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Diagnosing Motherboard Issues

An exploration into what causes motherboard issues and several of their solutions.

An indepth look into what can cause a motherboard to fail, and some techniques to diagnose the problems in an attempt to repair, if possible, the issues that prevent the motherboard from POSTing.

Episode #1-20 released on February 13, 2011

Every so often, somewhere, someone has a problem with their computer, most often, the motherboard, but sometimes its trying to tell us something important, we just have to learn what it has to say. Much like a forensic coroner, computer technicians often see, and / or hear the problem, long before the common person ever has any idea what is going on. There are ways of figuring out what is wrong, before bring your computer to your technician.

Diagnosing problems is not impossible, its actually very simple. Its not because your computer won't start or POST, that the motherboard is dead. There are many things that can keep a computer from starting.

Things that can prevent a motherboard from posting are :

  • Ram
  • Processor
  • Power Supply
  • Graphics Card
  • Keyboard
  • Hard Drive
  • Optical Drives
  • Case / Motherboard Shorting Issues
  • etc...

The Beep codes you may hear on start up are part of the diagnostic tools technicians use, I've included sources in the show notes (below on this page) of some of the code meanings. If you can hear the number of beeps, you can solve most problems, but if you can't hear any beeps, you will need to do a manual verification.

You may also want to do a CMOS reset, which is clearly indicated in your manual. It requires that you disconnect you computer, remove the bios battery, and most of the time, switch the jumper from 1-2, to 2-3. The CMOS reset jumper, or button, is usually within a half an inch from the bios battery.

The easiest way to figure out, manually, what's wrong, is to disconnect everything but the very minimum, a post test. POST stands for "Power On Self Test". This means, you have to disconnect the Hard Drive, Optical Drives, USB devices, mass storage devices, auxiliary sound cards, etc... You should only have a power supply ( connections on made to Motherboard / CPU / GPU ATX ), graphics card (if no on board one is available), ram, and CPU and a keyboard connected. Try restarting your computer at this point. If your computer POSTs, then you have a problem with one your hardware devices you disconnected, or the way they were plugged. If it does not POST, then you have a problem with your motherboard, ram, graphics card, or CPU. Remember, you need a working keyboard "plugged" into your computer.

To test which piece of hardware is defective, you need only plug that one device in, alone, one at a time, and keep restarting your computer until one of the devices fail. I suggest that you test all your devices, just to be on the safe side, and make sure you have caught any other potential problems. Once you have found the problems, you only need to replace them.

Alternatively, if your computer couldn't POST, then you still have somethings you can check. Starting with the ram, you can disconnect each bar of ram, and start the computer with only one at a time, until it POSTs. If that changes nothing, replace the power supply with one you know works. If the computer still can't post, then remove the CPU fan, remove the CPU, re-seat the CPU, clean off any thermal paste, and reapply a very paper thin layer of new thermal paste.

If the computer still doesn't start, you may need to look at the capacitors on the board. Look if any have deformed. You can also try take your motherboard out of the computer case, put it on an insulated surface, I use a wooden table, just something with no static issues. Do the same tests, but this time outside the box.

If nothing works, you'd have to call the manufacture. Ask for technical assistance, and they will ask you to send the motherboard to their RMA department, which deals with defective hardware. You are responsible for the costs of sending the motherboard, they will pay to have the new or repair motherboard sent back to you. As long as your not responsible for the issue in the first place, like soda, liquids, or household contaminates. If your responsible for the damage, you will be accountable for the repairs, so if you broke, buy a new one, and save some money.

A piece of good news, if you buy the exact model of motherboard you originally had, you do not need to reinstall your operating system. That is, as long as your hard disk is not defective.

Host : Steve Smith | Music : Steve Smith | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Productions

Sources & Resources