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I am having the weirdest issue with a Dell T3600 I cannot figure out, and any help is appreciated. I know this is going to be long, and I appreciate the time anyone takes to read this and help me. I am going to walk you through all of the steps I have taken thus far and what is temporarily working to fix the problem.

Problem: The computer started to randomly shut down overnight. When I would try and turn on the computer at the start of the day by pressing the front power button, all of the fans would come on full blast and just continue running for several minutes at full speed, but the displays would not come on and the computer would not boot or do anything. I would then pull the power cable from the back of the computer, wait a few seconds and plug it back in. (Sometimes having to repeat this step several times) and the computer would eventually come back on and give me a warning saying the computer shutdown because it overheated. A few weeks ago I upgraded the bios and shortly after the machine stopped turning on completely.

When the computer will not turn on, it goes into a state where either all of the fans kick on full blast (CPU fan, 3 front panel fans, GPU fan, and power supply fan) and will not stop till the power cable is removed. Or the second state is the front panel power light is very dim but illuminated, and an amber 3 and 4 are present. Pressing the power button toggles between the Power button going completely dark or slightly illuminated, but the computer never boots. When the power button is slightly illuminated the GPU and CPU fans are running at normal speed.

Attempts to resolve the issue: I want to preface this by saying that we have another t3600 that has been working perfectly this entire time, so I will reference using parts from this T3600, that works perfectly during this. In all of my attempts I am using the same graphics card, hard drives, and RAM chips that are working in one machine, and not on the other, so it is certainly not these that are the problem.

Replaced the CPU chip from one bought online - Computer acted the exact same. Replaced the motherboard with one bought online- Computer acted the exact same. Replaced the motherboard/CPU with a SECOND separate set bought online - Computer acted the exact same. Tried every combination of RAM chips. Tried one chip at a time in each of the 4 slots. Also tried with the 4 working RAM chips from the other T3600 that works, as well as a spare set of RAM chips (that also work in machine 2). - Computer acted the exact same with every possible combination of RAM chips. Pulled the CMOS battery to reset the CMOS - Computer acted the exact same. Swapped power supplies between the working and none working T3600. The working machine works with both power supplies, and the broken one acts the exact same with both power supplies.
Thought it might be the physical front panel of the machine and the power button wasn't working. Swapped the front panel chip with 4 USB's and audio jacks, but left the wiring in place. - Computer acted the exact same.

It was at this point I was about to take this computer out back and just go full office space on it when I tried one last thing. I just unplugged all of the front panel fans and the long plug (3 wires that go to this one plug) that connects the USB ports as well as the power button from the motherboard. (I left the audio plug and the solo USB thick cable plugged into the motherboard) THE COMPUTER TURNED ON!!!! I got warnings about the fans not being plugged in, but pressed f1 and the computer started up like normal. After several series of attempts I have narrowed it down to the actual CABLING/PLUG from the front panel to the CPU. If this cable is plugged into the motherboard, the computer will not boot and fans kick on, if it is unplugged, the computer boots and acts perfectly normal. So we ordered another front panel/cabling. It came in today and I was excited to get my front panel USB's back. Replaced the entire front panel (again) but this time I replaced the cabling as well, and the computer is doing the same thing as before, where it won't turn on or the fans are running full speed!!!!!

I am at a complete loss now. I have been using the computer for 2 weeks with the 3 wire plug unplugged from the motherboard and it has been working fine, but I have to unplug the power from the back of the machine and plug it back in to turn the computer back on after it has been shut off. I also do not have access to the front USB ports.

WHAT IN THE WORLD could the problem be that is causing this issue, and how can i fix it. THANK YOU in advance!

EDIT: One other thing I noticed yesterday. If i put the computer to sleep, instead of turning it completely off, as soon as it goes to sleep all of the fans kick on full blast and start running till I pull the power cable from the machine. When I say full blast, I mean like people down the hallway can hear them and ask if that was my computer. This is repeatable. If i simply shut down the computer. It shuts down without any issues.

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  • Hardware checks might not give an answer, so let's try software. Is it Windows (and which version)? If yes, try this answer (the last point might be too early).
    – harrymc
    Mar 24, 2021 at 21:30
  • Thank you for the suggestion @harrymc I can run through these procedures today before I leave work, but I do not believe there is anything wrong with the disks. I am using the same HD/RAM/GPU from another computer that works flawlessly.
    – Lzypenguin
    Mar 25, 2021 at 19:26

2 Answers 2

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  1. Is the warranty still active? If so call Dell at this point FOR SURE

  2. WHEN the issue is happening I'd disconnect everything that isn't needed & try to power-on again. Have only the PSU connected to motherboard, CPU, 1x RAM stick. Disconnect: all external connections except for power cord, hard drives, PCIe/expansion cards, front panels, case fans, etc.

  3. Have you tried a power discharge? Disconnect power cord, hold power button for 30sec, reconnect power cord. It's fixed something like this on a laptop for me

  4. Have you tried to reset CMOS via this RTCRST (Real-Time Clock ReSeT) jumper? I know you mentioned the battery, but this way is usually better.

    RTCRST jumper location on motherboard

  5. You did AWESOME process-of-elimination, however because of the complexity of doing this over time I DO honestly think you might have assumed on some things so I'd try to repeat those steps. Nothing against you, I've been in your situation. When I exhausted my ideas I revisited things only to discover I mis-remembered or assumed some things. Problems can be intermittent too making things all the more difficult :(

  6. Front panel LED's 3 & 4 indicate (per owner's manual pg51):

Memory modules are detected, but a memory power failure has occurred.

  • If two or more memory modules are installed, remove the modules, then reinstall one module and re-start the computer. If the computer starts normally, continue to install additional memory modules (one at a time) until you have identified a faulty module or reinstalled all modules without error. If only one memory 51 module is installed, try moving it to a different DIMM connector and re-start the computer.
  • If available, install verified working memory of the same type into your computer

Another Dell resource for blink/number codes. Dell article on supported memory for this PC model (2nd one)

  1. Hopefully you have a newer BIOS? A11 fixed a number of issues, A16 fixed a 'Intel Reboot issue' related to a security CVE
  2. Have you reviewed all the Dell articles about this model? I was trying to skim them for you, but I'm too busy
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  • Thank you for the response, here are answers to your points. 1- No. 2-I can repeat the problem anytime I want. I have done these steps already and narrowed down to #23 in the photo you attached, if #23 is plugged in, the problem occurs, when #23 is unplugged, the computer works perfectly. 3- Yes, tried. 4-Have not tried yet, but I will shortly. 5. Since I can repeat the process with one connector, I am not sure what else to "repeat". I know the panel indicates memory failure, but I have tried EVERY possible combination, and these memory chips work in another computer, and with #23 unplugged.
    – Lzypenguin
    Mar 25, 2021 at 19:21
  • 7- I upgraded the bios to the newest available just 2 or so weeks ago. I believe its A19, but I could be wrong. 8. I will look into these and see if any of them seem appropriate for my issue. Thanks
    – Lzypenguin
    Mar 25, 2021 at 19:22
  • 2-you indicated you swapped parts one by one with a working PC, which is a good idea. However I don't think you ever indicated when you removed EVERYTHING that's not absolutely necessary & try to power on, add connections one-by-one in between power. This may INDEED be pointless since you SEEM to have narrowed it down to the front panel connector. What doesn't make sense is you've tried another motherboard, front, panel, & front panel cable yet the issue persists. Thus I HAVE to assume you didn't replace those all at once so the problem must exist in one of those parts. Have you examined...
    – gregg
    Mar 25, 2021 at 19:55
  • ...the front panel connector on the motherboard? Maybe all this swap-a-roo damaged a gold contact? Taking a picture with a digital cam will allow zooming for closer inspection. To get BIOS version in Windows: wmic bios list brief. Feel free to give my answer an upvote since you appeared to appreciate my answer. Obviously you don't have to accept it AS the answer if it doesn't solve you problem, which it seems to have not...yet ;)
    – gregg
    Mar 25, 2021 at 19:56
  • Gregg, I am on Bios version A18. I have upvoted your comment because I do find it very helpful. I have taken a photo of the connector and zoomed in, as well as checked the old connector I took off, and everything looks perfect. No issues at all. I am happy to remove things 1 by 1 again, but I am not sure where else to start, or what to try. I am using the same ram chips, in the same exact slots from a working computer, as well as the same HD's and GPU. The only things besides those are the front panel USB cable, the front panel Audio jack, and the 3 front panel fans.
    – Lzypenguin
    Mar 26, 2021 at 21:10
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I had to reseat the cpu to correct memory problems, cpu gives sometimes problems with 4 dimm in slots. Fit the cpu again, it must then help if all connections are right touching the cpu. Just some info, gives me also memory failure lights indicators. Its a weak point in the T3600 mainbord, no fine socket, even pushing dimm in the slots can let the cpu untouch some socket connections

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