Windows PC Hardware Diagnostics/Troubleshooting

Discussion in 'hardware' started by TheKid7, Dec 27, 2013.

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  1. TheKid7

    TheKid7 Registered Member

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    Are there any good free or inexpensive procedures/tools for Troubleshooting a Windows PC to determine hardware problems/failures?

    My ~5 year old PC had a total lockup a few days ago, requiring a hard boot (depressing the Power Button until the PC shuts off). After the hard boot I had to do one Restart to get things back to normal.

    Today I had a total lockup again on the same PC. This time I lost the video signal to the monitor a few seconds after the lockup and had to perform a hard boot. I had to do a couple of Resets before the PC would complete the load of Windows. The strange thing is that the boot process would get to the Windows Splash screen and a few seconds later the monitor would lose the video signal.

    I am currently running a Memory Test and nothing has shown up so far.

    Could the problem be my video card? I don't have a spare video card to swap out. How would I check to see if the video card is the problem?

    All of the motherboard's POST's are giving the one (1) beep indicating that no problems were found during the POST's.

    Thanks in Advance.
     
  2. stapp

    stapp Global Moderator

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  3. TheKid7

    TheKid7 Registered Member

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    Thank you.

    Two passes of Memory Testing did not show anything.

    The reboot after Memory Testing had the loss of video signal a few seconds after the Windows Splash screen. After a PC Reset, Windows loaded normally.
     
  4. nosirrah

    nosirrah Malware Fighter

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    Cooling failing in some way can often cause hard lockups. Anything from a failed(ing) CPU fan to a coating of dust on the CPU heatsink can be the cause. This could also be the same issue with your video card.

    There is a really easy test for heat issues that does not involve taking anything other than the side of the case off. With the side off have a house fan blow directly inside your case. If the lockup issues go away completely you know something was getting too hot before.
     
  5. gambla

    gambla Registered Member

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    Install "Speedfan" or "Open Hardware Monitor" to check your temps. And like nosirrah said, if you find all your hardware covered in dust, you may got the problem. I assume you have already checked all cables.
     
  6. Noob

    Noob Registered Member

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    I'd recommend you backing up your files NOW.
    Just in case something happens to your HDD.
     
  7. zapjb

    zapjb Registered Member

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    Desktop? If so I'd open for visual & hands on inspection. Make sure by pushing, tugging & wiggling a bit everything is as it should be.
     
  8. whitedragon551

    whitedragon551 Registered Member

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    Clean it out.

    Run update video drivers. Generally when a GPU stops displaying its due to a driver crash or a bad GPU.

    Event viewer logs could also shed some light on whats failing.
     
  9. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    Not really. There are just too many things that can go wrong that throw off the same symptoms. As already noted, heat is a primary suspect, but a failing PSU can also do this so I always like to start off by swapping in a known good power supply unit.

    But note this can also be caused by any number of failing parts, from something the motherboard to a failing component in the graphics section. With video issues popping up in your case, I would look at swapping graphics cards too.
     
  10. TheKid7

    TheKid7 Registered Member

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    So far I have:

    1. SeaTools Long Test on OS containing hard drive - PASSED
    2. GSmartControl Short Test on OS containing hard drive - PASSED
    3. GSmartControl Error Tab - Nothing Logged
    4. Checked the Windows Event Logs - On each boot I see a driver that failed to load. However, on investigation of this driver it was found that it is left-overs from a software that I uninstalled over a year ago and therefore is unrelated to my problem. This software left-overs item has been showing up in the Event log for a LONG Time.
    5. Installed ASUS SmartDoctor for my ASUS EN7300 Video Card - Upon opening ASUS SmartDoctor I saw a continuous banner saying "Your VGA Card Is OK". The GPU Temperature was at 70°C (158°F). I researched what may be Maximum for a nvidea GPU and found that 105°C is considered to be a 'typical' Maximum GPU Temperature.
    6. I watched the voltages with ASUS Probe for several minutes and so no significant fluctuations.
    7. The AMD Quad Core Phenom CPU idles at around 53°C.
    8. I dusted the case and checked various connections.

    I decided that since I have several computers and only one of them have a PCIe-X16 video card, I need to get a spare video card. So I ordered a PCIe-X16 video card.

    I also decided that it is a good idea to order a new high quality Power Supply. I may swap the Power Supply out if the cause of the problem is not determined.

    I plan to update the video card drivers today or tomorrow to see if that helps (corrupted driver?).
     
  11. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    A quality supply is essential to ensure good, stable operation. Here's my [short] canned text on sizing and selecting a good supply:
    Use the eXtreme PSU Calculator Lite to determine your minimum and recommended power supply unit (PSU) requirements. Plan ahead and plug in all the hardware you think you might have in 2 or 3 years (extra drives, bigger or 2nd video card, more RAM, etc.). Be sure to read and heed the notes at the bottom of the calculator page. I recommend setting Capacitor Aging to 10% and setting both TDP and system load to 100%. These steps ensure the recommended supply has adequate head room for stress free (and perhaps quieter) operation, as well as future hardware demands. Setting Capacitor Aging to 30% will provide an even nicer amount of headroom. And remember, the computer’s components will only draw what they need, not what the PSU is capable of delivering. And the PSU will only draw from the wall what the computer demands, plus another 15 - 30% due to PSU inefficiencies. Buying way too big hurts only the budget. Make sure you buy a supply from a reputable maker and that it is 80 PLUS certified. I prefer Corsair and Antec PSUs. ​
     
  12. TheKid7

    TheKid7 Registered Member

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    Thank you.

    I purchased this 650 Watt Power Supply:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817151106

    The calculator shows ~460 Watts setting the capacitor aging at 50%. My motherboard has all solid state capacitors but I don't know if that would make a difference.

    This is the video card that I ordered:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130821
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2013
  13. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    SeaSonic is a quality brand with an excellent reputation. And 80 PLUS Bronze ensures excellent efficiency across the full range of expected loads. :)

    I am not crazy about modular PSUs, but with a little extra care, they can be trouble free for may years.

    All capacitors age and weaken over time, but note 30% capacitor aging is rather extreme for modern PSUs so 50% is overkill. That said, when talking quality PSUs with linear efficiencies, you only hurt your budget buying too big of a PSU.

    And when talking about PSUs and capacitor aging, the capacitors involved are only those used in the PSU - not the motherboard or other devices. The worry is buying a PSU that will age and weaken too much over time, and lose the capacity to meet the demands of the computer. With you using 50%, you surely created a large enough overhead to support you (and added hardware) for many years to come.

    Sorry, but no it doesn't. There is no such thing as "solid state" capacitors. What you have is "solid" capacitors. "Solid" - as in "not liquid". Previous generation motherboards used "electrolytic" capacitors. Electrolytic capacitors use electrolytes (an ionic conducting liquid) on one of the plates to create the desired "capacitance". However, these type capacitors tend to leak (or even explode in dramatic fashion) when abused/misused, if faulty from the factory, or when subjected to excessive heat.

    Leaky capacitors resulting in failed motherboards was a big problem a few years ago, but now virtually all motherboards use "solid" caps instead of electrolytic caps - so leaky caps are rarely a problem any more - at least on motherboards.

    One word of caution with your graphics card. Note it appears out the back of the computer case through just one slot. This means the heat from the GPU and graphics RAM is tossed back into the case interior instead of directly out the back as happens with some double-wide cards. Being single is NOT an indication of lessor performance or design but it does mean you MUST take that extra heat into consideration when configuring your case cooling to ensure you have adequate front to back flow of cool air through the case. Remember it is the case's responsibility to provide an adequate supply of cool air. Heat sink fans need only toss the processor's heat up and into that flow so it can be moved out the case.
     
  14. TheKid7

    TheKid7 Registered Member

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    The case I have is different than most cases, plus I had an issue with the Case Design and the current graphics card. I wish that I had purchased a different case even though the brand of case I purchased is considered to be high quality (Lian-Li).

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811112100

    The current case has the following fans:

    1. 80 mm fan than sucks air "out of" the top of the case.
    2. 120 mm fan that blows air "into" the lower front of the case.
    3. 80 mm fan that blows air "into" the back of the case rather than "out of" the back of the case.
    4. 120 mm fan was designed to be installed on an internal fan bracket and blow air onto the motherboard from the side case vent. However, the current graphics card is of a "passive" type. The heat sink design made the top of the graphics card too close to the internal fan bracket. So I improvised and attached the fan directly to the case's side vent and never installed the fan bracket.
     
  15. whitedragon551

    whitedragon551 Registered Member

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    Take that 80mm fan that blows air in the back of the case and flip it around. Alot of case fans can be reversed.
     
  16. TheKid7

    TheKid7 Registered Member

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    I have been overlooking one thing that 'may' be related to my hard freeze problem.

    I have a PCIe-X1 Multimedia Card installed on the PC. This Multimedia Card has been in the PC for several years, but has rarely been used. The first hard freeze that I had recently was when I was using this Multimedia Card. After restart after the hard boot of the PC, I noticed that a feature of this Multimedia Card was showing (MyComputer->Properties->Hardware->Device Manager) that it failed to start. I restarted the PC and the device was shown as working properly.

    Today, I started the PC and everything seemed normal. However, that feature of this Multimedia Card was showing (MyComputer->Properties->Hardware->Device Manager) that it failed to start. I then restarted the PC to see if the device failed to start would go away. The PC hanged at the BIOS screen showing “Detecting IDE Drives…”. I Reset the PC and experienced the same hang at the BIOS screen. I Reset the PC again and tried to enter the BIOS, but I could not get into the BIOS. I turned off the PC by holding in the Power Button. I powered on the PC, Windows loaded and everything seems normal. However, the same device failed to start is still showing up under MyComputer->Properties->Hardware->Device Manager.

    Can a 'failing' hardware device such as a PCIe-X1 card cause this BIOS hand like I described above? On a different PC, I recently saw a BIOS hang on a failed hard drive.

    I guess that my next step should be uninstalling software related to my PCIe-X1 Multimedia Card, uninstalling my PCIe-X1 Multimedia Card from Windows, shutting down the PC and then removing this card. Then if the problem does not show up again, I will know that this PCIe-X1 card is defective. Does this seem like the correct next step to take?

    Thanks in Advance.

    Edit: I only get one POST beep in all situations (normal boot and when the BIOS hangs). Does this 'imply' that the Motherboard is 'probably' OK?
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2013
  17. whitedragon551

    whitedragon551 Registered Member

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    You can shut the PC down and take it out to see if the symptoms get better. Software installed shouldnt matter.
     
  18. TheKid7

    TheKid7 Registered Member

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    Thank you.

    It looks like that PCIe-X1 Multimedia Card was 'most likely' the problem. I am guessing that the PCIe-X1 Multimedia Card has always been defective, but it is out of Warranty now (~3 months over).

    In the past, a few times I would get application lockups when using the provided application. I blamed these lockups on the card being 'bottom end' hardware.

    After removing this PCIe-X1 Multimedia Card today, the PC boots faster. I have wondered why this AMD Quad Core Phenom PC's (Year 2008 hardware) boot time was significantly slower than a Year 2006 Intel Core 2 Duo PC's boot time. After removing this PCIe-X16 Multimedia Card, the boot time is much faster and is about the same as the Year 2006 Intel Core 2 Duo PC's boot time.
     
  19. TheKid7

    TheKid7 Registered Member

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  20. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    I agree with this completely. Your objective is a "flow" through the case, not pushing in from all directions. Generally, you want a front-to-back flow through the case. But since heat rises naturally, "blowhole" (top) fans are a popular option that, in most cases does not disrupt the desired front to back flow through the case.

    I generally have found side mounted fans often cause more noise then cooling benefit. They can cause undesirable turbulence in that desired front-to-back flow too. But side panel fans that have a tube tunneling the flow right on top of the CPU or GPU seem to be pretty effective without impacting case flow.

    FTR, I've use Lian Li cases on several occasions and never really got excited about them once I started putting the computers together. Definitely much lighter, and well built - just not convenient, or user friendly for what I was expecting - considering they tend to be pricy. And while a few pounds lighter than steel and plastic competing brands, my back didn't seem to notice once the cases were filled with power supplies, boards, drives, and everything else.
    In electronics, a failure in one device (circuit) can wreck havoc on any other device (circuit) it is connected too. And in the case of the PCIe connector, that plugs into the motherboard's primary bus with direct links to the RAM, CPU, memory controllers and just about everything else.

    Troubleshooting hardware is often a long process of eliminating possibilities, starting with the obvious; "is it plugged in and turned on?" ;)
     
  21. TheKid7

    TheKid7 Registered Member

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    The problem of losing the video signal to the monitor after the Windows splash screen came back today.

    I decided to reset the BIOS to the original configuration to see if that would help. Just after I reset the BIOS, I entered the BIOS to have a look around and something very strange happened. The BIOS screen that I was on at the time suddenly changed so that there were a bunch of strange (not normal) symbols around the edges of the screen. I exited the BIOS (without Saving) and Windows loaded normally.

    Do these 'sudden' strange symbols on a BIOS screen 'imply' that my BIOS may be getting ready to Fail?

    I am getting tempted to just go ahead and replace the motherboard, CPU and memory before the planned change to Windows 7. The current motherboard, CPU and memory are approaching 6 years old.

    Thanks in Advance.
     
  22. zapjb

    zapjb Registered Member

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    I think this is a very strange problem. And a rare one. If the memory & PSU are ok. Then I agree the mobo is failing. I just haven't experienced this intermediary stage of failure. Ime mobos start acting up & quickly progress to failure.

    One thing I might try as a last resort is reflashing the BIOS to the original BIOS.
     
  23. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    It is unlikely your BIOS is "failing". Though it happens, firmware memory modules are pretty robust. When they fail, they tend to fail catastrophically. Funny graphics typically indicates a graphics problem. Since actual symbols are displayed (as opposed to a bunch of lines or other issues) then it is likely your card or integrated.

    I would try entering the BIOS again and see if it happens again. Make sure you monitor cables and the graphics card (if not integrated) are securely mounted. Safe Mode might also be a good test as both the BIOS and Safe Mode use standard VGA resolutions.

    Your timing is a bit off. Understand an upgraded motherboard, for OS licensing purposes, is considered a new computer and therefore requires a new Windows license. You will have to buy a full retail license (read: expensive!) if you then wish to transfer that license to your new machine when you finally get around to buying it.

    So, with this system being 6 years old (which is up there) I recommend you shop for a new computer now and not worry about this machine anymore. Then pull the drive from this machine and install it in an enclosure attached to your new machine, or installed in your new machine as a secondary (NOT boot) drive to save or copy off all your data.

    Also, while Windows 7 is a great OS, I recommend you get Windows 8. W7 is already 4 years old. Why start out 4 years behind? W8 is faster and more secure than W7. There really is no reason to revert back to W7. If you don't like the look and feel of Windows 8's user interface, no problem. There are several 3rd party apps that bring back the familiar W7 Start Orb, Start Menu and Desktop. I recommend you check out Start8. Start8 brings back the familiar W7 Start Orb and Start Menu and lets you boot directly to the Windows Desktop instead of the new Windows 8 "Start Screen" that so many people don't like. Then W8 works and looks and feels almost exactly like the familiar W7. It cost $5 (after a 30-day trial period), but is well worth it, IMO.

    See also Classic Shell. This product also brings back the Start Orb and menu, is free and very popular too. However, it has extra features and goodies that many (including myself) feel is unneeded "fluff". And perhaps because it is a free product it does not "appear" to have the "polished feel" of Start8. That said, it works very well.

    See Start8 vs. Classic Shell for a good comparison.

    See also Pokki, another popular start screen alternative.
     
  24. TheKid7

    TheKid7 Registered Member

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    I just received the previously mentioned new 650 Watt Power Supply and PCIe-X16 Video Card.

    Should I swap out the video card, watch the PC for a while, and then swap out the Power Supply if I am still having issues?
     
  25. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    I would swap out the PSU first and see if still having issues.
     
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