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Best way to troubleshoot a motherboard

Posted on 2004-09-21
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Last Modified: 2008-03-03
hi all:

Im currently working as tech support and im getting lots of calls regarding the Soyo motherboards that suppoort the Athlon processors like the thoroughbreads and palominos. Assuming that the individual correctly purchased all the correct components like memory,cpu,pci cards,etc..what could be the best way to determine the problem and pin-point a possible solution?. Usually the type of calls I get revolve around this scenerio:

1.) hi...my computer has just died on me!!..it was working fine yesterday

2.) I purchased a barebones system and then I bought a Soyo motherboard. I installed my Athlon cpu with the fan and memory. I hear and see that my fan is working fine(both the power supply and the cpu fans) but i see nothing on my screen!!!..theres no DOS prompt!!!..monitor light is red!!!

any help from you guys is greatly appreciated

thanx in advance

Xavier
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Question by:Redmandrake
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by:zerofield
ID: 12116208
the title of this and what you described seem to go in two different directions, but ill head somewhat in either direction with you..

your first example is pretty vague (thats an end user for you!), as always, have them describe any recent hardware/software/environmental changes, anything that was changed leading into it, etc.

your second scenario is a no-POST scenario.  at least thats what most tech support places would refer to it as.  you generally check the common sense stuff (monitor turned on everything plugged in) and then start pulling things off the board until something changes.

if you want to test the board, the easiest ways are to pull the memory and turn it on.  it should beep very angrily if you turn it on without RAM in it.  if it doesnt beep, its likely having an issue.  It's not neccessarily the motherboard, but 95% of the time, if it doesnt beep with no ram (sometimes no CPU, but many boards wont even turn on without the cpu) then you have a bum board.
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Callandor earned 500 total points
ID: 12116243
Troubleshooting, in a nutshell

The motherboard is the most complex of all components, so I usually leave that as the last suspect.  Careful interviewing of what the customer did before will help you zero in on the right place.

With AMD's, the first thing to check is if they plugged the cpu/heatsink fan into the motherboard header, because most AMD motherboards check if there is a working cpu fan before they will start.

Some of the things that could be causing their system not to boot up (blank video screen):
- motherboard shorting on case
- CMOS jumper set to CLEAR, instead of NORMAL position
- bad connections
- faulty or inadequate power supply
- bad RAM
- faulty video card
- bad cpu
- bad motherboard

In this case, I recommend stripping down the pc to the bare essentials: install one stick of RAM, the cpu, and the video card, and reset the BIOS after installing the cpu.  Do not include hard disks, other PCI cards, or other peripherals.

If it doesn't start up, swap the power supply.
If it still doesn't start up, swap the video card.
and so on...

You can visually check the motherboard for bad capacitors: http://www.badcaps.net/ident/
For bad RAM, run the diagnostic program found at www.memtest86.com and see if it fails.  Even if it passes, that doesn't mean the RAM is good; only a swap with known, good working RAM will tell you that.

If you can see a POST, but the system still doesn't boot to Windows, these are some possibilities:
- CMOS lost settings (dead or low CMOS battery)
- IDE controller dead
- bad drive connected to IDE controller
- boot record or system file corrupted

For WinXP, FIXMBR and FIXBOOT from the recovery console may help.  A repair install may be needed for others, and a clean install is the most drastic.
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Author Comment

by:Redmandrake
ID: 12117726
thanx to both of you!!!..both answers were on the money!!...i was doing pretty much the same thing as you guys detailed, only both of you added much more information. thank you  and hope i can return the favor soon.

xavier
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Expert Comment

by:roypittman
ID: 12280592
I have strange problem where I have to unplug the psu to re-set it and try to get the thing to boot. I note a MoBo led indicates power but this has repeatedly faded at the same time as the power cuts everything but the USB bus (which still has a voltage the lights are on). I then have to unplug the psu, wait about 5 seconds, then re-plug in. Sometimes it goes straight to boot without an 'on' button press, other times it needs the press, then jumps between the two. I'm trying to keep the thing going full time to prevent 2-3 hours repeating the above :-( once it's booted and the drives are all running it seem ok, but ive tried running with all the drives I could have disconnected, disconnected, even floppy, (and with USB disconected at the MoBo)

I have yet to try shorting pins 13 & 14 one the MoB psu apparently this gives the 5v needed for the boot?

Anyone have a clue to whats going on with this?
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by:Callandor
ID: 12281110
I and others would be glad to help you, but you have to post your own question.  It would be better for you, because more people would see it, not just those participating in this thread.
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Expert Comment

by:roypittman
ID: 12281203
Mmm Sorry, pilot error I thought I had :-(
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