[kwlug-disc] Troubleshooting and Fixing a PC locally?

unsolicited unsolicited at swiz.ca
Thu Dec 2 22:45:37 EST 2010

Khalid Baheyeldin wrote, On 12/02/2010 5:28 PM:
> I have a slightly off topic question.
> One of the test servers I use has died (symptoms below). The other
> two I have will make do until I have this one fixed. The data on it is not
> crucial by the way.
> The server is actually an Acer quad core desktop.
> The symptoms vary from having nothing on the monitor, to booting hanging
> at "scanning for USB devices" (before trying to read the disk), to 
> booting and
> working well only to hang up suddenly after a few minutes.
> So it could be a mother board issue, not a disk drive.
> This PC is out of warranty, so sending it to Acer themselves is not
> a viable option.
> My question is can anyone recommend some competent and reputable local
> outfit that would  troubleshoot and fix this PC at a reasonable price?
> Knowledge of Linux may help (so that they don't mistake it for a software
> issue), but not required.

IMO, not worth it, but that's just me / my skill set.

Sounds like you experience the problem pre-OS, so you could pull the 
disk before sending it in, if you do so. i.e. Take Linux off the table 
for them. If this is true, you could use a live cd (without the hard 
drive) and you've set up an appropriate problem demonstration 
environment for anyone to work on. (Just pull the drive cable off the 
motherboard, for the moment.)

It would seem prudent to do some diagnosis yourself beforehand. [I 
suspect you'll find it without too much trouble, thus my opinion that 
it's not worth taking it in. You will have solved it yourself.]

You do not say whether there are any cards in this, to know the scope 
of the potential problem set. i.e. You'll have a power supply with 
wires to the motherboard, drives connected, memory in. Don't know if 
video / network is on board. You could set the bios to ignore keyboard 
/ disk errors, leave the mouse and keyboard off, and see if the 
problem still occurs (taking those devices off the table).

Aside from the above, I think I'd suggest running memtest on it 
overnight, perhaps from a live cd with memtest as a boot option. (If 
memtest shows you the problem, take out all the memory, put them back 
in one by one, rerunning memtest until the problem reoccurs. Once it 
does, proceed with any remaining memory sticks, testing.)

My guess is you'll find problems still occur with no drives and 
nothing else on the motherboard but one stick of memory - at which 
point you go down to Canada Computer, buy an equivalent motherboard 
(in terms of cpu & memory type, latest and greatest, otherwise), swap 
it in, and get on with your day.

I get that you may not be comfortable with playing around with 
hardware, or have the time - but for this diagnosis you can spend a 
few minutes every so often, or have someone else do so - being charged 

If you're comfortable with doing this, it makes an argument for buying 
computers two at a time. e.g. In this case, if you had two, you could 
test Lori's PS possibility. [He may be right, but it needn't be heat - 
it could be one voltage line sufficiently off - what is it, 3.3v?, 5v? 
for USB lines? And if it's not a PS USB line problem, and it's the USB 
chip itself, you're looking at a new MB anyways.]


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