So my problem is that I've built a tower out of older hardware to run DOS/DOS games on, it has 512MB of RAM, its using onboard VGA video output, one 5200RPM IDE HDD, and one SATA DVD drive. Now as the title says it boots inconsistently, but not without pattern. I sometimes am able to continually boot/reboot it for days or longer with no problem, but other times it wont boot and I have to open it up to fix issues: which are also inconsistent. Sometimes popping out and reslotting the CMOS battery is enough, other times I have to unplug the power cable from the IDE drive, boot it, reboot it and it will be fine. Other times I have to unplug all hardware down to the RAM, including the CMOS battery and some onboard cables, boot it up and listen to the horrible no-RAM "beeeeeeeeeeep" for a few seconds, pull the power cable, replace everything and then it will reboot. Finally it ocassionally only requires that I move the various cables away from the CPU/cooling unit (at first I though maybe static interference) but then later after it properly booting a few times I rebooted, and tried to boot to a flash drive, and simply plugging it in while the machine was off was enough to stop it from booting.

BTW when I say "it doesnt boot" I mean the BIOS doesn't even initialize visuals, power management, or fan control. It powers on with a massive "VOOORRRRRFFFFFF" as the fan immediately kicks in at 4500RPM, never slows down, and the rest of the BIOS don't initialize. When this happens I often have to pull the power cable, as the interupt button refuses to hard-boot it while its like this.

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    Why are you bothering with this? Presuming you have a good-ish computer (Core 2 duo with 2-4GB RAM) then get yourself a MS/DOS VM – MonkeyZeus Nov 1 '16 at 17:24
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    I'm just going to go out on a sturdy limb here....old hardware == inconsistent hardware. – DrZoo Nov 1 '16 at 17:29
  • @MonkeyZeus, A: because I have a substantially more powerful computer that could easily run DOSBox/VMs but I dont like the feel, there isn't the slightest bit of authenticity or nostalgia to it. I have all the same games I play on DOS on steam or newer game consoles, but I still vastly prefer the sense of nostalgia I get when I boot the computer straight to an MS-DOS prompt. B: because I have the hardware lying around and might as well repurpose it rather than leave it taking up more closet space. – Alison E.E. Nov 1 '16 at 18:39
  • @DrZoo That is actually quite a thin and plyable limb you've crawled out on. The notion that hardware is inherently inconsistent because its old is just absurd. I have a PowerMac G4 and PowerBook G3 that run fine, a PS2 that works great, a collection of floppy diskettes that have no read/write problems, old 20GB maxtor drives that are less dysfunctional than some of my modern SATA drives. Broken hardware=inconsistent hardware. Old hardware=less powerful hardware. – Alison E.E. Nov 1 '16 at 18:45
  • IMO as-is this is too broad, and not really clear as to what you're specifically asking us. Step 1: Try a different, known-good power supply. Continue swapping hardware with know-good replacements until you find the culprit. – Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 Nov 1 '16 at 18:46

Possible culprits in decreasing order of possibility:

1) Failing motherboard. Maybe a slightly leaky capacitor? Or even a loose contact?

2) Failing power supply. Causes unexplained erratic behavior.

3) Failing RAM. Do a memtest to confirm this.

I had the exact same problem, though mine usually resolved after powering everything down for a few hours. The problem was (believe it or not) a thinly cracked motherboard.

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