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Is it normal for a Dell Inspiron 530 to have is fan to spin up 3 times before it POSTS?

I have a Dell Inspiron 530 desktop, which runs XP pro, and perhaps most unique to this system, was config'd to dual-boot the Windows 7 release candidate a couple years ago.

Recently this system developed a most bizarre startup behavior.

When powered on from a cold start, the power button light goes from dark, briefly to amber, and then blue, and the fans spin up at max speed as usual. Normally after a second or two, there is a single beep indicated successful POST, the fan speed dies down, the BIOS splash screen comes up on the monitor, and after a moment goes on to the dual-boot menu from there.

That's not how it works anymore.

With just one push of the power button, from a cold start, the fans spin up, the button goes blue, but after about five seconds, with no video output, the system shuts down. But then after 5 seconds it tries again, and fails again. And after a further five seconds, it tries a third time, and apparently three times is a charm, b/c the third time, the single POST success beep happens, the BIOS splash comes up, etc etc.

The bizarre thing is that it's always three times. Not two (as heathens do), nor four, and five is right out. Seriously, though, if this were a hardware failure issue, I'd expect it not to be so deterministically repeatably three. If it was just the PS being overloaded, it might shut down, but why would it attempt to restart? If it was a stuck power button, why wouldn't it just cycle indefinitely?

This isn't a hard-fail, but it definitely isn't normal, and I'd like to fix it.

There's only one other thing I think might be related. The system had just acquired windows updates and wanted a reboot. (running XP; I never start the 7RC image anymore) Normally I dismiss those nag-dialogs and shutdown or restart manually. This time I told the nag-dialog ok, restart now. Could be a coincidence, but I'm not so sure.

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Also, in addition, without a discrete graphics card, the VGA port under the black cap will work. If you do replace the graphics card - i didn't since this is a spare box, i'd love to know if it works fine, since if it didn't it would mean the problem was something other than what it would be. This DOES confirm my hypothesis that its an age related issue, or one caused by heat. –  Journeyman Geek Feb 26 '12 at 3:31
    
@JourneymanGeek - I hadn't seen that, and believe me, I'd searched around a bit before posting my question. The only difference I can see is, I don't have any 'swedish chef' issues, just the wacky somethings-counting-to-three startups. I'll come back and let you all know if pulling the video card or tweaking the BIOS settings make any difference. –  JustJeff Feb 26 '12 at 14:24
    
I might need to edit that question to make the keywords clearer - what did you search for? I spent a good month getting that little dell working so i can help a bit -I'm quite certain its the video card at this point. I'll post it as an answer, even if its likely to be merged –  Journeyman Geek Feb 26 '12 at 14:33
    
@JourneymanGeek - I searched for things like "dell startup trouble" and "dell 530 boot three times" - admittedly, there aren't any good words to stick in a search, just lots of little non-specific ones that only make sense in combination to humans, not much for search engines to latch on to. –  JustJeff Feb 26 '12 at 15:14
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marked as duplicate by Journeyman Geek, Moab, Tom Wijsman, Sathya Mar 9 '12 at 11:59

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Ignoring the other symptom i had (which is more fun, and leads to hours of fun), this is identical to the issue i had with a dell 530. This only seems to happen with one particular video card the dell comes with (there's also ATI and integrated video card options). This is a known and common issue as well.

To cut a long story short, its the video card, the entire family has odd issues, and may eventually die horribly. The solution, on the short term, is to remove the installed video card. This isn't that bad - there's a integrated graphics card that does aero, and can be used by removing the little black plastic plug covering a VGA port.

Bios settings seem fine as is for most part.

You could probably use the video card till it artifacts (I got my dell somewhat second hand, so i had all these issues from the moment i got it), but considering the 8300GS that causes these issues is truely horrible... removing it isn't a bad idea

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just checked in device manager - it is the 8300 in this system. ugh. –  JustJeff Feb 26 '12 at 15:12
    
Do you have any further links regarding the solder issue? It sounds completely like a manufacturer's defect, but of course it's out of warranty now. The thing that still puzzles me is the way it's always exactly three tries. As an experiment, I killed the AC input (via the power strip) just after the 1st time it shutdown, and left it off for a good 6-7 minutes, well long enough for the green PS LED on the back to go out. When I put the AC back on, it continued the (bad) sequence, completing the two remaining cycles before starting. How the heck is it counting like that? –  JustJeff Feb 26 '12 at 16:26
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Thats a good question - I've never figured it out, and in my case, the video card eventually completely crapped out - it swedish chefed when i got it, and eventually started having artifacts, so out it went. I think the closest thing to an explaination is on The Register, but there's nothing that really explains the magic countdown that happens. –  Journeyman Geek Feb 26 '12 at 22:42
    
thanks for that Register link. Anyone looking for anything with graphics in it should check that out. –  JustJeff Feb 27 '12 at 1:24
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