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Computer Freezes after POST

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by v0id, Mar 25, 2006.

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  1. v0id

    v0id Thread Starter

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    Hello all,

    I'm having a rather strange problem with my motherboard's BIOS. Although it detects all hardware perfectly, it refuses to get past hardware detection onto the boot stage. I'm even unable to enter BIOS setup. Here's the output until freeze:
    After this, nothing. It doesn't "freeze" per se, because it still recognizes keystrokes (e.x. Asus CrashFree Alt+F2 command to flash BIOS). It just doesn't go on to the boot process.
    I changed my PSU just yesterday because the old one was on its last legs (incidentally, I had the exact same problem in the days leading up to its death). All connections are good, jumpers are in the right places. Could the old ATX PSU have taken down a few components with it?

    Here's my hardware info:
    Code:
    Processor = P4 Prescott 530 (3GHz)
    Mobo = Asus P5GDC-V Deluxe
    RAM = 2x256 MB DDR-400/333
    HD = 80GB Western Digital SATA 7200rpm
    CD-RW = LG 52x
    Thanks for any help!
     
  2. 4steve44

    4steve44

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    Make your 8oGB the first master. Xp only likes being number 1!:D
     
  3. qldit

    qldit

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    Good Morning v0id, that could be a problem.
    I usually like to set the main hard drive up as primary master, then arrange the other drives in a semblence of order with a DVD writer as master if needed on the second IDE.
    However moving XP from one connection to another immediately produces problems, but in that it would appear you are going to need your XP disk and do a boot from and repair it would be a good time to consider it.
    That 4th master has thrown me, I haven't experienced it.
    Apart from that it is almost as though some BIOS setting has altered and it is remaining in limbo, otherwise it would move to "no operating system" or some other message.

    Anything is possible with failing switchmode systems, they really do some nasty things sometimes.

    It may be neccessary to go back to basics and disconnect all the devices and non-neccessary cards completely and then see it if goes through the basic POST to give the "no operating system found" or whatever thing.
    Then properly fit just the hard drive as a primary master appropriately connected and try that, you shoud get some kind of message relating to progress past the POST.

    I would be inclined to properly fit a the next intended secondary master (optical) then progress with a Windows CD (booted from) this should allow you to navigate into a system repair.
    Once everything is status OK, you can thens fit all the other stuff progressivley.
    It is possible that some device, even a network card or something like that is killing completion of the post.
    Don't apply logic to determining the problem, it is better to work by determining each item works progressively.
    Best of luck, others will have different ideas.
    Cheers, qldit.
     
  4. v0id

    v0id Thread Starter

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    Thanks for the suggestions qldit (and 4steve44). I decided to go the tried and tested component-by-component route and pinned the problem down to my SATA drive. Everything seems fine with the drive disconnected from the mobo. However it's rather strange for a Western Digital drive to crap out in less than 2 years and I didn't experience any symptoms characteristic of failing drives in the days leading up to its supposed demise. This is why I'm unsure of whether the drive has indeed kicked the bucket or if the motherboard has been damaged by that bloody $2 PSU (came with the case; I would never buy a PSU that cheap). Anyway, I'm now writing this through a Mepis liveCD. I never thought I'd have to exercise my 3 yrs warranty but I'll definitely pack and send the drive to WD, and expect a replacement soon.

    Thanks once again!
     
  5. qldit

    qldit

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    Good Afternoon v0id, that is odd, I like WD's myself.
    What did it show in BIOS?
    Was it completing detection, what was the procedure for that drive did you have to load drivers from a floppy for it?
    I haven't played them much.
    I have seen occasions where a nearby lightning strike had killed hard drives but left everything else operational, couldn't understand why. No detection at all! (PATA's)
    qldit.
     
  6. qldit

    qldit

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    Second thoughts, can you see the internals of the hard-drive with your Mepis, (that is a very handy system)
    qldit.
     
  7. v0id

    v0id Thread Starter

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    Well qldit, it's impossible to get anything to boot if the drive is physically connected to the mobo. I can't even enter BIOS setup. I can flash the BIOS though (which I have done). As soon as I disconnect the SATA, I can boot from both CD and floppy perfectly, and even tweak the BIOS settings.
    With the drive connected, the very last message corresponds to (ironically enough) successful detection of the drive, "UDMA mode 5, S.M.A.R.T capable and Status OK." Here it just stops. It recognises keystrokes, but it will not move any further from this point.
    So I can't diagnose it with the official WD utility, nor with any liveCD. I'll have to take it to the chap who sold it to me and see if he has any luck with it.
     
  8. qldit

    qldit

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    Good Morning vOid, that certainly is odd, it must be halting the POST somehow, but that would be in line with a couple of previous remote lightning area strike damages I came across, just the hard drives were killed, everything else was OK. (two occasions)
    It made me think that maybe the hard drive electronics is more susceptible to problems with voltage spikes and transients than the rest of the system.
    It will be interesting to see what you find.
    At least you can go either way PATA or SATA.

    BTW, I hate having to flash BIOS, I have done quite a few, but have screwed a couple up, so flashing BIOS or other drives is a little scary for me!!
    I often get machines that have been flashed by their owners, you know the scene, "just that first bit needs fixing"! (Not quite! LOL)
    Enjoy your Linux.
    Cheers, qldit.
     
  9. v0id

    v0id Thread Starter

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    Well, I just got two independent helpers to check out the drive for me. Apparently it's in perfect condition. I asked one of them to format the entire thing, and now it seems to work fine after I hook it back up to the mobo. 'Seems' is the key word. After removing the drive, I had set the drive mode to AHCI instead of Standard IDE (hoping to squeeze some performance out of the native SATA controller) and reinserted the drive. I could write to it just fine, although the POST messages regarding it were a bit longer than expected (can't make out all of what was printed - POST happens _very_ quickly).

    Furthermore, I tried installing Mepis to the HD. All files were transferred properly, but I couldn't boot it (even with GRUB installed). It puked back the good ol' "Incorrect boot device...Please insert media and press any key, or reboot". I've now set it back to Standard IDE mode, and the computer tends to fake death for a few seconds, then comes back alive.

    This problem is getting stranger by the day.


    EDIT: Fortunately the Asus P5GDC-V has a "CrashFree" utility to easily restore corrupt BIOSes, so flashing it is easy and painless!
     
  10. qldit

    qldit

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    Good Evening vOid, that sounds horribly like a drive a chap had here the other day, it had intermittent reads but could be written to without problem.
    It deteriorated to the point where it could not be read at all, but it could still be written to.
    It may be worth obtaining this HDD regenerator program, I haven't run it on a SATA before but it should run as far as I know on your machine. http://www.pcnet-online.com/downloads/hddregerator.htm
    It has a good scanning section that writes and reads etc without interfering with the drive or files on it at all. If there is any evidence of failure it should see it.
    It makes a bootable CD or floppy. (the cd is best)

    I can't explain why Mepis wouldn't boot. That is one of the most temperate systems there is, circumstantially possibly pointing to a drive problem.
    Where did you put Grub?

    Your description is similar to the other chaps drive early stage death-throes.
    I suspected the drive electronics read system had some kind of failure.

    He did a complete low level format in the end but it was incredibly slow, like several days.
    The low level format program was the one on the "Madboot Floppy" available free off the net, this floppy image is a gem! It is actually good on a bootable floppy but you can use your Nero and make a bootable CD from the floppy which is a lot better.

    When the problem had properly developed, nothing in the way of drive testing programs that needed reads would run.

    I suspect an email to the drive manufacturer detailing the kind of oddity would give more information in this regard.
    I doubt it has anything to do with BIOS.

    Cheers, qldit.
     
  11. v0id

    v0id Thread Starter

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    Thanks a ton qldit, I'll try out that utility as soon as I get back home. I'm also gonna try the official WD diagnostic utility tomorrow (don't have a floppy right now, and can't burn CDs because of LiveCD).
    I repeatedly installed grub to the MBR, but it still wouldn't activate. I'll try doing a command-line installation instead of the graphical one. Strangely enough, menu.lst (Mepis' equivalent of grub.conf) seems alright as well.

    I've sent emails to both WD and Asus regarding this. Haven't heard back yet. I get the feeling both companies will blame each other.
     
  12. qldit

    qldit

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    Good Morning vOid, yes that is the way business operates these days, very unhelpful.
    It is possible a data controller may be affected on the M/B but I would lean toward the drive electronics playing silly buggers.
    At least either way you could still revert to a PATA drive.
    There are some really good used ones around presently.

    I think fitting that drive into another machine and getting different results is likely to be causing tangential thinking!
    It might need to be fitted to a different machine for a longer period, experience heat cycles and that kind of thing.

    With this Puppy Linux I use, you can remove the CD and use the burner.
    The thing, including the entire system with it's programs operates entirely in Ramdrive. You must try it at some future time, it has a small learning curve.

    I wouldn't be surprised if there were some impediment in that drives MBR area.
    If there is, that regen program should see it.
    The trial version scans and will onlt fix one bad block, but where it is invaluable is determining the locations of these problems. It is supposed to work on a second run also, so it may be possible to fix a few bad areas, either way you will gain knowledge of problem extent, if that were the case.
    More often, failing drives will have extensive bad areas and this particular program becomes very cost effective in that kind of situation because it can retrieve data from bad areas which can be worthwhile. (LOL)
    That kind of problem might explain more, but it doesn't pay to be logical with these tings! (LOL)
    I found the drive manufacturers programs were not entirely reliable.

    Under normal operating criterea that outer drive cylinder should give the best reads possible because of linear speed past the heads and greater more accurate read capacity. It makes sense the way the drives are set up with the leading data setup in that area.
    The heads normally park at the centre of the drive and should (in the case of a power failure) migrate back to that centre area.
    This should preclude physical damage possibility to the critical drive susrface areas.
    Of course by design and physics of motion the heads ride on a miniscule layer of air and should never touch the platter surface but anything is possible.

    When you reformatted the drive did you re-fdisk the drive?

    qldit.
     
  13. v0id

    v0id Thread Starter

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    I do have an old 4GB ATA66 clunker from my old machine lying around here somewhere - although I don't know if it is even functional after all those years of Windows 95 thrashing!
    Much to my dismay, the hdregen program requires a functional Windows environment (I don't have a BartPE CD yet; will get one as soon as I get this resolved). It's good to hear PuppyLinux is as great as it is touted to be. That's another thing on my recovery tools wishlist.
    I will try to take the entire box to a friend's place next weekend, after my final week of the current university semester concludes. He has another SATA drive and a few spare cables, so I'll try to hook his drive in place of mine. If that fails, then I can be sure that the mobo's SATA controller is FUBARed.

    As a sidenote, I completed the Gentoo 2006.0 installation process successfully, and hit the same roadblock. Namely, inability to boot from HD. Even after fdisking numerous times and wiping/reformatting ext3 partitions. I'm certain the POST is trying to tell me something (longer than normal message about the master drive), but the pertinent information flashes by far too quickly for me to read even a word. I'll have to deliberately induce a hardware error, like disconnecting the CPU fan wire from the mobo, in order to make it halt long enough.

    Thanks for continuing to post back, qldit!
     
  14. qldit

    qldit

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    Good Afternoon vOid, no I find your problem most interesting, these types of problems are the ones you learn most from.
    Thankyou for sharing the experience.

    Of course the MBR area may have some kind of problem and may need to be completely deleted and rewritten.
    As far as I know the actual Fdisk command doesn't actually do that, it needs an extra command like a space then /mbr otherwise it just re-enters partition info.

    The zeroing or low level format writes zeros beginning from the start on the entire drive regardless of partitions, (as against zero-writing a partition) so that first area is also overwritten, this is good for addressing viral problems where that area may be affected.

    Yes a different lead would be nice to try, but I don't somehow think that will be a problem.

    That regen program actually writes and reads the whole drive, that is where it becomes quite useful. Sorry I forgot you don't have windows capability to make a bootable disk. (it is only a couple of megs by the way)

    I would be inclined to fit that other drive you have.
    Those drives usually last forever and should work beautifully. Good size too!

    By the way hitting the pause key sometimes stops those flashbys.

    Something odd if both Mepis and Gentoo aren't bootable using Grub.
    Certainly beginning to sound like some kind of read impediment possibly with the MBR.

    Yes this Puppy Linux is really interesting I have just D/L the latest alpha version but the "1.0.8 mozilla R1" seems pretty decent, there is also a multiuse version for use with an opened CD that saves back to it, it is a very clever idea!
    Of course when the CD is filled it may be a problem. (need another CD)
    But with a 60 meg system there is a lot of space available on an opened 700 Meg CD.
    I think the best idea is to have a flashdrive.
    Playing with this stuff really makes other things look mundane.
    The potential is really exciting.
    They even have laptops with no mechanical drive using this system.

    I am interested to see what you might find, at a guess I would go for the drive, but I am more often wrong. (LOL)

    Cheers, qldit.
     
  15. v0id

    v0id Thread Starter

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    Thanks a million for the Pause key tip. Apparently the extra messages did not indicate drive problems, but were merely USB controller initialisation messages. I have rewritten to the mbr with "dd if=/dev/null of=/dev/sda bs=512 count=1" through the Gentoo liveCD, but that didn't help either.

    Unfortunately my old ATA66 drive is dead. I hear strange noises as it spins up and the bios doesn't even detect it. I'll just use the liveCDs while I'm waiting for a replacement drive, with my usb-stick as a temporary storage space. Since I'm loaded with assignments for the coming week, I won't have time to work on this issue until next weekend. I'll get the drive to boot in a different computer, as well as try a new SATA drive with my motherboard to exactly determine the fault.

    Thanks for your help!
     
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