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My son's computer stopped working last week. It wouldn't boot consistently and is now at the point that it freezes at different stages during boot. It also freezes if I go into bios unless I'm really lucky and/or quick to make and save my changes. Hoping that the problem might only have been with the MBR I removed the HD (did a virus scan) and backed it up onto another computer and also reformatted it. I then put it back in and attempted to reinstall Win2k, but the problem still persists--I only get a little ways into the Win2k setup then it locks up on me (screen and keyboard). Sometimes there will be garbled text on the screen that seems to tell me that certain files couldn't be loaded but the spelling is all wrong so it's hard to know what files. I've also tried another video card that was working in another computer but only got the same problems in this computer.

Does anyone know if this problem would be related the MOBO, RAM, or Processor? :4-dontkno The processor is an AMD Athlon 1300MHz. MOBO is Chaintech 7AJA2E, and video is a RADEON 9200.
 

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Does anyone know if this problem would be related the MOBO, RAM, or Processor?
It could be any of those as well as the power supply.

If you have more than one stick of RAM in the machine then I'd try to run it with only one stick of RAM at a time and try each stick. It's highly unlikely to have more than one stick die at the same time so if it still fails with each stick of RAM individually then it's probably not the RAM. You could try to run MemTest86 to check your RAM. It doesn't require any operating system installed. From the sound of things MemTest86 will probably lock up but it's worth a try anyway.

I'd also make sure the CPU fan is turning because overheating can cause lockups and fans have been known to die. Mechanical things tend to be the problem more often than electronic components.

It's a bit of a hassle but you can test the power supply by borrowing one from another computer. I can't seem to download your motherboard manual but it looks like your BIOS can monitor the power supply voltages. You could try going into the BIOS to see if your voltages are in range. The important ones are 3.3 volts, 5 volts, and 12 volts. They're supposed to be plus or minus about 5%.

CPU and motherboard problems are hard to trace without swapping parts. Just from my own experience I'd say the CPU is the least likely to expire. One thing you can do with the motherboard is look for bad capacitors. They are responsible for lots of problems. This page shows you how to spot problems. Basically the tops of the capacitors bulge or they start leaking goo. The ones most likely to die are the ones near the CPU. They generate the voltage for the CPU and if they go the computer crashes and hangs.
 

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Thanks for your reply UncleMacro. :4-flowers I checked each stick of RAM and got the same results. MemTest86 did freeze when I tried it. CPU fan is working and CPU temp is 39c/102f. My voltages appear to be in range and visually all my capacitators seem to be okay.

Tomorrow I will try another psu (I've got an identical one at another desk). If that fails then I'm going to assume that it's the MOBO or CPU. I can't do any swapping to test them since I don't have another athlon computer in the house. I guess it's time for the boy to upgrade to a faster P4! :4-nopity:

Thanks again for your help. :wave:
 

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I guess it's time for the boy to upgrade to a faster P4!
Not that I want to keep your kid from getting a better computer, but...

Before giving up on the computer you might disable all of the unnecessary onboard devices like USB, onboard sound, etc. and then also unplug any expansion cards other than the video card. Usually bad devices causes crashes only in Windows rather than in the BIOS but it would be a good idea to make sure they're not the problem before tossing any hardware.
 

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I had another look at the capacitators (in daylight this time and while I'm wide awake) there are a cluster of three that seem to be bulging on top and there is actually a little bit of brown stuff gathered in the crease (I thought it was just dust last night). I read the article that you directed me to and now I'm wondering if I should order a replacement kit and attempt to repair the board or will that computer end up be down half the time because the capacitators are of low quality? If you don't mind me asking, what would you do in this situation?
 

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You could try to fix the motherboard but since those capacitors went bad it will probably not be long before others start to go bad aswell.

If you are going to just replace the motherboard instead of the entire computer then I would recommend getting a new power supply. Those caps probably went bad on their own but they could have also died from a bad power supply.
 

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This is only an operation for someone with some serious skill with a soldering iron, lots of patience, and quite a bit of time on your hands. I have all three of those (okay, mostly just the first two) but were I in your position I would just get a new motherboard/CPU/RAM given the age of your hardware. You either have to find a kit for your exact motherboard (that site I linked you to doesn't have one) or you have to find matching capacitors. You can get them from Digi-Key but you should match the capacitance and match or exceed the voltage and get the right kind (low ESR electrolytics). Plus you have to take into account that it's easy to botch the repair and still end up with a flakey motherboard.

Those caps probably went bad on their own but they could have also died from a bad power supply.
Just a minor adjustment here. The reason that so many people are having capacitor problems is that some companies manufactured tons of electrolytic capacitors using a stolen electrolyte formula. Unfortunately the formula was incomplete so the capacitors are unstable. Over time the electrolyte dries out and the capacitance changes and it can even short out. This process is accelerated by higher temperatures which is why the capacitors near the CPU tend to be the ones which die first. It's not the power supply that kills them - it's just bogus capacitors.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Thanks for clarifying the "possible bad psu" issue. The case is not that old and it is pretty good quality. We'll just get a new board and upgrade to a P4. My son's been bugging me about it for some time now.

Thanks for your help and advice and most of all for pointing me toward the capacitators. You've saved me a lot of time and trouble.
 
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