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computer randomly shuts down

Posted on 2008-10-01
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Last Modified: 2012-05-05
I have a problem with a computer that was reported to me as "randomly shutting down" by one of my users when doing random things such as reading/deleting e-mail, etc. This is a Dell optiplex GX270 w/ Windows XP Pro sp 3 I have been trying to duplicate the problem seem to have figured out a sure fire way to duplicate the problem. If I go into device manager and start randomly expanding the + signs on seemingly any devices, I hear the hard drive give one hard spin, the monitor light turns amber and the display turns off.

Oddly, the light on the front of the tower itself always stays green and never really "reboots". It just makes the hard drive spinning sound and acts like it is rebooting but never really does do anything accept black out the screen. I also notice that fairly regularily if I start browsing for computers through "My network places"  on my network, this tends to cause problems but only rarely. I also don't seem to have any problems brosing the internet.

I don't show any problems with devices when just looking at device manager, and all fans look to be spinning fine in the PC itself. The one thing that for sure causes the problem is me clicking around pretty much anywhere repeatedly in device manager. Any idea what the problem could be here?
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Question by:IRRexperts
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RLLSTech earned 250 total points
ID: 22616594
That "hard spin" is probably the drive head resetting.  Since the system is apparently trying to reboot from a hard crash, the drive's probably sent a reinitialization command.

GX270s are notorious for having popped capacitors on the board.  Open the case and check all the little cylinders with silver tops around the CPU heat sink.  Make sure they're all flat and not bulging or have already burst.

I want to say that you should run a SMART test on the drive and a RAM test, but Windows usually blue screens for something like that.  Could be heat related as well.  Try overworking the unit and see if you can produce the same failure.  When you pop it open take note of the amount of dust.  If it's coated with dust inside, that's going to help insulate the components and keep the heat in, producing abnormal stress on the ssytem.
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Expert Comment

by:David-Howard
ID: 22619761
Have you checked Event Viewer on this system?
You might also try running SFC /SCANNOW or a Repair. Both require your OS CD and about fifteen minutes.
SFC SCANNOW
http://www.updatexp.com/scannow-sfc.html
XP Repair:
http://www.michaelstevenstech.com/XPrepairinstall.htm
A Repair is not designed to overwrite data but you should take precautions.
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Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 22623163
as said - bad caps; i have had several of them; here an example  attached
Dellgx270-800.jpg
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Expert Comment

by:YellowbusTeam
ID: 22651181
Why don't you just ask Dell, If its still under warranry they will replace the motherboard which is generally the problem in these situation.

I had a load of GX280 that had the same problem as yours, Dell sent an engineer out within a few days and swapped out the motherboards.
(you have to still be in warranty otherwise it will cost!)
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Expert Comment

by:mlehnertz
ID: 22703232
You have bad capacitors on the motherboard.  Look for blown or bulging capacitors.  If your service tags ends with "41", you've got one of the machines that has the defective capacitors in it.  Open the case and look around and you'll see at least one blown/bulging, if not more.

Dell replaced the motherboards in multiple GX270s that I own, even on machines that were out of warranty.  I read off the service tag and they sent replacement boards for workstations that hadn't shown symptoms yet.
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Expert Comment

by:RLLSTech
ID: 22707936
I'm thinking he's got bad caps...
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Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 22709122
a feedback would be nice
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Author Closing Comment

by:IRRexperts
ID: 31508487
It was bad capacitors. Do you guys happantio know if randomly shutting down is the only symptom of these capacitors on the GX 270's and 280's? Thanks to everyone, but I had to award the points to the first person who suggested it.
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Expert Comment

by:RLLSTech
ID: 22771033
Yes, bad caps are a common symptom of random shutdowns.  So are thermal problems.  ie: the heatsink isn't secure, or there's an abnormal amount of dust in the unit, failed fans, etc.  Glad we got it straight for you.
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