Okay people, I officially give up. The time has come to seek outside help. I have a little soldier of a desktop computer, about three years old, good enough for my purposes, and its starting to act hinky on me. The worst part is that the problem is intermittent.
I will turn on or restart the computer, and the splash screen comes on and Windows starts to load. At some point during that process, the spinning “hold on a sec” graphic stops spinning, and computer promptly goes into sleep mode. I call it sleep, because when I move the mouse, things come back on momentarily. Then, almost as quickly as things come on, the display stops getting a signal despite the fans still going and the hard drive light still chugging. I’ll then turn off the computer by holding down the power button and restart.
When I do this, the computer powers back on, but I still get a dark screen. I have to unplug the computer to get it to work. Occasionally, while rebooting over and over again to play with the BIOS or what have you, Windows loads without any problem. I have already completely changed the operating system by doing a clean install of Windows 10 over Windows 7. The problems persists. I’ve even re-installed Windows 10.
Things I have checked:
HDD: SMART says it’s fine, and so does the check disk utility.
RAM: Memtest86+ found no problems and neither did the Windows memory diagnostic tool.
CPU: Not heating up. Computer doesn’t act funny when it loads Windows 10. It only acts funny on startup.
But it’s gotta be hardware… right? Right? Can it be a bad motherboard and still turn on?
I’m with @RatMan this looks like a PSU issue. They tend to be the first to go, since they have high temp components, and a lot of flexing from the electromagnetic switching. They mechanically wear out. All that coil noise indicates forces acting upon the device.
There was a time when I was a teenager and the answer would have been yes, but right now the only computer I can cannibalize for parts is an old Macintosh LCIII.
Here’s the other thing that might be an issue, but I feel like I’m grasping for straws: The plug isn’t grounded. I don’t have a grounded outlet and I use a “cheater.” I know, I’m being naughty. I’ve considered a jury-rig ground to some nearby plumbing pipes, but can it really be causing an issue?
Depending on how you have the POST setup in the BIOS, possibly. If you have a thorough POST it takes much longer and the mobo will cry and puke on itself if any little thing is wrong. If you have an auto POST or a quick/fast POST, then it won’t check for a lot of errors that can cause this type of thing.
Yeah. When you have a rapidly changing electric field it induces magnetic fields that act upon the conductors.
The coil noise that all PSUs output is in fact kinetic forces wearing on the PSU. This is normal. But it’s important to keep in mind that PSUs have finite life spans because they do wear out just from mechanical stress.
Thanks you guys, I can afford a new PSU easily enough and this computer can limp along just fine without a major upgrade.
I actually have an integrated graphics card, and a spare graphics card. I disabled the integrated GPU and ran it with the other graphics card and it didn’t seem to help the problem at all, though I had convinced myself otherwise briefly.
ETA: Technically, it’s not a “spare” graphics card, it was the “new” used graphics card I got so I could play some slightly updated games that came in the nick of time to allow me to swap these out.
Also, I’ll update you guys on what happens with a new PSU.
At this point I’d definitely say either something in your PSU borked, or (possibly and) not having a grounded outlet while doing hard restarts may have caused some damage to the Mobo. In either case, it’s not great but salvagable. Hopefully the new PSU fixes it, but there’s a distinct chance that a worn out PSU isn’t regulating power to your mobo properly and caused one circuit or another to fry out.
I’ve noticed that onboard video chips sometimes go without much notice. Further inspection is that the cheapo mobo didn’t have enough heatgrease or an adequate heatsink on the graphics chip, and since the graphics chip is always working it’ll likely be the second hottest component after the CPU which always has some adequate cooling device on it.
I’ve had several laptops “die” where the onboard graphics chip just desoldered from the mobo due to overheating. Couldn’t fix it because I don’t have steady hands, so my best solder jobs end up looking like this:
Come to think of it, if you can get your machine running properly, we may be able to test the severity of the issue.
Here’s a trick:
If you can get it booted into windows and everything’s hunky dory for a little while, setup a free account with Teamviewer or similar VNC/RDP type thing. Download and setup the software so you can login to your machine remotely.
Next time the machine goes black, ping at it from another device on the same LAN and try to connect with your remote screen viewing dealie. You may have to login to your router to see what your computer’s LAN IP is.
If you can’t even do that, your whole machine is pretty badly fucked. If you can, then you know there’s an issue with the graphics driver, or graphics hardware, or possibly the onboard NIC. If you can see your HDD grinding, and your link lights flashing on the NIC, then you can be relatively certain they’re good and it’s a problem with the bus on your mobo and the whole mobo needs to be replaced.
Let me just add that in 35 years of owning computers, bad power supplies have been the culprit in 90% of problems, especially intermittent ones. Always buy a supply rated much much higher than the sum of the component draws, and don’t trust the ratings on generic budget supplies.
Also, a great way to differentiate between hardware and Windows issues is a working Linux distribution you can swap in, for example in the form of a live distribution on a thumbdrive or CD.
There’s a few issues which would only show up for most of us at large scale. If the chip set dies, it can make the PC do odd things relating to power saving modes.
On the laptops I mass QA’d, if the chip set died, the laptops would step their speed down to nothing when connected to the power brick but immediately step up to full speed when put on battery only.
Given the troubleshooting y’all have done, I think it’s probably the motherboard.
The power supply is a better thing to test first (buying a gold 80 PSU is always a good idea if you can afford to … Between better power efficiency and quieter PSU, it’s worth it) but if you can test RDP and @LDoBe’s other suggestions here, it should give you a good idea whether the chip set died.
(I don’t think the RAM is the issue but I wouldn’t totally trust memtest either. If it says there’s an issue, it’s right. If it says there’s no issue, it’s only probably right.)