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It's an emachines ET1831-01. About two years ago the power went off a lot while the computer was being used. After a while it would turn off while in use and when we I would try to turn it on the fans would go on sometimes the power button light turns on as if it were about to turn on. Sometimes it turns on and stays on for about 15-30 minutes but it still turns off. What could it be?

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Yeah, probably either power supply or a heat problem. Note that the heat problem could be a seized CPU fan or some such. You may want to open the box and see if all the fans seem to be turning at a reasonable speed. –  Daniel R Hicks Apr 18 '12 at 16:51
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Most likely a bad power supply unit. If it were the motherboard I would imagine it wouldn't start at all, RAM errors would result in it failing to POST and wouldn't start, hard drive errors I would imagine would give you a BSOD, graphics would probably BSOD. My bets are on the power supply being busted if its not a severe heat problem with the machine

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Don't underestimate heat problems. This is also very easy to check through software. Also, if it always start when it have had time to rest, it is even more likely temperature related. –  Daniel Andersson Apr 18 '12 at 16:33
    
If you can manage to keep the computer running long enough to install it, I sometimes use CoreTemp program to monitor computer tempearture (I am assuming the BIOS on an eMachine will not have a temperature gauge on it). I have had problems with leaving that program running to extended lengths of time though as it eats up more CPU processes than it should... –  Stephen R Apr 18 '12 at 16:37
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