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I inherited a machine (specs unknown) which I formatted and installed Windows 2008 Server on, plus some ASP.NET (WCF) services, back in March. All went well, until today, the machine randomly died.

When I boot it, I see these symptoms:

  • Error message that CMOS/BIOS date/time is not correct and not set
  • The machine starts loading Windows
  • Seconds after the mouse appears, the computer shuts down
  • The computer does not power on until I turn off the PSU power, and turn it back on

I tried both normal Windows, and Safe Mode (without networking) -- got the same results. (Occasionally, the CMOS does not re-reset during this cycle.)

I would like to fix this, but I'm assuming that's impossible, short of replacing parts; how can I figure out what the point of failure is?

Also, it's not a Dell, so I don't have access to any information about the hardware specs (particularly the age).

Update: Some days it boots, and some days it fails.

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Parts replacement is key in diagnosing some hardware failures with great accuracy. Go into any professional PC repair shop (no, not Best Buy), spare parts are lying everywhere.

If it is a Desktop, you start by disconnecting all hardware that is unnecessary to getting a POST screen, then start adding hardware back one at a time until you find the culprit.

Since it tries to load windows before it fails, you could start with disconnecting all optical drives, add-in cards, front panel usb or card readers, strip it down as bare as you can but still allow windows to load.

Its is a process of elimination, eventually you may need spare hardware to complete the diagnosis, such as Memory, Power Supply, Processor, Motherboard.

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How does this help me if I have inconsistent failures? SOmetimes, the machine just boots and works fine. – ashes999 Jun 5 '12 at 13:35
It takes time to sort these things out, you replace parts and use it for a while to see if the problem goes away, that is why the best PC techs charge high rates for their work, it is not always easy. – Moab Jun 5 '12 at 14:35

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