Computer will not load any operating system
February 27, 2010 4:22 PM   Subscribe

I'm at my wits' end trying to solve this computer problem. The system will not boot to any OS install CD (Windows 7 Pro x64, Ubuntu 9.10 x86, Ubuntu 9.10 x64) even after a total hardware replacement.

Lightning struck my friend's electrical system, destroying several appliances and allegedly causing her first-gen AMD Athlon computer running XP to lose keyboard and mouse functionality.

Keyboard worked fine in BIOS. I tried using a Ubuntu 9.10 LiveCD to confirm this wasn't some Windows driver nonsense but the system would freeze before I actually got into the OS; the keyboard worked long enough to select what I wanted to do (boot the LiveCD environment) but after I selected it I would get an I/O error: could not read from disc. There is minimal activity going on with the CD drive while this is happening.

Tried other installation media. Same result.

Replaced the CD drive with a new DVD drive. Same result.

Unplugged all unnecessary peripherals (floppy, hard drives, etc). Same result.

Since I had no way to test anything at this point, I assumed lightning trashed the PATA port. Replaced the motherboard, CPU, RAM, and video card (they were overdue for upgrade anyway).

She's on completely different hardware now and I'm still getting the same result. I have gone the extra step to upgrade the PSU, being one of the two original components left, yet the problem persists.

At this point the only piece of hardware that hasn't been replaced is the case. I know my install discs are good because they work on any other machine I put them in.

The Windows 7 installer will go through the DOS-looking "starting installer" phase until it gets to the artsy Windows 7 blue screen (not a BSOD) and then freezes.
Both versions of Ubuntu get to the screen where I select what I want to do (I select "Try Ubuntu without installing anything") and it gets hung up at that point.

Any suggestions before I start getting premature hair loss? Could the case possibly be the culprit? It's the only thing left now but I've never heard of a case causing this type of problem.

posted by Ziggy Zaga to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
You haven't mentioned this.. but have you replaced the keyboard/mouse?
posted by royalsong at 4:29 PM on February 27, 2010

I'm guessing there is some peripheral which also got fried and is interrupting the machine into oblivion. Router? Modem? Printer? Mouse? I can't imagine a failure mode of a case that could cause that behaviour.
posted by fydfyd at 4:30 PM on February 27, 2010

Keyboard and mouse have been replaced with hardware that I know works.

Every extraneous peripheral has been disconnected. No router or internal modem, no printer, no floppy, even the hard drives are disconnected (problem persisted even with them hooked up).

Forgot to mention but the DVD drive is set as master, there is no slave device and I'm using a brand new PATA cable.

I'm running completely barebones here. Video card, DVD drive, keyboard and mouse are the only things still hooked up.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 4:40 PM on February 27, 2010

Since it's a new motherboard, have you update the BIOS to the latest version from the motherboard manufacturer's site? I once had a Gigabyte board that shipped with such an old BIOS that I couldn't install Windows at all until I'd updated it.
posted by hjd at 4:44 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know you said you replaced the RAM, but if the machine will POST and go to the BIOS, but not complete the boot sequence, and it's not just failing fsck somewhere, it sounds a LOT like a bad stick. Have you tried swapping out with known working RAM?
posted by The Bellman at 4:48 PM on February 27, 2010

hjd, I will check the BIOS issue, especially since I just found out it WILL boot to XP x64 with NO problems whatsoever. Unfortunately I don't have any more license keys :\

Speaking of which, I'm using purely legit software here.

Bellman, it does complete POST/boot sequence, the system just shits itself while the OS installers are loading.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 5:01 PM on February 27, 2010

Agree with Bellman. Also other times I've seen behavior like this is if the system is overheating. Did you install a fresh heatsink and appropriately apply thermal paste? Are the temperatures reported in the BIOS, and are they reasonable?

I guess the only other thing I can think of which you might be considering "the case" would be the fans. It would be kind of crazy if the fans were the problem, and pretty much impossible for the case to be causing this behavior.
posted by drpynchon at 5:02 PM on February 27, 2010

Sounds like you have one or more RAM sticks that have defects (as I think Bellman was trying to suggest). Just because it POSTs and the (fast) mem check finishes doesn't mean there isn't some memory issue. Systematically eliminate it by swapping out for known-good sticks.
posted by axiom at 5:28 PM on February 27, 2010

Appreciate the RAM suggestions, but it turns out hjd had it right. There was a BIOS update to resolve this very issue on the manufacturer's site.

Thanks for all the suggestions!
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 6:36 PM on February 27, 2010

Glad you got it fixed, ZZ.

For others doing W7 x64 installs/upgrades I will point out that I had a terrible time until I disabled the boot from floppy option in the BIOS. It was at the bottom of the list but during one of the seemingly hundreds of reboots Windows hung trying to access the (non-existent) floppy drive.

My x32 installs did not have this problem.
posted by trinity8-director at 11:35 PM on February 27, 2010

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