Monday, July 19, 2004

Unusual PC Problems…Part 1

To all my students in PC Networks and Troubleshooting, with what I taught you, and with all your questions, you should already know how to diagnose a PC problem based on underlying facts observable. But in my experience, there are still some unusual cases that you never know what the problem is, and the problem is not anywhere in what you have learned in school. I actually have several experiences like that and am going to share each one. Each problem in a series of articles, and hoping you too could also learn from them.

There was a time when I decided to reformat my PC due to a suspected virus problem. My hard disks were filled with files, but since I was running on two hard disks, my plan was to do as follows:
  1. Move all files to my data drive, the drive that is not running my operating system and programs.
  2. Reformat the drive with the operating system.
  3. Reinstall the operating system; reinstall the anti-virus softwares and anti-spyware softwares.
  4. Update security updates of the operating system, update anti-virus and anti-spyware data files online.
  5. Connect the data drive as slave (Which may still contain the suspected virus) and scan and clean it.

Problem: Now, during the reformat, reformatting as NTFS would not continue.
Initial Assessment of Possible Causes: Hard drive busted, probably with bad sectors; IDE data cable problem; power supply connector problem; motherboard IDE port busted; or simply loose connections.
What I did: I first check the connections checking if they were loose, they were fine and the problem still existed. I next checked the power supply, then changed the IDE cable, use the other IDE port and each step along the way, I always tested the problem, and the problem still existed. For some reason I decided to format the drive as FAT32, and the problem seem to not exist! Then I decided to install Windows XP and delete partitions and create them as well and format the drive as NTFS, maybe that would do the trick to get it fixed. And after doing that, I was able to reformat as NTFS! No more problems? That’s what I thought.

Problem: Installation would not continue. Error in copying file, each time the error occurred, the file was a different file being copied.
Initial Assessment of Possible Causes: Hard drive busted, not functioning well; CD ROM drive busted, not reading well, could be dirty; CD ROM IDE data cable problem, CD ROM power cable problem.
What I did: I first checked the CD ROM drive connections, no loose connections. IDE cable was replaced. Power cable seemed to supply power well. I cleaned the CD ROM drive lens using a CD lens cleaner. Each step done, I kept testing; repeating the installation, the error always existed. This made me conclude it is the CD ROM! The CD ROM is busted! Luckily, I have a lot of computers at home; I replaced the CD ROM drive with another CD ROM drive from my other PC that I know is functioning well.

Problem: Installation would still not continue with the new CD ROM! Two CD ROMs tested. For me it was too much of a coincidence that both of my CD ROM drives would be busted at the same time.
Initial Assessment of Possible Causes: The other CD ROM drive is also busted, or the motherboard’s IDE ports are busted.
What I did: For me it was too much of a coincidence that both CD ROM drives got busted at the same time! Although that happened, I was not convinced that that was the problem; most probably it was the motherboard’s IDE ports. Now a sudden rush of grief came into me. Because it meant I have to but a new motherboard and my motherboard had a built-in video and audio chip, so it was like forcing me to change 3 products instead of one. Aside from that, I was using a Pentium III processor on a PGA370 socket, worrying that I would not find a brand new one like that and might be forced to buy a new one, with a new Pentium IV processor which is more expensive!

When I got to PC Domain, my favorite computer shop in SM Fairview, I found the motherboard I was looking for. Brand new and was the last one! Also with built in video and audio. The only problem was it only had one SDRAM slot and not two just like my old one. But I may not be able to find another board for my Pentium III processor so I bought it.

My old motherboard had two 128MB SDRAM memories and I still wanted the power of a 256MB SDRAM. I also had another computer, a Pentium IV with one 256MB SDRAM and its motherboard had two SDRAM slots. So I exchanged their memory, I took the one 256MB SDRAM for the single SDRAM slot motherboard for the Pentium III, and placed the two 128MB SDRAM on the Pentium IV motherboard that did have two SDRAM slots.

Finally! Installation of Windows XP was a success! Everything ran fine, without any problems! It took me a long time to find out that the motherboard was the problem!

Not quite yet…


When I decided to also reformat the Pentium IV PC since I did not like the Windows 2003 and decided to go back to Windows XP, installation would not continue. Error in copying files from the CD going to the hard disk!

What’s the cause of the problem readers?

If you say the two 128MB SDRAM, you are correct! The motherboard did not have any problems at all. It was the memory right from the start! I had an old 64MB SDRAM in my PC parts junk, and used it just to verify my claim. And that was it, cause of problem verified! It was the two 128MB SDRAM, and even both of them were busted, not only one.

What do you guess I did?

Of course you’ll say I bought a new memory. But not only that, I bought the more expensive one with a more reliable known brand. What a big role the memory had in copying files from the CD ROM to the hard disk! And from what I knew in the past is that once you pass POST (Power-On-Self-Test) and see a display, nothings wrong with the memory. So if you are going to buy memory, stick with the known brands, like Kingston and Apacer. It will save you from making wrong PC trouble diagnosis.

Unusual PC Problems...Part 2 - click here


At 3:38 AM, Blogger Fleadis said...

whew! that's exhausting! cheap memory cards are not really dependable because my friend had the same problem before but we were able to find out the problem when i lend him my memory card! how bout the motherboard that you bought? did you bother to return it to the store? :)

At 4:54 AM, Blogger Benj Arriola said...

Since I bought the board in the Philippines, you could usually return stuff if it is broken and still has warranty. And if it isn't broken, you cannot return it. But if it was, you cannot even get a refund, you can just exchange it with another product with the same or higher value and add cash. And I did not return it and just kept it for back up. And I liked it even better than my old board since it had more USB Ports, so I didn't need to plug-in and plug-out all my USB stuff that often.

Interested in what's my PC right now? Check out my personal blog article: if that was in the States, mostly any product has a 30-day money back guarantee. Unfortunately, I bought it in the Philippines. :-)


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