PC not booting, not sure wher to start with diagnosis/fixing...
August 14, 2014 5:03 PM   Subscribe

My not particularly old PC is having trouble starting reliably.

When I turn it on the first time (from the case switch, not the powerpoint), it hangs on the bios load screen, never gets to booting Windows. It's frozen, so hitting F2 doesn't load the bios menus. I have to long-press the power switch to turn it off and then I turn it on again, and then it loads normally. So far it has always worked on the second go, but I'm afraid of a time when it wont boot at all...

No idea where to start with this, it's not an OS problem, and I can't think of a bios setting to fiddle with. Something to do with the power supply? The mainboard battery isn't flat (not that I could think how that would be an issue). Hardware? Software? No idea wher to start,a nd i hate fiddling with the bios anyway.
posted by wilful to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Change the bios settings so it displays the details of the boot instead of a logo. That may give you a clue to what's hanging.
posted by Sophont at 5:50 PM on August 14, 2014

Where to start? Backup your data.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 6:06 PM on August 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

First, try disconnecting everything (except the keyboard and mouse) that is connected to the PC in case the computer is having trouble communicating with some peripheral.

Next get into the BIOS and read everything, hoping to find a setting that is conflicting somehow.

The symptom of not booting right the first time, but OK the second time, implies some kind of hardware problem. The BIOS may be properly detecting that your hardware is not working properly, and the BIOS is waiting for something to report that it is ready.

Try opening the computer, removing and re-inserting all cables and RAM modules.

posted by gnossos at 6:13 PM on August 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Take the CPU, fan, and heatsink completely out of the unit. Clean the schmeckle off the CPU. Let dry. Buy a brand new fan and heatsink. Apply new thermal grease and follow the directions. Install new heat sink and fan, following the directions. Reboot and see if you still have issues.

If the PC is under warranty, ignore my advice and take to local Geek Squad.
posted by brownrd at 6:25 PM on August 14, 2014

Sometimes power supplies won't let them start from cold boot, but on reboot OK. Check all fans. They may not be up to proper speed on cold start.
posted by nogero at 7:10 PM on August 14, 2014

Response by poster: Oh maybe I've got the fan set on quieter settings, need to set it on power cooling settings?
posted by wilful at 7:32 PM on August 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Does your motherboard have a set of Power On Self Test (POST) lights? They might be useful in diagnosing the failure. Check your motherboard documentation.
posted by DarkForest at 5:32 AM on August 15, 2014

I assume you haven't added hardware recently? How long have you waited for it to get un-hung on its own? I agree that the first step is to disconnect stuff (including internal storage devices) and then try resetting the BIOS.

Does it have a video card, integrated video?, both? If it has both, try moving the monitor to whichever one you aren't currently using to try to get into the BIOS. Also, remove the graphics card altogether as part of trying to identify the offending component.

How not particularly old is it? What OS version? Windows 8 used UEFI to boot. I have had trouble similar to the problems you describe when the BIOS has computability with non UEFI hardware turned ON, which, unfortunately, is the fail-safe default you get when resetting the BIOS.
posted by Good Brain at 10:34 AM on August 15, 2014

Response by poster: Good Brain, it's less than 12 months old, and is on Win 8.1. No new hardware added, it has been stable for many months up till now. I'll investigate as you and others recommended. Thanks all.
posted by wilful at 3:46 AM on August 17, 2014

Was going to ask what Good Brain did: has hardware been added?

Ordinarily, this two-boots-to-boot thing is the result of an overloaded power supply - on the initial power-on everything (especially disks with spinning platters) demands juice. All the juice. All at the same time. If there's not enough to go around, things don't work. Then things settle down, and you're not asking the PS for MAX POWER FOR EVERYTHING, the total load falls within the reasonable range, and you get to reboot and then surf for porn change the fonts on your spreadsheet for optimal widget production.

If hardware hasn't been added (I used to get this a lot when dangling the fifth HDD out of some crappy office-surplus P1), then I'd worry that your PSU is on the way out.
posted by pompomtom at 10:04 PM on August 18, 2014

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