Help! My computer freezes instantly!
September 29, 2006 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Help! My computer freezes almost instantly after power-on!

This started yesterday after the power in my apartment flickered and caused the machine to reboot, although I seem to remember this happening for a little while a year or so back but then disappearing.

I turn my computer on, the bios screen starts to show up, and the thing freezes before it's even done. I know this because the sentence at the bottom starts "Press DEL to enter SETUP, ESC" and then freezes before the usual "to skip memory test." Needless to say, it never gets to the memory test.

The computers a no-name cobbled together from some guy on the internet a few years back.
posted by callmejay to Technology (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by callmejay at 10:09 AM on September 29, 2006

If you can, get your hands on a bootable CD/DVD such as a WinPE build or Linux live CD. Use that to test your hardware. If it boots from CD with no problems, then you may be dealing with a hard drive issue (toasted, trashed, or just mangled). If this is the case, it may be software-related, and a rescue disk might help (a WinPE disk from which you can run a HDD scan might be very helpful here).

If it won't boot from the CD, then you may have a hardware issue such as a faulty power supply, memory chip or motherboard. At the very least it may help yo narrow it down.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:27 AM on September 29, 2006

Can you go into the bios? If you're able to access the options in the bios screen and it'll stay "usuable" for x amount of time, it's probably a problem with the drive; If not, I'd suggest looking at the mem chips in there (ideally you'll have more than one) try pulling the one that is labeled as the secondary slot; Reboot; if it isn't freezing after pulling one of the mem sticks, it is probably fried memory; (if it does freeze, pull out the first and replace with the second, leaving the second bank free) If it gets further by altering the mem, but freezes before the os starts, or whilst loading check to see if the processor fan is spinning.

If it's spinning, the mem tests haven't helped your troubleshooting, you could also try reflashing the bios.
posted by AllesKlar at 10:35 AM on September 29, 2006

It sounds like a dead motherboard. It could also be a bad stick of RAM or a video card issue. You would probably get further into the boot process if it was a bad hard drive.

Make sure the fan on your processor is spinning and blow all the dust out of your case to rule out overheating.

Check that everything is plugged in tight (RAM, video card, all power connectors).

If you have more than 1 stick of ram, take one out and test (make sure you put the single stick in the right socket). Then swap sticks and try again. If you are still freezing on boot, temporarily swap video cards with another machine. If you are still freezing, buy a new motherboard.
posted by Uncle Jimmy at 10:39 AM on September 29, 2006

Assuming the power spike didn't fry some of your computer's electronics, you may be able to fix it fairly easily.

The on board battery for keeping your CMOS up may have died, or for some other reason, you may have corrupted CMOS contents. You can clear this boot memory manually, usually by shorting a pair of pins on the motherboard, expressly put there for this purpose. In many cases, you just put an option shorting jumper (or a wire) across those pins for about a minute, to wipe out the CMOS contents. This is also a good time to replace the battery on the motherboard with a fresh one. Your motherboard manual will contain a diagram of the pin locations, and maybe info on the battery type you'll need.

Once you've cleared CMOS, you'll have lost all your BIOS settings, so you'll have to go through BIOS setup to re-detect your hard drive, CD/DVD drive, and other hardware. After that, you exit BIOS to save the values to CMOS again, and then the computer should re-boot normally.

It would also be a good idea to put a power surge strip, or better yet, a UPS between your power outlet, and your PC.
posted by paulsc at 10:40 AM on September 29, 2006

Sounds like it might be hanging on the IDE device search. What happens if you leave it there for a while (i.e. 5~15 minutes)? How about when you go into the BIOS and set the IDE devices to "Auto" - does it detect them then?

If either / both of those come back with some sort of "HDD / device not found" message when you know there's drives on that interface, then you've got a trashed HDD. Sometimes it's recoverable if you can force a low-level format (after trying to get your data off it!); often it's not.
posted by Pinback at 6:04 PM on September 29, 2006

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