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  1. #1
    Uranium Lounger
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    Shut down - no, wait, there it goes...

    I'd like to solicit some opinions here.

    I returned to my cave to find my desktop PC starting, booting for a few seconds, and then shutting off - only to do it all over again. It was an ugly cycle that would sometimes boot partially and other times only for a few seconds before shutting down.

    I took the lump to my bench and removed all but the essential hardware - 1 stick of RAM, boot drive, and the video card. Same problem. I then swapped the AGP card, a nVidia 4400, with an older PCI card that I had lying around, and the system stabilized somewhat. Then the shutdowns started again. Sometimes I get ten minutes out of it, as of right now I think it's a record - 15 minutes or so. My question to you all is this: do you think that a failing power supply could be causing this? I suspect that the older PCI video card draws less power than the AGP card does, and perhaps that is not stressing the power supply.

    I also ruled out electrical failures with the switches on the case by removing the connecters and shorting the pins to start the system. No change there, so I know it's not a flaky power or reset switch. I'm loathe to sink the money into a replacement power supply without knowing if it would solve the problem... opinions, please? If not the power supply, what would cause the system to shut down and restart on its own a few minutes later? Kinda makes me wish for an older AT style power supply, which had a hard switch instead of the soft on/off that ATX has.
    -Mark

  2. #2
    Uranium Lounger viking33's Avatar
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    Re: Shut down - no, wait, there it goes...

    Hi Mark,
    I tend to agree with your diagnosis. In order of probability:

    1. Power Supply.
    2. Motherboard.
    3. Heat problem?
    BOB
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  3. #3
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    Re: Shut down - no, wait, there it goes...

    I'm certainly no expert on this, but my experience would make me agree completely with Viking.

    I built my current system with a cheapo power supply ($17 US) knowing that I should have gone for a nicer one (I put the most money into the video card, at the time). Everything ran fine for literally 2 1/2 years. When I started playing a new game that was more graphics-intensive (Unreal Tournament 2004), I started experiencing sudden crashes during the game.

    I remembered my cheap power supply and replaced it with a MUCH nicer one (OCZ 420W - about $90, I think). Since then, everything has run like a champ!

    On a side note, I'm very surprised that I've managed to keep a system that was built in September of 2003 up and running - even some cutting-edge games - this long! I'm still using the original P4 2.4 processor, 1GB PC2700 RAM and ASUS P4-533 motherboard. Of course, I've replaced the Power Supply, Video Card, and Hard Drives; also added a DVD-burner, TV-Tuner (Windows Media Center ROCKS!), and several 90mm fans for good measure.

    Hopefully I can get another year or two out of this one before it's totally obsolete!

  4. #4
    Uranium Lounger
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    Re: Shut down - no, wait, there it goes...

    I don't think it's a heat problem, as the case is well ventilated and all fans are operational (though a bit loud).

    In reading Mark's reply to my original post, I thought it would be worth noting that I have a fairly nice power supply - an Antec 400w model - which is now about two years old. I had hoped for more life out of the thing but then I do leave the machine on 24/7, so heat and constant wear certainly take their toll.

    I may cannabilize another tower that is not in use and slap the power supply in to see if it resolves the problem. I can hope that 300w is enough, and it probably will be for testing purposes, before plunking down 100 bucks (US) for a replacement.

    My only other concern in this matter is, as you suggested, the motherboard. I don't know what the threshold voltage on the rails is before the onboard chip decides to shut it down, but I guess replacing the power supply would be far cheaper at any rate.
    -Mark

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    Re: Shut down - no, wait, there it goes...

    Mark,
    My short answer is Yes, the power supply can cause this type problem. On the other hand, so can other hardware.

    Your symptoms suggest a possible temperature driven problem: If you have a temp probe for a DVM you might want to check a few parts on the mother board like the cpu and memory. A thermal expansion driven cold solder joint might also exist on the mb or in the PS. In cases like this some quantitative data is often useful , for example, x min before shutdown with the nVidia card, y min with the pci card; And, the results were basically the same for 3 checks. Like wise, if you can get some numbers with the mb and/or ps cooled by a strong fan or, conversely, gently heated with a hot air gun, that also helps isolate potential problems. Depending on where you live, do not discount thermal problems caused by tiny spiders and their nests, especially in the power supply.

    If the symptoms are independent of the applications running I would look at the mb and ps. If they are influenced by the applications running I would look at the memory.

    Paul

  6. #6
    Uranium Lounger viking33's Avatar
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    Re: Shut down - no, wait, there it goes...

    If you have the spare PS available, it would be a good test to sub out the old one. 300w should be fine for the test purposes.

    I find your comment interesting on the fans running a bit loud? Did that start at the same time as the shutdowns or are you just more aware of that now?
    BOB
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  7. #7
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    Re: Shut down - no, wait, there it goes...

    The fans have always been a bit louder than I would like, the cpu cooler in particular is an offender - but it's due to the small size (60mm) and high RPM. <img src=/S/shrug.gif border=0 alt=shrug width=39 height=15> Since I'm already irritated with electronics on a general level, the fans just add to it. <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15>
    -Mark

  8. #8
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    Re: Shut down - no, wait, there it goes...

    I initially suspected a temperature issue as well, but a visual inspection proved that all fans were operating properly and I cleared what little dust had accumulated in the heatsinks and grills. The BIOS temperature monitors also showed that the system should be well within operating range - that is, before it shuts down.

    What's troubling is that there is no set time when the machine shuts down - it's very sporadic. Changing video cards allowed me to get to the Windows desktop but the problem persists with nearly the same symptoms.

    A friend of mine pointed out something interesting as it relates to the video hardware: by the time power gets to the AGP slot, it's DC and should be regulated by the mainboard. I think it's fairly certain at this point that either the PS is failing to supply constant DC on the output rails, or the mainboard is getting ready to give up the ghost. I certainly hope it's the former... although I don't want the expense of a new build, the excuse is perfect!! <img src=/S/yep.gif border=0 alt=yep width=15 height=15>
    -Mark

  9. #9
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    Re: Shut down - no, wait, there it goes...

    Check for bulging or leaking capacitors, just a guess. Actually some of our workstations experienced sporadic shutdowns and guess what? Bulging or leaking capacitor. Reminds me of Fred Langa's newletter about Lower-Cost Motherboard Repair Options .

  10. #10
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    Re: Shut down - no, wait, there it goes...

    Exceptional idea. Would that it were so easily remedied as a trip to the parts store and a soldering pencil!
    -Mark

  11. #11
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    Re: Shut down - no, wait, there it goes...

    My monies on an overheating CPU. Do you have another CPU fan you could try?

    BH

  12. #12
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    Re: Shut down - no, wait, there it goes...

    I do, in fact I have several CPU coolers that I could swap out. The onboard sensors show that it's operating well within range, though. Motherboard Monitor and the BIOS both showed, and continue to show, the same temperature: CPU is at 78C, maximum die temp for AMD's 1700 series is listed at 90C. I have no idea what the ideal value for the CPU is.

    Oddly enough, after all the events unfolded as I posted previously, the machine has been stable now for about three days - with the original AGP video card reinstalled.
    -Mark

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