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

Khalid Baheyeldin kb at 2bits.com
Thu Dec 2 23:15:35 EST 2010

On Thu, Dec 2, 2010 at 10:45 PM, unsolicited <unsolicited at swiz.ca> wrote:

> 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 throughout.
> 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.]

Thanks for the pointers.

I am comfortable fiddling with PC hardware.

The issues are

a) lack of time to dedicated to troubleshooting this, specially with the
schedule ahead.

b) I don't have a proper diagnostics setup (power supply, monitor, ...etc.).
In fact there are only 2 monitors in the entire home, one for the server,
and the other for the print server/scanner. Neither have enough
power/network/... connections. So it becomes very hard to troubleshoot
something like this.

Been thinking of a KVM for a while, but never got to it.

And yes, I bought 2 of this model. The other ones is still fine, and taking
over the responsibilities from that one (mainly load testing, ...etc.). But
now, it will be 2 with the guts open ...etc.

There are no additional cards in that machine. Never opened from the minute
I purchased it new.

And it does not reach the stage where it attempts to read media (CD or disk)
most of the time. Just hangs in the BIOS saying scanning for USB devices.
The one time it booted (when I carried it upstairs), it did go to the disk
and loaded, and then locked up after I was running some Linux commands.

So I'd rather hire a pro. And I got some pointers from people on this list.
Khalid M. Baheyeldin
2bits.com, Inc.
Drupal optimization, development, customization and consulting.
Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability. --  Edsger W.Dijkstra
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. --   Leonardo da Vinci
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