computer not starting -- blinking power led

I have a computer that suddenly decided to go haywire on me.  I took the computer to work so I could use my cd-burner for the day, and when I took it back home, it wouldn't start properly.  

One time, it was going through the startup procedure, and it recognized one cdrom drive, but froze before recognizing the next.  

Another time, the computer started and made the usual startup sounds, but nothing came up on the monitor.  In fact, the monitor contrast turned up to a bright gray and there was a shaking effect near the top (and that was weird since I don't have anything magnetic above it).

Sometimes, it boots up ok, but that's not always.  During the times that it doesn't boot up, the power led blinks.  I tried replacing the motherboard's battery, but that didn't help.

The motherboard's an Intel 440BX (I think) and it has a Celeron 333 in it. It has 64 megs of ram and three cards in it.  There's a PCI modem, an ISA sound card and an ISA ethernet card.  It has two HDs and two CD drives (one is a burner).

I love hardware, but this one has me stumped!  Help!! =)
cokeman_Asked:
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cokeman_Author Commented:
oh, I also formatted it (just in case there was some freaky virus on it, or in case some critical files were on a bad sector or something like that) and re-installed win98 on it, and I thought all the problems were solved, but it started acting up again.
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RobWMartinCommented:
I'm commenting so I can stay updated.

I've had two Dell's act somewhat similarly.  No beeps. Just CD and harddrive power up, then blink, blink, blink, blink, blink, ....

One of 'em is still in the garage, so if you get a good bite here, I'll thank you for the freebie.

Maybe I'll buy you a coke, man:)

G'luck

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oldgreyguyCommented:
since you have been hauling it around, I would pull the cover, and make sure all cables are connected, loosen the screws for the add in cards, and reseat them, pull the memory, and reseat.

bill
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oldgreyguyCommented:
since you have been hauling it around, I would pull the cover, and make sure all cables are connected, loosen the screws for the add in cards, and reseat them, pull the memory, and reseat.

       bill
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cokeman_Author Commented:
I've pulled off the case, made sure everything is plugged in, but it still does that.  Like I said, it isn't all the time, but most of the time.  I also tried pulling out everything (all extra cards, hard drives, cd drives)..
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RobWMartinCommented:
Have you yanked the RAM, or some other beepable offense?  IOW, are you getting POST beeps?
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RobWMartinCommented:
I believe the MB does some POST and the BIOS does some POST.  So, if your not getting beeps when you do something like yank the RAM or video, then BIOS, or worse, your MB is screwed.  If you have flashable BIOS you might try reprogramming it.  I think most modern BIOS' vendors let you do this relatively painlessly.

Rob
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cokeman_Author Commented:
I'm not getting any beeps, so I don't think it's that kind of a POST problem.  Question: how do I flash the bios if I can't boot up?

oh, if the mb is screwed up, would it still be able to boot up normally (like it does sometimes)?  I'd think if the mb was messed up, normal bootup wouldn't be possible..
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cokeman_Author Commented:
Is there a good place to go to get a BIOS update?  maybe my bios got screwed up too =)

fyi, the bios string on startup is:
08/10/98-i440BX-W977TF-2A69KB3EC-00

It's an Award v4.51PG.
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sorgieCommented:
Have you tried a virus check with a boot floppy
There are types of virus that will not even be removed by reformat!

How is your ram configured?
Can you remove on board at a time to see if one is bad or are they 72 pin that need to be paired?
If so see if you have a friend that you can try diff memory
Bad memory can create some weird S--T.
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cokeman_Author Commented:
I have one 64Mb dram chip, and I don't have any extra ram to toy around with.. is there anyway to check if the ram is good?
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pthurmanCommented:
I would try removing one card at a time (soundcard etc.) then booting.  A bad or failing card can do exactally as you say. Once the system is stable for a time, you can replace the offending card.
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cokeman_Author Commented:
I don't understand this -- it's beyond me!! I took all the cards out, it still had the problem sometimes, and I went to lunch, came back and the problem left.  I started putting the cards back in, and it's still ok.  All the cards are back in now, and I've shut it down/restarted a bunch, and it looks good now.. [ok, so it'll crash as soon as I post this message =)]  Thanks for all the suggestions so far though..
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cokeman_Author Commented:
oh, and regarding the flash bios thing, I got the bios update from http://www.award.com.tw/download/bios/ and the flash program from http://www.ecs.com.tw/ecs/q&a/bios/flash.html, and it never worked.  It'd always complain about a file size mismatch.  Regardless, maybe the threat of having its BIOS wiped out scared my computer back into operation =)
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swwelshCommented:
When you get these kind of intermittent problems, it almost has to be memory (as already stated), a bad motherboard, or a flaky power supply. You could also restore the bios to its 'default' settings, but make sure you know what settings you have now in case you need to change it back
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MortenLCommented:
Check the PSU. It could be damaged by moist. It could have been moist when it was turned on after the PC has been exposed to cold weather for some time.
Thius can easyli render it unusuable
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OttaCommented:
> Is there a good place to go to get a BIOS update?

Yes.

For the ID '2A69KB3E', see:
http://www.ping.be/bios/HTML1/bcm.html 
for your "Intel 440BX chipset".

> maybe my bios got screwed up too =)

Maybe, but very doubtful.
My guesses are power-supply,
or a dead fan inside the power-supply,
or slightly-unseated BIOS-chip on the motherboard.
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RoadWarriorCommented:
Cheap processor fans can cause odd faults, plain bearing ones, never seen it with a ball race type. After they are a year old, they start getting cranky, sometimes when you turn the system on they work fine, sometimes they will vibrate and spin slow, sometimes they don't turn at all. This means that your processor gets too hot and locks up either right away, after half an hour or so, or works fine. You can take them off, peel the sticker back and oil them, but it isn't worth the worry or the inconvenience for most people to keep doing this, best thing is to replace them with a nice ball raced unit.

A lot of OEMs who only offer a year warranty fit cheap and nasty fans. :-(

So next time you have crashes, if you burn your fingers when you touch the CPU heatsink, do something about the fan.

regards,

Road Warrior.
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ran1Commented:
Check the amount of HD memory available under explorer, c drive.  If you are operating near the limits of the HD such as if you copied a lot of files to the HD for transfer to/from the CD you could have this problem.  If you have partitioned the HD you will need to check each of the partitions.

Solution delete unused files so that you are at least 100 MB below the HD limit. Also if you download large files you should check the HD limit often.

If you dont't go near the HD limit 1-2 MB during an internet period or have a lot of windows open such as excel you will not experience the problem.  Thus, it may appear intermittent.  I have seen these same problems very recently and attributed it to a HD running to capacity.  
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cokeman_Author Commented:
Like I said, it's working fine now -- still don't understand it, but I've been using it on and off now, and I can't get it to do that weird crashing.

RoadWarrior:   good suggestion, but the cpu fan's working good and it doesn't get too hot.. (also, it isn't on long enough to get too hot either hehe)

Ran1:  I formatted the HD and after re-installing win98, I ran Norton Utils on it and did a surface scan -- no bad blocks, lots of space, and it was still giving the problem back then..

If it's ok with everyone, I'll ask admin to delete this question since it's not going anywhere and the problem seems solved (at least for now)..
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OttaCommented:
> I'll ask admin to delete this question

Why not be "generous", and select 'accept comment as answer' for the comment which helped you toward a solution?

If you visit a doctor, and he/she finds nothing wrong, does that mean that the doctor does not get paid?

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cokeman_Author Commented:
Well, whoever feels like they earned the points, go ahead and post an answer, and the points are yours..  I can't decide who posted the most useful stuff since I tried those before they were posted here.. =(
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RoadWarriorCommented:
Okay, I have done a thorough re-analysis of the problem and have come to a conclusion based on my own experience in situations like this....

* You took the computer to work, and it saw that you spend time with other computers

* It took a fit of jealousy

* After lavishing an amount of time and attention on it it got over it's fit of pique and decided to work again, having seen all the worry and effort you expended on it it felt important and special again.

Remedial steps.

* Talk to it occasionally, tell it it is the best little computer you ever had and all the others meant nothing to you.

* tell it the computers at work are just brute unfeeling machines, that you have no care for or interest in.

* When introducing it into the physical presence of other computers, reassure it, pay it more attention than the others.

* Buy it something new every couple of months even if it is just a mouse pad.


regards,

Road Warrior
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OttaCommented:
RoadWarrior, are you talking about your girl-friend, or your computer, or both?  :-)
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cokeman_Author Commented:
RoadWarrior,

Now that's an answer =)
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RobWMartinCommented:
That one should go to the best of EE list.
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