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For the last few days, my computer has had issues booting. I've seen two different behaviors:

  1. The screen displays the graphics card information, then begins to list the RAM, hard drives, etc. At different points in this process (after the graphics info), the computer shuts off. After five or six attempts, it then boots normally.

  2. In roughly the same time frame, the computer freezes, and fails to boot. I think it boots successfully on the next attempt.

I've also noticed that in some instances, the computer freezes on shutdown. It gets right to the point where it should shut off, but doesn't.

I recently combined the best parts of two different machines into this one. I'm booting to GRUB, with Ubuntu 12.04, Linux Mint 11 and Windows Vista (unfortunately) as my OS options.

It has an Enermax Modu82+ 525W power supply, and I've used an online calculator to determine that my load shouldn't exceed 400W. I even unplugged a hard drive, but that didn't help.

I found the latest BIOS, patched it and checked the settings, but that didn't fix it.

I'm fairly certain this issue didn't exist at first, but might have started when the power at my new apartment dropped for a second. The machine is plugged into a surge protector strip, but it's old and I've heard they lose effectiveness with age. Is a power dip as damaging as a spike?

If something were damaged, why would it boot successfully after five or six attempts? It's almost like the BIOS or PSU need to be primed. The trouble with debugging is that there seems to be a "grace period" after shutdown where the issue doesn't present itself again.

What should I try next?

Update: attempted solutions (2012-06-10)

I have swapped around DIMMs and hard drives, removed expansion cards, swapped PSUs and tried new power cables and outlets. None of that worked. In fact, the number of attempted boots needed to get a successful one has increased to at least a dozen.

A friend of mine suggested checking my thermals--that the processor might be overheating and stepping down the clock until it reaches a speed that can be managed. I separated the heat sink and CPU, cleaned them, and reapplied some thermal compound. That didn't work either. My thermals are good (~40°C idle) at my expected clock speed. I stressed it to 98% load using HyperPi, and the temp hit around 56°C, then returned to the 40s.

I don't see any charring or exploded capacitors. Every cable is firmly connected. I even swapped out video cables, thinking it could be a short there.

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From what you can tell, it is always in bios, before it hands over to grub? –  Paul Jun 4 '12 at 2:44
    
Yes, I've never seen the GRUB screen before a failure. –  N13 Jun 4 '12 at 2:49
    
Power brown outs can be as damaging as spikes, problem is brown outs are easy to see (dimming lights), but spikes are invisible unless you have an oscilloscope attached at the time of the spike to see it. Try another PSU. –  Moab Jun 4 '12 at 2:52
1  
Unfortunately the best approach to figuring this out is to take everything out / disconnect everything, except 1 stick of ram, cpu and graphics, and if that works, add things back one by one until you find the componant causing the problem. Given the intermittent nature of the problem, this could take a while to figure out. If it fails with just the three componants, then it could be ram (so try the other stick) or mobo, cpu, graphics, psu. Identifying which one is a case of swapping. –  Paul Jun 4 '12 at 2:53
    
I was hoping there would be a clue in that it seems to work after five or six attempts. –  N13 Jun 4 '12 at 2:55

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Unfortunately the best approach to figuring this out is to take everything out / disconnect everything, except 1 stick of ram, cpu and graphics, and if that works, add things back one by one until you find the componant causing the problem.

Given the intermittent nature of the problem, this could take a while to figure out. If it fails with just the three componants, then it could be ram (so try the other stick) or mobo, cpu, graphics, psu.

Identifying which one is a case of swapping, so often starting with the PSU and graphics card is easiest.

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PC hardware troubleshooting 101, nice answer. –  Moab Jun 11 '12 at 4:17
    
Yeah, this is a given. I was just hoping there was something more tell-tale in the seemingly-consistent number of boots needed. As best as I can tell, it must be the mobo, itself. The problem worsened (number of required boot attempts went over a dozen), lessened, and now seems to have gone away. –  N13 Jul 9 '12 at 17:27

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