Buying the cheapest available motherboard was an awesome idea
January 31, 2010 7:50 PM   Subscribe

Reassure me that this is a motherboard issue (or correct me if it isn't) before I buy a new one.

I built this computer myself about two years ago, pretty much zero problems before now. Pertinent specs are the MSI motherboard, which doesn't have much of a reputation for reliability, and the 500W Silverstone power source, which does and is the other popular culprit for this sort of thing.

Computer turns on, fans whir reassuringly, hard drive spins, nothing happens. There's no popped capacitors or burning plastic smells or anything obvious like that. The monitor doesn't recognize anything is connected, same goes for a different monitor with different cables. I cleaned everything pretty thoroughly. Took out the power connectors to everything and re-secured them well. Took out everything else attached to the motherboard (case lights, USB wiring) and reattached those. Cleaned and re-seated the RAM and video card. Pressed the flash CMOS button. None of this has changed anything.

Things I haven't tried because I doubt they'd work include taking out and re-thermal pasting the CPU, unscrewing and reattaching the motherboard, and manually testing the power supply voltage. If anybody has experience suggesting any of that might work for this problem, I'll give it a shot and report back.

I assume the issue is the motherboard because I'm not even getting as far as the BIOS, there are no obvious power issues, and also because the previously working HD indicator light is constantly dark despite that I can hear the hard drive working. Signs point to information not getting moved around.

So anyway, please hope me.
posted by Nomiconic to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
Sounds like the mobo. I think the term you're looking for is POST (power on self test) -- your computer isn't even POSTing. Is it beeping at all? That pattern of beeps, if there is any, means something (depends on the manufacturer, you can google for a guide).

Did you attach brass standoffs between your motherboard and the case? You may have some kind of short circuiting going on.
posted by axiom at 7:55 PM on January 31, 2010

Do you have another PC or access to one so you can test your ps? Could be a ps issue.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:59 PM on January 31, 2010

Response by poster: I somehow managed not to think of that, damn dirty ape. I'll try that right now.

And there's no beeping, axiom, but I'll check on the standoffs, though I think I remembered those when I was putting it together. And POST is indeed the word I was looking for, and the thing it's not doing.
posted by Nomiconic at 8:11 PM on January 31, 2010

One other thing you didn't mention but can often help in these situations - Pull everything which is not needed to get through POST. This probably means you will only have the motherboard, power supply, and graphics card connected. Basically, the fewer components attached, the better your chances of finding the problem.

Have you tried a different video card? This might also give you a hint concerning the problem.

Finally, can you hear the drive seek? (make noises other than just a constant whir?) This would indicate something is happening (CPU, RAM and drive would be ok) and would also point to the video card as the problem - since if it can get to the point of seeking the drive you should already past POST.
posted by NoDef at 8:27 PM on January 31, 2010

Try removing the hard drives and any USB drives and see if it at least goes to the BIOS screen.
posted by Yorrick at 8:30 PM on January 31, 2010

Do you wish to use this as an excuse to buy a new computer? If so, rest assured, your motherboard is toast!

If you would genuinely prefer to repair it, then it probably can be done. Keep pulling stuff (graphics cards always seem to be what fails on mine) and see if that works. If you pull off everything you can, then plug it all back in and see if it works.

I swear this fixed the problem for me once. I spent a really pleasant weekend afternoon taking everything off, blowing on it, and putting it back on. But this was a "puttering around" computer anyway, and that's what I'd built it for.

But rest assured, "the motherboard's toast and it's cheaper to buy a new one" is a perfectly honorable route. I've taken it many times, myself.
posted by ErikaB at 8:31 PM on January 31, 2010

I noticed you didn't pull your CPU. If it's not seated properly, that can cause no POST AFAIK. Since it's been working reliably until now it's probably unlikely.. but always a possibility.
posted by defcom1 at 8:34 PM on January 31, 2010

2nding pulling all peripherals- leave cpu, video, ram and psu connected.

Also, how many beeps are you hearing at POST? That's usually the easiest way to tell what is wrong.
posted by wongcorgi at 8:38 PM on January 31, 2010

Response by poster: Typing this from a computer powered by the trouble computer's PSU. So that rules that out.

Also tried the minimal hardware startup, disconnected everything but PSU/MoBo/Video card, to no avail.

I'm pretty sure it's not POSTing at all, so no beeps.

I spent a really pleasant weekend afternoon taking everything off, blowing on it, and putting it back on.

That's pretty much my go-to solution for things like this.

I'll try detaching and reattaching the the motherboard and the CPU, and then in all likelihood I'll reattach everything and turn it on and off a few times in the time-honored tradition of hoping that helps, and then it's off to newegg.

Thanks for the suggestions everybody.
posted by Nomiconic at 9:18 PM on January 31, 2010

Did you try a new video card since you arent getting any video ?
posted by majortom1981 at 4:11 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Typically you get funny beeps when there's something going down in motherboard town. At any point does the system shut itself off? Drives are spinning and fans are on, so...

Somewhat sounds to me like it could actually be a video (card) problem.

First, I'd disconnect the video cable and reattach. Perhaps reattach to a different port if one exists (RGB instead of DVI, for example). I have a computer and monitor that don't always play well together.

Next, I'd try to put the graphx card in another slot, if another slot is available.

Next, I'd try the onboard video, if it has onboard video.

Then I'd try a new video card from a place that will let you take it back. Ergo, Wal-Mart. (Or a friend, or your last card.)

Actually, FIRST I'd make sure that the source on your monitor didn't get changed. Mebbe you've got dvi 1&2, or rgb/dvi... Seriously I've "fixed" systems before where the only issue was with the monitor source.

(Oh and you don't need to press the "flash" CMOS button, you don't wanna "flash" it, you wanna RESET it. This is done by pulling the battery for more than 1 minute and replacing it. "Flashing" could present you with a whole host of new problems, because now it's looking for a source to grab new firmware from.)
posted by TomMelee at 6:14 AM on February 1, 2010

A little trick you can try which will rule out the graphics card is to let it boot as far as it goes and see if any of the lights on the keyboard are working. Press caps lock. Does the caps lock light come on? If so that means BIOS or your OS is up and handling the keyboard, thus most likely its a display issue. If caps lock or scroll lock does nothing then it sounds like its the MB or a non-display issue.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:30 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not sure when this was written, but a lot of this MSI trouble shooting guide is fairly timeless.

One I haven't seen mentioned yet: make sure the motherboard isn't shorting to the case.

This guide also has the LED codes for MSI's D-Bracket, which is sort of an LED version of POST beeps. If I remember right, even if you have a D-Bracket, you should be getting the beeps, but I'm not positive on that, so there's something else to look at.
posted by chndrcks at 10:45 AM on February 1, 2010

Response by poster: Just as a sort of a follow-up, I'm now also running my graphics card and HD in another computer, effectively ruling out everything but the MoBo. I also checked all the motherboard screws and cleaned and thermal pasted the CPU just for the hell of it. Thanks again for all the tips.
posted by Nomiconic at 1:14 AM on February 2, 2010

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