What's the matter with my BIOS?
December 13, 2003 3:11 AM   Subscribe

In followup to this post regarding a troublesome CD-RW installation, I continue to have problems after I thought I had it licked. [more inside]

Yesterday, I futzed with the BIOS and I got the computer to boot. I turned off the computer, unplugged it (it's all over my kitchen right now), and went to work.

When I came home from work, I figured I'd be sure that it still worked well before I started putting the whole box back together, so I plugged it in and rebooted. The computer whirred to life, but no image on the monitor.

I didn't change anything from time A to time B, so something is pretty clearly loose or dead or dying or something.

Is this a dying BIOS battery? I tried a little to take the battery off the mobo, but I didn't succeed. I didn't use any tools, though, so I'm sure I can yank it out to test it to see if it needs to be replaced. The computer is only 3 years old, though.. seems a little short lived for a BIOS battery, personally.

However, I can't get it to work again. I did the same commands for BIOS that I did before, and that didn't help this time. Just the one boot yesterday morning.

I've tried to change jumper settings on the hard drive (it's the only thing plugged in right now) from master to slave to cable select, moved it on the IDE cord from master to slave and back again, etc.

According to this site, I plug in the jumper on the left most set of prongs for master configuration. However, I was using an incorrect jumper setting (I was looking at a different style of hard drive) when I got it to boot. I tried the incorrect jumpers again, but nada.

So, what changed between the time I shut it down yesterday morning and the time I tried to boot it again at about noon?
posted by ajpresto to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
From my limited experience, the BIOS batt. isn't the issue. You are able to turn on a mobo without the battery, you only lose any saved bios data other than the factory settings. Have you tried Mobo, RAM, CPU, HD, Video only?
posted by Keyser Soze at 4:32 AM on December 13, 2003

Yes, Keyser.. that's the way that it is set up right now. Can't get it to show video. Last time that that was the problem, it was resolved with a BIOS flushing. That didn't help this time, yet. I'm going to try again when I get home.
posted by ajpresto at 5:45 AM on December 13, 2003

I'm not sure what you use the machine for but, if this problem persists, it may honestly be cheaper (and less maddening) for you to buy a reasonably-priced replacement, rather than trying to diagnose and replace individual components of your existing machine.

Ben's Bargains frequently lists discount codes from Dell, with which you could pick up a fairly modern -- albeit basic -- machine for less than $350 (and sometimes less than $250.) Few of these computers offer AGP ports (in favor of onboard video) but, if you're worried about top-notch graphics, you could always pick up a good PCI video card. Swapping in the rest of your existing hardware should be relatively hassle-free, assuming it wasn't the CD-RW that fried your old system.

Considering my primary machine is currently an Athlon 850Mhz, perhaps I should consider taking my own advice...
posted by Danelope at 2:44 PM on December 13, 2003

Uh, I'd say that if you're not even getting the video BIOS flash screen, you should try swapping your graphics card. Find a friend with one.
posted by armoured-ant at 5:30 PM on December 13, 2003

No, now get this.. It appears to be based on time on or heat or something..

If I leave it on, and "broken" for a while (I haven't timed it)when I come back and reboot, it fires right up correctly.

So, what's up with that? What does it take time to "charge" or "reload" or something? Is that a power supply issue?
posted by ajpresto at 7:01 AM on December 14, 2003

I had an old power supply that required you hit the button just right -- a certain on-for-several-minutes, off-on, clickclick sequence -- that I was completely unable to diagnose. I just swapped out the supply.

In general, intermittent problems are often the fault of the power supply. Most of them are poorly made and take a lot of abuse from the low quality of AC line juice. Eventually they start doing strange things. If'n this was me, I'd drop $60 on a decent power supply before $300 - $400 on a new barebones box.
posted by majick at 8:31 AM on December 14, 2003

That's my diagnosis, I think. My issue, though is that this is a prefab box. Not that a new Dell wouldn't be, but hey, it'd be up around the 2GHz range..

It also froze on me, so I wonder if it's temperature related, as well. It's in a horrible location, shoved in a corner where it can't breathe.

Ah well. I give up. I think I'll pull stuff off of it as I can, when it's powered on.

I ALSO wonder if I'm making it try to power too much stuff. The power supply says it can power 124W. I'm trying to run the motherboard, video, hard drive, 2 CD-RW and a DVD-ROM all off of that.

And, I couldn't get an optical mouse to work correctly. I wonder if that little bit of juice to power the red light just threw it over the top..
posted by ajpresto at 9:50 AM on December 14, 2003

A supply rated for 124W is going to be struggling to run anything remotely like your set-up. I wouldn't spec less than a 300W supply for what you're describing. You aren't drawing 300, but you should have the overhead capacity rather then running it at redline.

I don't think that's necessarily the root cause of your woes (a quick check would be to unplug power to the stack of optical drives and see if it boots more reliably). But don't fool around with a potentially bad power supply. It's directly attached to a lot of more expensive stuff, and it can -- and will -- smoke perfectly good hardware if you piss it off.

Prefab or not, you might be able to replace the supply. It's worth a look, and cheaper than Dropping Big Bux (which you can then save up for what you actually want).

posted by majick at 10:23 AM on December 14, 2003

(ewps. Pretend there's </i> after "drawing." Sorry.)
posted by majick at 10:24 AM on December 14, 2003

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