I picked up an used Dell 530 desktop. It seems to work, but it has an odd pattern of powering up the case fan (which might be faulty - it sounds like a jet engine) 3 times, while blinking the power light. No other fan seems to activate during the time, and it goes silent after that.

I'm wondering, it this is normal behaviour, or is there some issue that's causing it? It might have some BIOS quirks - the words in the BIOS was garbled the first few times, then fixed itself. The system has nothing but a video card (nvidia - I think it's a 8300GS), ram and PSU at the moment.

Screenshot of the BIOS (which is no longer an issue) - it was functioning normally other than the language being Swedish chef. This is a secondary issue, and apparently dosen't happen to everyone with the same issue.

dell 530 BIOS screen

EDIT(s): memtest is clean, but swedish chefed the same way during one run. Swedish chefing seems random - i got swedish chefed output about 6 minutes into one run of memtest, then normal output during a half hour run of memtest.

Reflashing the bios (to version 10.18) makes it spin up the fans thrice still (i thought it was twice, for some reason, mistake on my part. No idea if random swedish chefing persists, but it hasn't happened yet

no obvious capasitor plague - they all look shiny and flat.

Edit 2: I had failures with both windows 7 and linux booting up, and ended up removing the video card in question. If you have a dell 530 with a 8300GS, i seriously recommend binning the video card at the first sign of trouble


While there have been answers to the part about the garbled screen, apparently the video card on the inspiron 530 (and the vostro 4000) - a gforce 8300GS is buggy, and the 3x power up attempts is fairly common with this model/configuration. Apparently switching the bios to boot off PCIe rather than PCI means it attempts to power up twice instead then boots normally.

Its not behavior common to dells, but with this specific model, its a common bug of unknown origin. The fix would be, presumably to swap the graphics card, but i don't think its worth it in this specific case.

EDIT: and.. apparently the system has integrated graphics, and popping out the card fixed the issue. I'd note, if someone can work out why this issue happens, with appropriate backup information, i'll select it as the right answer. Else i'll pick this.

Edit 2: And.. we might have a winner. The card's G86 based, and the laptop versions were notorious for overheating issues. It dosen't explain the random nature of the issues, or what exactly, but if someone else has similar problems and wants a why, this could be a useful, albeit sensationalist start. Even more digging yields this - and more interestingly "Random characters on the screen"

EDIT 3: The plot thickens - i installed windows 8, the windows 7 drivers for the card... and presto. it on powers the fans up once, then boots up like a decent system. i'm figuring it did some firmware replacement that fixed it up.

EDIT4: problem recurred. I'm going with onboard video for now


It is a corrupt nvidia 8300gs. I had the same problem with my Dell 530s Desktop, took 3 times to start up, then the computer screen would freeze and even turned pink. I thought it was something terminal, then I read on a forum that it was a common issue with the Nividia 8300gs card installed. So I recently bought a Radeon 2400xt card, this card meets the low wattage requirements of your psu, 250w. I installed it and it now starts up first time every time. Problem solved.

  • Some more corroborating evidence would be helpful - got a link to the forum?
    – Journeyman Geek
    Oct 23 '11 at 14:06

Many PCs will power fans all the way up during the boot process. You will notice that once the OS loads, the fans spin down. That is the point at which the OS takes over control of the fans through the power management software.

  • 1
    well, its specifically 3 times before bios. then it goes silent. I haven't gotten as far as booting an OS on this
    – Journeyman Geek
    Sep 9 '11 at 5:12
  • are there any errors in the BIOS log? Boot to an OS and check its logs too. I wouldnt be to concerned about it, until you have a reason to be.
    – Keltari
    Sep 9 '11 at 5:16
  • Well, no. Just trying to work out what needs changing before deciding on what course of action to take. NEVER seen any system take so long before it gets to bios tho.
    – Journeyman Geek
    Sep 9 '11 at 5:19
  • have you tried reflashing the BIOS?
    – Keltari
    Sep 9 '11 at 5:31

Your "Swedish Chef" points to some sort of EEPROM corruption or memory corruption.

Try reflashing the BIOS, if that makes it go away, it was just corrupted once. If it keeps corrupting, either find & fix the bad trace (good luck) or recycle the board.

  • flashed it. it SEEMS to have gone away, but the swedish chefing was random. I want to wait a day or two to see if its gone. The MAIN part of the question isn't the swedish chefing, its the fan powering up and down 3 times before the post process starts.
    – Journeyman Geek
    Sep 9 '11 at 14:50

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