, CE and CSA stickers that don't belong on the PSU on the PSU (my favourite was the one with the typo, "CSB" approved).

I have seen 500 watt PSUs that are really more in the 200 to 300 watt range. A good indicator of PSU quality is its weight. A good PSU will usually require big heatsinks. That makes them really heavy (like jug of milk heavy). Cheap and nasty PSUs are usually very, very, very light (perhaps as heavy as today's modern keybaords, not sure, my model M is too heavy to say).

If the power supply failed, would I still get lights and fans?

This depends. The PSU outputs a "power good" signal to the motherboard. The motherboard will refuse to turn on until the power good signal is high. However, most other parts, like HDD, Fans, etc, are not connected to that signal, so they won't care.

If it isn't the PSU, perhaps a card is loose? Reseat all interconnected parts in your computer and see if that fixes it.
posted by shepd at 6:18 PM on January 3, 2005

I'd third looking at the power supply. I was originally going to suggest checking overheating, but you say that the CPU fan is working, though it's "weaker" (perhaps slower?) than usual.

You could indeed get lights and fans with a marginal PS, as these require very little power to start up, and less to maintain. Things like CPU/GPU are what stress the PS the most.
posted by aberrant at 6:18 PM on January 3, 2005

Response by poster: The suggestions are greatly appreciated, folks.

I've already disassembled the whole thing and reseated all of the cards, and only the vital components are connected.

I'll try connecting an alternate power supply later tonight and see if that works.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:23 PM on January 3, 2005

Response by poster: I swapped out the power supply for another one and everything is right again.

Thanks for the help.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:28 PM on January 3, 2005

Well ... now that that's answered, I'll step in with my unhelpful wisecrack.

I honestly read that as "My computer has a sudden inexplicable ability to urinate." And I thought, "that poor soul."
posted by Alt F4 at 12:13 PM on January 4, 2005

FYI it seems it was fixed by the power supply issue, but another part that can cause startup problems similar to what you described is a dead CMOS battery. This is a nickel-shaped battery, usually type CR2032 on the motherboard that allows CMOS/BIOS settings to persist even if the computer gets turned off. It draws minimal power so it should last for at least two years, but once it goes the computer will not be able to reboot. Luckily it is a 2$ fix, just swap the battery.
posted by spatula at 6:15 PM on January 4, 2005

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