PC woes

Considering that a vast majority of posters on this forum are fairly knowledgeable about PC hardware and tech(or either delusional), I feel somewhat safe asking for help on a problem that has been bugging me recently.

Essentially I have an AMD ‘home-built’ system that doesn’t feel very happy staying powered on. It’s been giving me little to no troubles for the past year, but just recently the damned thing keeps shutting off for no apparent reason that I can think of. Sometimes it will power-off after 10 minutes of use, othertimes it will give a solid few hours, but the bottom line is that it keeps shutting down, often while I am working. It’s absolutely aggravating because I cannot localize any source of disruption!

It doesn’t seem to be a heat problem. I theorized that maybe the power module had some flow problems, so I replaced it with a second 400watt box I had laying around, nothing changed.

I’m now concerned it’s some unknown virus or maybe a harddrive problem? (Nothing seems unordinary though)

The strangest part of it all is that once the system dies out on me and I have to power it back on, most of the hardware refuses to turn back on at all! Internal fans, hard-drives, etc… About the only thing I see light up is the CD-drive. This is corrected by me physically unplugging the power cord and replugging it back in which seems to get everything back on in working order. So essentially I’m doing this about 4-5 times a day! Seemingly not very healthy and it’s driving me insane!

Maybe it’s a case problem? Maybe I have to reformat and reinstall windows? I don’t know! Anything someone may recommend before I take a baseball bat to the thing? Maybe next time I’ll just get a Dell…dude.

Could be your motherboard. You need to have a look in the event viewer if you’re running Windows XP or 2000 to see if there are any messages that show a hardware failure at the time of shutdown. If you’re on an older version of Windows, this won’t be as easy to figure out.

There is probably a piece of hardware in your system causing it since your power supply switch didn’t correct it. Power supplies going bad can cause exactly what you’re talking about, but similar things can occur with motherboards or even possibly a video card. Something is halting your system and it is likely to be related to a piece of hardware and possibly even a driver.


If that’s the case, I would suspect my videocard for now. The last shutdown occurred while trying out that recently released Unreal 2 demo, and literally 60 seconds into the demo, my PC died. A reboot later and a reloaded demo led to yet another near instant bootdown.

I have Win XP, but how do I access the event viewer you refer to?

My computer was doing this as well.

Turned out in my case it was Florida’s crumby fluctuating power. I bought a UPS and everything’s kosher now.


well everything except this. Sorry I only read the post at a cursory glance.

The strangest part of it all is that once the system dies out on me and I have to power it back on, most of the hardware refuses to turn back on at all! Internal fans, hard-drives, etc… About the only thing I see light up is the CD-drive. This is corrected by me physically unplugging the power cord and replugging it back in which seems to get everything back on in working order. So essentially I’m doing this about 4-5 times a day! Seemingly not very healthy and it’s driving me insane!

Didn’t happen with me. (UPS is still a wise investment.)

Settings | Control Panel | Administrative Tools | Computer Management. In the left pane, under “System Tools”, you should see the event viewer.

I had a video card a few years ago that kept crashing my system if I was doing anything in 3D… I underclocked it 5 Mhz and everything stabilized.

Check the video card fan to make sure it’s not clogged up with dust. I ran into a problem similar to yours in an older system. The graphics card cooling fan had quite a lot of dust embedded in it. I took some “canned air”, blew it out and the situation immediately improved.

Of course, it’s just as likely that I’m delusional :lol:

As ever,

Loyd Case

I checked the event log, and it was filled with an assortment of entries that I have no clue as to where to begin understanding what they refer to.

I think I’d be better off checking the fan like you said. I for one hope this problem can be rectified with a blast of air rather than a blast from the checking account…

Definitely get a UPS. They’re fairly inexpensive nowadays. Beyond that make double and triple sure your power supply is not at fault.

Try running your system with the cover off and a house fan blowing on it full blast. Not too close, though, as some inexpensive fans can generate sizable magnetic fields.

Just curious, what is the motherboard manufacturer/model?

-Asus A733 mobo

I’ve got a UPS, and surprisingly I do have a house fan blowing on my coverless PC. My case is kind of shitty and my system bios used to alert me of heat issues when I had the cover on, so I got a large fan and have basically kept it on full blast for the past year or so. Never had any issues until now.

I haven’t yet checked the vid card fan though. It could be riddled with dust, but it still wouldn’t explain the need to unplug the power cord for reboots…:(


Are you unplugging the power from the back of the computer or the plug that goes into the motherboard?


Back of the computer. The power cable that plugs into the UPS jack. I have to physically unplug that and reboot to get the computer working back to normal once it has powered itself down. Otherwise most of the componen ts don’t switch back on if I had just did a normal reboot. (Internal fans, videocard displays nothing on monitor, harddrive doesn’t seem to turn on. About the only thing I can do is open and close the CD drive) Even more strange is that I have to unplug it when I reboot the machine with the power on. Unplugging it and replugging it before booting does nothing. I’m sure it’s very unhealthy, but it’s the only reliable way to get everything back on in a working order…for a short amount of time. Very puzzling.

I’m debating just buying a brand new case and refitting all the components into it. My current PC case is pretty cheap and only served as a placeholder anyway, but it would be really strange if dust was the cause of this problem, just feels there is more to it than this. I hate to reformat and reinstall Win XP from scratch, but it may come to that… :(

I’m no expert, but I have built and serviced a number of systems. I have found that when things start to go funky, 9 times out of 10 you can solve the problem with a clean Windows install. Drivers get messed up, DLLs get corrupted, and all the third-party software does nasty stuff with the registry.

Burn all your important stuff to CD, do a low-level format of your C drive and a fresh Windows install. It’s certainly cheaper and easier than replacing a power supply or motherboard, and when troubleshooting it’s usually a good idea to rule out software issues first.

Also, IINM, it’s actually not good to leave the case wide open with a fan blowing on it. Good cases are designed to move the air efficiently through an enclosure, and it’s usually a good idea to keep things closed up.

Yea, I’ll most likely go through with that in a few weeks. My current case just had a reasonably lousy air intake problem. Keeping the case closed up led to various heat warnings direct from the bios. Keeping a large fan blowing on the machine has led to a reduction or seemingly eradication of this problem, but at the cost of accruing an insane amount of dust. It had a good run I suppose, lasted nearly a year in this condition…

If anyone can provide tips and a possible guide to windows reformatting, I’d be much appreciated. I’ve dealt with it before, but it’s been so long I have forgotten a few vital measures and steps to going through with the process.

I actually don’t have a CD burner, but I do have two harddrives. I figure I would like to transfer all the important files to the secondary drive and make a clean sweep of the first. That’ll work just the same won’t it? Or will windows not like that during reinstallation?

Do you overclock?

How old is the processor? If you were having heat issues or overclocking the chip it could be suffering from degredation effects. It happened to me while overclocking a Celeron 300a. I stopped overclocking the chip and the random reboots ceased.

One other thing that I’ve seen cause random reboots is flaky memory, did you add a new stick or change it out?


At least this can squash any doubts that you have bad RAM. (run it overnight and look for errors in the morning).

I’m also not an expert, but having the system shut down and the power not come back up definitely seems like a hardware problem to me, rather than a software problem.

Since the CDROM light powers up but nothing else on the motherboard does, I’d be inclined to say it’s an error with either the motherboard or one of the critical components of the computer (video, RAM, CPU). It sounds like you’ve got the heat issue covered unless it’s the fan on the CPU that’s screwing up (if that fan stops spinning you can overheat and have a critical machine killing error – anyone know if that would mimic the symptoms he’s having?).

I’d probably start by temporarily swapping out one component at a time, starting with the easy ones (video, memory) and moving up to the harder ones (CPU, CPU fan). If none of those work, I’d swap out the motherboard and see if that solves the problem. Of course, if you’re swapping out the motherboard, it might be an opportunity to upgrade anyway, which means a clean install of the OS anyway, but…

Okay, yeah, you’re right – what the hell do I know. Where’s Loyd when you need him?


Not only that, but some motherboards will automatically shut down your machine if the CPU overheats, as a safety precaution. My Asus motherboard has a thermal sensor mounted beneath the CPU socket, and you can set a shutdown temperature in the BIOS. I’d give the heat issue serious consideration. If the case has a lot of dust in it (which it most likely does, if you run it open), the dust can reduce airflow between the fins of heat sinks and coat the electronics (electromagnetic fields attract dust particles, much like an ionizing air filter), thus increasing heat.

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) from an outside source–that house fan that you have blowing into your case, for instance–is another possibility. Computer cases are designed to provide shielding against EMI, partly to keep EMI generated by the computer from radiating out into the environment, but also to keep external sources of EMI from causing signal degredation in the computer. House fans use cheap, unshielded motors that generate a sizeable magnetic field and a lot of EMI. If you have one sitting right next to an open computer case and keep it running while you use the computer, it could definitely cause problems. Even if this isn’t the cause of your shutdown problems, I’d change this setup.

I see that this troubleshooting session has devolved into the “making shit up” phase. Could it be those damn cosmic space rays!!1!?!@1

Try getting a UPS first. It’s a wise investment in any case, and even if you never use it as a battery backup, it cleans up any sloppy/inadequate power feeds into your computer.

If you do have a house fan blowing on your case, I doubt that the problem is heat. Even if the CPU fan and the video card fan stopped spinning, the house fan will generate more than enough airflow to compensate.