how cold is too cold?
February 7, 2008 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible that my computer sometimes freezes while booting because it is too cold?

Sometimes, but ONLY in the morning, my desktop PC will freeze as it boots up.

Sometimes it freezes on the Windows screen...usually it freezes after the line "Verifying VMI pool data". Whenever this occurs, I simply reset and the compy boots up fine. This has been going on for a few months - and it happens maybe 30% of the time - but ONLY in the mornings.

Now, my desktop PC has a nifty little digital temperature gauge on the front. When it freezes, the temps read about 18* celsius for the CPU and 14* celsius for the HDD. The temperatures immediately rise 2*-5* as soon as the computer starts running, and there are no other performance issues.
posted by gnutron to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
Cold doesn't hurt computers -- in fact, they run better when they're cold. Heat is the major issue.

What might be happening is that your hard drive is taking longer to spin up than the BIOS wants to wait -- I have one (brand new) system that does this with an older drive. The solution was to go into the BIOS screen and turn off "Quick Boot". The extra time it takes in checking the memory gives the drive time to spin up, and all works fine.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 2:41 PM on February 7, 2008

Sure it's possible, thermal expansion/contraction can cause weird things like this in machinery. Strange that something in your pc would have anything requiring that close a tolerance, however.
posted by IronLizard at 2:42 PM on February 7, 2008

It might be possible that the lubricants in the hard drive get thicker in the cold. It would have to be pretty close to frozen solid for this to be a problem, however.

One thing, as IronLizard points out, is that cards can work themselves lose from the expansion/contraction process. Try re-seating expansion and memory cards.
posted by trinity8-director at 3:01 PM on February 7, 2008

Your computer would run fine in any environment you would be comfortable using it in, and cold really shouldn't be a problem, particularly not 14 degrees C.

Does your computer get left off for long periods of time at any other time of the day? That is, in the morning it's probably been off for 8 hours plus, but during the day it would be off for only short periods.

Maybe the hard drive, as suggested, takes a bit longer to start up?
posted by tomble at 3:36 PM on February 7, 2008

It's also possible that you have some sort of hairline crack in a solder joint for some component somewhere on the motherboard. When it warms it it makes the electrical connection.
posted by lockle at 3:41 PM on February 7, 2008

My guess would be that a cold disc draws more power to spin up than a warm one (viscosity, as trinity8-director suggests?), and it's just enough that your power supply can't quite keep up with the load. Anecdotally, power supplies seem to have gotten cheap'n'nasty in the past few years, and modern graphics cards are greedy. Plug in a power-hungry USB device. If the problem gets worse, your PSU is probably on the way out. Luckily, replacement is trivial.

I don't buy cards unseating themselves. Memory and anything more modern than PCI is clamped in place.
posted by Leon at 4:01 PM on February 7, 2008

Thought: might be worth running a memory soak test, too. You never know.
posted by Leon at 4:04 PM on February 7, 2008

Seconding memory test.
posted by damn dirty ape at 4:08 PM on February 7, 2008

Could be a weak CMOS battery. Batteries do put out less current when they are cold, and it could put this over the borderline into scrambling some of the data the BIOS is relying upon.
posted by kindall at 6:09 PM on February 7, 2008

Have a look at your motherboard and check for bulging/bursting/exploding capacitors.

I've had systems on my bench that would boot when warm, because when they were warm the remaining electrolyte in the bursting caps worked well enough. But when they were started cold, no go.

Anything other than perfectly flat on top is bad. If it's bulging even a little, it's gone. And if there are lots of them bulging, you're ready for a new board.
posted by SlyBevel at 10:01 PM on February 7, 2008

More on capacitor plague.
posted by SlyBevel at 10:02 PM on February 7, 2008

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