CPU power failure
June 20, 2005 8:06 PM   Subscribe

I opened up my computer and tried to install RAM. After I installed the RAM, my computer would not come back on. I pressed the power button multiple times, and nothing. A friend checked to see if the power button was faulty and it wasn't. It's a Compaq Presario HP and when we plug the power cord in, the power supply just does this clicking. We're not sure what the problem is. I tried a new power cord and still no luck! Any ideas?
posted by JPowers to Computers & Internet (28 answers total)
Usually this is because the RAM isn't seated in the slot properly. You have to push harder than you would think is safe. Did the little levers on the sides go into the slots on the RAM when it was pushed all the way down?
posted by smackfu at 8:09 PM on June 20, 2005

You should probably make sure that the RAM is the correct speed for your computer, as well.
posted by angry modem at 8:25 PM on June 20, 2005

I assume you used a grounding strap . . . (nervous laugh). It's probably badly seated RAM, or the wrong RAM, as others have pointed out. Try returning to your original configuration and you'll know whether you zapped a major component.
posted by realcountrymusic at 8:54 PM on June 20, 2005

When you open the case while the power cord is still plugged in, touch a metal part of the power supply. This will ground you, and prevent you from frying your computer with static electricity.
posted by orthogonality at 9:02 PM on June 20, 2005

Make sure that you've placed (err.. really, really pushed) it into the correct slot. You should always start with the 0 (it will be labelled, get a flashlight.. the numbers are quite small) and then move-up to the next (1,2..) when installing more.

Also, note that some motherboards do not like varying RAM sizes. Some manufacturers stipulate that if you have a 256mb stick of DDR400 in the first slot, you must install a 256mb stick of DDR400 in the second slot or it will not work.
posted by purephase at 9:09 PM on June 20, 2005

It is interesting that, when the computer wouldn't turn back on, you assumed it was the power supply, power button, or power cord. Before the memory install, the machine booted. Afterwards, it doesn't. The problem is a result of the variable that changed. (unless you zapped it, as RCM points out, but let's hold off on that assumption).

Remove the memory and reboot. If that works, it's probably a seating issue. You have to push surprisingly firmly to seat DIMMs.
posted by misterbrandt at 9:13 PM on June 20, 2005

I did not use a grounding strap and didn't ground myself. I've never done this before and didn't know that was what I was supposed to do. If I fried my computer, what does this mean? What have I lost? My power supply is making a clicking noise that it wasn't making before. Have I lost any of my data?
posted by JPowers at 9:22 PM on June 20, 2005

You probably didn't fry the computer. Hold off on the static electricity worry until you work out the other, simpler explanations. Most likely is that you haven't fully seated the RAM chip. You do indeed have to push until the side clips move all the way in. Use more force than you'd think you would need to.

If that doesn't work, remove the existing chip, and put the new one in the same slot where the old one was. If the computer boots after that, you have the problem that purephase mentioned; your motherboard requires symmetry in the sizes of your chips.
posted by odinsdream at 9:28 PM on June 20, 2005

Are you sure it's the power supply making the clicking noise? It might just be the computer complaining that you didn't seat the memory correctly.

Try removing the new memory entirely, so the machine is back the way it was before you did anything. Now try to boot it. If it boots as it did before, you haven't lost anything. Now turn it off, leaving the power cord plugged in, and, after grounding yourself by touching the power supply, put the memory back in, making sure the little tabs on the ends snap into place, then try it again.

If it doesn't boot after you've returned the machine to its previous configuration, it's possible you did fry something, but I can't quite see why that would cause the power supply to make a clicking noise. I mean, no matter how much static electricity you may have had in your body before you installed it the first time, it's highly unlikely you had enough to harm the power supply--the CPU, maybe, but not the power supply.

So, if the power supply really is making noises and your computer's not booting, it's possible the power supply died for completely unrelated reasons. This seems pretty unlikely, but anything's possible.
posted by cerebus19 at 9:34 PM on June 20, 2005

Also, information about the computer, like model name, RAM size, speed, would be helpful...
posted by angry modem at 9:39 PM on June 20, 2005

On the other stick of RAM in your computer, there is probably a little sticker that has a bunch of numbers and letters on it. Copy down all of it and make sure the speeds (PC3200 ECC or whatever) are the same as the new stick you installed. Even if the worst happened and you toasted your processor or motherboard, it is highly unlikely any of your data will be affected, as that was stored on your hard drive which was not moving at the time (assuming you at least turned the computer off before trying this). RAM can be tricky, but I am sure we can get you sorted if you keep us updated.
posted by sophist at 10:32 PM on June 20, 2005

Oh, and if you for some reason need/want to contant Compaq customer support, I would advise against mentioning ANYTHING about opening up your case and trying to do this. In my limited knowledge of Compaq policy, opening up the case for any reason pretty much voids the warranty. Very proprietary. Just tell em you went to start it up one day and all it did was "click click click" at you.
posted by sophist at 10:38 PM on June 20, 2005

Here is my exact computer.

Right now we're trying to hook the hard drive up to a new computer to see if any data is lost. There is a green light blinking on the back of the computer when we plug it in...the blinking light is coming from the power supply, but I can't figure out what the blinking light means...I've looked in my manual and I can't find what it's trying to tell me.
posted by JPowers at 10:45 PM on June 20, 2005

It seems to me that there's an electrical short somewhere on your motherboard (highly likely it's the new RAM chip, seated incorrectly) and so the power supply is refusing to turn on. It's not starting up, is it? The fans aren't starting to whir as usual?

Either that or, as mentioned above, you inadvertently fried your motherboard with static (unlikely, and even if this were the case you'd just need a new motherboard) or your power supply is fried (even more unlikely, and it appears it's still functioning if it's blinking at you). Even given these scenarios you wouldn't suffer any data loss on the hard drives.

Investigating the problem with the new RAM chip in a scientific fashion seems to me to be much less risky (in relation to possibly losing data) than moving hard drives around, especially if you're new to all this.
posted by neckro23 at 10:53 PM on June 20, 2005

I really hope you tried just taking out the new RAM before ripping the hard drive out to check the data. Do you have any information on the RAM you're trying to put in as well? These aren't small, unimportant details; they would aid everyone in this thread in determining the source of your woes.
posted by angry modem at 10:53 PM on June 20, 2005

What happened when you took the new stick out of the old box?
posted by sophist at 10:56 PM on June 20, 2005

Important peice of advice: take your time and evaluate your optinos before you start switching things around and panicking. It is highly unlikely you have done any permanent damage to your computer, and frantically messing with the hardware is a recipe for disaster.
posted by sophist at 10:58 PM on June 20, 2005

Thanks for all the help so far -- you guys are great.

To answer some of the most recent questions...

- neckro23: no it is not starting up and no the fans are not turning

- angry modem: I did try taking out the new RAM before taking out the hard drive. Also, no I do not have any information on the RAM

- sophist: I don't exactly understand your question? Could you reword. Sorry.

Right now we have installed the hard drive onto another computer (as a slave) and we are currently recovering orphaned files. Does that makes sense? This was a suggestion of one of the people who's over here helping me fix it.

Again, big thanks to everyone.
posted by JPowers at 11:18 PM on June 20, 2005

I'd check to see if the connectors from the power supply to the motherboard may have come loose. If the PS isn't connected, the PS won't even start up.
posted by Marky at 11:25 PM on June 20, 2005

Well I've got the hard drive successfully installed on another computer and there is very little data loss (some files are corrupt, but nothing to terribly important). So, for now, I'm ok. The big thing was data loss and now that I know I'm ok there , I can breath. Now I need to get the actual computer to boot up again. Thanks for all the help and keep the suggestions coming.
posted by JPowers at 11:56 PM on June 20, 2005

The clicking of the power supply is likely because it is either shorted, or because it has no load. Could be internal to the PS (connection jarred loose while you were installing the RAM), could be something in the motherboard or some other component, could be the new RAM. Could just be its time to die.
posted by kindall at 12:16 AM on June 21, 2005

Ok, at this point you could continue trying to fix the computer or take it back to the store and saying the computer doesn't turn on. Right now, there are two possibilities: power supply or motherboard.

If it is the PS, that power supply could be designed only for use in that computer and hence difficult or impossible to buy seperate in a store.

You have removed the power plug and reseated the connector going from the power supply to the motherboard, right? It's the long one usually located north of your CPU.
posted by Dean Keaton at 12:45 AM on June 21, 2005

Electrostatic shock is very rare, especially in the summer when the air is somewhat humid. You always think you have fried things, but you have always just assembled them badly. That said, you should ground yourself when dong these things. Sophist is right:
Do not start switching harddrives. Your data is perfectly safe. Instead, take a few deep breaths, remove the RAM module that you just inserted, make sure none of the PSU-to-motherboard cables is hanging unconnected. If it doesn't boot, check everything again until it does. Call Compaq anonymously and ask where everything should be.
posted by springload at 1:40 AM on June 21, 2005

Definitely take your computer into a repair shop. Don't try to "fix" anything else on your own. Given your (low) level of familiarity with this stuff, please don't follow any intructions from here. Everyone is well-meaning, but tinkering with the hardware on your PC is very tricky business unless you know what you're doing. You're more likely to do more harm than good.

I opened up my computer and tried to install RAM.

Words guaranteed to chill the spine of any IT Support technician.
posted by mkultra at 9:08 AM on June 21, 2005

Well, as a wannabe IT Support technician, I say don't listen to mkultra. You can do this.

If I understand correctly, the computer did not boot up even after you took out the new ram stick. In that case, the only thing I can think of is that you accidentally unplugged something, likely the cable going from your power supply to your motherboard, as Marky and others said earlier. This happens with me quite regularly. Which in turn means, it happens to the best of us.
posted by cheerleaders_to_your_funeral at 10:23 AM on June 21, 2005

As a former Support Technician, you may be over your head on this one. I have one suggestion in two parts:

1. Check that ALL power cables are connected to the appropriate places, if they are, reseat them all, making sure especially that the connection to the Motherboard is seated completely.

2. If it still does not boot, take it to a repair shop, if for nothing else to have them run a test on the motherboard and power supply. A good local shop will probably waive any bench fees.

(also - for the love of god, why would you *want* to be a support tech)
posted by tj at 3:05 PM on June 21, 2005

In my limited knowledge of Compaq policy, opening up the case for any reason pretty much voids the warranty.

The last Compaq I owned actually came with a separate manual that explained how to upgrade your memory, so this might be a rare exception. It was also about five years ago.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 4:55 PM on June 21, 2005

I know how much computer problems bite. Take it to a repair shop, because from here on it's just going to get worse if you screw with it further.
posted by angry modem at 10:12 PM on June 21, 2005

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